REDEFINE | Self Portraits featuring Ellen Elizabeth Photography

ellenelizabethphotography

 “There is only one sun. We can’t all claim to only have one way to use the light, but we can REDEFINE how we choose to express it. “

Why are you passionate about this topic?
Self portraiture is a skill and topic that often gets overlooked. We often talk of how to get better pictures of our children and our family, but forget that WE are part of that family and we need to be documented, too! I think some photographers have the tendency to hide behind the camera and be the picture taker so they don’t have to worry about the camera being pointed at themselves. They were probably that one person who always volunteered to be in charge of documenting the big moments like birthdays and holidays. I mean, its easy! Easy to hide behind the camera and make others look good. But soon you will realize there isn’t a single picture of you in your family’s albums or on your wall. That realization is what makes a lot of photographers step out into this type of photography. Some people may suggest hiring a photographer to capture these moments, but I think there is sometimes more meaning behind self portraits because I, as the mom, get to interpret and capture motherhood in my own way, not the way another photographer might see it and capture it. The pictures could come out just beautiful, but the images would be from their perspective, not my own.
When did you first learn this technique? Or, when did you first realize you liked this topic?
I started taking pictures pretty much as soon as I found out I was pregnant with our first daughter. Something about the changes that happen in those nine months made me want to document that special time. I bought my first camera remote and through much trial and error I learned how to create self portraits that were not only in focus, but ones that kept with my documentary style of shooting. By the time my daughter was born, I was in love with the art of self portraiture. I loved looking back on the photographs and feeling like there was another person in our house documenting our day to day life. I spent over a year perfecting my techniques for self portraits and continue to test the limits with new ways to get in the frame.

What are the tips you would share with anyone trying to achieve this technique or subject/topic? 

1) Use a Tripod and Remote Trigger 

Your tripod doesn’t have to be expensive, but make sure it is able to safely hold the weight of your camera. While a tripod isn’t essential. you can be so much more creative with your self portraits when using a tripod to get different heights and angles. Using an inexpensive, little remote for your camera can make a big difference. With self timers, you may feel rushed. With a remote, you can step away from the camera for longer stretches to interact with family, resulting in genuine expressions.
2) Prepare
Because kids have limited attention spans, set everything up before you bring your kids or other people into the frame with you, including setting up your tripod, getting your camera settings ready, and taking a few trial shots to be sure everything is set to go. This keeps everyone happy and little ones don’t get bored as quickly.
3) Use Live Mode
This is a huge help when trying to achieve a perfect focus, especially when shooting with wide angle lenses. Digitally zoom in 5X or 10X using the Live View mode and manually rotate the focus ring to achieve that tack sharp focus (Note: You usually have to have your 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 while keeping your lens on manual focus so that the camera does not override your focal point, and you should be good to go!
4) 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! Make sure part of you is in the picture, whether it’s your hand, legs, or shadow. 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.

5) 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.

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About the photographer:

I am a self taught photographer living in San Diego, California with my husband and two year old daughter. My photographs are mostly of my family and the beautiful daily life moments that come along with motherhood.When I’m not holding a camera, I love getting into big DIY projects, taking walks with my family, and enjoying life to the fullest.

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