I don't necessarily mind having my picture taken, although I'm not exactly comfortable in front of the camera. (I wouldn't have room to list all the ways I looked goofy in my school portraits growing up.) But when it comes to my family, and especially my kids, I want to exist in our photos, even when I'm not wearing makeup (and perhaps still in my pajamas.)
Self portraits were not on my list of things to learn when I started my photography journey. I wanted nice pictures of my son and that naturally included my husband. But as I learned more and got to know other women photographers, I saw the beauty of self portraiture and especially that of women with their children. I didn't take many bump photos when I was pregnant with my first son, so I resolved to do better when we got pregnant again.
If you've never tried self-portraits (beyond the selfie feature on your phone), getting in the picture with your kid(s) is a great place to start. Being with someone else takes away some of the awkwardness and you're naturally most relaxed (and looking your best) when you're with your family. Once you've done a few self-portraits with your kids, you may find it easier to take some by yourself.
Here are a few tips I learned after nine months of maternity self-portraits (and some of my favorite images). And for a primer on self-portraits, check out these earlier posts on reasons to get in the picture with your kids and tips for getting in front of the camera with your family.
1. Find the light. Inspiration, for me, is the one of the hardest parts of taking self-portraits. Coming up with unique ideas can be difficult. I found that starting with the light can be the easiest way to get inspired. Find a place with pretty light and go from there. This could be the morning sun coming in through the bedroom window. Or softer, mid-afternoon light, perhaps in the very same window. You can change up the perspective to make the images unique.
Or, it may not even be natural light at all. You can get creative with artificial light as well. It helps to have your camera and tripod ready to go any time inspiration strikes. There were many times I wasn't even planning to take a shot, when I saw the light and just went for it.
Start observing the light in your house throughout the day. Notice where you see it and how it changes, which brings me to my second tip...
2. Keep a notebook. You may not always have the time to stop what you're doing and take a picture, so keep a notebook (I also love using the Evernote app on my phone) and write down ideas as they come to you. It's especially helpful to note the time of day you see especially nice light. It can change quickly during the day (and with the season too). Pay attention to others' images you see as well, whether you follow any photographers on social media (Alice Che is wonderful at self-portraiture) or you're thumbing through a magazine. Inspiration doesn't have to come from strictly maternity shots, or even self-portraits. Just look for images that you find appealing and try to make them your own.
3. Be flexible. You may have an idea for the perfect shot in your mind, but it's just not happening. Maybe your cat keeps getting in the frame. Or your child just isn't interested. Go with the flow. With my son, I often started with whatever activity he was interested in doing at the time and asked him to do it in a place with good light. Whether it was reading on the bed or on the couch, or playing Legos on the floor, he was much more interested in (and sometimes not even aware of) taking pictures when we were doing an activity that he was interested in.
4. Keep trying. Not every idea for a shot works out. Sometimes it's a matter of adjusting (waiting for better light or changing the perspective). And sometimes it may not work no matter what you try. I took a lot of shots that I didn't include in this post. While they may not be share-worthy, they're still keepers and were worth the effort. Because I know my kids will appreciate them despite any flaws I see.
Now that I've had my second son, I'm having fun getting in the picture with him too. I'll be sharing more self-portrait tips in a few weeks, so come back to visit or join my mailing list to receive tips on documenting your family life straight to your inbox..