Five Tips For Taking Pictures of Yourself

BlogHer Original Post

There's been a bit of a movement lately to encourage moms to get in front of the camera. I've blogged about it before, about how important it is for our kids to have tangible photographic evidence that we were here, too.

In theory, it should be as simple as sucking it up (or in, in the case of my gut), and hopping in when someone else is taking the picture. But in reality, a lot of us ARE the photographers. So the only way to be sure we can take the picture and also be in it is to figure out how to do the two things at the same time.

Here are 5 tips for taking pictures of yourself, including pictures with your family. And yes, dads, these all pertain to you, as well, if you happen to be the family documentarian.

1. Invest in a remote control and a tripod. These do not have to be expensive. My remote was less than $5, and I ordered it online. If your camera isn't compatible with a remote, at least locate the self-timer. The tripod will be a little more of an investment, but well worth it. You can use it for many other types of photography (like star trails... oooh!), and it's the safest place for your camera to take a picture from when not held safely in someone's hands.

2. Plan your set-up. Unlike candids and in-the-moment lifestyle photography, selfies have to have a little planning behind them. That doesn't mean it can't look like a candid shot, but you'll need to figure out exactly where you're shooting so you can adjust your settings accordingly and, obviously, point your camera in the right direction.

I took this picture of my daughter and myself after I knew that she would want to curl up on the couch with me around 4 p.m. when the light is beautiful in our living room. She does this every day.

Mother and daughter self-portrait
So around 3:45 I set up and did a few test shots, aiming at the corner of the couch, where I knew we'd wind up. I adjusted my settings, including stopping down my aperture a bit more than I usually do.* Then climbed onto the couch with my remote control in hand, set to a 2-second timer so I had time to hide the remote after pushing the button before the shutter fired.

*If you shoot with a (D)SLR, it's important that your f-stop or aperture isn't too wide open (remember the smaller the number - like 1.4- the wider it is). The wider it is, the harder it will be to nail focus, and since you won't be behind the lens to make small adjustments, you'll need a little wiggle room to avoid a blurry picture.

3.If you're expecting perfection, be prepared to work for it. Taking our own family picture was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done as a photographer. This idyllic scene did not come without much sweat and tears... and me running from the camera back to the hill because we were out of range for my remote, and I was relying on the 10-second self timer.

Family Self Portrait
Out of about 20 shots of this same set-up, came this one perfect frame that I would run 10 miles for to get it if I had to. The lesson here is DON'T GIVE UP! Of course, know when to throw some bribes at your kids and feed them dinner, but keep trying.

4. Remember that you are the subject! Or at least one of them. Think of angles and light that flatter you the most. You're 10 times more likely to actually keep a picture you look good in, right? So don't go to all the work of taking a picture of yourself and not do your best to make sure you don't look awful.

Now, I'm not saying this is the best picture of me. In fact, I took it on a day that was particularly crappy - no makeup, in my pjs. But I had the good sense to stand in flattering light. (It was actually side light from our open front door. I was practically standing in the doorway). And I took it from an angle that's flattering - slightly above eye level.*

Baby Rabies Self Portrait
For this one, I didn't have time to break out the tripod, so I just held it out in front of me and fired away. You may notice that I slightly missed focus because it was so close, but it captured the mood I was trying to convey so I stuck with it.

* Be careful with this, though. You don't want anything too extreme, or you'll end up looking like a bad MySpace profile pic. And promise me you won't make a duck face. Please.

5. Be persistent and don't delete too quickly. Keep trying. Keep practicing. Keep getting in the picture. And don't be so quick to delete the ones you don't like! Remember, 10 years from now, we'll probably look back at any pictures of ourselves today and think we were crazy for feeling ugly, fat, or frumpy. And I'm fairly confident that our children won't judge in 50 years when they run across a picture of us that so perfectly captures the mannerisms and character they lovingly remember...perfect or not.

This post is part of BlogHer's Pro Photography Tips editorial series, made possible by Panasonic.

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