Photographers all know how important it is to make images: to record different seasons of life; to capture children’s changing looks over time; to document important relationships; and to memorialize important moments.
Photographer Lindsay Crandall documents her life through self-portraits, with extensive images both alone and with her family.
1# Plan out the photograph you want to create, giving consideration to the light and what might be most flattering. If possible, use natural light and avoid overhead lights, which are generally very unflattering. Pay attention to the background and remove any distracting elements. Also. think about the moment you want to capture. Do you want to portray a quiet moment alone or a joyful moment laughing with your kids? Then, create that moment in the most authentic and beautiful way you can. This isn’t cheating– it’s creating a beautiful photograph and a meaningful memory.
2# If you’re including other people in your self-portrait, get everything set up before asking them to join you. Make sure you have your camera set the way you want it and take a few practice shots to ensure focus, exposure, and composition. Only when you are ready should ask the others to join in. This is especially important if you are including children. Encourage others who will be in your self-portrait to be authentic and interact with you and have fun, not simply stare at the camera.
3# Know your camera. Are you using a phone or a DSLR? Most phones have a setting for self timer in the camera app or you can download a free self-timer. You can also choose to use the rear-facing or front-facing camera. The rear-facing camera will create a better photograph (it has more megapixels), but the front-facing camera allows you to see the photo as you’re taking it. If you are using a DSLR, use your camera’s self-timer, interval timer, or purchase a remote. Also, most DSLRs have a live view option and/or a flip-out screen. Both are extremely helpful. Live view takes some of the guesswork out of focusing because you can program your camera to focus on faces. If your camera has a flip-out screen, you to see the photo as you take it.
4# Use a tripod or other sturdy surface. A tripod is great because you can easily change height and direction. The manfrotto 190go is a great choice because it goes down to a lower shooting height than any other tripod and has a 90 degree column system that is great for overhead shots. If you don’t have a tripod you can use a table, a pile of books, a tree stump, a bag or rice or whatever is handy. Lindsay once used a cut down Christmas tree to take a self-portrait of her family at a Christmas tree farm, balancing it carefully and using the self timer. If you end up with a crooked photo, you can fix it later.
5# Give yourself a lot of options. Take more than one photo and take several if you can. Try different poses and different types of interactions. If you can, check on what you’ve done after a few frames and see if you can adjust. Sometimes the light looks different from what you expected, or the camera didn’t catch focus on that one moment where your smile was the best. Don’t be afraid to adjust and try again. Lindsay usually take about 10-30 self portraits to get one great one.
6# Have fun and don’t stress. It can be hard sometimes to translate what you see in your head into a photograph. But don’t worry about perfect. Just capture the moment and keep practicing. It’s worth it to capture a photograph that shows you were there.
If you need some inspiration, check out Lindsay Crandall’s class Creative Self Portrait Photography: Going Beyond the Selfie from Skillshare. Here, Lindsay shares her tips for creating meaningful, and beautiful, self-portraits. Parents who are specifically looking for ways to take self-portraits with their children Ellen Covey’s class, Self-Portraits of Motherhood from Beyond the Wanderlust.
However you approach self-portraits, be sure to find a way to get in the picture! You and your loved ones will be glad you made the effort.
Hi, I’m Lindsay! I’m a writer and photographer. I live in Upstate New York with my husband and two kids. More often than not, you’ll find me with a book or camera in my hand (sometimes a glass of red wine). I am a collector of moments, a lover of light, a daydreamer, and a goal setter.