1. Get a tripod.Depending on what camera you have, you need to find out the weight and get a tripod that will hold it plus your lenses. I brought my camera and the heaviest lens I own to the store with me. A sturdy tripod for $40 instead of spending $$$!
You can also reduce camera shake by using a remote than touching the camera. Especially if you're using a 2 second timer with a slow shutter speed.
3. Shoot in RAW format, if you have it.I personally like to do most of my editing in Camera Raw. You can save your settings as presets as well. When you shoot in RAW, you are able to record the image's information. You can recover blown out highlights because the data is there. Have you ever shot in JPG and couldn't recover highlights because the area was just white? Yep!
Same goes for underexposure. You can bump it up and the quality could still be good as long as it's not in extremes. JPG's already have a processed look while RAW format is pretty dull straight out of camera. A preset can be made to mimick it anyways and you can save it as your settings so all images will update with it.
4. Turn your back to the sun.That way there's no angry squinting, shadows on the face or impossible to fix hot spots. It's best to shoot when it's 2-3 hours before sunset if you prefer the glow and hazy look. This lighting is usually easier to work with and more even depending on your location. Your subject can be placed to cover the sun like in this photo. :)
A reflector can help soften or get rid of shadows on the face. It can get blinding though...
5. Raise the aperture. (f-stop)A blurry background is still possible if you don't use the lowest number (examples: f/1.4, f/1.8). You just have to be at a distance from the background. The camera will try to lock focus on what has the most contrast and if there's too much haze, then it may continue to auto focus, take soft focus or out of focus shots.
7. Learn to use Manual.That way you have control over everything: aperture, iso & shutter speed. I love this infographic by Esther Beazer! Easy to read.
8. Take more shots in one session.Generally I take around 100-200 for my self portraits and a couple hundred more for portrait sessions depending on the type. There has been times when photos look so lovely on your camera screen and then you open it up on the computer. Nope. It can have had focus issues, lighting issues (hot spots on your face, blown out details, etc) or the subject (self portraits) can be halfway outside of the frame!
9. Multiple shots.What if you like one image in particular but your subject's eyes (or yours!) are closed or mid blink? Mouth open, arms moved or something. Yeah, that happens. :(
You can also have one of your pets walk right into the background of your self portraits. Use another photo with your pet out of the picture and use an inverted layer mask to cover their butt. I'm saying butt because my dog's always show up in mine.
Plus there's always the Brenizer method which stitches photos together.
VSCOcam is finally out for Andriod!! It's my go-to camera app now because it's like RAW on your phone. I was aware that there were presets but if you take pictures with their camera, you get access to those addionital settings. You can adjust exposure, temperature, contrast, highlights, shadows, sharpness, grain, fade, etc