with Courtney Slazinik
Self Portraits – Day in the Life
Self Portraits – Day in the Life

After to moving from New York to California I had some time to think seriously about my business, figure out what I personally wanted to get out of my work, and where I wanted my focus to be. There were no clients, deadlines, or emails to respond to, just time to think. I started photographing my daughter a lot, like every mother does. Recording every single milestone and sending pictures to family in New York. I was then reminded why I fell in love photography in the first place.

I wanted to artistically document my life.

Now people do that in a number of ways, but I found the best memories lie in the everyday simple things. The things that maybe don’t seem significant as first, but looking back, they tell the entire story of your life at the exact time they were taken. I wanted to FEEL those moments again, years from now.

I got the idea to start doing “Day in the Life” type sessions with my own family and quickly realized something was missing. ME! All the pictures were of my husband and daughter, and I was completely cut out from our pictures. So decided to get the ol’ tripod and remote out and do a Day in the Life Self Portrait session. It took two days total to get all the pictures I wanted (since self portraits take a good deal longer than having a photographer follow you around), but I put them together in a blog post to seem as it was one day.

So here are my Day in the Life self portraits. The pictures aren’t perfect. I can only be so candid when using a tripod to photograph myself (especially with the baby!), but they are the best I could do by myself. I included some tips and tricks I’ve learned throughout my self portrait journey and hopefully they will inspire you to create some of your own!

When trying to figure out which moments you want to photograph think about what you want to remember most about this particular season in your family’s life.
Make a list of things that stand out to you throughout the day so you remember moments that you want to capture. Sometimes I go as far as doing a test shot or scribbling down other details like time of day (for the light!), angles, or camera settings . This way when you have the desire to pull out your camera (most likely because baby is happy and you have put on a dab of makeup) you already have an idea on the type of image you hope to produce, and setting up should be much faster.

I set up the tripod the night before so it would be ready and easy to get these morning shots.
I used a remote with a 2-second timer (so I had time to hide the remote!). In the morning I got my settings and focused the camera on a section of the blanket so I would know where to sit and be in focus.

Some remotes will let your camera auto focus on specific points, but I find it hard to stay directly in front of one specific focus point, and it often focuses on something behind me.
It is also tricky to use auto focus in certain back lit situations as well as when there is lots of movement going on. So what I have found to work best is switching to manual focus.

I have to admit, the reflection in the mirror was totally an accident. But how awesome is that?? My husband was running out the door so he wouldn’t be late for work and I was chasing after him with the tripod and baby in hand. I set the camera down, clicked the remote, and froze a scene of our life that I will be able to hold onto forever.

It was a little tricky trying to give the baby a bath while fiddling with the camera (they should make waterproof remotes!). After a few shots with me in them I decided I to focus on the baby.


Sometimes I like to shoot from my own perspective. This can be a great idea when you just don’t feel like being in pictures. Maybe your hair is a mess and you are still in your pajamas, but a special moment appears… don’t miss out on documenting it. Shoot from your point of view! Not only can you find other chances to be in pictures this way , but you are giving a unique look into your life from your perspective. My hand is in the shot splashing the water and making her smile.


Unlike the mirror reflection in the other shot above, this reflection WAS intentional. It was another shot I had set up ahead of time and gotten my settings and even focus. I made sure my tripod was behind the baby gate so I didn’t have to worry about her knocking it over throughout the day. The way I focused for this shot was by switching to live view mode. I typically shoot with wide angle prime lenses, but the problem with this for self portraits is that I can’t zoom in with the lens to make sure I’ve got a sharp focus on the subject (or in this case, part of the blinds where I planned on standing). So I digitally zoom in using the Live View mode and manually rotate the focus ring to achieve that tack sharp focus (Note: You must have you camera lens switched to manual focus in order to digitally zoom in on the screen). Once you get your focus set, turn off the Live View (keep your lens on manual focus!), and you should be good to go!

For this shot I actually had my 12 year old brother shoot it for me after getting the settings and telling him where to stand. Made things much easier for sure and I didn’t have to lug my tripod around while taking our walk.

The last tip I have for you is to take a break or call it a day if things aren’t going how you imagined. There’s been times I’ve been completely stressed out over self portraits, my husband and I were all tense with each other, and the baby was crying, yet I was way too determined to get “the shot” and kept going. Looking back at the shots afterwards I realized that I had forgotten why I was doing this. You see, I want to capture these special moments, but I also want to CREATE special moments while I’m taking the pictures. The shots I’ve gotten while all stressed out might be technically perfect, but they will never be my favorite, and they were definitely not worth what I put my family through to get them. If you have a camera, the skill, and the patience, you can always try again tomorrow! I promise you there will be another gorgeous sunset, another good hair day, and many many more moments worth capturing. Have fun taking your self portraits!

  • Michelle Ayers
    September 2, 2015 at 11:08 AM

    I loved reading this and looking at the pictures!

  • Ashley
    September 2, 2015 at 2:56 PM

    Love this post! Very inspiring!

  • Michelle
    September 2, 2015 at 8:30 PM

    Such gorgeous shots – your light is beautiful!

  • Valerie
    September 2, 2015 at 8:53 PM

    LOVE this! What a great idea! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Uniek Kaswarganti
    September 2, 2015 at 9:32 PM

    Your pictures are so amazing, Ellen. It’s inspiring.

  • Amy
    September 2, 2015 at 10:03 PM

    I love this concept! I agree that lifestyle photos are the ones that usually bring back the best memories. Two of my faves from when my oldest (boy/girl twins) were babies are one where my daughter is trying to suck on her brother’s hand (because it was closer than her own) and when my son is trying to take my daughter’s toy (even though he has an identical one in his lap). Those are more precious than any portrait or planned shot. Thanks again!

  • Carlos Cota
    September 2, 2015 at 10:31 PM

    Beautiful work the colors, the lights and the way you talk about your day, a wonderful concept thanks.

  • Sarah
    September 2, 2015 at 10:38 PM

    Hi Ellen! What beautiful photos! I too have the same problem with not being in any photos. This will definitely be a project for me to try and do but I know how wonderful it will be! Thank you for sharing! And how fun to see that we both live in San Diego! I look forward to following you.

  • natalie james
    September 3, 2015 at 12:08 AM

    I have read many articles on self portraits, but this is the first one that has inspired me to try it myself. Really amazing photos and idea and words. Loved it and love her website.

  • Leanne
    September 3, 2015 at 12:45 AM

    Your images are just drop-dead gorgeous :) Thanks so much for the live view focus tip. I hadn’t heard that before and I just went and tried it – brillant!!

  • Krina Bhavsar
    September 3, 2015 at 2:00 AM

    i loved the article and your photographs especially ur baby’s bathing session.

  • Annie
    September 3, 2015 at 7:47 AM

    I loved these! Thank you so much for sharing!!

  • kris
    September 3, 2015 at 9:51 AM

    GReat article!! Very inspiring!

  • Tressa
    September 3, 2015 at 10:55 AM

    This was a really inspiring article! I have never used a tripod before and am very intimidated by it. Do you buy a remote separately that is compatible with your camera? Any recommendations?

  • Danina
    September 3, 2015 at 10:55 AM

    I love this! Just last weekend I took a few self portraits with the tripod too. You can see them here. http://twodozencookies.blogspot.com/ I don’t have a remote, so it was a little tricky. Your post inspired to do this more often. Thank you!

  • Danina
    September 3, 2015 at 11:09 AM

    I love this! Just last weekend I took some self portraits with my tripod too. I don’t have a remote, so it was a little tricky, but I love the way they turned out. Your post inspired me to do it more often. Thank you! http://twodozencookies.blogspot.com/http:/

  • lottie @ yellow bliss photography
    September 3, 2015 at 2:29 PM

    these are so sweet!! What darling moments you captured!! I loved every single picture! Thank you for sharing. <3


  • Ola Otto
    September 3, 2015 at 3:11 PM

    I loved these photos and reading the post itself. It does remind of me why I too, take photos – to capture those moments in life “worth” remembering – big or small, ordinary moments or special ones. My photos are capturing my life, and the lives of those around me. One of my favorite photos, or really, series of photos, is when I took my children camping up in northern California. Each time, we would walk to and up in a local lighthouse. Each time, I’d take a picture of both of my children at the bottom of the stairs in the lighthouse. Over time, the relative sizes of my two children, the looks on their faces and the growth and abilities to “conquer” more each time, tells such a wonderful story.

    Thanks so much for your post!
    Blessings, Ola

  • Jacqueline
    September 17, 2015 at 2:18 PM

    Love this ! Can’t believe the mirror shot was an accident – it turned out beautifully!

  • Liz
    September 20, 2015 at 11:39 AM

    Such an inspiring post! Thanks for sharing so many great tips!!

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