tips for getting in the shot {embrace the camera}

Emily Anderson and I are joining up again this week to encourage others to ‘embrace the camera’. You can find out more about past Embrace the Camera weeks by clicking here. Basically, it is the idea that a lot of us hide from the camera for reasons like we don’t like how we look or we feel awkward or whatever. BUT when we look at pictures of those we love, we see them not their flaws. I want my kids to have pictures of me from their childhood. I love looking back at pictures of my parents and grandparents from years past. I want my kids to have that too.

When Emily asked me if I was ready for another round, I agreed, but with about as much excitement as I feel for trying to find parking downtown in a city (which means ZERO). Here is the deal, the week before I gave myself a personal challenge to try to take a picture once a day of me and my guy and it didn’t go so well.

I had visions of cute picture of us as a couple. That doesn’t work when you are both in paint clothes all the time. I also learned that I tend to bug my eyes out or cut my face in half when assigned the task of posing for a picture.Ā  Sure Emily, I would love to put myself through that again.

3.16embrace-2I also tend to crop myself out of photos. I include just enough that I know it is me, but not enough to really be IN the shot.

3.16embrace-5I am actually not all that bad about taking pictures that include me with my phone. I am terrible about taking them with my DSLR. So this week I am going to focus on my DSLR not my phone.

My other struggle is I don’t feel like I do much that is ‘photo worthy’, which is ridiculous since I think everything my family does is worth capturing. Yesterday we tore the final pieces of carpet out of the upstairs. I had planned to fix my hair a little and pose with the kids for picture, but then I decided I wanted to just capture what my kids see. My kids (and friends that randomly stop by) won’t remember me with fixed hair and a cute outfit. They’ll remember me with paint on my hands, a hole in my jeans and probably some dust in my hair.

I think my kids will look back at this and laugh with each other, re-telling stories of how mom could never not have a house project going on.

3.16embrace-9After the carpet was out and painted baseboards were drying, the boys and I made cookies for my grandparents. I stepped back and got my camera settings correct and then asked Chris to come snap a few shots of me with the boys. You can’t see my face, but there I am…in a picture…doing life…with my kids…(without bug eyes or my face cut in half!)

3.16embrace-6I got a couple of requests on Instagram to share a few tips for how to step out from behind the camera and get in front of it. So, here goes.

SOMEONE ELSE: I either put my camera on full Auto or I get all the settings how I want and then ask someone to take the shot. I also try to be very descriptive of what exactly I have in mind. Poor Chris.

TIMER: When taking shots with my DSLR, I set the camera where I want it and then focus where I am going to be in the shot. Once I take a few practice shots to make sure the settings look good, I turn on the timer. Then I focus again and press all the way down to start the timer. Then I step into the shot in the area that I focused.


Below are several other ways I get in shots, primarily with my iPhone.


Top row:

  1. I found the angle I wanted and then did my best to describe what I wanted to a friend. She was using my iPhone and I had her stand in the spot I wanted and told her not to zoom. This could be misunderstood for being very bossy, but I did it with a nice voice:)
  2. I used a Belkin remote & my iPhone for this shot (but the camera app with the remote does not work well in low light, I’m not a big fan of it)
  3. I had my daughter stand still and I walked across the sand from her. I propped my iPhone against my jacket and set the shot up how I wanted. Then I used the timer on the Camera+ app. I set the timer and ran over to her to start spinning. I got lucky that she was right over the sun when the timer went off.

Middle row:

  1. This was a dslr shot. I set the camera on a ladder across the room. I took a few shots of Chris while I was getting the settings and focus where I wanted. Then I set the timer and stepped into the shot with him.
  2. I handed my phone to my oldest son and told him to take a picture that included the bottom of my boots and both of the chickens legs. I find if I can give my kids exact places to crop, they usually do a great job of following those kind of directions.
  3. Chris took this with his iPhone.

Bottom row:

  1. The boys piled on top of me and I stretched my arm out with my phone as far as I could. I used the back facing camera so we could see if we were all in the shot.
  2. Chris took this with his iPhone.
  3. I held my phone out and tried to keep the arm that held the phone out of the shot.


Unlike when we we did Embrace the Camera in the fall, there will not be any prompts this week. You can take a photo every day or just 1 this week. The main point is instead of staying behind the camera, challenge yourself to get in front of it. I am going to focus on doing this with my dslr, but you can stick with your phone or whatever camera you want. I’m going to try to do it each day, but if I forget I won’t be taking a selfie at midnight just to check it off a list. I’ll share my pictures here this week and I’ll also try to remind you to embrace the camera.

If you share a picture on Instagram, be sure to include the hashtag #embracethecamera



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  • kimberly oyler - the pictures of you and chris at the top are perfect. well done.
    i hope ripping all the carpet out upstairs means you finally got the white floors you wanted. :)

  • natalie - you really don’t like parking in a city… oh lordy!! ;)
    i just love this, ashley. i also really love the couple photos of you & chris. i plan to do this with luke this week :)

  • natalie - also- YAY FOR NO CARPET!!!!

  • Melissa Tedesco - Challenge accepted! I have so many great pictures of my son, my son and his dad, my son and our pup, but not so many of all of us or me and my son. I’m going to try for one a day too. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Shannon - Ashley! You are such a great teacher! I just took your Snapshop Phone course and I didn’t ask but I always wondered how you handle situations where “others” are taking the photo…I seem to never get the pictures I want when other people are taking the photo (whether with my DSLR or my phone). So once again, you’ve taught me to be “very descriptive” about what I want. Use my voice (in a nice way) and be specific about what I want in the pictures! Thanks for the tips. Looking forward to another week of embrace the camera!

  • Jay - Ashley, I would be interested on your take about managing photos from multiple sources. My family has 2 iphones and a dslr. Of course the iphones are what’s usually ON us, so it captures more “day-to-day” stuff.

    So how do you integrate sources? I use Lightroom, and my iphone pictures are cataloged in there, but not among the dslr pics – they are separate. So it would never happen that I’d see a dslr pic beside an iphone pic, and be able to present them as contemporary.


  • Amy W - The challenge you did last fall and the fact that I celebrated my 40th birthday prompted me to take on my own “Embrace the Camera” challenge. Starting on my birthday- I challenged myself to be in at least ONE photo per week for an entire year…. so that at the end of 1 year there would be at least 52 pictures of me living life with my people. I love to be behind the camera but struggle with getting out in front of it, so this has been a good challenge for me. I just finished week 19. It’s getting easier. I think I’m starting to like it a bit. We shall see….

  • Darcie - I see that braid in the “I meant to do my hair but didn’t,” shot. The inside out, messy braid you taught us all at CW? Just growing out my hair long enough to be able to do it so I have an option other than ponytail. The unpolished shots of life are so much better than posed anyway! Good for you.

  • nancy - Luv luv LUV these ideas! you are so so totally inspiring me! I’ve been on the lookout for a good remote for my Canon. Still looking. Getting a little giddy-up to try and find one now! Thx!
    ~nancy (over at Ordinary Miracles)

  • Debi - It is so amazing to read this thought tonight…Earlier today, I wanted to send pictures of everyone in the family to a friend and couldn’t find any of me from the last few months, maybe even longer. Tonight I asked my family at dinner to remind me to let them take pictures of me. I guess I’m not the only one who struggles with this…THANKS!

  • Rachel - It is so funny that I read this post today as I spent a good part of the day trying to find just 1 picture of myself for my sister in law’s wedding site. It took forever as I sifted through hundreds of pics of my kids or my kids and half of my face or arm or leg. I need to make a point to include myself more. Thanks for the kick in the butt.

  • Saint Patrick « - […] did our picture for “Embrace the Camera” while I was reading our book to the […]

  • jenny - thank you so much for these tips!!! we are going to be on vacation this week… and i plan to embrace the camera but i want to also focus on this project when i get back (even though you will all be done with it). i have often thought of the same thing you describe… i look back at our photos… our memories… and i’m not there… i’m always behind the camera… there is barely any evidence of me over the last eight years… and i plan to change that :) thanks again for your tips i will be using them!

  • Jenny B. - And all shootin’ some b-ball outside of the school… Ha! Love your tank! :) :) :)

    Seriously… great post. I have tried to be mindful of how many pictures we have of me since I know my boys will want to see them (now and when they are older).

  • krista - i love this!
    does this mean i need to get out of my pjs before noon each day?!
    i have 3 boys 3 + under…. a busy, fun, exhausting faze of life! but i want to capture it and not miss it! love your blog & photography :)

  • Taylor - I have such a hard time being in the shot for several reasons, but mostly because I usually have a particular shot in mind and I used to have such a hard time explaining what I wanted to whoever was taking the picture. I find that my boyfriend and my five year old sister both take really good directions when I tell them exactly how I want something to look. I’m convince my sister will be a little photographer herself.


  • Taylor - Where did you get that “chillin out” tank? So fun!!!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - You are cracking me up. The end.

  • Embrace the Camera Challenge | Bunches of Joy - […] has set up another “Embrace the Camera” challenge (you can read all about it here). Ā And this time I thought I would […]

  • Friday Favorites | Cupcakes and Commentary - […] this piece and tutorial on getting yourself in the camera shot. I’m going to try some of the ideas coming […]

  • Cassandra - I managed to get in one #embracethecamera moment last week.
    Thanks for the tips & inspiration!

  • Val - Hi Ashley, Love your posts and all the wonderful things you share with us :) Can you tell me what is the name of the app you use for the timer on your camera? There are so many! Many, many blessings to you and your beautiful family.

  • BHCH #7 | diypassion - […] leads me to this excellent post by Ashley Ann Photography. It’s all about literally putting yourself into your pictures. I want to be courageous enough to start doing that more […]

downhill fast

My house is a construction mess. Though I am grateful for the opportunity to do projects on our home, sometimes I get a little overwhelmed and anxious when my house is chaotic. Photography for me is a great way to stop and see the beauty. It is a way for me to step back, instead of focusing on all the boards and grout and hammers.

In a moment of feeling like I wanted to hide under clean sheets (if I could have found some), I noticed the beautiful afternoon light flooding in the window. So I picked up my camera…capturing beauty instead of hiding from chaos.




Then things went downhill fast.3.14light-33.14light-43.14light-5

My poor kids. Mom needs sleep. And a construction crew.

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  • Lisa | Winter Heights - Lolol, this is hilarious. Oh how I hate it when my house is a mess, but I love how you find the beauty and humor of it all. That afternoon light is beautiful.

  • mosey - hahaha, I’m SO glad I’m not the only mom… hahaha

  • Debbie C - Hee hee…some days we are just fighting for our sanity. :) I’m glad you saw the beauty in the chaos.

  • Birdy& Bambi - Messy is beautiful! No shame in having a crazy house!

    Have an amazing weekend and greetings from Germany:

    Birdy and Bamb

  • Becca - Hey Ashley Ann! I couldn’t find your email on your site anywhere and was wondering if I could shoot you an email with a question! Thanks :)

  • Emily - gigglesnort

    thanks for the chuckle :-)

  • TheDenverPack - Haha, thank you! We’re in the middle of moving and I feel much the same way…everyone’s given up when there’s no way to really put anything away.

  • Cassandra - haha love it! Some days humor is the only thing to see you thru…a little coffee doesn’t hurt either :-)

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - The perfect post to make me smile when a sweet teenager forgot to run off her 5:43am alarm this Saturday morning :)

  • carrie - A verse comes to mind for this season in our lives: Proverbs 14:4 “Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.” I am pretty sure we need a poster size print of that one for our homes with little ones. :)

  • Fun Photos - nice

  • Melissa - Oh my goodness, this is making me laugh so hard! I’m getting all caught up on your blog and I love every bit of it! You truly are an inspiration in many ways.

meeting her goals

In December, she made a goal to sing and dance in the yard everyday.

The girl tries so hard to make it happen daily, but there have been a couple days she’s missed. She’ll randomly run out the front door and remind me, “Remember mom?!” And off she goes to sing and dance.

This dance was accompanied by a song about the dirt on the ground. She’s making her dreams come true, one mud ballad at a time!

ISO 100, 1/640, f/2.8 ~ both


ISO 100, 1/800, f/2.83.14dance-3

ISO 100, 1/800, f/2.8 ~ ISO 100, 1/640, f/2.83.14dance-5

ISO 100, 1/800, f/2.8 ~ both


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  • Elizabeth - Where is her dress from? It’s almost as cute is she!

  • Meg - These photos show her beauty inside and out (even though I’ve obviously never met her, you can just tell she’s awesome!) She’s going to love looking back at these photos as she gets older!

  • Sarah - I love seeing the photos of your kids just enjoying life. Totally inspiring. Makes me excited for when we have our own!

  • Southern Gal - She’s beautiful. You’ve captured her spirit in these. This reminds me of my little girl who is now 25. I have a couple of her dancing in the yard, but not nearly enough. She recently danced in our yard a couple of weeks ago with her two little girls and it made my heart so happy. I wish I had my camera then!

  • Sarah - Beautiful! Our oldest daughters are very close in age. Mine wears a dress similar to this – My grandma made it for me in 1980 and she’s wearing it out :-( If Firecracker’s dress wasn’t grandma-made, can you share the source? I’m going to encourage some outdoor singing and twirling today.

  • Anastasia Curtin - She is sooooooo CUTE!!!! I just can’t get enough of her :)))
    Firecracker reminds me of my daughter every time I look at her, they look like they could’ve been sisters, same age too =))
    I usually read your blog in the morning, and when I see Firecracker in an instant I want to get my daughter from her daycare, give her biggest hug & kiss, and never let her go))))))

  • mara - This just makes me smile! What a delight children are and they bring unimaginable JOY to our lives!

  • Jordann Kearns - I love that you encourage your children to make goals. And I love what goal she chose. What a beautiful set of photos!

  • JoniBug - I too would like to know where you got the dress. I try to help my sister outfit her 6 year old twin girls, and this is adorable!

  • Taylor - I love that she’s so adamant about sticking to her (very awesome) goals!


  • Abby - Gosh I’m jealous of her bare feet! It was 70 yesterday here in Indiana and I tried to walk outside barefoot to play with the dog. But the ground was too cold!
    Love her goal and the dedication to it! That’s a good thing to teach :)

  • amber - That girl reminds me so much of my girl. So much. They’d be great little performer friends. Or stiff competitionā€¦lol!

  • Bird - She is so much energy! I am every time impressed by her! hopefully she can hold on to it forever…

    Love from Germany and the -fatcatconnection-

  • Krystle - You know, I’ve randomly thought of her resolution a couple times when at the store with my now-5-year-old daughter… without fail, every trip, she asks if we can stop and smell the flowers… the first time I thought it was cute. The 2nd time I told her no, we were in a hurry, and then she looked so sad. And I thought, who am I to tell her that we are too busy to smell FLOWERS?! Really? So, now, we always make sure that she gets to smell the flowers. Because… what is life if you are too busy to smell flowers?

  • susie - I have been following your awesome blog for quite some time and was looking back at your older posts. I believe our daughters are from the same orphanage(Yangxi). We traveled May 2012. Would love to email privately if you would like.

  • Bora - Just wanted to say that I absolutely love reading your blog! The stories of your children, projects, and randomness are inspiring and refreshing to read. What lens are you using on these photos?

  • Jen @ RamblingRenovators - That girl of yours… that dirt yard will be replaced by a grand stage some day. She has such a larger than life personality!

  • Katie - What joy! What delight! What Grace! The photos of your children are a spiritual inspiration for me with my children.

  • Corrie Anne - best goal ever!!!

  • Louise - Best. resolution. ever. Love it!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Love you, firecracker! Keep on singing pretty girl!

  • Ashleigh Blatt - And… she’s doing it because her amazing mother is teaching her!!

  • Darcie - What a great goal. I think everyone should make that a goal. And do it. Every day. :-)

  • Stoich91 - Can I have her adorable? And put it in my head all day when it’s gloomy? Please???? K thx bye! :D