With Mother’s Day around the corner, we got to thinking how important it is that we are seen in our family photos. After all, they tell the story of our children’s lives, and we are a big part of those little lives!
Becca Lord-Lyon is a CLG Advanced Grad and now Course Instructor, and her mum was (and is still!) a prolific keeper of memories with her trusty camera. It’s a passion she passed on to Becca, but Becca is the first to admit she’s relucant to get in the frame.
But try she does, and she’s here today to impart her words of wisdom to encourage you to let go of perfection. Oh and she’s also sharing some of her fave ways to get in the frame with her young daughter Lenox, pictured below with Becca’s mum, Janet!
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the idea of the perfect photo, the perfect moment, the perfect set-up or the perfect subject, we forget the reason we fell in love with photography in the first place.
We mums are memory keepers of the fleeting moments, the special events and special people. We fear forgetting them in the folds of time, so we set out to record them in images to insure ourselves against that happening. We envision looking back on them in years to come, and sharing them with our our children then they’re fully grown. They are a way for our children to reminisce all the best moments – like riding a bike. And the not so great moments – like falling off the bike!
Our family photos are a beautiful, visual tool for storytelling. So why don’t we get into the frame enough? Why do we put it off when we’re such a big part of our children’s story? I think it’s safe to say we all have our own insecurities and things we don’t like about ourselves. But when you look back at the photographs from years gone by, what do you see?
Growing up, my Mum mostly captured our lives in a documentary way. She told the story how she saw it and captured the raw emotions and moments of a family of four living in 1990s England. She captured the connections and the laughter as well as the locations we visited and the food we ate. I don’t really remember her pausing to make us tidy up or change our clothes.
In all of Mum’s recording of our memories, she got in the frame herself and I have the full picture of my childhood as a result.
My daughter loves seeing her photos, and she enjoys seeing photos of me and my sister when we were children even more. I know the images of her childhood will be enjoyed by many future generations of our family. So I want them to show the little things, the everyday moments and not just the special moments like birthdays and holidays.
I want her to be able to look back at how our home was decorated – will she laugh at our 2020 paint colours in the same way as we laugh at the 80s wallpaper in our baby photos? I want her to remember the days out in the summer, and all the fun days on the run up to Christmas.
However, I don’t love getting in the frame, even though I know how important it is for Lenox to have those images. But I do want to make an effort to be more present in the photo albums. Because no matter how many insecurities I have about myself, in the future when my daughter looks at her childhood photo albums, I want her to remember that I was there too. I want her to laugh at my hair or what I am wearing, the same way I laugh with my Mum now as an adult.
A self portrait is ‘a portrait that an artist produces of themselves.’ That can be done in a variety of ways – using a tripod, shooting into a mirror or a phone or holding the camera in your hand.
There are lots of ways you can get in the frame with your children. And to me, it still counts as a self portrait when I asked my husband to press the shutter after I chose the settings in manual mode for the available light. It doesn’t matter how the image was taken, as long as you find a way to get into the frame.
Related: How to Shoot in Manual Mode
My daughter loves taking a selfie with my phone. She calls it ‘funny faces’ and loves a funny filter. Use the phone as part of your image. Take a photo of you, taking a selfie by holding your camera in your hand and pulling a funny face with your children. On this day it was so sunny outside, so we actually took the selfie first. Then I shot my hand holding the phone with the image displayed.
As you can see there are some reflections and marks on the screen. It would be easier to shoot this type of image inside, with your phone leaning up against something so that it doesn’t need to be held up. But don’t let that stop you… remember, try to let go of perfection for the sake of recording special memories and moments!
Phone selfies are quick and easy, and they can look great online. But they don’t make great prints. For a print worthy image, your camera is the way to go! Trickier sure, but so worth it to get an image you really love and can display around the house for your kids to see every day.
But I call this one a camera selfie as I shot it in the same way I’d shoot a phone selfie. You’ll have less control than putting your camera on a tripod or other surface, but it’s easier and faster to take and produces a better quality image file than a phone selfie.
Find a spot in soft light as it’s the most flattering. What does soft light look like? It looks a little bit like shade, in that the light is even and any graduations between the light and shade are gentle. Hard light on the other hand is really bright, it makes you squint, and it creates patches of light with shadow lines that are sharply defined and jarring.
If you want to learn more about finding the most flattering light for self portraits, try this post below.
Related: How to Look Great in Self Portraits
If your camera has a swivel LCD screen, you can hold the camera and in live view mode, use it to frame yourself. You can use the shutter button but if you find that hard, use the 10 second timer.
This was the first selfie I took with my daughter when she was a 1 week old newborn (before I found the wonderful Click Love Grow Enthusiast Course!). I shot this on auto, with my DSLR balancing in my right hand. On this day I was home alone and I didn’t have a tripod back then, but I wanted to document my tiny baby. So it’s not perfect, but it’s an image I treasure and I’m so glad I didn’t over think it.
Get in Close and Record The Details
You don’t need to fully be in a photo to be a part of the story. Both of these images were set up by me and then I passed the camera to my husband.
In this first image I had planned on cropping through and focusing on our hands together. But my daughter moved my hand under her chin like she does when she’s tired and I asked my husband to step back a little and capture her expression. Unfortunately, by stepping back, my settings needed adjusting and we got a bit more shadow than we intended.
But you can still see my hands and the little smile on her face. She’s also wearing a dress that I made for her. The extra detail and key memory for me and hopefully her – that I made her clothes when she was little, just like my Mum did for me.
In this image below, my husband was shooting while we were walking in the park, when my daughter stopped. He quickly captured the movement in her hair, her hand in my hand. Her hair was so short at the time as she had been for a haircut, and the hairdresser had misunderstood us, and cut too much off. But that’s a memory I cherish too.
I like to set up an activity in a location with good light, and use my tripod to take a self portrait with the camera. It’s a more controlled way to get a photo as you can frame it before you get in the shot, and you’re not limited by the angle you can hold the camera.
During Lockdown 2020 my daughter and I started baking. A lot. So I wanted to try and capture an image of us together. She loved spooning out the mixture so I set us up in the best light to use a fast shutter speed to capture the batter dripping from the spoon. My wall wasn’t fully painted and this shot reminds me that we got the bug for redecorating during Lockdown.
I set the camera on a tripod and used a remote shutter release which was sitting on the table, out of sight behind the baking tin. I mimicked my daughter’s expressions and I thought it turned out pretty well!
Due to the nature of documentary, a true documentary style self portrait wouldn’t be possible without the help of someone else. It still feels like a self portrait, because you have to dial in the camera settings for the available light. But for the moment to happen naturally, ideally you need someone who will snap away for you.
On this day I asked my husband to hold the camera at the beach and take as many shots as he wanted whenever he wanted too. He waited until I picked up my daughter who was trying to escape off to the sea. You can see the struggle from her as she tried to escape!
My husband was sitting on the beach with my camera and just decided to shoot this moment. Luckily I had already dialled in the settings for the available light in case he wanted to take any photos.
He was trying to capture the sand on my knees and he cropped through my daughter’s head. But I like this shot, the way our legs are mimicking each other. It’s nothing special in terms of technicality or composition, but it has a strong storytelling element. It shows her that I would get down in the sand and help her build her sandcastles.
If you want to level up your self portraits and try some outside the square ideas, we have a fantastic blog post which shares images and tips from Grads who did exactly that!
Whatever way you choose to capture yourself in images with your children, do it. Don’t overthink it, these moments only last for a short time. You don’t have to share those images with anyone else. But print them off and add them to the family album. You won’t regret it!
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