I’ll be doing an occasional series here about fun tips and projects for taking better pictures, and how to get all those personal photos out of your computer and into your life to enjoy them on a daily basis. Previously: a family photo calendar!



Do you wish you were in more of your own photos? Are you the default family photographer? Is your spouse the one in all of the photos because you’re always the one who thinks to grab the camera?

This definitely happens in our family! My husband is in FAR more candid shots with our twins. I usually have outright ask, “Can you take a picture of me and the babies?” Happily, he’s always willing to do it…someday maybe he’ll get better about picking up the camera on his own. 🙂

Since I am and always have been a firm believer in the mama being in photos, I use a few small things to take some family portraits with all four of us. It’s usually chaotic, and since there are two toddlers, they’re usually looking off somewhere else, if not outright protesting/crying/trying to run away. And for my own purposes, meh, who cares. We’re all in there, together, and it’s capturing a real, true moment for our family.


Ha! Can’t help but laugh. 🙂

Here are a few inexpensive or free tools that will allow you to get back in some of those photos. Perfect or not, it’s so worth it.

Timer Function

All cameras have a timer–meaning you set it up, and it counts down and then takes a picture. My first ever digital camera, a Nikon Coolpix 3200 point & shoot from 2004, had one. My current Nikon D600 full frame DSLR has one. Yours does too. It may be hiding in a menu somewhere, so go play around and read your manual. Look for this symbol:


Many cameras can also do burst shots on a timer–meaning when it goes, it will take a series of photos, anywhere from 2-10 or more, depending on the camera and settings. This spring, we went to the Woodburn Tulip Festival this spring, and I couldn’t find my regular remote anywhere! So I did a few timer-bursts, and got all kinds of in-between shots. The one below was the best of the bunch, and the one above was right at the end–the babies REALLY wanted to go explore the stairs.


When you use the timer, you end up doing a lot of ten-second dashes. This is very tiring, but it is good exercise. 🙂 And if you have small kids in the shot with you, it’s not ideal to be picking them up and putting them down every few seconds.

Which brings me to:

Remote Control:

Hands down, this is the best tool for taking self-portraits of you and your family. It will seriously change your life. You stay in one spot and point the remote, and snap goes the shutter. Which means that you can keep clicking away as you change poses or wait for a not-screaming face from your toddler. 🙂 Priceless!

You can pair this with the 2-second delay either on the remote or in the camera settings, so that the photo isn’t of you actually pointing the remote at the camera. (I have a lot of these as test shots.)

These simple remotes are less than $20 and work with a majority of Nikon/Canon DSLRs (make sure to check compatibility with yours!). Truly, they are worth their weight in gold!

For Nikon/  For Canon  / Universal

I still have my basic remote above, but I mainly use this radio-wave one now. It has more function built in, as well as the transmitter and antennae, meaning that I don’t have to have a direct line of sight to the camera front to take the photo.

Here’s a series of some friends and I doing an epic jumping session six years ago–all three of us had cameras with remotes going. We were just pointing and jumping all over the place! It was hilarious and amazing.


If you like to take pictures, get a remote! You will not regret it!


The gorillapod is a fantastic toy for photographers–it’s a tripod with flexible arms that you can set anywhere, or even wrap around something, like a railing or a tree branch. It means that you can take pictures of you and/or your family anywhere you go!

There are small ones for smartphones/point&shoot cameras:

Or an adapter for your phone to mount onto a tripod you already have:

And of course larger ones for DSLRs:

If you take a lot of self-portraits/self-family-portraits, a real tripod will change your life (not as much as a remote, but close). Instead of always needing a chair piled with books, or a well-placed table, you can make your camera as high off the ground as you want. (This year I finally got a better one, and it’s fantastic, and for a fantastic price too: Dolica GX650B204 Proline GX Series 65 inch Aluminum Tripod and Ball Head Combo).

I used mine a lot on our Brooklyn rooftop:


I was also using a remote, of course. I just held it in the hand away from the camera.

Smartphone Timers:

You don’t need fancy cameras or fancy tripods to take pictures of yourself and your family! You can download free timer apps. Here are two:

TimerCam (free) is really simple–point the camera and hit the button for a five second timer. There’s a pro version that has a custom timer delay, and includes editing/enhancements.

CameraTimer (free) will do a countdown and can do multi-shot with custom time in between each shot. I have to turn the volume way up to hear the countdown beeps, and it can be hard to judge when the ‘shutter’ is actually going.

I use CameraTimer when I’m out and about…and usually end up putting my phone on the ground and propping it up with something, like a stick or something small from my purse if I have it. On our family trip to the beach, my big camera was out of commission, so I took a lot of photos with my phone timer, like this one:

self-portrait on the Oregon Coast beach

Photojojo makes all kinds of fun photo toys. Here are two very inexpensive tools to help you take self-portraits/self-family-portraits with your smart phone! (I need to get one or both of these…)

The Keyprop at the Photojojo Store!



Gorillapod Mobile at the Photojojo Store!

So there you go! A few easy ways to get in front of the camera and make some fun memories with your family!

I’d love to hear from you–do you know any fun tips to get the whole family in the picture? Do you already use any of these tools? Which one is your favorite?


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