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How to Take Self-Timed Portraits

One of our favorite things to do when Nick and I travel is to set up self-timed shots together.  I know that sounds super cheesy, but as photographers it’s a great way to remember us in that moment, no matter where we are…the more scenery that I can include in the frame, the better.

How to take self-timed portraits

I want to capture the emotion, the time of day, and what the world looked like around us in that exact moment in time.  

I’ve randomly had several people in the past few weeks ask how Nick and I set up our self-timed shots.  I thought it’d be helpful to share exactly how we set everything up (it’s nothing fancy!), to capture a few portraits together.  So, here it goes!

  1. Make sure you have a stable place to set your camera:  A flat rock, bench, backpack on a bench, or the obvious choice…a tripod.  Tripods are great to bring along on your travels, but it doesn’t work for us 100% of the time.  When we want to go for a hike, explore new city streets, or stop at little shops along the way, a big tripod isn’t exactly ideal.  Plus, I don’t like holding it. haha.  So, that’s when you have to improvise…and, that brings us back to setting your camera on someplace stable!  Here is the tripod that we use:  It’s a carbon fiber tripod by Manfrotto.  The carbon fiber is nice because it’s much lighter (making it easier to carry through the airport and on the plane).
  2. Focus on your subject:  Have one person stand off in the distance (usually me in this case) where you want to position your picture; have the other person (Nick), focus the camera on my face.  We typically make sure the little red square is right on my face.
  3. Take a test shot:  Make sure it’s framed exactly how you want…or you’ll be running back and forth a lot. :)
  4. Set the timer:  Ensure your timer is set to 20 seconds or longer, and press the shutter.  Once the timer starts, I try not to move too much.  If you move forward or backward, the focus will be off and you’ll have to take it again.
  5. Run!  Run as fast as you can to the other person and pose before the timer goes off!  This will feel a little silly, but it’s worth it!  On our camera, we know when the picture is about to take because of a flashing red light that alerts us.

And, of course, here are a few of my favorite self-timed shots.  I thought I’d start with my favorite one ever:  The very moment that Nick proposed to me!  We were on a beach in Portugal just taking some of our normal shots, until he proposed for one of them :)

How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together The camera is sitting on the trunk of the car – it was nice and flat!
How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together We rode bikes this day and positioned the camera on one of the baskets tied to the front.  It wobbled slightly and I freaked out!  We only grabbed a couple shots here, haha!How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together You can tell that we’re on a little bit of a hill in this picture.  We just set the camera on the ground :)How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together The tripod came in handy for this one.  There’s no way we were about to rest the camera on anything covered in snow!How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together The camera was sitting on another big rock, not too far from us.  We faced the sun so it would light our faces.
How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together Almost made this one!!  See Nick’s right hand?!  Not quite ready!
How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together There were a few people around us taking pictures here and we felt so awkward setting up this shot (Nick had to run across a few big rocks)!  I’m sure they probably thought we were weirdos running across the rocks and then doing a lovey-dovey-pose, but I didn’t care! hahaha.How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together Honeymoon self-timed shot :)How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together You can tell Nick just made this one before the timer – his right hand looks goofy!  We call it the “claw.” hahaha!How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together A tripod for this one worked well, because we angled the tripod head down.  It made for something a little different than our normal poses!How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together One of our first self-timed shots together in Bermuda :)  We set the camera on a beach chair.

How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together We took our own engagement pictures in Marietta Square…without a tripod, haha.  We set the camera up on various “props” through the square:  The brick wall, a bench, stairs, etc.How to take self timed portraits, travel photography, how to set up a timed shot, taking self timed portraits together

  • I love every single one of these!!! It’s so fun that you can get such great shots when it’s just the two of you!

  • My boyfriend and I went to California for an adventure road trip a couple months ago and while we were there, I made sure to take photos of us … he felt kind of weird setting up the camera and running over for our “lovey dovey pose” when there were people around us. Some asked if they could take the photo for us, but that seemed awkward if we were to have a complete stranger taking a photo of us not looking at the camera … or even better yet, kissing. ;) Lol! So then we realized that the self timer wasn’t awkward at all!

    I had to explain why it was important to my bf to do these types of shots … Sure it’s great having scenic photos, but it’s important to share in the trip documentation that YOU both were apart of this space, which is why self timer is perfect. :) Great post!

  • You guys know by now how much I love these! I loved seeing some of your favorites and know that no matter how goofy it FEELS, these are some of the most beautiful, and I’m sure special, pictures! You’ll be SO incredibly happy to have these to remember all your adventures and share with your kids one day!

  • […] as hard as it sounds!  Though I have to be honest, it’s definitely harder than trying to take self-portraits of just the 2 of us.  It depends on a cooperating baby :)  With good timing (pun intended :)), […]