One of the most frequent questions I get asked isn’t about health or fitness at all—it’s how I take the pictures for my workout tutorials. And not even just from other bloggers—it’s seriously the million-dollar question from everyone I know. People I haven’t spoken to in years have sent me text messages being like “Ok, I have to know…who is taking all these pictures??”
I get it. Blogging is weird—I mean, it most definitely is not normal to have 400 pictures of yourself doing a plank. For the most part, my mom takes the pictures (God bless her!). Once or twice a month, I meet up with her and we shoot a bunch of pictures for the blog (this is much more efficient than shooting one post at a time). I’ve had friends step in as photographer, too, and occasionally will resort to asking my boyfriend—I love him, but the pictures usually turn out awful haha. Out of focus, zoomed in on a random trashcan in the background, my head is cropped out, or … this:
LOL. Thanks, Joe.
Having someone else take my picture is the ideal scenario for sure, but there are times when this isn’t an option. If I have a deadline to meet or have run out of content and need to put something up on the blog ASAP, I’ll use self timer for my workout tutorials. Although it takes a bit more time and effort, it is possible to put together a quality pictoral this way! I get a lot of emails from fellow bloggers discouraged that they don’t have a photographer at their disposal (I feel your pain!), but fear not, there are ways to do it solo.
I know this post is probably only of interest to other bloggers, but I wanted to share some tips I’ve learned (through LOTS of trial and error) for getting blog-worthy photography with your camera’s self timer feature. I’m by no means a veteran photographer, so I’d love for you guys to chime in with other tips you have!
The ideal scenario would be to invest in a shutter release extension cord or remote shutter that allows you to control when the camera takes the picture while you’re in front of the lens in position, but since I don’t have one, this post will focus on the old-school method of pressing down the self-timer clock and then spastically sprinting into place while it beeps down to release.
Have the Camera “Zoomed Out” and on Auto
If you’re a photographer and know your camera’s features inside and out, this tip may not apply to you—I’m sure you know of better settings (please do share in the comments section!). But for the rest of us with only moderate photog skills, I’ve found it’s easiest to keep my camera in Auto mode and have it completely zoomed out. Just crop the picture on the computer later when editing—don’t try to frame it perfectly with the zoom. Why?
- You have a better chance of getting the picture you need on the first try. Time is money—if it takes you 45 minutes to capture three photos, that’s 42 minutes of your life you’ll never get back. If you have the camera zoomed in, there’s a good chance your head will be out of frame or something’s off and you’ll have to redo it.
- You have a better chance of being in focus. If you zoom in, the camera is going to be more specifically focused in on one spot. Unless you’re standing right in its same depth of field, you’ll be out of focus.
Shoot in a Bright Space with Lots of Natural Lighting
This goes for any photoshoot, but especially if you don’t have the luxury of someone manning the camera. Even with a diffuser, your camera’s flash creates a harsh, often unflattering light. In a dark setting with a flash, your pictures will be of lesser quality, grainier, and you won’t look as cute. Natural sunlight is a photograph’s best friend. But that being said, don’t shoot in direct sunlight (you’ll be shawdowy and washed out).
I know this can be a challenge if you have a full-time job and only can work on your blog at night. That used to be my biggest frustration! You just have to bite the bullet and dedicate one weekend morning or afternoon to taking pictures. Try to plan ahead so that you shoot three or four blog posts’ worth of pics so you won’t have to worry about it the next couple weekends.
Shoot Against a Plain Background
I personally prefer light (white if possible) backgrounds, but any solid color will do! The biggest thing is you don’t want there to be a bunch of clutter for the camera to focus on. Because you’re initiating the self timer before stepping into the frame, the camera won’t know to focus on you. If you’re shooting against a plain background, this isn’t a big problem. But if the camera has focused in on your refrigerator and then you step into the frame closer to the lens, you’ll be blurry (but the fridge will look fab!).
Stand close to your background in the picture. The camera is focusing in on your background when you start the self-timer clock. Stand close to the background so you’ll be in focus, too.
Use a Tripod
I used to create these giant towers out of furniture so that I could prop my camera up on something high enough to get my full body in a picture—what a hassle! A tripod is well worth the investment (THIS is the tripod I have, but don’t be discouraged by the $160 price tag—you can find much cheaper options). A tripod like the one I have also allows you to position your camera at an angle, which can be crucial in getting a picture that best demonstrates the exercise and is flattering. Which brings me to my next tip …
Know Your Angles
This gets easier the more pictures you take. By now, I know exactly how to position the camera and my body when trying to capture, for example, a push up so that the photos clearly illustrate the move and, also important, I’m happy with how I look. This means I can usually get the shot in just one take, which is crucial with self timer—no one wants to run back and forth setting the camera and then sprinting in front of it into a pose ten times before you get a decent picture.
When you set up for a picture, think of which view will best demonstrate the exercise (from the side, straight on, etc.). Some general tips for flattering (and slimming!) angles:
- Tilt the camera slightly downward.
- Sometimes an exercise is best demonstrated from a diagonal. If so, angle your body so that your head is closer to the camera than your feet.
If you don’t have a DSLR camera, these tips still apply to your smartphone. They have all sorts of crazy selfie-stick tripods these days. In all honesty, I don’t think the pictures will turn out as well using a phone, but if all the other factors are set up in your favor (plain background, natural lighting, tripod, etc.) it will totally work! With that being said, I’ll leave you with a super high-tech iPhone technique I use when taking one-off pictures for Instagrams:
Use Your Shoe as a Tripod
Seriously, nothing works better. Well, unless you have a tripod or selfie stick. But when it comes to DIY…sneakers, baby! If it’s for Instagram, set your camera to Square and then pop it in a shoe the tall way (so that the lens isn’t obstructed by the shoe).
Photogs and selfie extraordinaires—any self-timer tips to add?
Have a great long weekend, everyone! I’m off to the Vineyard and then Nantucket…no complaints here.