How to Take Quality Workout Photos Using Self Timer

Tips for Taking Workout Pictures using Self TimerOne 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: blooper-pic

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

Tips for Taking Workout Pictures using Self TimerIf 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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

Tips for Taking Workout Pictures using Self TimerI 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

workout-pic-tipsThis 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

use-sneaker-for-iphone-selfiesSeriously, 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. :)


What I Ate (An Unglamorous Day)

what-i-ate-food-diaryI haven’t shared a day of eats in a while because honestly, I feel like knowing I’m going to share what I eat causes me to slightly alter my eating. I get a little self-conscious. Does this look like a blog-worthy day of food? Maybe I shouldn’t share this day on the blog—it doesn’t look like I ate enough. Shoot, that’s a long time between meals. Err I ate a ton of sugar today, maybe I shouldn’t blog about this one.

It’s so stupid because the whole point of What I Ate Wednesday posts is to share a behind-the-scenes look at actual life and yet I purposely eat dinner two hours early so that there’s natural lighting for my WIAW picture of the meal. Ah the irony. I’m not saying that my previous WIAW posts are lies—I’m just saying that a lot of in-progress food diaries never get published because I worry they aren’t “blog-worthy.”

So today I wanted to share one of those days. I had absolutely no food in the apartment, had to teach at 5:50AM out in the ‘burbs, didn’t eat a real meal until 1PM, and the pictures are all sh*tty iPhone pics with bad lighting. It’s not pretty, but that’s life. Not every day is a beautifully planned array of food. This is what I ate yesterday:

5:30AM | Coconut Fig Energy Squares

organic-living-superfoods-wiawI hadn’t been grocery shopping in a while, so when my alarm went off at 4:45AM (woof), I just got in my car and drove out to Wellesley. Luckily there are Organic Living Superfoods snacks for sale at the studio so I munched on a pack of coconut fig energy squares (so good!) before teaching my 5:50 & 6:45AM classes.

8:00AM | Coffee

starbucks-wiawIn between my first two classes and my 8:30/9:30 classes, I ran across the street to Starbucks and grabbed a tall iced coffee (black, like my soul). I haven’t been drinking coffee much at all lately in favor of tea, but I needed it, OK??! 😉

1:00PM | Sushi from Whole Foods

whole-foods-sushi-wiawAfter teaching, I hit up the Whole Foods in Wellesley before driving back to the city. I picked up some things for dinner as well as my favorite sushi roll they make. Tuna, avocado, lettuce & carrots topped with pickled mangos and served with a peanut sauce. It’s the bomb. I had to run a couple errands before finally getting back to my apartment, so I didn’t get to enjoy it until about 1PM when I sat down to get working on blog stuff.

3:30PM | Popcorn & Tea

skinny-pop-tea-wiawA couple hours into working, I made myself a cup of Your Tea and enjoyed it with a bowl of popcorn. Not pictured: the other three bowls of popcorn I ate after that one. I mean, popcorn is like 80% air so serving sizes don’t really apply to it–ya feel me?? 😉

8:00PM | Fish & Salad for Dinner

dinner-wiawNormally I like to eat dinner on the early side (6/6:30), but Joe wasn’t going to be home until later and I had signed up for a class at BURN. I prepped the fruit salsa topping and cooked up the quinoa beforehand and then walked over to the studio for Power with Sarah (great workout!). When I got home, I enjoyed a delicious dinner of cod topped with pineapple salsa (this recipe but without the kiwi) and a big spinach & quinoa salad.

Had I not taken the picture on my kitchen floor using my iPhone and a harsh flash, dinner was actually quite glamorous and “blog-worthy” haha. It’s my go-to meal–so yummy!

What’d you munch on yesterday?

Blogger friends–do you ever feel self-conscious posting food diaries?


15-Minute Upper Body Workout (Low Weight, High Reps)

15-Minute Upper Body Workout (low weights, high reps)This is a low(er) weight, high(er) rep workout so it should feel manageable at first as the burn gradually builds in intensity.

15-Minute Upper Body Workout

Equipment I Used:

  • Set of 5lb hand weights (I recommend using anywhere from 2-8 lbs, depending on fitness level)
  • Gymboss Interval Timer – set it so it will beep every 20 seconds

This workout is broken up into three circuits. The second is slightly longer than the first and last circuits. Limit rest time in between each circuit to 30-60 seconds. As you’ll see in the descriptions below, you’ll stay on each exercise for 20 seconds. If you’re more advanced, you can up this to 30 seconds. As always, these workouts are a framework—customize them as needed! 15-Minute Upper Body Workout (low weights, high reps)

Circuit 1 | Perform each of the three exercises for 20 seconds before moving onto the next. No rest in between exercises. Once you’ve finished all three, rest for 20 seconds and repeat the circuit twice more for a total of three times through.

  • Tricep Kickbacks: Bend your knees slightly and lean your torso forward slightly with a straight back (pull those abs in tight!). Arms are at your sides, elbows bent. Keeping your upper arms glued to your sides and just hinging at the elbow, send the weights behind you, extending your arms and squeezing your triceps. Pause for a second at your fullest extension, then slowly bring the weights forward, again by bending the elbows.
  • Triceps Straight-Arm Lift: Hold your arms straight after your final kickback and proceed to lift and lower them. This will be a small movement, you don’t want to let your arms drop all the way below your hips. Lift up as high as possible behind your back and then release down just a few inches.
  • Triceps Squeezes: Holding your arms straight behind you, palms facing each other, squeeze the weights in towards each other and then release back out. This is a small movement—think of it as a pulse.

Circuit 2 | Perform each of the four exercises for 20 seconds before moving onto the next. No rest in between exercises. Once you’ve finished all three, rest for 20 seconds and repeat the circuit twice more for a total of three times through.

  • Bicep Curl: Do these holding your elbows at about shoulder height.
  • Over-Under Shuffle: Extending your arms in front of you with just a soft bend to the elbows, palms facing up, shuffle the weights one over the other keeping hands at about armpit height.
  • Flip the Cup: Extend arms out to your sides with palms facing up. Rotate your hands down, flipping your palms to then face the floor—it’s like a little scooping motion. Try to keep your hands right around armpit/shoulder height the whole time as you flip back and forth.
  • Lat Pulldown: Arms still outstretched to the sides from flip-the-cup, palms facing forward, bend your elbows as you pull them down and behind your back, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you do so. Extend arms back up and out to the sides.

Circuit 3 | Perform each of the three exercises for 20 seconds before moving onto the next. No rest in between exercises. Once you’ve finished all three, rest for 20 seconds and repeat the circuit twice more for a total of three times through.

  • Shoulder Press: Start with arms in goal post position: elbows bent at 90 degrees at shoulder height. From here, press your hands up overhead, bringing weights together above your head. Lower back down, but only so far as brings your elbows back to shoulder height. Don’t let them dip down lower than that. As you do these, be careful not to shrug your shoulders up towards your ears.
  • Shoulder Shaper: Start with arms in goal post position: elbows bent at 90 degrees at shoulder height. From here, maintaining those 90-degree bends, bring your forearms together in front of your face. Return back out to goal post position. Elbows should stay at shoulder height the entire time.
  • Elbow Taps: With elbows at 90-degree bends, forearms held in front of face and palms facing you, tap your elbows together. Make sure you don’t shrug your shoulders as you do this. If this feels weird on your wrists, do it with your palms facing each other.

15-Minute Upper Body Workout (low weights, high reps)WEARING | bra c/o Cozy Orange // tank via LF Stores