Years from now, when your children look through their collection of family photos, will they see you in them?
As the designated family photographer, you are always the one behind the camera.
Maybe it’s because you don’t like to have your picture taken, maybe you don’t feel pretty, or you feel fat, or no one ever offered to snap some photos of you with your family, or maybe you are just so caught up in the moment of documenting them that the thought doesn’t cross your mind.
I have to admit, I am as guilty as the next person. Being in front of the camera is not a feeling I love. All my insecurities are laid bare, and I always struggle with wanting to change something about myself.
However, as I browsed through my childhood photos recently, I realized that when I look at pictures of my mom, I don’t look at pimples or cellulite. I don’t judge how perfect or imperfect her makeup was or what kind of dress she wore, I’m just glad that I have those pictures of her to treasure.
I guarantee you, your children will feel the same way! They will be glad to have the photographs of how their mom looked during their childhood, carried them as a baby, played with them, and read them stories. We were there with them every step of the way, so let’s capture those moments for them!
1. Pre-visualize your photo.
I usually start with visualizing how I want to compose my frame. I think about what I want to capture, such as a portrait or maybe an activity that we like to do together.
This is also the time when I think about our outfits. Most of the time I would choose something simple for myself such as a pair of jeans and a favorite blouse or a casual dress. For a more timeless photo, I simply have my boys wear their pants or shorts and take off their shirts.
Based on my pre-visualization, I choose what lens will best work for my shot. If I want a wider shot with more environment included I use my Canon EF 35mm lens but if I want more of a portrait I often choose my Canon EF 85mm lens. These are not the only lenses I use when I get in the frame but it gives you an idea of why I might choose one over the other when visualizing the shot.
With my children, it doesn’t always pan out the way I envision but it’s always helpful to have some kind of idea of what I want before beginning.
2. Choose your location.
Most of the time my self-portraits with my children take place in our house. I know what kind of light each room in my house depending on the time of day. I know where I should set up if I want backlight and which room works better if I want something more dramatic.
It’s very helpful to study the light in and around your house so that when you are ready to shoot you can get the type of shot you desire. I recommend grabbing a piece of paper and recording the type of light each room or parts of your yard get at different times of the day. This is handy not just for getting in the frame but also for shooting in general around your home.
Also, don’t be afraid of opening and closing curtains and blinds to control the amount of light they let in to modify the light for a more dramatic effect.
3. Get the tripod out.
I find it faster and easier to haul my tripod out rather than trying to find the right height and angle by propping my camera on furniture or the counter top. Attach your camera atop your tripod and compose your frame. Pick up any clutter that might be distracting to save you time from cloning them out later.
At this point, you will also want to carefully compose your shot to minimize any distractions in the background. In addition to clutter, I sometimes remove pictures from the wall and lamps off side tables if they are too distracting.
4. Select your camera settings and set your focus.
When taking pictures with my children, I prefer to close down and use a smaller aperture to be on the safe side. My typical aperture for a self portrait is f/4.
To set my focus, I use a stand-in such as a stuffed animal, placing it where I will be. I like to pick an object that’s not too heavy or breakable and can be easily tossed away after I take my position. Don’t forget to turn your camera to manual focus after you set the focus so that your focus does not move.
5. Press the shutter.
There are several options for pressing the shutter while you are away from the camera:
Use the camera self-timer.
The downside of this method is you can only take one frame at a time which is fine if your kids are cooperative. With my kids, it’s impossible to use this method because I can never predict how they will act and I normally need to take some time to get them to settle down once I leave them.
Use the remote.
The remote is great for self-portraits. It might even be fun for your little one to be in charge of pressing the button. I recommend setting your camera on self-timer mode so you can have some time to hide the remote before the shutter fires.
Use the built-in interval timer on your camera.
One of my favorite feature on the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is the addition of the built-in interval timer. It makes getting in the frame with my children so much easier.
Not unlike the timer/remote control, the built-in interval timer allows you to set the shooting interval and the number of shots. I normally set mine to take 30 shots every 5 seconds and repeat if necessary.
Attach a timer remote controller to your camera.
Some cameras do not have a built-in interval timer. To take self-portraits with my Canon EOS 5D Mark III, which does not have a built-in interval timer, I like to use a remote such as the Canon TC-80N3.
Just like the built-in interval timer, the timer remote controller allows me to set the number of shots and the amount of time between each shot. That way I don’t have to worry about hiding my remote and can be more engaged with my children without worrying about pressing the remote.
Set your camera’s custom mode button and hand it over to someone else.
I prefer to set up the camera and tripod myself when I can because I have more control over the composition this way. However, there are times when it’s not possible to do so.
In this case, I set up my camera’s custom mode button as follows: auto WB, auto ISO with minimum shutter of 1/250, shutter button auto-focus, aperture range of f/2.8-f/5.6, enable live view shooting and enable the touch screen focus. This allows me to hand over the camera to others whenever I need to.
Now it’s your turn to get in the frame and start documenting your life with your children!
I feel strongly that it is important both for me and my children to have a visual history of what we did together when they were growing up. You will never regret having these images and they will be cherished for generations to come!
Words & photos by Vironica Golden, member of the Click Canon 12