Get in the Picture

When was the last time you had a special picture taken with your dad or someone close to your heart? As the family shutterbug and official documenter of all occasions and special moments, I was used to looking through photo albums and slide shows of my images, but I soon realized that something was missing in most of my shots…me. How could I go down in family history if I was never in the picture? I soon discovered the self-timer on the back of my digital camera and have been a visible part of the family ever since. The next time you have an opportunity to get together with people you love, here are a few photography tips on using your self-timer.

By using the self-timer to capture your own portrait you have control over how you look, how the photograph is taken, and what happens to it afterwards. And with digital photography, you can take as many pictures as you want – whatever you don’t like, you just delete.

Let’s get ready:

What to wear?
Wear a solid color shirt that complements your skin tone and/or eye color. For example, if you have light eyes, wear a blue, green, or grey shirt that enhances your eye color; darker skin and eyes tend to look best against brighter colors. Hold up solid colored shirts next to your subject’s face to see what looks best. Bright white and dark black clothing may be more difficult to photograph, and stay away from patterns and logos.

grey eyes small

Check the shine
Check your face in the mirror, is it shiny? If so, apply a translucent face powder to reduce the shine (men too).

Erin and Dad

Find the light
Avoid taking your photograph in direct sunlight–it creates unflattering, harsh shadows on your face. Soft, even light is best. To find good light outdoors, look for open shade under a tree, a door, or next to a building, and turn off your flash. For example, this photo of my Dad and me was taken under an open doorway leading to the garage. If you are indoors, position yourself near indirect window-light.

What’s the setting?
For 1-4 people, set your camera to Portrait Mode (this setting helps isolate your subjects from the background). For larger groups, set your camera to Landscape Mode (this setting ensures that everyone will be in focus from near to far). Cameras vary, so this setting may be located on your Mode Dial or in your Scene Mode settings. Check your manual if you’re not sure.
Find the self-timer icon – it’s typically located on the back of your camera and it looks like a clock. Press the self-timer icon and cycle through your options. Self-timers on digital cameras vary. Some let you select the time it takes for the self-timer to release the shutter, usually between two and 10 seconds. Others have a custom self-timer that allows you to set the countdown time and the number of shots to be taken.

Get in position
Position your camera on a tripod or stable surface at least 6 feet away from the chair.
Get rid of any background clutter.

Compose your shot by looking through your optical viewfinder or your LCD viewfinder. Zoom in with your lens to fill the frame with your friends or family. Leave some room in the frame so you can jump in.

Press the self-timer icon and cycle through your options. The 10-second option will give you enough time to position yourself in front of the camera.

Take the shot
Press the shutter button halfway down to lock in the focus and exposure; then, fully depress the shutter-release button to trigger the timer.

The red warning light on the front of the camera will blink steadily during countdown and just before taking the picture it will start to blink faster.

Now move into place, get comfortable, laugh, look into the lens and give the camera a real smile.

As you take more shots, position your body at an angle to the camera and experiment with various expressions. Keep in mind that smiling and leaning towards the camera will convey a friendly, approachable personality. Leaning away from the camera or tilting your head back will appear snooty.

Finally, transfer your images to your computer, pick your favorite shots and get ready to share them with those you love – it may be the most precious gift they receive.