When my first child was born, I got myself a fancy new DSLR camera. I knew that I wanted as many photos of him as possible and that those photos should be beautiful.
In his early years, my camera was aimed at him nonstop! I worked hard to capture him playing and doing all the sweet things that I wanted to remember.
After a while though, I realized something was missing: ME.
Where was I? I surely existed through the diaper changes, the cuddles, the giggles and all those goofy faces we made together. But I was nowhere to be found in the tangible memories that I worked so hard to create. Even in my cell phone I would find ways to hide in the photos behind my son.
And I found that as time went by, it was quite difficult to remember all the details of being a mother.
Yes, we can all list a million reasons why we don’t want to be in photos. But just like we work so hard to document our kids, we should work to document ourselves with our children. Because mama, you are a big part of their childhood!
That’s why today I am sharing simple ways you can get in the picture with your kids. With these tips, you can take out the stress of self portraits and create beautiful memories with your family.
Have the right gear
Sure, you can just hold your cell phone at arm’s length and get in the picture with your kids. But when you want to create more intentional self portraits, having the right gear can make all the difference.
A tripod really helps to keep your camera be stable, avoiding any shake. as you release the shutter. A flat surface works in a pinch, but a tripod will likely be safer and easier to maneuver.
A remote is incredibly helpful when taking self portraits as well. Instead of hitting the shutter button on-camera and running back and forth to beat the timer, you can simply hold the remote in your hand and snap away while away from the camera.
OUR SELF PORTRAIT ESSENTIALS
A wireless remote allows you to control your camera’s shutter release while you are away from the camera, meaning that you don’t have to rush back and forth to the camera between shots. Even better, this is a way to get the kids involved in the picture-taking process!
It’s good to compose your self portraits with a little space around the edges so that you can crop in later. This 35mm lens allows you to shoot at a wide angle without too much distortion, making it ideal for self portraits.
Some camera bodies even come with apps that work through wifi or bluetooth connections. These allow you to use your phone to set focus and exposure remotely.
Kids love to play with and press the shutter on remotes. And you should let them! Allowing the process to be fun and playful will make the whole experience far less stressful. My 18-month-old daughter loves pressing buttons and even knows to look at the camera as she plays with the remote!
Get your settings right
There are few things worse than working hard to set-up a self portrait with your kids, having a super sweet moment that you know looks adorable, and then finding that it is underexposed or out of focus. Argh!
So before you start snapping away, use these guidelines to ensure that your settings will be just right:
Keep your shutter speed nice and fast. I don’t go below 1/250 because when I am in the frame with my toddler, you can bet she’s going to move!
While you might be able to shoot wide open when you are behind the camera, it is always best to close down a bit when shooting self portraits with kids. There is a good chance that you and your children will move when in front of the camera. Having a larger depth of field ensures that you will still be in focus even if you aren’t in the same exact spot you were in when you started shooting.
My widest f-stop when shooting self portraits is f/4. I love shooting wide open but for self portraits, it’s more important to have us captured clearly. You can’t fix a blurry image later in post!
Be mindful of your composition and background
Once you got your settings right, you want to make sure you have a clean background. There are times when clutter in the background can tell a story (especially the clutter of kids!). However, unintentional elements in the background can be really distracting and take away the focus from the subject: you and your kids.
Set-up your self portrait in a place where the background works to keep you and your kids as the center of attention. A blank wall is perfect, or you can pose close to a window and let the background fade to darkness (courtesy of the Inverse Square Law).
When you have your background just as you want it, then you can position yourselves in the frame to create a strong composition. I recommend shooting a bit wider than you normally would. This allows you to crop in post processing to get the composition just as you want it without fear of losing any important details at the edges of the frame.
Capture the emotion
Being a mother is full of emotion. While formal portraits are beautiful, I like to focus on connections.
Whether its a self portrait with one kid or all of your kids, get them as close to you as possible. Hugs, cuddles, tickle fights, silly jokes to get all of them laughing, all of them work great for establishing connection.
Another way to really capture connection is to share eye contact with your kids. It is our instinct to look at the camera for a photo, but shared gazes show that you are so wrapped-up in each other that the camera doesn’t even matter.
Remember, connection is all about making the viewer FEEL something from your storytelling. Identify your audience and then figure out how to best speak to them.
Document the daily grind
It’s nice to get dressed beautifully, put some makeup on and turn the camera toward yourself when you look your best. But that’s not always possible! And I think that there is something beautiful about capturing the reality of the everyday.
Keep a journal the things that fill your routines with the kids. Packing their lunches, combing hair, cleaning and organizing. These things may seem like mundane tasks but they are the kinds of things that you won’t be doing in a few years. Identify these parts of your day and then document them.
I would urge you to consider doing a “day in the life” shooting project. Set up your camera in a central spot and shoot in a continuous mode. Capture the day as it unfolds from this one perspective and marvel at how much goes on in a single day with you and your kids!
I promise that when you look back at them years from now, when the kids are all grown up, these are the pictures that will warm your heart and remind you that time really is so precious!
Once you get comfortable with the idea of being in the photos, feel free to get a little creative! Try changing your shooting angle for a new point of view. Experiment with different lenses and focal lengths. Use objects around the house to shoot through to change-up your composition and add textures. Work with slow shutter speeds to get the blur of your kids running around while you stand in one spot.
Allowing yourself to explore self portraiture with a bit of creativity can make the discomfort of being in front of the camera melt away. Instead, you are focused on mastering a technique while still capturing the moments that matter with your kids.
Pass the camera
Are none of your self portraits turning out the way you want them to? Consider passing your camera to your spouse or a friend!
You can choose the location, the settings, and all of the details that will make the picture happen. Then you just hand the camera over, have them press the shutter for you, and smile at the ease of using a human remote/tripod…LOL!
Let loose and have FUN!
This is by far the most important tip for capturing self portraits with your children. Because this venture can totally be stressful if we are too serious about it!
Instead, I urge you to look at this as another way to enjoy your kids. Instead of dwelling upon the final images, focus on the experience you are having with your kids.
If you are shouting at them and sweating with frustration, no one is going to be particularly thrilled with the undertaking. But if you are silly and happy and offer a chocolate at the end (because bribery totally works!)? You and your kids will look back at these photos with fond memories to go with the beautiful pictures.
This Mother’s Day, I want you to remember that your kids adore you. They don’t remember that you are having a bad hair day or that you are tired. They remember the mom who stays up to rock them sleep. The mom who makes their favorite cake every birthday. The mom who kisses boo boos and wipes away tears.
They want you to get in the photo. Perhaps they don’t know it now, but I promise they do. So dust off your tripod and bring out your favorite lens get excited to photograph yourself in the frame with your kids! You will be giving yourself the best Mother’s Day gift you could ever receive.