Since becoming a Mom, I have recognized the importance of documenting everyday life with my children by taking lifestyle self portraits.
Capturing memories and making sure I’m in those memories too (not just stuck behind the camera) is something that I truly value.
I have spent years experimenting with self portraiture and perfecting different techniques by myself and with my children, but as it is with all forms of art, I never stop learning.
Today, I would like to share with you a few tips that I’ve learned along the way in my experiences on how to take lifestyle self portraits at home.
If you are new to self portraits, the best way into easing into it is by starting simple.
One great way to include yourself in photos is to incorporate your hands.
A straightforward way to do this is to have one hand in the frame, while simultaneously working your camera with the other. That way, you can still manage your camera settings and take the shot without much difficulty.
And although it’s only your hand, you still succeed in being present in the photo.
Okay, so you’re ready to step out of your comfort zone behind the camera; that’s great!
Before you get started, I suggest investing in a good tripod and wireless remote shutter release. These two things are the bread and butter of the self portrait artist. But the desired outcome can still be achieved by a variety of means.
Step 1: Compose your shot. Attach your camera to a tripod and place it where you would be, if you were taking the photo. Envision where your subject will be positioned in the frame and set up your shot accordingly.
Step 2: Use a stand-in. This helps me out big time because one of the hardest things to do when taking self portraits is nailing the focus. Use an inanimate object like a chair, vacuum, stuffed animal, etc. Or if your children are already in front of the camera, use them. Focus where you want, then (this step is important) switch to manual focus, once your focus is where you want it and your settings are good, get in the frame and move the inanimate object if need be, but make sure you and all other subject involved stand/sit in that same focal plane or the focus will be off. Sometimes I still use auto-focus, but only if I know the camera is going to focus where I want.
Step 3: Take the shot. There are several ways to take a photo without you actually having to press the shutter. My preferred method is a wireless remote. The remote I use has an option for a two second delay, so I have time to conceal the remote before my camera takes the photo.
Other methods to taking lifestyle self portraits
Other methods include, using the self timer setting on your camera and running into the place, downloading an app on your phone and using that as a remote (only works if your camera has wireless capabilities), purchasing an Intervalometer that will connect to your camera and you can set to take photos during a specified amount of time.
And one more way is to have someone else click the shutter. This last option is up for debate because is it really a self portrait if someone else clicks the shutter? My opinion is yes, as long as you yourself compose the shot, adjust your camera settings, and instruct your “human tripod” on how to take the photo.
Include Yourself in the “Big-Little Moments”
As photographers, we’re inclined to notice the little things in life.
When it comes to raising children, it’s often the little things that end up being the most meaningful. Sure, we can take photos of our children in those moments, but are we in them? Documenting the mundane is important and essential to lifestyle photography.
Think of the things that you do everyday make a point of getting in the frame during those times. It can be something as simple as reading your toddler a story, breastfeeding your baby, watching TV as a family, helping your child with their homework, or carrying them to bed before they’re too big to do so.
Find the Light or Make it
When photographing in a home, it’s important to work with available light.
I’m very lucky to have amazing natural light in our home, but if that’s not the case where you live, you’ll need to work with what you’ve got. Unless you live in a cave, you will at least have windows to play with.
Set up your shot near a window or wherever the best natural light is. You can adjust the settings on your camera or in editing if you want a more airy or moody feel to your images.
Remember this: being a lifestyle photographer, you’re not limited to only taking photos during the day. Don’t forget to challenge yourself and take photos at night. Be creative and use alternative artificial light sources. A bedside lamp, flashlight, phone/tablet, candles, and string lights are all great ways of creating the light yourself.
Be Creative and Experiment
A self portrait is still a self portrait, as long as you are in the photo somehow.
Being creative in ways that are outside the box can help you achieve that!
Reflections and shadows are a great way to show that you were there too, especially when you’re too busy enjoying life with your kid to set up your tripod. One of my favorite things about being a photographer and artist is experimenting and trying new things.
Self portraits may already be out of your comfort zone but don’t be afraid to continue to challenge yourself! Play around with different angles, light sources and photographic techniques, while also capturing your presence.
Is a photo really natural, if it’s posed? That’s the great conundrum of lifestyle photography. When taking self portraits, your photos do have to be somewhat posed. You have to plan and compose your shot beforehand.
One thing that’s helpful when I’m taking photos with my kids is having a “prep talk.” Before I take the photo, I tell them what we’re going to do, where they’re going to be doing, where I’m going to be, and where we are going to look. If I’m aiming to get a more relaxed photo, I just let things happen naturally. If I want to capture authentic emotion and reactions, we just interact how we normally would, if the camera weren’t there.
I take so many self portraits that my kids are pretty used to it by now but sometimes I have to break out the tickle monster, fart noise, or an occasional knock-knock joke, if I want genuine smiles.
So now that you know all of my secrets to better lifestyle self-portraits, what ways are you looking forward to implement in your photography at home?! let us know below in the comments!
Chelsea Harem is many things but most importantly she’s a Lifestyle Photographer, stay-at-home mom, and wife of a very handsome and hardworking Air Traffic Controller. Together, they raise their two boys, Kale (age 7) and Kolter (age 2) in the Houston, Texas area.