This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

The Art of the Self-Timer Photo

Self Portraits – Images by Jerry and Marcy Monkman

During the last decade or so of shooting projects for conservation groups in New England, I have changed from shooting primarily landscape photography to shooting a healthy mix of both nature and adventure images.  The adventure images go a long way in connecting viewers of my photos to a place, and I feel that they are an integral part of any conservation photo project that I now take on. Due to scheduling difficulties and small budgets, I regularly end up shooting in places alone, which means there are no “models” available, so I often resort to the self-timer shot when I want to include a human element in my photos.  The above slideshow features 12 such “self portraits.”  I used to be reluctant to make these self-timer shots because they often looked contrived to me, but I think I’ve gotten the hang of it – all of the photos in the slideshow have been published at some point in the last few years.


My Canon 5D Mark II, attached to a tree limb with a Manfrotto super clamp.

I greatly increased my chances at succeeding at these kind of images by purchasing an intervalometer for my Canon cameras.  This is just a fancy cable release (officially called  the TC-80N3 Timer Remote Controller) that lets me set up the camera to fire off a defined or unlimited number of images at a regular interval (you can choose any interval in hours, minutes, or seconds.) It also lets you set a self-timer delay of as long as you want, which is very helpful for certain shots that can take some time to get set up (like getting in a kayak.)  All I do, is set up the camera on a tripod, pre-focus, set my exposure settings, and let it rip.  I then hike, bike, paddle, or whatever in front of the camera and hope at least one of the shots looks half-way natural.  I end up with a lot of silly shots, but I usually get a few that I can use and it’s much easier than just using the one-off self-timer feature on the camera. If it’s not practical to carry a tripod (I don’t carry one when mountain biking) I’ll bring along a Manfrotto super clamp with a small ball head, and attach it to whatever is handy, like the tree branch in the above shot.


Mountain Biking over a bridge in Vermont. My camera was attached to the bridge using a Manfrotto super clamp, and I used Canon's TC-80NC3 remote controller to fire off one shot per second as I rode across the bridge.


Self-timer shot of me mountain biking on a Vermont trail. The camera was resting on a pile of sticks.

The above biking images are a couple of self-timer shots I made this week on a shoot for the Trust for Public Land in northern Vermont.  I had volunteer models lined up for some paddling shots later in the day, but I wanted to also include some mountain biking photos in the project.  Since I was the only one around, I had to be the photographer and the model, and I wouldn’t have been able to make these without that remote controller.