For 2013 I’m doing a Project 365. This means that I’m taking a photo a day for a year. So far, I’m doing well and I’m already learning new photography skills. One thing I’ve been working on is self portraits. I’m aiming to be in at least one photo a week, so that in the end it will be a record of our whole family. Self portraits can be a challenge, but I think they have a lot of advantages too. You have more control (not a fan of the postpartum tummy? Don’t take photos that show it!) and you can delete anything that looks terrible before anyone else sees it. Taking self portraits means that you can have a record those beautiful moments with your children that capture your emotions, as opposed to only snapshots taken by friends with a funny look on your face or a mouth full of food. I know I still have a lot to learn, but here’s some things I’ve found helpful when taking selfies with kids.
For me, looking at the camera gives me two options. First I can smile — this is not a terrible thing, but I find that if you smile in all your photos it can feel less authentic. Also, I think I might have smile lines… surely not. The second option is to try and look at the camera without smiling. Supermodels are really great at this, but I usually try too hard and end up looking like a bug-eyed alien. I think I prefer the smile lines. Therefore, I usually look away from the camera. This is easy to do when you are holding a child because they give you something obvious to be looking at, and it creates a sense of connection between you.
Holding the Camera
If you take a photo while holding the camera, try to avoid getting your arm in the shot. I’m obviously holding the camera here, but the photo is framed more around our faces; I could just be turned towards the camera. If you are zoomed in close (or using a prime lens, like the 50 1.8 that I shot all these with) it’s easier to avoid seeing your arm. If you’re zoomed further back, try and curve your arm a little. Also, if you can tilt the camera down onto you from slightly above, it’s a more flattering angle. I have a Canon 5D and it’s no picnic shooting with one hand stretched out (that baby is heavy!) but it’s not so bad with a small lens and I think I’m developing some forearm strength.
Using a tripod and timer
If you have a tripod, this is the best way to have a less obvious self portrait. I set this photo up by finding the best light in the house at that time of day and shifting around our window seat to make a nice spot to sit. I sat on the seat and focused my camera on the tripod before turning the autofocus off. Then I attached the camera to the tripod and ran back and forth multiple times with Sunny to get this shot. She found it hilarious and as a bonus she was intrigued by the blinking light of the timer. The result was a perfect smile at the camera, even with no one behind it!
Go about your business
For this shot, I wanted to capture us all cooking together. Sunny is teething and super fussy and Ria wanted to be in on all the cooking action. I set the camera up on the china cabinet across the room and focused on Ria’s chair before cooking “naturally” with her. It only took three shots to get this one, and again, Sunny is fascinated by the blinking light. It’s not what you’d think of as a classic self portrait, but I wanted to remember this scene.
Embrace the close-up
This one was taken handheld in the parking lot of the drugstore. It was a dark day so I couldn’t get anything good inside, but outside was gross. You can’t tell though, because it’s zoomed in tight and is all about the snuggle. I don’t worry about fitting our whole faces in or where it crops off, I just capture the feeling of closeness we have. I probably took 20 shots to get this one, and I bet only 3 were in focus or even had us in the shot (it’s surprisingly easy to shoot over your shoulder!). Take a lot of shots every time and then sift them for the happy accidents.
Getting a bit more technical
If you are shooting manually with a DSLR, depth of field is the trickiest thing for me. I like to shoot wide open, or close to, when I’m shooting hand held because it gives such a wonderful mood. However, it can be very tricky to nail the focus (you’re aiming for sharp eyelashes) when you aren’t looking through the viewfinder. I back button focus which adds an extra element of coordination. I try and check between each shot to see if I’m anywhere close and I definitely refocus with every shot. It’s also tricky to see where your light meter is at, especially on days where the light keeps changing while you shoot. I just use trial and error and sometimes a strange exposure lends a sense of mood.
If you are shooting with the timer, you might want to use a smaller aperture than you usually would, to increase your odds of actually catching everyone in focus. If you can convince someone to stand in for you to focus on, and then stand right in that spot for the shot you have the best odds of success. I almost never do this, as Mr SH never seems to be around when I’m taking these and Ria breaks down in tears when I try and get her to stay in one spot for me (she’s in a lot less selfies than Sunny!). I find the timer to be less intuitive that holding the camera, but I’m getting a feel for it by using it regularly.
Finally, recognize that you might not get it all right. In this photo I’m focused on the wall instead us, and the light was terrible. I still love it. Turning the photo black and white distracts from some of my mistakes and all I see is how sweet she was. I want to remember what that little baby cheek felt like. I’ll just make the picture a bit smaller in my photobook!
Photography Tutorials part 10 of 101. Photography 101 – White Balance by Mrs. Bee
2. Photography 101 – Aperture by Mrs. Bee
3. Camera Basics by Mrs. Chocolate
4. 5 Simple Tips to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids by Photoshoots
5. Top 10 iPhone Photo Apps by Apps
6. Favorite Photo Apps by Apps
7. Easy Peasy Post-Processing by Mrs. Superhero
8. Interchangable lens cameras: An easy DSLR alternative by Mrs. Yoyo
9. Top 10 Ways I Improved My Photography by Mrs. Bee
10. Taking self portraits with your children by Mrs. Superhero