How to Stay in Focus When Taking Self Portraits with a DSLR | Cindy Yang Lee - Photography

How to Stay in Focus When Taking Self Portraits with a DSLR



I really enjoy portrait photography but as you can tell based on my recent activity, or rather lack of, it's obvious that I haven't done much lately. I honestly thought that once I graduated I would have more time on my hands. Silly me! However, in light of my pregnancy, I've been making time to take pictures of myself to document the growth of my belly, which has been difficult since I practically live in my sweatpants and leave my hair in a bun. Of course, one can always ask for help but with my husband's busy schedule it doesn't always work out.

Taking pictures of yourself isn't easy. These aren't your basic selfies LOL I want good, quality photos that I can print down the road so I'm using my Canon 5D Mark III and other equipment. If you've ever tried taking pictures of yourself before with a DSLR that has no pop-out LED screen then you know just how difficult it can be! My secret? Zone AF!

When taking portraits, I always use a single AF point to focus on a person's eyes. However, it's impractical to use a single AF point when taking pictures of yourself so I switch to Zone AF. When using Zone AF the camera is guessing where the focus should be while limiting it to only a set of AF points so there's more control and it's more accurate versus when you have AF set to fully auto. You just have to remember to move the zone around as you move around. 

The only downfall of using Zone AF is, well, it doesn't know where your eyes are. It's auto-fucosing  in a general area. As a result, you have to take a lot of photos. Some photos will be in focus and some won't. It's just part of the challenge of taking self portraits. 
      Single AF

      Zone AF

        Framing shot using Zone AF
Not all cameras have Zone AF, my Canon T1i only has 9 focus points, but there are workarounds. With lower end consumer cameras like my T1i, simply select the middle AF point and make sure that you're in the middle of the frame. Just give yourself enough space so that you can crop the photo later to your liking.

To make your life easier, connect your camera to your macbook or phone and go to live view so you can make sure that you're always in frame. Cameras nowadays have built-in wifi so buying a tethering device or lugging your computer around is no longer necessary.

That's pretty much it! Here are some more photos from the same day.