How To Be In The Shot

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Maybe you’re at a point where you’re feeling good about your skills as a photographer. Your photos are turning out how you envision and you are loving the opportunity to document your life with family and friends.

There’s only one problem…

You’re the photographer so all your photos are missing an important element — you!

Don’t worry, you can be a photographer and be in the frame. Check out how with these important tips. 


Tripod

Since the camera won’t be in your hands, you need a safe place for it to sit. We definitely recommend getting a tripod for this. You can buy lightweight tripods that fold up rather small and are easy to take on hikes or to any location where you plan to be taking photos. 

Make sure that whatever tripod you buy is capable of handling the weight of your camera. The average DSLR weighs about 1.7 pounds not counting the lens. As you might imagine, your setup can get quite heavy and not all tripods are built to hold that weight. 

We don’t recommend trying to use rocks, stumps, benches, or anything else that happens to be in the area. 

First, it’s hard to get your framing right. You’re stuck with whatever angle, height, direction, etc the environment offers. A tripod gives you the flexibility to place the camera anywhere you want and set up your framing however you want. You can choose the orientation, height, angle, etc.  

Secondly, you run the risk of breaking your camera. Imagine the horror of watching your carefully placed camera slip and tumble to the ground when you are too far away to catch it. With your camera properly mounted on a good tripod, there is little risk of your camera taking that heart-stopping fall.  

Remote Shutter Release

You also need a way to click the shutter while not standing physically at the camera. Here are a few easy methods. 

First, you can use the camera’s timer. The drive mode usually gives you a couple of timer options — 2 seconds and 10 seconds. Choose the 10-second one to give you time to get into position. Of course, with this method there is a lot of running back and forth as you take one picture at a time and then check the results.

To make things easier you can pick up an inexpensive (~$10-15) wireless shutter release. With this option, you hold the little remote and release the shutter with a button. You can switch around and try different poses to your heart’s content without having to go back to the camera.

Another option is to check out your camera manufacturer’s app. Most major manufacturers offer a free app that pairs with your camera. 

The big advantage here is that what the camera sees will show up on your phone screen. This makes it far easier to make sure you’re staying in the frame as you switch up your posing. You can also adjust camera settings and click the shutter right from your phone.

The only downside is that you have your phone in your hand — which isn’t ideal for pictures. You can hide it behind something (such as another person’s body), but this won’t work for all poses. Another option is to use the camera’s 2-second timer to give you time to conceal the phone before the shutter clicks. 


Larger Depth Of Field

It’s nice to open up the aperture and get that beautiful, creamy bokeh when taking portraits. Blurring the background is a great technique for drawing the eye of the viewer directly to the subject of the image.

But this style of photography requires a very thin depth of field so that only the subject is in focus and the rest of the scene is blurred. When you’re holding the camera in your hands, you can refocus as necessary to keep your subject tack sharp. When your camera is on a tripod 20 feet away, that gets tough.

To make sure your subjects stay in focus, try using a slightly larger depth of field. Start with an aperture around f/5.6 or so but feel free to play around. Remember the size of the depth of field depends on several factors. For example, the focal length of the lens you’re using and the distance between your subjects and the camera. 

It’s also a good idea to leave a bit of extra space around your subject. You can always crop in a little if necessary, but you can’t fill in a cut-off limb. 

Shutter Speed

You can take the photos in full manual mode if you prefer, but using Aperture Priority is a good choice when taking self-portraits. This allows you to maintain a fixed aperture and the camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed to offer the best lighting. This is particularly useful if the light is changing rapidly, such as at sunset or on a partly cloudy day when the sun is coming and going.

Remember, if you want to capture movement (such as you dancing with your partner or children), keep your shutter speed about 1/250 or faster. 


Manual Focus

Getting the right focus can be touch and go when you’re not behind the camera. However, there are a couple of tricks that can help ensure that every shot is in focus. 

First, have your partner stand in the location where you want to take the photos. Get your framing right and set your camera in position on the tripod. 

Set the focus on your partner and, without moving either the camera or your partner, switch to manual focus. This will prevent the autofocus from kicking on and trying to refocus. It seems like no matter what you do it will grab the wrong subject to focus on because that’s just how it works!

When you join your partner/family for the shot, make sure everybody stays in or near the same plane as the person you focused on. 

Test Shots

Before you get too excited, take a few test shots. Make sure you’ve got people in focus and that you’re happy with the lighting and framing. 

The last thing you want to do is take a bunch of what you think are cute photos, only to see that they’re out of focus or someone’s hand or foot is getting cut off. 


Try Different Poses

Once you’ve got everything locked in, don’t be afraid to experiment with a few different poses. It’s a good idea to put a rock or tape an X on the floor to remind you where to be for proper focus and framing. 

Take your regular smiling shots first so you have something for this year’s Christmas cards. Then, start having fun with it!

If you are posing with your significant other, feel free to get a little romantic. After all, these photos are for you! Capture the love you have for one another in unique ways that tell your story. The best thing about taking the photos yourself is that nobody else is there. You can be as steamy or as silly as you like with no witnesses!

Family photos with little kids can get hectic, but they can also be a lot of fun. Marking the floor with an object is super helpful to orient yourself after rounding up the gang and make sure everybody ends up in focus and in the frame. 

Don’t forget all the usual advice about color coordinating your outfits, location, lighting, etc. And be sure to bring along a few jokes to bust out the laughs for some genuine smiles.

Get in the Frame

No doubt, we photographers love photos. But sometimes we get so wrapped up in taking the photos, we forget to be in them. 

You don’t want to look back through your family albums and discover that you never appear in them. And taking romantic couple’s photos with your significant others is a great way to spend a fun afternoon together. Plus, you get to take some tangible memories with you!

You can be the photographer and be in the frame at the same time. All it takes is a tripod and a little creativity. 

We love hearing about your photography exploits so let us know how it goes in the comments! 

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