5 Tips For Taking Pictures Of Yourself

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 2 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.

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 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.

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 you are the subject! Or at least one of them. Think of angles and light that flatter you the most. You’re 10x 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.*

For this one, I didn’t have time to break out the tripod, so I just held it out in front of myself and fired away. You may notice 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 & 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/frumpy. And I’m fairly confident 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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  1. This was the perfect reminder for me. We’re going to try to do self family photos this year, since we just moved and don’t have a photographer here. I have a tripod, but I’m assuming most remotes only work with DSLR type cameras? I have a basic Nikon Coolpix point and shoot, and while it definitely produces great photos when I know what I’m doing, I’m afraid they won’t be great with me having to run back and forth a million times.

  2. My remote was one of the best $5 investments I’ve ever made. I need to work on actually USING it to get in the picture, but this was a good reminder.

    p.s. I could not love that photo of you and LL on the couch more.

  3. We wouldn’t have any of our family shots if it weren’t for our remote and tripod. With no fmaily or friends in the state who else will prove that all 4 of us live together and that I exist?! We’ll be doing our own X-mas card pics soon. Good tips!

  4. Thank you for this post! The timing couldn’t be more perfect; I just got my first DSLR and my tripod came in from Amazon last night! I can’t wait to get some shots of my little family with me actually IN them! (By the way, your posts on your own photographic journey have been so inspiring! I have hope that I really will get better!)

  5. So the 50mm lens might be out for Christmas thanks to the budget, but maybe a tripod and remote aren’t! I’m so, so big on making sure I’m IN photos with my children because I have NONE of my mother and me throughout most of my life. As a baby? Yes. As an adult? Yep. But through elementary, middle, and high school? None exist.

  6. The hubs & I found our timer on our honeymoon. We wanted pics of us as a couple, but didn’t want to keep having to ask people to take them! And sometimes, there are no people around. problem solved. We use it frequently for ourselves, but have a hard time using it with FireGirl. Ours also takes 3 in a row, so that increases our chances of getting a good shot after the timer.

    We recently got our tripod, but quite frankly keep forgetting to use it. Silly, I know, but we keep forgetting we have it. D’oh!

  7. Thanks for posting this, I was wondering how you got that awesome shot of you and your daughter on the couch! Now I know…I need to upgrade my gorilla tripod for a real one!

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  9. There’s no remote available for my camera so I have to rely on the self timer. But what I do have is a multi-shot mode that I can use in conjunction with the timer.
    After 10 seconds it takes 3 shots with a 5 second gap between each. Saves running back to the camera so often and gives you a chance to settle into your pose.
    Also, I find I need to take lots of pictures to get one that works so keep at it.

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