Skip to main content

How to Make a Multiple Self-Portrait: A Step-by-Step Guide

I am retired from a career in law enforcement and pursuing an interest in photography, writing, and graphic art.

Learn how to make multiple self-portraits!

Learn how to make multiple self-portraits!

Multiple Self-Portraits: Am I Seeing Double or Triple?

A multiple self-portrait is a photograph where the same person appears more than once in the same picture. Anybody can put their camera on a tripod, set the timer, and stand in front to take a self-portrait. What about one picture with you in several different locations?

You may have seen one of these multiple self-portraits before and wondered, "How in the world did they do that?" Well, if you have been wondering how they do it, this is your lucky day because I'll show you how to do it in 1,423 easy steps.

Just kidding, it takes a few fewer steps.

Before We Get Started

This can be a lot of fun, but it’s a digital craft; you will need a camera, some minimal photography skills, and photo processing software that can handle layers. Paint Shop Pro and Photoshop are good for this, but you may find others that can be used. Read on—you can do it!

Step 1: Select Your Location

The first thing you want to do is pick an interesting location for your self-portraits. Think about what you want in the background and what will be the context of your self-portrait. You may want to interact with the background with some shots sitting, standing, leaning against a tree, etc. Think ahead to imagine what poses will work in the setting you have chosen.

In my example in this article, I picked a scene from the ranch where I grew up. It's the ranch featured in my book, Life at The End of a Dirt Road, and it's full of memories for me. I liked this location at the old corral because it had the weathered scale house and Mount Shasta in the background.

Step 2: Decide on a Camera Angle

Once you have your location picked, you will want to decide on the composition or camera angle and the point of view for your self-portraits. Think about what background elements you will want to include in the scene and the various locations where you want to pose and be seen in the final picture.

This is important because you are deciding the composition of your final image. You want to control what will be in the background and the angle from which the viewer will see it. Will your camera be at eye level or lower and looking up or looking down from an elevated position? These are things you will want to think about.

Background For Multiple Self-Portrait

Background For Multiple Self-Portrait

Step 3: Take Your Background Shot

Once you have your camera angle figured out, you will place your camera on a tripod and set it up with the angle and view you want in your final image. Think about the depth of the field when you set up your camera. If you want the foreground and background to be in sharp focus, you may need to choose a small aperture to maximize depth of field. Remember the rule, smaller apertures (f stops) increase depth of field, and wider apertures decrease depth of field.

Once you are set up, go ahead and take your shot. This will be the background photo on which your self-portraits will rest. Check the shot in your viewfinder to see if it's what you want and if the depth of field is good. If it's not what you want, make the adjustments you need and keep trying until you are happy with the background image.

You don't have to do this, but I actually took three photos of the background to give myself a high-dynamic range background image. I did this because I wanted to be able to capture detail in the foreground as well as the sky and bright snow-capped Mount Shasta in the background. Without HDR or some other compensating process, I would have had to expose for the foreground detail, and the detail in the snow-white Mount Shasta would have been lost (blown out).

Background and Three Self-Portraits

Background and Three Self-Portraits

Step 4: Place Yourself in the Scene

With the camera unmoved and still on the tripod in place, you will now pose yourself at various locations in the scene. This was a bit awkward for me working alone, but you can do it if you use manual focus and focus on the locations where you will be posing in the scene. I used a rock or bush or twig to focus on in each location where I would be posing myself. Once I had the focus set, I turned on the 10-second timer and went into the scene, and stood on the rock or twig I used as a focus point to pose myself.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Feltmagnet

Take several shots of yourself in each location, so you have something to choose from if you don't like your expression or you blinked, or there's something else you don't like in your self-portrait shots. I don't like pictures of myself and took up photography to ensure I was on the right side of the camera when it goes "click." However, for the academic exercise of producing a multiple self-portrait, I bit the bullet and stepped in front of the camera.

Above you see the background image and three self-portrait shots ready to go.

At This Point, You Have All the Shots You Need for Your Self-Portrait Project

With a good background shot and several shots of yourself posed at different locations in the same scene, you are ready to go. All shots have the same lighting and atmospherics, so they will go together well when you bring them together in your final single image.

I was glad that I was alone on the ranch when I went through this self-portrait process as it was rather awkward with all the running back and forth, fiddling with the camera, posing in different locations, etc. If I had done this in a populated area, it would have likely drawn a small crowd. As it was, I made the nearby cattle nervous but managed to avoid a stampede.

Placing Your Self-Portrat as a Layer on the Background

Placing Your Self-Portrat as a Layer on the Background

Step 5: Take Your Images Into Your Digital Darkroom

Load your background and portrait images into your computer and you are ready to use your software to create the final image of yourself in several locations in a single photo image.

I did my multiple self-portraits in Paint Shop Pro but could have done them in Photoshop. For my illustration images here I used Photoshop. Any photo processing software that can handle layers should allow you to do this.

First, you will want to process your background image so that it's ready. This will be the bottom layer of your layered image. The bottom layer is called the background layer, but it will also be the background scene in your final image.

Now take the image of the first self-portrait pose of your choice and use the lasso tool or selection tool of your choice and cut your self-portrait out of the image leaving a good portion of the background inside your selection.

Move or cut and paste this portrait selection onto the background layer as a new layer #1 and align it exactly with the background layer so that you are placed exactly over the spot where you would have been on the background layer.

Above, you see my first self-portrait image cut from its background and moved onto the background layer as Layer 1.

Brush Removing Unwanted Background From Portrait

Brush Removing Unwanted Background From Portrait

Place a layer mask on the self-portrait layer #1 and use the paintbrush tool to erase or hide any portions of the background on layer #1 so that you see only your portrait and the background layer below.

Here, in my example, you see the first self-portrait (layer 1) in position on the background layer with a layer mask in place and the paintbrush tool being used to erase everything around the image of me so that you only see the background below layer #1.

Repeat this process with the other self-portrait poses, creating layers #2, #3, etc. When you are done, flatten the image into a JPEG, and VOILA, you have yourself several times in a single image.

The final product—a multiple self-portrait

The final product—a multiple self-portrait

Notice that I could even include my shadow and my self-portrait, neither of which were there when I took the background picture.

Another multiple self-portrait

Another multiple self-portrait

As a final step, I used a Topaz plug-in to give my self-portrait images a little extra punch. You don't need to do this as it's a matter of taste or artistic license. Someday they may revoke my artistic license but I love to play with my images and Topaz is one of the tools in my digital darkroom toolbox.

Other Ways You Can Use This Technique

I've shown you how to do a fun multiple self-portrait, but you can use this technique in a number of ways. You can use it to make collages or posters or even to do portraits or senior pictures or for some wedding pictures if you are doing that kind of photography.

This technique can be a for-fun craft like digital scrapbooking, a way to commemorate a special occasion or person, or, with practice, a way to create a work of art. You need to practice to hone your skills in these techniques, but the key is your imagination.

I'd Love To Hear From You

Courtney Rhodes on July 18, 2015:

I love this idea, it's so quirky! I like to use photoshop and I run out of ideas when doing portraits especially. Thanks for sharing.

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on September 07, 2013:

@othellos: glad you liked it....have fun and build skills.

othellos on September 07, 2013:

Excellent tutoring. I must try it right away and following your instructions at the end I should surprise my family on the improvement I make in my photography adventure! Appreciate you sharing these tips:=)

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on March 30, 2013:

@Fcuk Hub: Thank you...I hope it is helpful.

Fcuk Hub on March 30, 2013:

Good work here. I have truly enjoyed your tips and explanation.

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on February 17, 2013:

@redtailvision: Thank you. I have retired my 35mm film cameras but my digital camera has a full-frame image sensor (same size as 35mm). I love the ability to "develop" my own images so I will stay with digital.

redtailvision on February 17, 2013:

Nice lens! Wonderful photos! I use photoshop for the digital I take, but still use 35mm the most. Only self-portrait I ever did was my reflection in my oldest son's eye.

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on November 24, 2012:

@anonymous: Thank you Tipi....I am blessed.

anonymous on November 24, 2012:

Now I was sure that I blessed this excellence when I was here a while back, fixed that!

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on November 22, 2012:

@tvyps: Thank you soooo much!

Teri Villars from Phoenix, Arizona on November 22, 2012:

This is totally cool. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on November 18, 2012:

@choosehappy: Great! Have fun

Vikki from US on November 18, 2012:

How awesome! I am totally going to give this a try.

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on November 13, 2012:

@anonymous: I don't know, I don't have an iPhone...all my phones are dumb.

anonymous on November 13, 2012:

do they have an app on the iphone like this ?

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on November 12, 2012:

@darciefrench lm: I'm glad you liked it.

darciefrench lm on November 12, 2012:

Very cool, I enjoyed your page on multiple self-portrait imagery

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on November 10, 2012:

@Diana Wenzel: Thank you RW2010....I'm loving the possibilities in the digital age.

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on November 10, 2012:

I had never thought to create a multiple self-portrait image. Now I want to give it a try. Thanks for the idea and the instructions. I really like your creativity and the ranch portrait. Beautifully rendered.

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on November 03, 2012:

@kopox: Thank you kopox

kopox on November 03, 2012:

very nice photographs... like it :)

anonymous on August 24, 2012:

hi peeps

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on August 10, 2012:

@anonymous: Thank you can be fun

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on August 10, 2012:

@anonymous: Thank you Tipi

anonymous on August 09, 2012:

Had to share this on FB...smiling at you!

anonymous on August 09, 2012:

How very cool and well done with excellent instructions along the way so that anyone can become twins, or triplets or any other multiple by following your directions...very, very cool!

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on July 18, 2012:

@Lady Lorelei: Thank you Ladymermaid....hmmmmm....October is approaching.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on July 18, 2012:

I truly am amazed and impressed. Your pictures look amazing, unique, and just a wee bit spooky to boot. You could really make some great Halloween photos using the multiple self portrait technique.

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on June 12, 2012:

@bilafond lm: Glad to be of assistance. I believe the teme is applied by Squidoo when you build a lens with a craft theme and characterize it as such.

bilafond lm on June 12, 2012:

This was very useful and I am going to try this. Tell me please from where have you got the theme for this Lens "So Crafty" I could not find it. I liked it a lot actually.

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on June 09, 2012:

@sukkran trichy: You're welcome....perhaps a technique rather than a trick.

sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on June 08, 2012:

learned a trick from you. thanks

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on June 04, 2012:

@Spiderlily321: Thank you!

Spiderlily321 on June 04, 2012:

Wow-this is really cool. Thanks for sharing!

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on April 15, 2012:

@ItayaLightbourne: I know you can do it....have fun!

Itaya Lightbourne from Topeka, KS on April 14, 2012:

So THAT'S how it's done! I think I could do it now. Very well done article. :)

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on April 12, 2012:

@SoniaCarew: Thank you...have fun!

SoniaCarew on April 12, 2012:

Great tips!

Will give it a try.

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on April 11, 2012:

@anonymous: I do..thank you. Now we hope to see you in some of your great travel photographyt.

anonymous on April 11, 2012:

Cool, you look like you live in a cool part of the world, nice work

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on April 10, 2012:

@belinda342: Thank you and I hope she has fun.

belinda342 on April 10, 2012:

What a great lens! You did a great job with both the pictures and instruction. I'm going to have to share this with my daughter in law. She loves being on both sides of the camera!

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on April 10, 2012:

@artbyrodriguez: You're welcome.....have fun with it.

Beverly Rodriguez from Albany New York on April 10, 2012:

I love this lens! Was always wondering how to do those insertions. Thanks for sharing.

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on April 10, 2012:

@Brandi Bush: Thank you....that's the view I grew up with. I am able to visit the location but not living there is difficult.

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on April 10, 2012:

@Elyn MacInnis: Thanks....have fun.

Brandi from Maryland on April 10, 2012:

This is super cool! I am quite impressed with this lens...your step-by-step is excellent and the subject matter is even better. BTW, that background is breathtaking! I used to live in UT and I really miss those incredible mountains! The "mountains" here in PA just don't compare! :)

Elyn MacInnis from Shanghai, China on April 10, 2012:

Wow - amazing. I would have never thought of this. It looks so easy - I might even try it!

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on April 09, 2012:

@MissionBoundCre: Thank you!

MissionBoundCre on April 09, 2012:

Great lens! Great teacher!

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on April 09, 2012:

@FantasticVoyages: Great! Thanks and have fun.

Fantastic Voyages from Texas on April 09, 2012:

Wow! I really like this article! You make the whole process seem so easy, that even someone like me could master it! I'm going to bookmark this for future reference. Thanks!

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on April 09, 2012:

@Ninche: Thanks, thanks

Ninche on April 09, 2012:

Can I press like button twice?

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on April 09, 2012:

@Gala98: Thank you....have fun

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on April 09, 2012:

@SusanDeppner: Thank you....the camera is holding up so far.

Gala98 on April 09, 2012:

oh I really like this one! I too prefer the other side of the camera but I might persuade myself to try this too :) Great info

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on April 09, 2012:

Outstanding! I absolutely love this. You make a great subject in front of the camera, too. Beautiful photography as always and great instructions!

Chuck Nelson (author) from California on April 09, 2012:

@teristazko: Thank you

teristazko on April 09, 2012:

Very unique and interesting idea. This lens really shows your personality...I love it! Thanks for sharing.