5 Sure-Fire Tips For A Great DIY Photo Shoot

5 Sure-Fire Tips For A Great DIY Photo Shoot

Inside: Want to take your own family photos this year?  Check out these 5 tips for a great DIY photo shoot.

Disclaimer: This contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I only recommend tools and resources I use and love!

5 Tips For A Great DIY Photo Shoot

Have you ever tried to take your own family photos?  

We’d love to hire a photographer every year but time and finances don’t always allow.  But it’s important to have a family photo each year, even if it’s not a professional photo.

I look back on each family photo we’ve taken over the years  – at how much my kids have grown – how they’ve gained inches and lost baby fat, gone from child to teen (!) – and I’m so grateful I took the time to make a photo with all of us together each year.

We like to take a family photo each time we go on vacation.  My kids have come to expect it, and it’s easier to fit in when we’re on a more relaxed schedule.

Plus the locations are more interesting!

We now have several DIY family photoshoots under our belt.  Based on my experience, I’d like to offer 5 tips for a successful DIY photo shoot.

DIY Photo Shoot

Make sure you don’t miss a step! Download my FREE DIY Photoshoot Cheatsheet for your own DIY Photos.  Get it HERE.

DIY Photo Shoot Tip 1: Coordinate, Don’t Match

Coordinate your outfits without being too “matchy.”  This holds true for any photoshoot, but I try to treat a DIY photoshoot like any other.

Whatever you do, don’t dress everyone in the same color, like all black t-shirts and jeans.

Don’t. Do. It.

Here are some great tips for choosing your outfits. 

DIY Photo Shoot Tip 2: Shoot In “Good Light”

DIY Photo Shoot

Plan your shoot for a time of day when the light is less harsh.  This will be early in the morning or in the late afternoon as the sun is lower.

My favorite time to shoot is during the golden hour, in the last hour of the day before the sun goes down.

If you shoot in the middle of the day be sure to find some open shade – an area under a porch roof or beside a building where you’re shaded from direct sun but facing toward the light.

Open shade provides soft, flattering light and can be great for family photos.

Check out the SOL App for help as you plan the best time for your shoot.

DIY Photoshoot Tip 3: Use A Tripod

how to take your own family photos

Do you need a tripod?  I say yes.

I’ve tried it without a tripod and it’s much harder.  If you’re indoors you may be able to use a table or chair for your camera, but outdoors you’re unlikely to find a stable surface at the right height for your camera.

Plus, it’s SO MUCH EASIER to position the camera at the right angle with a tripod.  I’ve tried it without a tripod and ended up with cut off heads or photos so crooked I had to trash them!

And when I’ve had someone around to the press the shutter for me I composed the shot first the way I wanted it with the tripod.  So when Grandpa presses the shutter I’m not worried about whether he’s moved the focal point or changed the composition (or cut off anyone’s head!).

Here’s my favorite tripod.

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DIY Photoshoot Tip 4: Use Self-Timer Mode and Turn Off Auto Focus

how to take your own family photos

Note: We took this photo spur of the moment in our yard.  Our outfits aren’t coordinated, but we took it on my husband’s birthday, so I love it.  Capture memories, even if they’re not perfect!

If you don’t have grandpa (or grandma, or a random stranger walking by) around to press the shutter button, here’s how you pull this off, step-by-step:

Step 1: Find the Self-Timer Function on Your Camera

Most cameras have a self-timer feature. Look for a symbol on your camera that looks like a little clock. 

On some cameras, it may be a button you push.  On mine, I rotate the command dial to the timer mode, as shown below. 

But don’t put it on timer mode yet!  Take note of how it’s done on your camera.

Next, go into your camera menu and set a time interval between shots.

Consult your camera’s manual to find out how to access the interval timer function. (Not all cameras have this feature).

I recommend setting it to take 9 shots per set at one shot per second.  I also tell the camera to delay for 10 seconds (self-timer delay) so I have time to get in the shot.

Note: If your camera doesn’t have an interval timer or won’t take more than one shot per timed delay, you may need to use a remote trigger to save you from running back to the camera to press the button again for every shot. These are often camera-model specific, so make sure any remote trigger you buy is compatible with our camera.

You may also want to check out the Canon Camera Connect App or a Nikon Remote Trigger App.

Step 2: Set Up Your Shot

Set up your tripod and get one person (I recommend an adult) to stand where you want to take the photo.  Compose your image “loosely,” which means step back far enough so you won’t cut off any limbs or body parts.  You can always crop it closer when you edit the image if desired.

Step 3: Choose Your Camera Settings

Use your adult model to get your camera settings ready so your image will be properly exposed.  Keep your ISO as low as possible to avoid noise, set your shutter speed at 1/125 minimum (or faster if possible) to avoid motion blur, and be sure you choose an aperture narrow enough to get everyone in focus.

For a group photo, set it no wider than f/4 or f/5.6.

Pro tip: Set up your photo in a location where there’s a good bit of distance between your subjects and the background behind them.  The greater the distance, the blurrier your background will be.

Step 4: Set Your Focus, Then TURN OFF AUTOFOCUS

Use your adult model to set your focus.  Place your focal point over his or her face and get the image in focus.  Take a test shot and zoom in on the back of your camera to make sure it’s in focus.

Then – DON’T MISS THIS CRUCIAL STEP – turn off your camera’s autofocus.

On most cameras, to turn off autofocus you toggle the switch on the lens to manual focus, as shown above.

Here’s why you must remember to turn off autofocus:

In autofocus mode the camera will refocus for each shot.  Without a person behind the camera to make adjustments as people move, your photos will come out blurry.

But as long as you choose a narrower aperture and turn off autofocus after you’ve set your focus, your photo should be sharp.

Step 5: Get Everyone In the Frame

Now it’s time to call the kids in!  Have them gather around your model.  Take a look through your viewfinder and make sure everyone’s in the shot and no one’s limbs are chopped off.

If you have to make adjustments be sure to turn autofocus back on and set your focus again.

Be sure to leave room for yourself!  “Shooting loose” will help.

Once everyone’s in place and you’ve set your focus and turned autofocus off, turn your camera to self-timer mode and press the shutter.

You should have 10 seconds to get into the shot.  Or if you’re using a remote, wait until you get in the shot, then press your remote trigger.

You’ll know it’s working when you see the self-timer light blinking.

DIY Photoshoot Tip 5: Get Close and Interact!

how to take your own family photos

Make sure everyone looks “connected” in your photo.  Ask every person to touch someone else and get as close as you can.

You can’t get too close!  Squish your heads and bodies together so there’s not much space between you. 

And remember, your photos will be better if you interact.

Have someone tell a funny joke

Tell everyone to “get closer” and “closer” and “closer!”

Tell everyone to squish their ears together or put their arms around each other.

We love the tickle fight method.  We tickle the kids or ask everyone to tickle someone else to get laughs and smiles.

It works pretty well!

Keep It Short and Have Fun!

Kids will tolerate only so much so keep your DIY Photo Shoot short.  Have fun and keep the outtakes.

Those can be the most fun of all!

Don’t let another year pass without a family photo.  Grab your tripod and, find a pretty spot and have fun with your own DIY Photo Shoot!

Worried you’ll miss a step? Download my FREE DIY Photoshoot Cheatsheet and take it with you when you’re out taking your own DIY Photos.  Get it HERE.

How I Got The Shot

How I Got The Shot

Disclaimer: This contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I only recommend tools and resources I use and love!

Ever wish you could get a peek behind the lens of another photographer and watch them work?

That’s how I feel when I see a photo I admire.

In my “How I Got The Shot” series I provide a look into my thought process behind a particular image and share helpful tips for shooting and editing.

Shot with Canon 5D III and 35 mm 1.4 lens. Camera Settings: ISO 1250, f/3.5, SS 1/640

It was late afternoon when my husband came home and my daughter ran up to get a hug.

*heart melts*

The overhead lights were off and I noticed how my husband and daughter were standing in a pocket of light shining in from the window.

I knew if I exposed for the light shining in the rest of the scene would be thrown into shadow.

I ran for my camera!

Here’s the SOOC (straight out of camera) photo: 

Editing Tips

I converted the photo to black and white in Lightroom, lowered the overall shadows and raised the Luminance slider in the Detail panel to reduce the noise in the image.

I used a graduated filter on the lefthand side of the image to lower the shadows a bit more.

I used a radial filter on the subjects to raise the exposure slightly.

I created another graduated filter on the righthand side of the image and brought the shadows and exposure down.  This helped to hide some of the distracting items on the counter, but it also removed the pretty light from the window.

So I used the erase tool to erase the adjustments off the window: 

Finally, I used an adjustment brush to raise the exposure a bit on the light coming in from the window:

and the finished product:

If you’re a visual learner, you can watch me edit some of my favorite images HERE.

How I Got The Shot

How I Got The Shot

Disclaimer: This contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I only recommend tools and resources I use and love!Ever wish you could get a peek behind the lens of another...

How I Got The Shot

How I Got The Shot

Disclaimer: This contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I only recommend tools and resources I use and love!Ever wish you could get a peek behind the lens of another...

How I Got The Shot

How I Got The Shot

Disclaimer: This contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I only recommend tools and resources I use and love!Ever wish you could get a peek behind the lens of another...

How I Got The Shot

How I Got The Shot

Disclaimer: This contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I only recommend tools and resources I use and love!Ever wish you could get a peek behind the lens of another...

How I Got The Shot

How I Got The Shot

Disclaimer: This contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I only recommend tools and resources I use and love!

Ever wish you could get a peek behind the lens of another photographer and watch them work?

That’s how I feel when I see a photo I admire.

In my “How I Got The Shot” series I provide a look into my thought process behind a particular image and share helpful tips for shooting and editing.

Shot with Canon 5D III and 35 mm 1.4 lens. Camera Settings: ISO 200, f/16, SS 1/320

I took this photo on the beach.  When I saw the log I knew I’d want to get some silhouette shots there at sunset.

I used a narrow aperture of f/16 in order to capture a starburst effect.

I got down low but made sure just a bit of the sun was peeking above the log.

I exposed for the sky so my subject would be thrown into shadow.

Here’s the SOOC (straight out of camera) photo: 

Here’s how I decided to crop the photo:

Editing Tips

The edit on this photo was simple, done 100% in Lightroom.

I lowered the shadows to enhance the silhouette, raised the highlights and exposure to enhance the sunlight and raised the temperature just a bit.

I used a graduated filter on the sky to add some clarity.  This made the clouds stand out better against the sky.

Finally, I increased the vibrance just a bit, and that was it!

Small adjustment can make a BIG difference!

Check out my Easy to Understand Photography Cheat Sheet for Beginners:

How I Got The Shot

How I Got The Shot

Disclaimer: This contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I only recommend tools and resources I use and love!

Ever wish you could get a peek behind the lens of another photographer and watch them work?

That’s how I feel when I see a photo I admire.

In my “How I Got The Shot” series I provide a look into my thought process behind a particular image and share helpful tips for shooting and editing.

Shot with Canon 5D III and 35 mm 1.4 lens. Camera Settings: ISO 1600, f/3.2, SS 1/500

9 times out of 10 it’s the light that motivates me to grab my DSLR to capture a moment.  Well, the light plus someone I love.

I saw the light from the window behind my daughter, but I also saw the shadows to the right of her and thought I’d be able to use the shadows and the reflection on the floor to frame her and lead the eye toward her. 

I set my exposure on my daughter but slightly underexposed the photo on purpose because I knew the highlights from the window were going to be very bright.  I also hoped underexposing would give me darker shadow areas. 

I got down low in order to capture the floor and the reflection as part of the shot.  This helps draw the eye toward her. 

Here’s the SOOC (straight out of camera) photo: 

I shot it a wee bit crooked so I straightened it with a crop.  I cropped out the chair on the left in order to remove distractions and bring the focus in on the subject.  I also placed the subject along the rule of thirds line.

Editing Tips

The overall temperature of the image was too warm, so I lowered the temperature slider.

One factor when I’m shooting in this room of my home is the color of the walls.  When I repaint I’m going to tone down the yellow!

Color casts from walls are a common challenge, but there are ways to counteract that problem in Lightroom.  My first step in dealing with that was to lower the overall temperature.

I also lowered the highlights slider because I felt the brightness of the light coming in from the window was distracting.

Because I shot the image at ISO 1600 I had some noise in the shadow areas and on my subject so I raised the Luminance slider under the Detail panel to 15.

As you can see in the SOOC image, the shadow areas weren’t anywhere near as dark as I wanted them to be (and there was a roll of fabric leaning against the door!), so I used th graduated filter in Lightroom to bring the shadows and the exposure down in those darker areas of the image.

I then took the image into Photoshop to make a few final adjustments:

I used a Color Balance adjustment layer to pull more yellow out of the image.  I brushed that layer onto the white areas of the walls to make the whites look more white.

I also used the Color Balance adjustment layer to cool my subject (she was a little yellow, too).

Back in Lightroom, I used a radial filter to raise the exposure and contrast on my subject just a bit.  And I was done!

The vision in my mind’s eye was brought to life through the power of Lightroom and a little Photoshop!

If you’re a visual learner, you can watch me edit some of my favorite images HERE.

How I Got The Shot

How I Got The Shot

Disclaimer: This contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I only recommend tools and resources I use and love!

Ever wish you could get a peek behind the lens of another photographer and watch them work?

That’s how I feel when I see a photo I admire.

In my “How I Got The Shot” series I provide a look into my thought process behind a particular image and share helpful tips for shooting and editing.

Shot with Canon 5D III and 35 mm 1.4 lens. Camera Settings: ISO 125, f/3.2, SS 1/250

I took this photo at a local frozen yogurt shop.  We were there close to sunset and my daughter was standing in direct light from the sun while serving herself some froyo.

I love to shoot with my subject in a pocket of light because when I expose for the subject the rest of the scene falls off into shadow.  That was the effect created here with her standing in the strong sunset light.

I used a bright area of my daughter’s skin to set my exposure then toggled my focal point to compose the photo.

Here’s the SOOC (straight out of camera) photo: 

I shot the image with a Cloudy White Balance Setting.  This probably wasn’t the best choice because it rendered the image too warm.

I didn’t have enough time to change my white balance!  Thankfully I shoot my photos in RAW so it’s easy to adjust the white balance in Lightroom.

A cooler white balance setting may have been a better choice to cool the warmth of the light.

If time allows I prefer to set a custom white balance before shooting. 

Editing Tips

I altered the crop to place my subject along the rule of thirds line.  Also, I was bothered by the trash can in the foreground and wanted to eliminate as much of it as possible.

In Lightroom I adjusted the photo’s temperature by sliding the temperature slider toward blue.  This neutralized the warmth of the sunlight.

A few other adjustments I made:

I lowered the shadows globally to enhance them.

I lowered the overall highlights because they were too bright in the light areas of the photo.

I used graduated filters to lower the exposure on the shadowy areas on the left and the right lower corner to enhance the shadows and minimize the trashcan.

I used a radial filter on my daughter to raise exposure and bring her out of the shadows a bit. 

I like the overall result, but if I could take this photo again, I would have stepped a bit farther to the left so as to avoid the trashcan in the image. 

A step to the left would have also put the yogurt machine in the foreground and led the eye toward the subject.

I only had moments to set up the shot before my daughter moved on, but maybe we’ll go back for some froyo soon and give it another shot!

Check out my Easy to Understand Photography Cheat Sheet for Beginners:

How To Take A Stunning Silhouette Photo

How To Take A Stunning Silhouette Photo

How To Take a Stunning Silhouette Photo

Inside: Learn how to shoot a stunning silhouette photo in 5 easy steps with your DSLR. iPhone silhouette photo tutorial also included!

Disclaimer: This contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I only recommend tools and resources I use and love!

Last year for my birthday all I asked for was a nature hike with my family.

They obliged, and we hiked a small summit near our home. The grade to the top was steep, but short. My kids found rocks to haul up and at the summit we were rewarded with a beautiful view and freshwater pools where they tossed their stones.

Minus the water, it felt like we were on the surface of the moon.

I had my trusty camera with me, of course!  As the sun sank lower, my anticipation grew.  I knew the best light would come as the sun set.

I couldn’t wait to capture the perfect silhouette photo.

5 Simple Steps To a Stunning Silhouette Photo

I’ve broken the process for taking a great silhouette photo down into 5 simple steps:

Step 1 to a Stunning Silhouette Photo: Find a Location With Open Space

Great locations for silhouette photos include the beach, the top of a hill or an open field – anywhere with lots of open sky and not a lot of trees, houses or other objects in the way.

I took this silhouette photo on the beach.

Step 2: Find The Best Light

The easiest time to capture a silhouette photo is in the evening when the sun is low, and after sunset.

To capture a great silhouette photo the light needs to be behind your subject.  Place your subject between your camera and the setting sun.

Silhouette photos are easiest at this time of day because the light is getting softer. Shooting into softer light is easier than shooting into direct sun.

Also, as the sun goes down the sky becomes more vibrant!

I took this image as the sun slipped below the horizon.

Step 3: Get As Low As You Can

Here’s a pullback of the spot where I took the photo above.  It’s hard to see the difference in elevation, but the kids were up higher than I was. I was positioned in a lower spot, on my back.

You gotta do what you gotta do to get the shot! 

Get as low as you can.  You may need to lie on your back to get low enough.

Pin this for later!

Step 4: Expose for the Sky

To expose for the sky, you’ll need to shoot in full manual or a semi-automatic camera mode.  I always recommend manual mode.

If you need help with that, check out this post on how to use your DSLR camera.

Don’t be afraid to shoot in manual mode!  For silhouette photos, it’s the best option.

If you want to use a semi-automatic camera mode, I’d recommend Shutter Priority so you can choose a shutter speed high enough to avoid motion blur.

If you’re in shutter priority mode you’ll need to set your exposure for the sky, then use the exposure lock feature on your camera so the exposure won’t change when you focus on your subject.

In my opinion, that’s more cumbersome than manual mode.  And manual mode will allow you to tweak your exposure as the light changes while the sun goes down.

The light will fade fast at sunset!

Here are the steps to expose for the sky:

Step 1: For the most precision when you set your exposure, I recommend spot metering mode and single point focus.  Point your camera at the sky, but not at the sun.  Place your focal point on a spot in the sky that’s blue.

Step 2: Adjust your ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed until your camera meter is a 0 or somewhat underexposed (below 0).  You may need to underexpose to get your subjects blacked out.

Step 3: Once your exposure is set move your focal point to your subject and take a test shot.  If the sky looks good and your subjects look like blacked-out silhouettes, you’re ready to go!  If not, adjust one of the legs of the exposure triangle to darken your exposure a bit more.

Step 5: Isolate Your Subject

This is easier said than done with kids, but if you have more than one person in your photo, encourage them to give each other a bit of space.

You’ll have best results when you can see each person’s distinct features.

If your subjects are too close together they may look more like a blob than people!

This principle also applies to the subject’s environment.  I love how in the photo below my daughter is isolated from her the ground beneath her.

PRO TIP: Ask your kids to jump, dance, walk and move.  You’ll get more photos where you can see the entire body and their limbs are more likely to look distinct.  But be sure your shutter speed is fast enough to capture the motion.  In this photo my shutter speed was 1/640.

I love this image BUT the houses and trees on the horizon line “ate up” my daughter’s feet.  The image would be stronger if I could see more of her feet.

Pro Tip:  If you notice anything distracting along the horizon line, remove it in Lightroom.

I used the healing brush in Lightroom to remove a cell phone tower in the distance.

A small distraction removed keeps your eyes focused on the subject.

How To Take An iPhone Silhouette Photo

An iPhone silhouette photo is a bit simpler to take, but the camera phone’s capabilities are limited. An iPhone is more challenging to use in low light, so still subjects work best if you’re shooting after sunset.

Step 1: Place your subject with the light behind them. Face your phone toward the sunset (or light source).  Get down as low as possible.

Step 2: Tap your finger on the sky to set your exposure.  You can drag your finger up or down on the iPhone screen to brighten or darken the photo.  Adjust the exposure until your subjects look blacked out.

Step 3: Snap the photo!  Edit the photo on your phone to give it more pop.  Lower the shadows and increase the contrast so the silhouette areas are nice and dark.

I took this silhouette photo with my iPhone. 

The next time you’re out in nature with your family be sure to stick around for the best light at sunset and remember these five steps to create your own stunning silhouette photo:

Find a Location with Open Sky

Put the Light Behind Your Subject

Get Down Low

Expose for the Sky

Isolate Your Subject

Check out my Easy to Understand Photography Cheat Sheet for Beginners:

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