Getting in the Frame: How to Take a Self Portrait
As the one behind the camera, chances are, you aren’t in photos very often. But it can be so rewarding to actually be in the frame… to not just capture the memories, but to be in them, too. That is precisely why I decided to learn how to take a self portrait. I wanted to be able to be in the frame with my kids. I want them to have photos with me. But the reality is, a self portrait can be one of the most difficult photos to take. If you have struggled to get in the frame, whether with your own family or even capturing your own memories, here are a few quick tips!
What You Need
You don’t need much! Just:
- Your camera
- A tripod, a stack of books, or any trustworthy sturdy surface to set your camera on
- A remote (or your camera’s timer)
Use a Stand In
Have someone or something available for you to be able to set your focus point and to meter your exposure off of. In the image above, I was able to use my daughter to set my focus point and exposure, since she was going to be in the shot with me. While I was behind the camera, she sat on the couch while I locked the focus point on her. Once I had the camera all set, I snuck into the frame, snuggled her into me and clicked the remote. We are both in focus because I was sure to sit in the exact same plane where she had been when I focused on her.
If you are doing your self portrait alone, you can use any object, (like a coffee cup or a flower vase, etc.) as your stand in. The stand in is simply to aid you in achieving focus and exposure in the exact spot where you will be at during the self portrait.
Timer or Remote
I have done self portraits with both my camera’s built in timer and with a remote shutter release. I do like the control I have by using the remote, but if you don’t have one, the timer will work just fine! I like to take multiple shots at once, so that I can save time running back and forth to check for a good shot. This is easy with the remote, but most cameras will also allow you to set the number of shots fired with the self-timer as well. Each camera is different, so please refer to your camera’s manual for how to set up your timer.
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Choose Your Aperture Wisely
I really love the depth of shooting wide open, but if I’m shooting a self portrait, that is a time I’m more likely to close down the aperture just a little. If you are having trouble achieving proper focus on your self portraits, consider giving yourself some margin for error by stopping down a little. But by all means, if you are able to nail focus wide open, go for it! Shooting wide open gives great subject to background separation that is appealing in any portrait.
One of the things I love about self portraits is that there really is no limit to how creative you can get. Think outside of the box to capture something a little different! In my “morning coffee” image above, I took the creative liberty of making the entire shot completely out of focus. There is no end to the ways you can truly make this portrait your own – and it should be!
Let us know if you’re up for this fun challenge. Understanding how to take a self portrait will give you so much more freedom to get in the frame. Give it a try, you’ll be glad you did.