Self-Portraits of Motherhood: Getting the Photographer in the Shot


Look around your house, what is the oldest item you own? Maybe it's an heirloom piece of jewelry, maybe it's a piece of furniture passed down for generations. For me it's photographs. I have original photographs from when my grandparents were "going steady" and at their junior prom in High School. I have a photo of my grandmother in a great big hug with Johnny Cash before he was well known. And I have photographs of my mother, laughing, living life to the fullest with my brother and I by her side. Those are the things I cherish, the things I continually look at, and the things that matter most.

Around Christmas of last year, I was looking through a photo album with my daughter and I noticed that I appeared to be absent in most of our family adventures. I'm a photographer, so naturally I am always behind the camera. Because of that, I had almost no photos of myself with my family. It was in that moment that I decided to chage that, and thus my Self-Portraits of Motherhood project was born.

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It was a challenge at first, not technically, but mentally. I am like a typical mom, not completely happy with my weight, don't always wear makeup, and rarely feel picture-ready. I had to work through that, and at the end of the day I guarantee that your children will not notice those extra 15 pounds. They will not notice whether or not you were wearing makeup. What they will notice is that you were there, that you were present, and that you loved them with your entire heart.

Since I was also jumping in to a 365 project--a photo-a-day for a year--I knew I wanted to be in some real, unposed photos with my kids. The ideas started flowing and I got to work on my setup. Self-portraits can seem intimidating but with just a few pieces of equipment you can easily make them happen.

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One of the first things I learned was that a tripod is essential for self-portraits. A tripod will safely hold your camera and I suggest one that is adjustable so you can place it on any level at which you want the photo taken. I also use a "human tripod", or my husband, in instances when I don't have my tripod in reach. I adjust all of my settings on my camera and talk him through exactly the angle I want, and where I want the shot taken. You can always use a table, or a stack of books if you don't have your tripod handy. I keep my tripod downstairs tucked in a corner of our living room so it's easily accessible.

A few other tools that really help is a shutter remote, wifi compatible camera, or interval timer. A shutter remote is easy to hold in your hand and almost all DSLR cameras have the capability of syncing to one. A wifi compatible DSLR camera can be set to trigger with an app on your phone. This is easy to set-up and you can even have your kids help with taking the shots. If your camera has an interval timer, that tool will work as well. My camera has an awesome interval timer where I am able to take X amount of photos, every X amount of seconds, for X amount of time. This is what I typically use because it allows me to set the timer for up to five minutes or so and just be in the moment with my kids. I feel this offers me the most real, raw emotions in my self-portraits.

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After you have everything set up, just start jumping into the frame! At first I felt silly taking photos of myself, but as time went on I began to truly cherish these memories I have with my kids. I'm happy I am able to be present in the photographs, in our albums, and that they will be passed down to our future family. After all, I'm not doing these for myself, I'm doing these for my kids.


Meet Alaina Carr

I am the face behind Alaina Lynn Photography and I've been photographing now for a handful of years. When I'm not documenting my two children's lives on the daily, I am capturing sweet memories for families. I aim to take those photographs that you will cherish for years to come, that spark something in your soul when you look back on them a decade later. That is exactly why I began taking Self Portraits with my children, I want them to remember I was there, and I want them to remember how much I cherished our times together. Give me some beautiful light, some sweet toddler giggles, and some windblown hair and magic will happen! 

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Alaina Carr