I think we can agree that a self portrait is a daunting task. For one, most photographers are not as comfortable being in front of the camera as we are behind it. We get used to being the one instructing and perfecting our scene, pushing the shutter and making our subject look fabulous. But the thought of ourselves being the subject photographed can be a tad overwhelming.
And secondly, the technical aspects of setting up the scene, learning new gadgets and shooting methods in-order to create the self portrait can seem intimidating. What is so simple for us when we are behind the camera, such as composing, focusing, and capturing the image, sends us fumbling once we’re attempting to capture ourselves on the other side of the lens … by ourselves.
When several recent events transpired in my life, I realized that while I cherish the memories I was capturing of my boys, I really did want them to have images of me, too. Life is busy and full of activity, energy and joy, but it is also fleeting and unpredictable. I knew I needed to figure out how to take self-portraits, and to get the courage to actually follow through. So, I absorbed all the advice I could from photographers who were willing to share about their self-portrait methods and gave it a go!
Self Portrait with My Kids
To set up these shot, I angled one of our couches off of the wall at about a 45 degree angle to better utilize the one window in our basement-playroom.
I had not yet received my tripod, so I set my camera and 35mm 1.4 lens on a stool about 7 feet from the couch. I had one of my boys sit on the couch holding my grey card, so that I could set my meter and white balance. When setting my meter, I had to choose my aperture carefully, taking into account the field of focus I’d need for all 4 of us to be in focus. I also had to make sure that my shutter speed was high enough to freeze the little bits of movements my boys were sure to make. I then placed him where I’d like him to be within the composition of our photo, locked focus on him and took a test shot. Then without moving my camera, I switched my lens to manual focus.
Because I knew I wanted to capture a variety of images during this series, I chose to use my camera’s interval timer, programmed to take 2 images, every 5 seconds, 9 times. Every 5 seconds, I’d tell my boys to do something different, like “Look at the camera,” “Look out the window,” “Say something silly,” etc. Sometimes this led to the actual ‘command,’ while other times it resulted in a totally candid image, such as my favorite one, shown here!
Some have asked me how I got my boys to cooperate to take this series of images, and honestly, just telling them that I wanted to take some photos of us together made them very willing participants!
Self Portrait by Myself
These images did utilize the help of a tripod but also could have been done with the use of a stool instead. I chose this window and location (in my bedroom) because of the deep shadows I knew I could achieve while standing next to the window.
Because I knew that these images were very much going to be trial and error to find flattering positions of myself, I only shot one image at a time, utilizing the 5 second delay on my camera. To achieve focus, I simply held my right hand where my face would be, locked in my focus with my left hand and back-button-focus, then switched my lens to Manual focus. I was able to do this method only because I was using my 35mm lens, and therefore the camera was quite close to where I’d be standing. I then pressed my shutter button, move into position, and so on and so on until I was happy with my shots! I am sure this isn’t the most ‘technical’ way to achieve self-portraits but I hope this shows that there are a number of methods to make the shot!
I encourage you to try out these simple methods and document yourself! I promise … you’ll be so thankful that you did!