I’ve had a few boyfriends in my day, but never an Instagram Boyfriend. You know the type: Patiently willing to snap your photo ten times while you pose and fake-giggle, only to be asked to “get a few more” when the first set don’t turn out just right. Since I’m lacking in this boyfriend-slash-photography-assistant department, I’ve learned how to take good self timer photos with an iPhone all on my own—and I’m sharing my tips with the class. If you’re looking to amp up your Instagram content, say hello to your two new best friends: a tripod and self timer.
If you take a scroll through my IG, you might be surprised to learn that a good two-thirds of my photos were shot using self timer. I’m the kind of shameless that’s willing to prop my phone up against any old thing, set my timer, step back and pose. Yes, it’s embarrassing for the entirety of the 10-second countdown, but then the instant those seconds are up, everyone around you stops caring and you’re left with some (usually) great pics. Don’t be insecure about being seen using self timer—more often than not, other girls approach me and ask me how they can do the same!
Let me put it like this: 50% of the people sliding into my DMs are men trying to be my Instagram Boyfriend, and 50% are girls asking me for self timer tips. I only reply to half. Can you guess which half? If so, read on for my guide to nailing self timer photos with your iPhone.
1. Treat Yourself To A Tripod
When shopping for the right tripod, there are three things to consider. First, the height: If you’re 5’3 and want to shoot photos that look as though another person took them, you likely want a tripod that expands to be somewhere between five and six feet. Depending on your setup, you can always lower it, but ensuring you have the option to have it stand quite tall is key. A photo shot from way down low (unless it’s an artistic choice!) is a self timer dead giveaway.
Next, your tripod needs a cell phone attachment. Most tripods are made for, well, cameras, so make sure yours has a phone mount so you can slide your iPhone in. My current tripod does the trick, but I noticed one on Amazon by Haitent that also has a gooseneck feature (aka it’s bendy, so you can move around the phone mount to cater to your shot), and I’ll definitely be upgrading to this version instead.
Finally, you have the option of using a Bluetooth remote. Since I tend to lose these babies, I usually just start the self timer, run over and pose before the countdown ends, but using a remote allows you to command the phone to take your photo without ever moving. If the tripod of your dreams doesn’t come with one, that’s okay—you can buy it separately. When using a remote, remember to hold it in a discrete way so that anyone looking at your photo couldn’t spot it in your hands. If you feel a little silly about running back and forth between your phone and your pose, a remote will definitely help speed up your photoshoot process.
2. Plan Out Your Photo In Advance
The most awkward, time-consuming part of shooting photos on self-timer is the actual posing, so before you even bother, make sure you like the actual setup. I spend a good portion of my time just setting up the framing of the shot, moving things around until I know exactly where I want them.
If you’re lucky enough to have a semi-willing Instagram Boyfriend or friend nearby, you can ask them to stand in frame to figure out where you need to be when the timer starts—if you’re in a public place and people are walking by, that works, too. Pay attention to where they are on screen and make a mental note to stand at the same distance from the camera. If you’re all by yourself, you might need to stage a few example photos until you determine exactly where to be, but in that case, there’s no one around to judge you anyway. Do what you’ve gotta do!
3. Set Up The Countdown
It’s almost photo time! If you haven’t already, press the clock-shaped icon in your iPhone camera app and select the 10-second countdown. The only other option is three seconds, and it’s hardly enough time! Then—and I cannot stress this enough—turn off Live Photos.
Some people enjoy using Live Photos because you can rewind your shot a millisecond to capture a specific pose or facial expression, but I find the quality of the image is often a little more blurry and cropped-in. When Live is turned off, your self timer will automatically take ten photos at the end of the countdown, so you’ll still have plenty of options.
4. Start Shooting
My advice? Set your self timer countdown and pose at least three to five times before breaking to check your photos. You want options, and it’s so easy to get discouraged if the first set aren’t perfection. If you’ve given it a few tries, it’s easier to see what you want to change in your last round (or rounds) of shooting. Maybe your first try taught you that you should be standing farther away, or tilting your chin down, or moving your hair to one shoulder. The first photo is rarely perfect, so allow yourself some attempts.
Another tip: don’t waste those ten frames! If you stay posed exactly the same, you’ll just have to delete 9/10 shots. I usually change up my actual pose every countdown, and use the ten frames per countdown for smaller adjustments. I smile, I smize, I tilt my chin up, down, to the right or left. You’d be surprised how these little movements can change a photo. When it comes time to select your final image, you’ll be grateful you gave yourself options.
5. Select, Filter & Post!
If you’re looking at your photos wondering why on earth you thought you could do this, try one last thing: Choose the best of the bunch and slap your favorite filter on it. Half the time I’m shooting, I hate the image until I see it color-corrected. Something about having all the tones on point really pulls it all together!
I usually know which photo I’ll go with right away, but if I can’t decide, I’ll filter a handful and drop them in my BFF group chats to deliberate. Or, I’ll throw caution to the wind and post a carousel with multiple images. The more the merrier!
With this, I leave to to try out your very first self timer photoshoot. If product flatlays and selfies with great lighting aren’t enough to carry your content while you’re Instagram Boyfriend-less, hopefully my tips do the trick. Godspeed!
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