Self-Portrait Project

9 lessons

Clarifying your Intent

In this lesson, you will begin to visualise your identity from the research and examples you have got so far.

Lesson menu


  • Actively aim to understand the link between theoretical research and physical generated outcomes
  • Challenge yourself to think critically about your sense of identity, perhaps exploring issues that affect you as well as wider communities
  • Write a research question as a way of giving a definite purpose to your project


  • Workbook

Guiding questions

Think about these questions as you work your way through the lesson:

  • What element(s) of identity are you exploring?
  • What style of photography are you interested in pursuing?
  • What objects or materials can be integrated into an idea that relate to your research?


  1. 1

    In your workbook create a brainstorm for your chosen idea/ideas (at this point you can explore a few ideas and settle on one)


    Example of a brainstorm

  2. 2

    Write and draw some ideas that you have surrounding how you would visualise all the information you have so far

  3. 3

    Finalise the theme you want to pursue in your photographs for this project

Lesson content

  1. This is the stage that links research and making. Looking at everything you have gathered and all the notes you have taken in your workbook, you should be able to see some themes occurring naturally. Now you can begin to think about how you are going to re-visualise this. How can you merge your own visual research and personal collections into a series of photographs? Try using the brainstorming method where you write something like, ‘MY IDENTITY’ in the middle and arrows outwards with all your different points. I find this the easiest way to organise your thoughts when they are a bit all over the place! Once you have finalised what you will be exploring through your self-portraits, you can begin thinking about how that will translate into a photograph. 

    When working with a project that is research-heavy like this one, it can be helpful to write yourself a research question. Your final photographic work will seek to answer this question. This could be something general, for example, “How can self-portraiture represent my own sense of cultural identity?” or something more specific to your theme. Using a research question can be a helpful way to anchor your project and give yourself a focus point if you get lost.

    Next, in my workflow, I start to draw scenes that I might want to recreate in a photograph. However, this style of working all depends on what kind of photographer you are and what kind of photographs you want to take. Some shoots require a huge amount of planning and studiously following a shot list. Other shoots can be a lot more experimental and candid with little preparation needed. Understanding the way you work best as a photographer is extremely important, a workflow that suits you will help you be as creative and productive as possible.  

    Content Block 1

    “Untitled #577”(2016/18). Cindy Sherman

Tips & tricks

  • When deciding on a style to shoot in, a helpful approach is to refer to Bill Nichols 6 Modes of Documentary. These include poetic, expository, participatory, observational, reflexive and performative. These modes are referring to documentary film, however, they can still be really helpful for figuring out new and different ways to approach photography
  • Carry your workbook with you everywhere - it’s good to jot down ideas and experiences before you forget them

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