how to take a self portrait with your dslr

as photographers, we are always behind the camera.  sometimes we even tend to hide behind it.  one thing that i am really passionate about is self portraits because i love to encourage photographers and moms to get in front of the camera.  get in the pictures!  whether it is just you or you with your children, it’s time to jump in front of the camera and document YOU!  it’s time to stop only having pictures of other people on your computer or in your photo albums and start having some pictures of you too!  you will thank yourself for this later, as you are looking back on your memories.

even though it may seem a little intimidating, taking a self-portrait is actually very simple.  in this post, i am going to share how i set up my self portrait using a self timer, what gear i use, and how i achieve focus, even when i am in front of the camera.  and i am sharing some self portrait pullbacks!

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setting a self timer   first, let’s talk about setting up your self timer on your camera.  i photograph with a nikon d610 and a nikon d600, both of which have a self timer feature.  for my cameras, the self timer setting is set on the left side of the camera by rotating the dial to the icon of the circle with the line through it.  when setting up the self timer, there is also an option to have the camera take multiple frames once the shutter button is pushed.  this is so helpful because you only have the press the shutter button once, but you can get multiple photos.  i love this because it saves so much time running back a forth from your camera to your pose.  i have set my cameras up to take 9 photos in a row after i press the shutter button.  as the camera is clicking those 9 photos, i am also intentionally making small adjustments to my pose so i can achieve a variety of photos.  these subtle changes could mean looking off to the side, looking down, or slightly adjusting my body angle.  sometimes the smallest adjustment can achieve just the right look!

please refer to your individual camera’s manual for reference on whether your camera has a self timer option and how to set it up.

maintaining focus   one of the most common questions i get is how i take a self portrait that is still in focus.  one of the easiest ways to take a self portrait that is in focus is to place an object in your frame to focus on that will be in the same place that you stand.  for example, in the photo above i placed a mason jar of tulips on the window seal that i wanted to hold in my self portrait.  when i was setting up my photo, i placed the focus on the jar of tulips, pressed the shutter button to begin the self timer, and stepped into the frame and held the jar of tulips.  when doing this, i was very careful to stay at the same distance away from the camera that the tulips originally were, being sure that i didn’t step further back or closer to the camera so my focus was maintained on the tulips and, therefore, myself.  i use this trick quite often, whether i am focusing on a coffee cup, a jar of flowers, a camera, or a computer.  i love having another object in my self portrait because…well, i never know what to do with my hands!  it’s always easier for me to hold something or be doing something.  to me it helps to create a more natural looking self portrait, as i also like my photos to document my everyday.

higher aperture or lower aperture?   many people think that getting a self portrait in focus means raising your aperture.  honestly, i take most of my self portraits at a lower aperture because i really like to have dimension in my photographs.  while raising your aperture can be helpful, it is very possible to achieve a self portrait with a low aperture by using the focusing trick i just explained in the example with the tulips.

the self portrait below was achieved at a low aperture, with the following gear and settings: nikon d610 | sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens | tripod | iso 200 | f/1.4 | ss 1/100

what gear i use   before i share another self portrait trick, let’s talk about what gear i use when taking my self portraits.  i photograph with a nikon d610 and a nikon d600 and the self portraits in this post were taken with my sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens, which is my go-to everyday lens.  i also find it helpful to use my tripod when taking self portraits, but i have also been known to simply set my camera on a tabletop or chair when setting up my portrait.

taking a creative self portrait   it is no secret that i am a fan of a creative self portrait.  i like to take a creative spin on the selfie and be untraditional.  this doesn’t mean that this is the correct way to take a self portrait, but only that this is the way i like to do it.  i encourage you to be creative and original to yourself when taking your self portrait.

intentional out-of-focus portraits   i really like taking self portraits that are intentionally out of focus.  i think they are interesting and often surprisingly beautiful.  for this second self portrait, instead of focusing on the coffee cup that i would be holding, i focused past the cup and on the frame of the window.  because i was focusing on something that was going to be behind me, i knew that i would be intentionally blurry in the photo.

by the way, if you have or have not noticed, i accidentally grabbed the wrong coffee mug when re-creating this pullback photo for you all.  ooops!  too many cute mugs to choose from, i guess!  so…let’s just pretend that i grabbed my cute deer head cup instead.  😉

i encourage you all to stop hiding behind your cameras!  if you are participating in >>the bethadilly challenge<< with me, you all know that i like to sneak in a selfie or self portrait prompt once a month.  i know some of you dread it, but i love to encourage photographers to get in front of the camera!  not only will you learn a lot about your camera and photography skill, but you will learn a lot about yourself!  and, by the end of the year, you will have at least twelve photos that you are in!  and twelve is so much better than zero.  so instead of being intimidated by taking a self portrait, be excited!

to join me on my daily journey with photography as i document my everyday, be sure to follow me on instagram!  and if you need a fun way to practice your photography skill every day, be sure to join me in >>the bethadilly challenge<<!  it’s never too late to start and i’d be happy to have you joining in!

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  • Love Designs Photography - hi!! i just played around with my tripod and self timer the other night, trying to go for a ‘life is messy’ self portrait. i don’t practice this nearly enough because it took me a lot longer than i had intended. eventually i got what i was looking for and found that the focus landed right on my “baby hairs” that have started growing in around my face and neck after having a baby last summer. couldn’t have planned it better & i find that even though i plan and i think i know what i’m going for, the outcome is almost always something different (and usually better!) than i had imagined. i posted it on my Facebook and on instagram @lovedesignsphotog if you want to see 🙂 have a good one, thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Weekend Favorites | Polka Dot Cottage - […] how to take a self portrait with your dslr – tips from beth a-dilly. No more hiding behind the camera, ladies. Here, Beth gives some tips for how to photograph yourself and still have everything you want in focus to be in focus. […]ReplyCancel

  • Jessica Schugardt - Love this beth! I also find an object to focus on with my self-portraits and then stand where that object is. I still get some unfocused shot…but practice makes perfect.;)ReplyCancel

  • John Hemp - D750,& D800 also have same “Button”ReplyCancel

  • Lucas - Thank you for sharing your experience, you’re helping me a lotReplyCancel

  • Myia - Thank you for sharing this post.I am a Sony Alpha ox 3000 and have only been taking nature photos because I don’t really know how to properly take self portraits. But after reading this post it has inspired me to take some self portraits. Thank youReplyCancel

  • Kristín Anna Sæmundsdóttir - thank you for a brilliant post. I have a issue with photos of myself but I like how you style the self portraits. And today I did practice a bit… I stood by my window and watered my plants. with the focus on the plants and it worked… after a while, (and the plants dont neet to be watered again this year)! Now I am going to chalenge myself to put a self portrait once in a while on the blog or instagram. I think it makes the blog so much more alive.
    ps I also used your blogpost about how you transfer photos from the dslr to instagram. Loved it and it is just so simple
    greetings from Iceland.
    Stína SæmReplyCancel

  • Felicity White - Thanks for helping me learn.ReplyCancel

  • Ute Muller - Thanks so much for sharing this. I am constantly looking for hand and feet models for my stock photography but never really considered doing the model work myself. So thanks for the inspirational images and your set up tips. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Shirley Chan-Wojciechowski - Thanks sharing. I am just beginning how to use my camera. This was very helpful.ReplyCancel

  • Ashagi Harahap - Nice tips.
    I really like the out-of-focus idea you mention in the article. Very creative.ReplyCancel

  • Favourite Articles on Self-Portraits – The Techno Maid - […] How to Take a Self Portrait with Your DSLR Beth Deschamp This article has lots of photo ideas, tips on getting perfect focus and advice on settings. It’s a good starting point. […]ReplyCancel