A Documentary Project: Self Portraits with Your Husband

Guest post written and images from Ellen Covey – Photographer + Mastermind and Founder of the Facebook Page, Self Portraits of Motherhood

Anyone who as ever attempted to take self portraits knows that they can be a tricky thing to accomplish. I hope this tutorial answers some questions you might have, and gives you some inspiration as well for taking self portraits with your husband and beyond!  While the first two points aren’t absolutely necessary to have, they have saved my sanity while trying to take certain self portraits in the past (especially when others are posing for the picture with you, and time is of the essence!).

 

1) Get a tripod

It doesn’t have to be fancy, you just need something that enables you move your camera around and get different heights and angles. This is the one I use: MeFOTO Tripod. It’s portable and lightweight, but still sturdy enough for my big girl camera so I don’t have to worry about it falling over.

self portraits with your husband

 

2) Use a remote

I used the self timer on my camera for about 2 years before getting a remote, and how I wish I would have bought one sooner! It makes all the difference when taking pictures with your kids or family since you can step away from the camera and interact more with them.  I currently use the  Canon RC-6  remote which I got for about $20. There are also phone apps that work as a remote with certain cameras that have wifi.

 

family self portraits

 

3) Set your focus

Put something in front of the camera to focus on. This can be something already in the composition like a tree or another person, or it can be something like a chair that you pull out of the frame when you are ready and then stand in it’s place.  For this shot below I used my husband as the focus point and then jumped into the picture with him.

 

family documentary photography

 

4) Switch to manual focus

Some remotes will let your camera auto focus on specific points, but I find it hard to stay directly in front of a specific focus point, and it often focuses on something behind me. It is also tricky to use auto focus in certain back lit situations as well as when there is alot of movement going on.  So what I have found to work best is switching to manual focus.

 

emotional portraits of couple

 

5) Use Live View mode

This is a HUGE help when trying to nail that focus. I typically shoot with wide angle prime lenses, but the problem with this for self portraits is that I can’t zoom in with the lens to make sure I’ve got a sharp focus on the subject. So I digitally zoom in using the Live View mode and manually rotate the focus ring to achieve that tack sharp focus (Note: You must have you camera lens switched to manual focus in order to digitally zoom in on the screen)  Once you get your focus set turn off the Live View (keep your lens on manual focus!), and you should be good to go!

 

documentary couple's photography

 

6) Set the aperture

Give yourself a buffer when deciding the aperture. I typically shoot between 1.8 and 2.8, but when I’m doing self portraits (especially with other people in the frame) I want to give myself some room to move a bit. It’s no fun looking through pictures that would have been perfect if I hadn’t shot so wide open and totally missed the focus.

 

photo session in new home

 

7) Prepare ahead of time

Set EVERYTHING up before you bring your kids or other people over into the frame with you. The exception to this is obviously when you are using someone as a point to focus on. When I do self portraits with my daughter I let her play in a nearby room until I’m ready, then I bring her over. This keeps everyone happy and little ones don’t get bored as quickly.

 

a documentary photo project

 

8) Be future-minded

When trying to figure out which moments you want to photograph think about what you want to remember most about this particular season in your family’s life. Make a list of things that stand out to you throughout the day so you remember moments that you want to capture. Sometimes I go as far as doing a test shot or scribbling down other details like time of day (for the light!), angles, or camera settings . This way when you have the desire to pull out your camera (most likely because baby is happy and you put on makeup this morning)  you already have an idea on the type of image you hope to produce, and setting up should be much faster.

9) Get Creative

Shoot from your own perspective. Maybe you don’t feel like being in pictures today. Your hair is a mess, you are still in your pajamas, but a special moment appears and you don’t want to miss out on documenting it. Shoot from your point of view! Not only can you find other chances to be in pictures this way , but you are giving a unique look into your life from your perspective.

 

Ellen Covey

 

10) Take a break

The last tip I have is to call it a day if things aren’t going how you imagined. There’s been times I’ve been completely stressed out over self portraits, my husband and I were all tense with each other, and the baby was crying, yet I was way too determined to get “the shot”  and kept going.  Looking back at the shots afterwards I realized that I had forgotten why I was doing this. You see, I want to capture these special moments, but I also want to CREATE special moments while I’m taking the pictures. The shots I’ve gotten while all stressed out might be technically perfect, but they will never be  my favorite, and they were definitely not worth what I put my family through to get them. If you have a camera, the skill, and the patience, you can always try again tomorrow! I promise you there will be another gorgeous sunset, another good hair day, and many, many more moments worth capturing.

Have fun taking your self portraits!

 

Follow (and I encourage you to, seriously) Ellen Covey at the following links:

Website // Facebook // Instagram

 

Need more inspiration? Get lost in these posts:

17 Photos to Inspire You in Documenting Adult Men

Booking Photo Sessions: 5 Tips to Filling Your Calendar

360 Degrees of Natural Light Through a Doorway

Take the F & F Double Dog Dare Challenge

Learn how to approach Documentary Photography Photo Sessions:how to do family documentary photo sessions

Author: MarieMasse
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.

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