Putting You In Your Pictures
April 20th, 2019 by David LaBelle

David LaBelle joins his college photography class in a group photo, thanks to use of a self-timer.

Have you ever wanted to make a picture and be in it, but there was nobody else around to press the shutter button? Most of us have.

Long before ovens or thermostats or devices that turned on lights when we are away from home, cameras were designed with self-timers so the person pressing the shutter button could be in the picture without asking a passerby to compose and press the shutter.

Thankfully, most cameras today, even smartphones, have built-in self-timers that allow you time to position yourself in the frame before the picture is made.

I am not a gadget guy, a geek or a propeller head, like so many photography buffs. Truth is, I embrace the motto “less is more” in most aspects of my life. My friends are surprised I even use email.

That is why my favorite camera remains the Nikon F film camera with the eye-level prism. Without motor drive, light meter battery or autofocus, this is base photography. But it does have a self-timer!

Beyond being able to be visually present in group portraits or team photos, the self-timer feature can be a wonderful tool for making intimate self-portraits without somebody else watching, which can alter the mood of your pictures.

I am confident artists for thousands of years—before the invention of photography in the early 1800s—would have coveted a device with a self-timer to record their image, instead of painting or drawing from a reverse-reflected image.

Using a self-timer also allows you to place yourself in beautiful landscapes or historical sites. Most self-timers allow you to adjust times from 10 to 30 seconds so you have time to get in the picture and put on your best face or casual-looking pose.

A few suggestions when using your camera’s self-timer:

  • Get the exposure right, then organize the composition before jumping into the picture.
  • Stabilize the camera. Use a tripod to keep the camera still and hold the composition you arranged in the viewfinder or back of a cellphone. Tripods are made for all cameras, even smartphones.
  • Use a flash if subjects are in deep shadows
  • Make more than one image. Somebody always closes their eyes or gives a neighbor the rabbit ears.
  • Most self-timers—whether on film, digital or smartphone cameras—have adjustable time increments that allow you to get in the picture. Some have a blinking light that increases the final few seconds before the shutter fires.
  • Consult your camera’s manual or look online for instructions to engage the self-timer for your particular camera or smartphone. You may have to download an app.

Photographer, teacher, author and lecturer David LaBelle has worked for newspapers and magazines across the U.S. Visit www.greatpicturehunt.com.