How to Take Amazing Photos of Yourself

I get a lot of questions whenever I post pictures of my husband and I.  It's as if we have a personal photographer who follows us on all of our adventures and vacations.  I wish.

But really the secret comes down to owning a tripod.  And a remote helps.  Plus if you have a digital SLR you are money.  But if you have a point and shoot, that works too.  We started that way and still produced fantastic photos like this one below:

There is an obvious picture quality difference when taken with a camera that costs about $1000 less, but the pose and set up is a similar idea.  I also edited the image {in Lightroom} before I posted it here which helps lighten up the picture.  But I will talk about editing in a minute.

Using a Tripod to Set a "Scene"

By setting up a tripod you can get a full view or scene of your background.  If your background is especially beautiful or worth remembering, it makes your photo that much more meaningful.

These photos tell a story...about the day we took a day trip to Stinson Beach...and we climbed those rocks...and ran into some middle aged naked men {yeah, you heard me right}.
And I am reminded of my sweet husband...helping me set up the tripod...getting the perfect pictures. 

Because the background tells you so much more...

I also personally do not like asking random strangers to take a picture for me.  I prefer setting up the picture myself to have it look a certain way.  And just because someone is wearing a DSLR around their neck does not mean that they will take a good picture.  Plus we are not always comfortable handing over our expensive gear to potential thieves {you can never be too careful, right?}.

Here are some of the tripods we have used:

Pedco Digital Ultrapod 2
-Great for point and shoot cameras
-Fits in a small purse
-Can also carry our Nikon D90 with a small lens {35mm} on a steady surface with no wind.  This is a bit sketchy but we have made it work.
-Velcro allows you to wrap the tripod around a pole or tree if there is no flat surface to set it on.

We have upgraded now to this one:

Joby GP3 Gorillapod Flexible Tripod
-Compact size fits in a backpack or medium sized purse
-Great for using outdoors.  Flexible tripod wraps and forms to uneven surfaces.
-Much more steady and strong for bigger DSLR cameras and lenses. 
-I LOVE this one!  Our go-to tripod for the most part.  Compact but still can hold the weight of the camera.

Targus Red TG-6660TR 66-inch Tripod with 3-Way Panhead
-Great for video cameras, point and shoot, DSLR with small lens
-We also have used our D90 with this and a smaller lens. 
-Pretty compact for a full size tripod.  Ours came with a sling bag so that it was easier to carry.
-Can be setup on a table for more height.
-Low price

And then we upgraded to this pricey beast...

Vanguard Alta Pro 264 AT Aluminum Tripod with SBH-100 Ball Head
-Professional line tripod for husband's who like toys {wink}
-Holds large DSLR and large lens
-Ball head allows camera to swivel any direction
-Offers a whole bunch of other technical features I cannot even begin to explain...

Using a Self Timer or Remote

Most cameras come with a self timer so that you can set up the camera and have up to about 10 seconds to join the photo.  If you are like us and setting up the timer becomes a regular part of your photography life, investing in a remote is highly recommended and they are pretty inexpensive.  Just make sure to refer to your camera's manual as to how to set up the remote.

Remotes are especially handy for getting multiple photos without being restricted to the self timer.  Especially when taking large group shots.  You can say "smile" right before you click the remote to make sure everyone is smiling.  

For our DSLRs we use:

Nikon Wireless Remote Control
-For DSLR, just search for remotes that work with your certain model of camera.
-We have this Nikon one but we also have some knock off brand ones that can be found on Amazon or Ebay for super dooper cheap {I think we bought four from somewhere in China for $2 including shipping.  That's cheaper than replacing the batteries}.

Changing Your Focus Point From the Center

Okay, so I might lose some of you on this one.  But by setting up your camera's focus to focus to the right or left or up or down, you can focus on the people but push them off to the side so that you get the background as well.  This creates a more artistic image and continues to help tell the story.  See how we are off to the side, in focus, but you also get to see the sun setting and the beach.  Perfection I tell you.

If you shoot with a lens that has a higher aperture this is not as important as your background will not be as blurry.  So if you are shooting in automatic with a lens that came with your camera, you might be safe to try this without adjusting your focus point.  This also pertains to point and shoot cameras.  Forgive me, I am not super great with this technical wording stuff but hopefully you get the idea.

Editing Your Photos

Editing your photos really does make a big difference.  Just this year I started editing all of my images and shooting them all in raw.  It took me awhile to come around to this because I am lazy.  But I decided I needed to not keep every single image and instead pick the few favorites and edit them.  This way they are ready to be made into a photobook or printed and framed.

I use Lightroom because it is fabulous and easy.  We also have Photoshop but I will admit I do not know as much as I would like.  Both are pretty expensive and technical if you don't know a lickin' about photography.  For newbies or if you don't want to ship out a ton of money there are plenty of free programs out there that you can use to make simple adjustments with.  Even though Picnik is no longer around you can still use Picassa to edit your photos.  I would start by adjusting the brightness and contrast.  If you play around with it a bit it starts making more sense.

Good luck and know it just takes time and a willingness to learn.  I shot in automatic for a long time and that is a-okay!  But go ahead and take your tripod out on your next outing, will you?  I promise you will love it in the end!  Happy photo taking!


  1. What great tips and tricks! You guys are so talented!

  2. SUPER great tips, Ashley! I am really awful at using the self-timer on my camera so I can be in the shot. It's easier just to not be in it. :o) I would prefer to have you follow me around and take pictures of my family on vacation. Can that be arranged? :o)

  3. The neato folks from Picnik (now that Google destroyed them) have created I haven't played with it much since I also use Lightroom, but it appears to function pretty much just like Picnik did.

  4. Those are great tips, Ashley! We have tripods #2 and #3 and we just got a remote. I feel like we need to force ourselves to take more pictures of us. We get too caught up in photographing the scenery and all. He feels a little silly carrying around tripods though... I'll have to work on that :)

    1. But isn't it too small for the SLR?!?!

    2. Good to know! I'll try that :)

  5. I might need to invest in a tripod. Thanks for this awesome post.

  6. Such a great article!! You have me running to the store for a tripod! What do you do about busy places though, like Disneyland or Amusement parks?


  7. Great tips!! I got the Nikon remote for Christmas, but I haven't used it as often as I would like. :s

  8. I love this!
    I'm sad because I'm always the one trailing behind taking photos, which means I'm never in the photos. My husband thinks that taking pictures "takes away from the experience" of whatever we are doing. Bummer.
    So even though I have a nice DSLR and tripod (through work), I don't get photos like this.
    Since it is a work camera, I'm really nervous leaving if it's not attached to me.
    The tripod is heavy though.
    I'm rambling. I love this post.

  9. Ashley, your pictures are truly beautiful!

  10. I love this post!!! So helpful! I am totally investing in a new tripod so we don't have the pictures of one parent with both kids and then the other parent with the kids. So lame. I might just have to get a remote too!

  11. OK, I'm pinning this so I can come back to it when I'm not on a supposed stay-cation where blogging is not allowed and I'm supposed to be having quality time with the kidlets:) I really have to get a tripod, thanks for all the options!


  12. Wonderful tips, and I especially appreciate any tips for point and shoot cameras. I can't afford an SLR camera, at least not yet, but still want to take the best photos that I can, so thank you!

  13. Here visiting from Serenity Now. These are some great tips! I usually use my i-phone to take pictures but I'm thinking I might ask for an actual camera for Christmas! Thanks for sharing :)


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