One of my goals this year was to take more photos with me in the frame. Like many mums, I am the family photographer which means 99% of the time I am behind the camera. A few weeks ago, we had a sunny afternoon and everyone was present and accounted for – including the grandparents. I decided it was time to try for a family portrait. We took the photo in the garden of my mother-in-law’s building. I put the sun behind everyone so no one would be squinting and set up my camera on the stairs that went down into the rock garden. I used the interval timer on my camera which means I told my camera to take a photo every 2 seconds for 1 minute. That gave me time to run back into the photo once I pushed the button and gave me a little wiggle room in case someone sneezed! And here is the result. Easy peasy! For 5 tips on taking your own family self portrait read on….
While I do have a camera with lots of bells and whistles – you really only need one with a self-timer. Almost all digital cameras have one these days – even point and shoot entry level ones. For the technical “how to” on using your self-timer, just check your manual. Most cameras will let you set a delay (meaning you will have a few seconds to run back to your spot before the camera takes the picture.) If your camera has a setting where it will take multiple photos after you push the button that is the one to use. Let the camera take as many as it will so you have lots of shots to choose from. You can also consider buying a remote like the one here that will let you control the shutter from your spot in the portrait.
As for setting up a beautiful portrait, here are my five tips:
1. Consider the Light: Light is the cornerstone of photography – even if you are shooting on auto with a point and shoot camera. So before you drag everyone outside, take a moment to consider the light. While the above photo was shot in bright sun, the easiest light to work with is open shade – and by that I mean having your family stand in the shade but facing open sky. One great possibility is your front porch or the steps to your house. Time your portrait so the sun is not shining directly on the front of the house or you will have no shade ( and everyone will be squinting!). There is probably a point in the day where the sun is above your house or slightly behind it so that the overhang creates some shade on the porch or balcony. That is your time to take the photo. Here is an example of a portrait done on the front balcony of a family home. There is lots of light coming from the sky but the family is in the shade under the overhang. Because the steps were quite steep, the camera was positioned at the other end of the balcony. While I took this photo, this setup would work great for a family selfie portrait.
2. Background: For the shot above, the screen door is open behind the family creating a dark backdrop. I could have closed it, but seeing as they were all blondes, I was afraid their hair would blend into the light brown wall. It also provided a nice clean backdrop. Keep in mind clutter or a background that is too busy. In the photo above, I decided to crop out the stairs and the greenery as I really didn’t add anything – resulting in the version on the left. You can always use a simple editing program to crop out areas you don’t like after the fact.
3. Clothes: Clothing choices can make or break a photo. While I don’t recommend matching, I do advise my clients to try and blend together. I usually ask them to think of interior design and pick clothes where the colours look nice and inviting when placed next to each other. These clients did a great job!
4. Posing: Sit if that is most comfortable or stand and hold small children. It will be easiest if the one that is pushing the button to set the timer has easy access to his or her spot so try not to be the one holding a small child as you will have to run back to your spot once you push that button.
5. Connection: With my own family self portrait, I wanted a portrait where everyone was looking at the camera as that is what the grandparents wanted. However, I love it when families are just enjoying each other. So don’t get hung up on having everyone say “cheese”. Tickle the kids, give them a kiss, look at your partner. Let the camera snap away. Those are the memories you will cherish!
I hope these are helpful and would love to see your results. Post them on my Facebook page if you are willing to share!