Capturing self-portraits: make this year the year you get into the frame. Here are our tips for overcoming the cringe-factor and getting the shot.
Don't rob your kids of the memories of their mother being present in their childhood. Be in the photos. Help them remember.
This week, on our Student and Alumni group, but also on our Instagram channel, we're kicking off week one of our Project52. If you've not heard of it before, it's essentially about a personal commitment to taking at least 1 photo a week for the whole year. Simple.
You're welcome to join in - just follow us on insta: @photoparents, watch out for weekly theme announcements and post a photo that fits the theme - #photoparents52
Our very first theme is : #thisisme - and this one is all about YOU
Why you really want to get into your own photos:
I was recently sitting with my older 10 year old daughter and we were choosing which photos, out of the few hundred that we took on a recent day trip, to print. I find that letting her be involved in both the photo 'starring' part but also taking some of the photos and coming up with ideas what to photograph and then printing them - helps immensely with overcoming her reluctance to have a camera stuck in her face yet again.
But my point is, as we were sifting through the photos we took on the day, while I kept trying to pick the more 'arty' photos I took of her and her sister and their dad, she kept picking the photos I was in. The ones where I thought l I look fat and old and awkward - taken by her or my husband or on self-timer.
The photos that show her MUM having fun with her.
The photos that are about us, our connection, me being present with her and joining in her joy and being in her life.
And you know what, I hate them so much but I also kind of love them. Because they show me and them that I was there! Because my children deserve to have the memories they made WITH THEIR MUM to have a pride of place on the wall too.
Let's talk about the technical first
With most cameras, and indeed, even the phone cameras, you'll have at least one of the following options.
Most cameras and phones have this option these days so you have NO excuse. You can often choose to have a shorter or longer lead time, and sometimes you can also choose whether the camera should trigger once or multiple times.
Available on some cameras and some phones. You set the camera up, and then tell your camera to take a photo once every so often - you define the duration, so this could be once every 30 seconds or 3 minutes or anything else really. It's great when you don’t want to perform for the camera but simply want it to capture the fun as it's going on. It will inevitably involve lots and lots of pretty bad photos due to people wandering off the frame, focus missed, etc, but usually it'll have a couple of gems as well.
Some years ago I spent £5 on eBay and bought myself a super simple, uncomplicated clicker remote. It is the size of a lighter, attaches to my key ring and pairs with my camera via infrared connection and it means that I can just set my camera up and then trigger it discreetly when I feel the moment is right. The kids love using it too! You could, of course, get a fancier one that helps you focus and set the camera settings (mine just sets of the shutter) etc, but honestly, I think for this kind of purpose, my clicker did its job rather admirably!
Camera specific app on your phone
While I still have my little clicker, my newer camera allows me to use my phone to trigger it remotely and it comes with the added bonus of letting me see what the image will look like and even focus remotely. Many of the newer wifi-enabled cameras will have that option too so if you haven't explored it yet, it's worth checking.
Pass it on
Admittedly the most low tech solution and it comes with both its benefits and drawbacks. The benefits being that there will be a human at the back of it so you're less likely to end up with your head chopped off. Then again, there may be an unskilled human at the back of it and they'll chop your head off regardless... well, no solution is perfect.
The problem with shooting blind..
... is that, of course, you can't see where you're pointing your camera in real-time! And this can make getting sharp photos hard. We have a few tips:
if you know roughly where the action is going to take place, pre-focus there, and possibly even leave the camera on manual focus so it doesn't try to hunt focus and send it to the wrong place. I sometimes will place to toy or a more compliant of my children to use them as the pre-focus target and make a mark on the ground so I know roughly where I'll be.
avoid using super-wide apertures - this is the tip for those of you who know how to manipulate them on your cameras. If you extend your depth of field, you run less of a risk that people will drop out of focus. For those self trigger photos, I would generally avoid going below F4 or even F5.6
avoid zoom - short focal lengths - AKA no zoom - naturally creates a larger sharp focus area, so they're usually a safer bet when it comes to being able to capture multiple things sharp.
keep your shutter fast - ideally above 1/250s - you don't want your big joy, high energy photos to be spoilt by blurriness?
Don't look for excuses not to do it.
Trust me, I've been there, I know them all.
How to help with a cringe factor:
The worst thing you can do in front of the camera is just to stand there and look at it. Action and interaction is KEY!
Have a concept of what you want to be happening - maybe you'll just be having a tickle fight on the sofa, maybe you'll get your kids to race towards you and try to topple you over, maybe you'll be jumping up or dancing like a lunatic.
If a photo is about that action, it ceases to be JUST about you and it makes it about the memories.
Make it easy on yourself with light - pick a location for your photos which has good light - ideally outdoors as you'll find it easiest, but if you'd rather be indoors, make it close to a large source of light and avoid shooting against the light
Let go of perfection
This is the biggest obstacle for many a photographer - if it's not perfect, it's worthless. WRONG. Perfection is not something that's often achievable with remotely triggered photos so if you get yourself in a mindset of accepting that this will be an imperfectly composed, imperfectly focused, imperfectly posed photo and that these things will be its strengths - you just let go.
Pick an activity, a situation, a moment that your kids will enjoy with you - as I said above, it doesn't have to be anything complicated - and use one of the methods I suggested above to capture yourself in it.