with Courtney Slazinik
Self Portraits Made Easy
Self Portraits Made Easy

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 portraits made easy

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.

self portrait pull back

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.

self portrait

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!

how to take a self portrait

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

self portrait tips

self portrait tips

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.

self portrait pull back

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!

self portrait tips

I encourage you to try out these simple methods and document yourself! I promise … you’ll be so thankful that you did!

  • December 21, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    I LOVE your work, Lacey! These are fantastic tips. I am definitely getting in front of the camera more in 2013!

    • Courtney
      December 27, 2012 at 2:36 PM

      Lacey’s work is beautiful, isn’t it!! I hope you do get in front of the camera more!! You will be so happy you did!

  • December 21, 2012 at 8:37 AM

    Three kids? Holy Moly, you look amazing!!! Love these shots! Great tutorial too!

    • Courtney
      December 27, 2012 at 2:37 PM

      She does look fantastic!! So glad you enjoyed the tutorial!

  • Kira
    December 21, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    I saw these photos when you shared on CM. They’re beautiful, and thanks for the tutorial!

    • Courtney
      December 27, 2012 at 2:37 PM

      These are beautiful photos :) Glad you enjoyed the tutorial!

  • December 21, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    What a great article! I absolutely adore the ones of you and your boys. I’m slowly learning to love to be in the picture too. Thanks for the tips!

    • Courtney
      December 27, 2012 at 2:38 PM

      Glad you enjoyed it!! Hope it inspires you to be in front of the camera more!

  • December 21, 2012 at 2:01 PM

    I agree with the girl who said, “Holy moly you look amazing!” True true! I love these pictures, and while I don’t know anything about photography, I love YOU and this is a great post!

    • Courtney
      December 27, 2012 at 2:41 PM

      So glad you enjoyed the post! Lacey is fantastic :)

  • December 21, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    Thank you everyone, so much! I really appreciate your kind words!

  • December 21, 2012 at 10:56 PM

    Great tips, beautiful photos!!

    • Courtney
      December 27, 2012 at 2:42 PM

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  • January 9, 2013 at 8:15 AM

    I so love this photo of you and your boys. Having 3 young kids and a toddler myself just gives me a tonne of excuses to not go through the technical how-to take self portraits with the kids.Your tips seems doable and I do hope to be able to try this sometime. Thanks Lacey.You’re really gifted.

    • Courtney
      January 11, 2013 at 10:23 PM

      I hope you are able to try them as well!! Glad you enjoyed Lacey’s post!

  • Elisabeth
    March 6, 2014 at 9:49 PM

    These shots are so great!! I recently tried to take some self portraits, but ran into trouble because my only lens (other than the kit lens) is a 50mm 1.8 and I had to have the camera set way back from where I was sitting in order to get the shot I wanted. My trouble was achieving focus… I tried putting something to focus on where I was sitting and then set my focus, but even that was only successful a fraction of the time. I also have a remote, so I tried using auto focus with the remote — that only worked part of the time. Any pointers for getting yourself in focus when you have zero help and nothing to put in the frame to set a focal point? Thanks!

    • March 10, 2014 at 10:31 AM

      Move a little in each shot so the odds of you getting in focus increase. Also, maybe increase your aperture to around f/4 or f/5. This will help more of the image to be in focus. It takes some time to get used to it and you will get some that are out of focus, we all do :)

  • March 6, 2014 at 10:27 PM

    Thank you! This post is very encouraging to me, that I need to do, and that I can.

  • March 14, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    Thank you for sharing what you learned! It is greatly appreciated!

  • Linda
    May 6, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    For Elizabeth: I recently tried a self portrait using my remote but found it wouldn’t focus. I discovered that the remote wasn’t activating auto focus because I had the camera set to back button focus. I switched it back to shutter focus and it worked fine.

  • May 8, 2014 at 3:46 PM

    Just discovered this blog and will become a regular reader–thanks! Do you happen to remember the shutter speed and aperture setting for the shots on the couch and of you by the window?

    • May 12, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      Welcome :) This post was done by a guest photographer so I don’t have the settings for her images.

  • May 12, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    Such wonderful shots. I can’t wait to try to get some of my own with the tips you’ve provided. Thank you for the post. :)

  • Sherry
    July 5, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    GREAT post!!!!!!!! Thanks for sharing and inspiring!!!!!

  • Ruth
    July 28, 2014 at 9:26 PM

    Great post. Could you please explain why you switch to manual focus. Thanks.

    • August 8, 2014 at 3:11 PM

      This was done by a guest blogger – Lacey Meyers. You may want to contact her to ask but my guess is many photographers like to manually focus and find it easier to set the focus themselves than to try and have the camera search for it :)

  • Liz
    November 27, 2015 at 11:12 AM

    Loved this article- thanks for sharing it again Lacey!

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