How [Not] to Take a Self Timer Portrait


This one hit our inbox 3 times today so I thought I’d share it here.

How to Photograph yourself with a self timer:

Step1: Choose a good background

Step 2: Set Self timer on your camera

Step 3: Smile


Step 4: Be Careful


Step 5: Call 911

What photography disaster have you had? Share them in comments below.

Thanks to Douwe who was the first to send this in.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • rw

    Lol youre a moron. She lived you idiot.


  • Adrian J Nyaoi

    only a moron does not realized that i was being
    sarcastic in my comment

  • Ties


  • Honey9669

    I was on a board walk with my fiancé and our dog in a lovley swampy sorta forest. I found a spot I thought wasp reticular lot nice and told him to stand there but facing away looking off in the distance. I looked. Through the lens took a step back and sploosh! Gel off into the swamp. Took a nice picture of the sky with some water drops on the lens.

  • dg

    i remember a friend taking a picture on a timer,in a shallow part of a river in the Himalayas .after the camera shutter clicked we came ashore to find the cameraman not around anywhere.his hair was the only part seen in the picture.He was drowning in the center of the river .thank god someone was strong enough to go and save him.

  • Asif

    Wait, so it’s you who ended up getting married? For a moment, I thought you like ‘shot at’ them. >.> Just messing. 😛

  • Cindy

    The background in each of the photos is different. Not taken at the same place. So, is it staged? Looks pretty difficult to stage that position though.

  • Spider’s here

    My uncle visited a hill station. There were monkeys playing around and sitting on trees. He placed the camera on bench, started the timer and went back where my aunt was standing. When he reached, he saw a monkey near the camera. He tried to shoo him. But instead of running away, monkey took the camera and ran away.

  • Orange Elephant

    Well spotted! No way was this a self timer. I’d vote up that it was staged. Look how tight the leg is clamped around the fence.

Some Older Comments

  • D Ingan-eng August 22, 2010 03:28 pm

    "All work and no play" applies to a photographer without a self portrait at the end of his session. Please make articulated standard on every camera model.

  • Alethia Rains August 21, 2010 03:28 am

    LOL Love the post though the backgrounds are different...where did the bush on the right go? Very funny though!

  • Ronny August 16, 2010 09:43 pm

    Step 5. is missing:

    do not upload to the internet!

  • eugene August 5, 2010 05:11 pm

    this made me write a comment. What a unique pose, the second one. Hope they are fine.

  • quefabs August 4, 2010 12:20 pm

    I hope the two of them is fine! But I just can't stop laughing. And it looks like the other lady will be going down too!

  • zaid August 2, 2010 10:08 pm

    Gosh, Hope she's alright. I presume she is otherwise you wouldn't have sent it in.

    I haven't tried too many self portraits (i prefer others as victims and not myself!) but one thing I find is that backgrounds can be distracting. I prefer close ups of myself whereas with others doing what they like to do rather than posing.

  • maga July 31, 2010 07:48 pm

    So funny and looks very natural ... :) i was thinking not only about the angles but the clouds "changed" too quick ;) so of course they had to take several pictures in different time. Is there something happend to the bush on the second pic as it looks clearer? is that really angle change? guess she landed softly :) well funny arranged story

  • mobius July 31, 2010 03:18 am

    L O L.....

    crazy tutorial i've ever read.

    nice share =))

  • Tony Lippe July 31, 2010 02:12 am

    We just love trying to take our picture using our timer mode, this "mistake" ended up being one of our favorites! I laugh every time I see it.

  • john guate July 31, 2010 12:26 am

    great stuff!!! these ladies seem like they would be a blast to hang with! and it seems that they would make great serious models as well! thanks for sharing! awesome!

  • davidlphoto July 30, 2010 10:10 pm

    I think this photo could be the real thing. The "tassle" or "dress strap" is not just dangling. It is blowing or moving to the right and the other woman's hair looks as if it is in motion. Most importantly, no one has a good grip on anyhting! The position would be next to impossible to hold.

    If it is a fake, it is a d@mn good one.

    Either way, it is hilarious!!!!!

  • Madhu Menon July 30, 2010 09:27 pm

    LOL.... Funny.
    But in reality, I think... it's an arranged drama. see the angles.

  • Terrry July 30, 2010 08:39 pm

    I must admit taht made me laugh. Mine tend to end up with me moving at the last second and a blury image...note to self buy a new camera

  • Juanita July 30, 2010 03:56 pm

    This was so funny.... rotfl.....

  • jUDITH BEAR July 30, 2010 01:10 pm

    Hi, just loved this story, so close to nearly being me at times, but so good for a belly laugh and back to non serious photography. LOL Judith

  • Pamela Hubbard July 30, 2010 12:55 pm

    Wayne the photo gods were watching over you! So many great stories!

  • Jai Pillai July 30, 2010 09:43 am

    Ha, ha......funny :)

  • Marcela July 30, 2010 07:55 am

    An obvious one: don't forget to double check the timer symbol is on

    This is me wearing a mustache before going to a Queen (cover band) concert. I was posing as Freddie.

    Of course, in this one I look like--as my friend said--- An Evil Mexican Midget.[eimg url='' title='21543_365771919912_662919912_4675386_4388732_n.jpg']

  • Wayne Christensen July 30, 2010 05:14 am

    I stopped along the road one day, near where I live to take a landscape photo. I removed the 105mm lens, set it on the bottom rail of the fence and attached the 24 mm. Took photos and proceeded to drive away, leaving the 105. Several days later I went to get the 105 from my bag. Not there. I realized what I'd done. I drove the 10 miles back to the scene of the misshap and there was the 105, still sitting on the fence rail!

  • Richard Hunt July 30, 2010 05:11 am

    My wife (of 40+ years) and I were enjoying "another honeymoon" in Niagra Falls at a hotel that upgraded us to a room with heart-shaped spa with mirrored walls. I wanted a photo of us enjoying the spa with the suds bubbling up to our necks to share with our friends and family. That was the plan. I set the camera on the tripod, tripped the shutter and raced to get in the tub beside my wife. Unfortunately, I slipped on the tile floor and as I regained my balance, the flash went off. You won't see the photo here, but the camera did catch a memorable moment.

  • fahimz July 30, 2010 04:32 am


  • Kidzndogz July 30, 2010 04:30 am

    Not a self portrait but a timer story: Long before digital I was setting my one and two year old children up for a Christmas card photo in front of the fireplace. They were sitting in small portable chairs for children (close to the ground). Every single time I clicked the camera the two year old would stand up or move. I told him that he "had" to stay seated in the chair "please". The next time I got it all ready to go, I clicked the camera and he stood up bringing the chair up with him. He started walking towards the camera holding the chair to his butt! I ended up using the sequence of photo's I got out of that for the card, it was hilarious!

  • Mary F July 30, 2010 04:14 am

    Hope both of them were okay. Other than that . . . MUAHAHAHAHA! So funny! Like Shannon stated, what was the third shot like? LOL

  • Tab1200 July 30, 2010 04:07 am

    OMG! To funny!!

  • Will July 30, 2010 03:34 am

    I actually talked to the person who originally took/posted this. The one got kicked in the face (obviously) and the other one fell about 10 feet onto a really prickly bush. Scratches and bruises all around but nothing serious :)

  • boomerkid July 30, 2010 03:25 am

    I set up my camera (for 10 seconds) on the fence post at Niagara Falls & ran like hell, just as a Tour Bus pulled up next to us & at the same time my camera fell over & we all watched in horror as it rolled into the Niagara River...the look on the bus passengers was language was too!!!

  • Veronica July 30, 2010 03:07 am

    Ouch!! She must have hurt herself! Gosh it is funny though!

  • essvee July 30, 2010 03:06 am

    Funny stuff!

    I was originally thinking this wasn't really a self timer shot (image framing changed, how many cameras multi-exposure self timers) but I've come around. I think the first image was shot then when the shooter saw the heads had their tops cut off she repositioned and hustled back to the rail for the second take. I think it's as-advertised. Which makes it even funnier to me!

  • jallen16 July 30, 2010 03:03 am

    Way TOOO funny

  • earthboundmisfit,i July 29, 2010 03:56 pm

    Not a self timer story but we were at the world cup in South Africa and had a photo opportunity with one of my partner's favourite premier league football stars ... after stalking him around the park we were in. I thought I had sorted all the camera settings before we got to him, including the autofocus as I didn't want anything to go wrong, and I knew he would only give us a couple of seconds. I don't usually use the autofocus, and had done a quick change of the lens while chasing the guy - I had forgotten there were two switches to put it on autofocus not one with that lens. 3 blurry photos of one of the highlights of the trip. I was so anxious to get it right I overlooked that little point. My knees were still shaking about an hour later.
    I think he's forgiven me

  • Gazza July 29, 2010 09:50 am

    Hey Foxy,

    I think there is a control which llows for manual focus. Well there is on my camera.

  • Sime July 29, 2010 09:27 am

    I've taken literally HUNDREDS of self portraits and have not ONCE done that.....

    *yes, I mean worn heels and a dress!



  • GradyPhilpott July 29, 2010 02:55 am

    I'm not so sure it's staged.

    If it is, I'd like to know how the girl in white was able to hold that pose long enough to get a shot.

    Whether or not the self-timer was employed is questionable, but that would be one hell of a pose to hold, especially given that the other girl really doesn't have good hold of her leg at all.

  • Maximo Almonte July 29, 2010 02:31 am

    Funny Post made my day.

  • Phil Marion July 29, 2010 01:53 am

    forget the self-timer - buy a cheap wireless remote

  • Rick Tracy July 29, 2010 01:23 am

    I hope everyone is OK. This is why there are multiple setting on the timer. It always takes longer to get back into the pose than you think. You want to be concentrating on getting into a good (and safe pose) ratherthan beating the clock.

  • Willoughbys July 28, 2010 05:09 pm

    While taking picture of yourself with a timer, make sure you know how much time it will give you for you to prepare before it capture. This will give you the idea on how fast are you going to move from a place to another. Always know the place. It should give you ample space to move around so that you will avoid any accidents.

  • jew July 28, 2010 11:39 am

    what a big face kick.... much more funny...

  • Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera July 28, 2010 10:52 am

    So funny. So far I never tried to be captured like this. Great post! Simple but useful. Always Be careful.

  • Nirvana Mamma July 28, 2010 04:37 am

    That was awesome! =)

  • Killian July 28, 2010 03:30 am

    Nicely done, Darren. =) I just choked on my soda at that one.

    It does make sense, though, to be aware of one's surroundings when doing that!!

  • Shokinen July 28, 2010 02:16 am

    Didn't see this one coming. Thanks Darren for the good laught :)

  • Michelle July 28, 2010 12:46 am

    I actually do ALOT of self timers with a dslr.. and i think its becoming a hobby of mine.. first i experienced the focusing problem but that was easily solved when i got myself a remote.. I just set the focus point to the approximate area and i pose and i click on the remote.. i did have one bad experience where i accidentally tripped the tripod and my lens broke :/ so bottom line : be careful with yourself AND the camera equipments !

  • John K July 27, 2010 11:43 pm

    h. fox -good question. But there is a rather obvious solution to "auto focus" problem ... use manual focus. Focus on the ground or other object of equal distance or measure the distance from you to the camera (heel to toe if necessary) then set the focus on the distance ring and use a small aperture (higher number) to get a wider depth of field. Point and shoots should automatically focus on what every is in the view finder. Check the manual, I am sure it tells you how to focus on a self-timed self-portrait.

  • CKM July 27, 2010 11:25 pm

    To h. fox.

    You can set your lens to manual focus and use the distance feet/meters on the lens to determine how far away the camera is from the subject. If you're not sure of the distance, auto focus on something using the same distance you will with your camera for your self-timer shot and see what the feet/meters read . Then set your lens to manual focus and that distance.

  • Gaston July 27, 2010 11:24 pm

    While traveling through the Aeolian Islands, Italy, back in 2005, I took this photo ( of my friend. Right after I pressed the shutter-release button I realize something: water always keeps flowing and the frozen water on the picture is just an illusion. The result: my shiny new camera (Nikon Coolpix 8800) got soaked with salty water. I was lucky to be able to remove all the water right away to avoid any serious damage.

  • stacy July 27, 2010 11:15 pm

    so funny!

  • Gavin Heaton July 27, 2010 09:21 pm

    Step 6 - delete images before sister uploads them to the internet

  • Gabriella July 27, 2010 08:21 pm

    OMG someone should have warned me about this link, I was sipping my coffee & lost it hahaha I'm still laughing. I hope both are ok but...very very funny

  • gillooo July 27, 2010 07:48 pm

    mdr ... hope she's ok :-D

  • Lorenzo Reffo July 27, 2010 06:29 pm

    ahahaha I had one or two a couple of years ago, I think I'll share them when I get home! ;)

  • Mr. Wayne July 27, 2010 06:00 pm

    I agree, chris...Totally stagged!! - check out the background and camera angle - pretty good though and makes the point well!

  • Ty July 27, 2010 05:28 pm

    hahahah. This made my evening. Thanks for the post.

  • Oleg July 27, 2010 03:32 pm

    Hahaha, remember to call 911 after taking a shot. Allways :D

  • Bobo July 27, 2010 02:27 pm

    LOL..!! I had an unstoppable laugh... :)

    as for disaster in photography, an incident i will not forget: i nearly got dragged into water with my D90 with a sigma 10-20mm, while trying to get a slow shutter shot of the sea, when a sudden gush of strong waves crashed into the rocks i was standing at... fortunately for me, my boots provided me enough grip and all i ended up having was wet socks and boots... it taught me a lesson, eventually though!!

  • Alberta Wedding Photographer July 27, 2010 01:59 pm

    I gotta know....did she catch her?lol

  • Caro July 27, 2010 01:24 pm

    We were setting up a group self portrait shot when someone bumped two of the cameras off the ledge. That will give you looks of horror like this. [eimg link='' title='as they fell (365.2.300)' url='']

  • Blake July 27, 2010 11:32 am

    Mr. Fox,

    Some quick answers to your questions:

    - pre-autofocus on the spot where the subject will be, then switch the camera to manual focus mode (without touching the focus ring on the lens or repositioning the camera), so that it won't re-focus when you press the shutter to start the timer (not easy if the camera's on the ground, but that's what tripods are for :-).

    - ensure that you have dialed in enough depth of field that there's margin for error (hint: flashes can help with having enough light to do this if it's not very bright out), or alternatively, keep shooting 'till you get it right...).

  • Amanda July 27, 2010 11:12 am

    I know that I shouldn't laugh at others misfortune - but thanks for the chuckle and the warning!

  • Eric Eggertson July 27, 2010 10:58 am

    I try never to do self-portraits in high heels, unless I'm very careful. :)

  • Mei Teng July 27, 2010 10:40 am

    Haha...that was really unfortunate.

    Never had such unfortunate self portraiture moments. I don't use the self timer. I make use of a remote shutter release.

  • Cornell July 27, 2010 09:58 am



  • H. Fox July 27, 2010 09:57 am

    Question: How does one focuse when using the self timer to take ones own picture? Pressing the exposure button half way focuses for the next exposure but if there is no one seated at the point where the subject will be at the instant of exposure the focuse will be on the back ground, not on the photographer who quickly moves to the seat after pressing the button fully. Thus the subject will be out of focuse a little or alot depending on the distance of the background. How does one lock the focuse at a point is space. That is at a point where the subject will be in ten seconds but not when the focuse is set? Do I make myself clear?

  • Brian Carey July 27, 2010 09:35 am

    HA HA, I mean I hope she was ok!
    This is my most recent disaster

  • Chris July 27, 2010 09:33 am

    If that is an issue, you are using the wrong brand of tripod! :-P

  • v8torq July 27, 2010 09:09 am

    Joe, I would almost prefer to lose my wallet rather than to experience what happened to you! :-) Good story.

    And kudos to you for actually reading the basic premise of this thread, rather than editorializing, criticizing or expounding on your wisdom, knowledge and experience!

    Every time I participate in one of these discussions, on most any site, I am reminded why I don't do it more often.

  • Jonathan Graham July 27, 2010 09:00 am

    Exhibit A - Pre wedding snap
    Exhibit B - Post party snap

  • Roy July 27, 2010 08:40 am

    Self Timer Portrait!!!!?????

    No way.

    Very silly.

  • Martin Soler Photography July 27, 2010 08:29 am

    Wow is this for real?
    Taking a self-portrait with a DSLR, I am not sure I would feel safe enough to leave the camera on it's own. A little gust of wind and voila, there goes the lens.

    Maybe that's why the best photographers hardly have any photos of themselves.

  • Joe Elden July 27, 2010 07:53 am

    A beautiful hike in the woods came to an end when our 100# dog decided to take the wrong trail, he usually doesn't get more than 50 feet ahead or behind us so when I could see he wasn't looking back I called for him. He looked up in panic and started sprinting (he's quite athletic) back up the trail, rounded the corner and took me out like an offensive lineman throwing an illegal block. Landed on my 40D, that had a 70-200 f/2.8 IS mounted on it. The lens ripped off the mount and landed about 10 ft. away and the battery grip split in 2. All told it cost me a little over $600 to get everything repaired.

  • Jesse Kaufman July 27, 2010 07:50 am

    lol that's why i prefer using a remote wireless shutter release with my camera ... no need to rush ... and setting it to a 2-second delay gives me just enough time to hide the remote (in some cases, that's even been as simple as tossing it on the floor if I don't have another good option) ... I've done numerous shots this way and no injuries that I can recall! Granted, I was probably playing with fire doing self-shots WHILE drinking, but so far, so good lol ... personal injury, I can handle ... knocking my 7D on the ground? NO WAY!

  • v8torq July 27, 2010 07:32 am

    Concerning your question about photo disasters ...

    When you use a fence post for a tripod and your wallet for a slightly adjustable head, remember to take your wallet, not just your camera, when you leave!! When I realized what I had done (an hour down the road), I went back ... and the wallet was still there! I guess a old brown wallet on an old gray fence post isn't too noticeable. :-)

  • Carly July 27, 2010 07:31 am

    Once I was using a paint can to hold up a backdrop, and the paint can fell and hit a three-year old on the side of the head! I felt terrible, but there wasn't any lasting damage, just a sore ear for a few days.

  • Kim July 27, 2010 07:31 am

    If ever there was a time to use "LOL," it would be now. Thanks for the hearty laugh. I've gotten so many ridiculous self-timer shots when I've attempted to take pictures of my family. Throw the dog into the portrait, and it's disaster. Usually, I just delete them, but this post has me re-thinking those photos—they'd be good for some type of a funny collection.

  • Glyn Dewis July 27, 2010 07:26 am

    Now that's gotta have hurt :)

  • Ramón July 27, 2010 07:25 am

    I cannot stop laughing!!!

  • Chris July 27, 2010 07:23 am

    Just look at the way both girls caught, and are holding on (one to the railing and the other girl, the other, just to the railing). There is a complete lack of motion blur, which could be possible with a wide aperture and high shutter speed, but not even the tassle (for lack of a better word, I'm a guy) hanging off her dress is in motion, it's dangling lifelessly.

  • Juli L July 27, 2010 07:22 am

    So funny!!! I hope they are ok though...yikes! :)

  • Chris July 27, 2010 07:21 am

    That is definitely set up.

  • Wendy July 27, 2010 07:10 am

    Back in march I was photographing a rail road signal and well...IT ACTIVATED. Needless to say I ran because I was standing underneath it at the time!

  • Martin July 27, 2010 07:07 am

    I was thinking - what kind of step by step can you honestly give me for this - then I saw it - LMAO...

  • fotojunky July 27, 2010 06:57 am

    This is Side note, different angles for the 2 shots.

  • Porf July 27, 2010 06:47 am

    HAHAHAHAHA I don't know what's funnier...the leg up in the air or her friends face as she tries to hold onto her for dear life LOL

  • cristiano007 July 27, 2010 06:46 am

    Very funny, perfect timing, but I hope both girls are OK. Nothing like this for sure.

  • mai July 27, 2010 06:44 am

    oh my! this made me laugh out loud and its the wee hours of the morning here! haha though i hope the lady in the picture hasn't suffered any injuries. this post came at an opportune time seeing as i've just started my 365day self-portrait challenge. :-)

  • shannon July 27, 2010 06:42 am

    I'm worried about what the third photo would look like. Nice.

  • Daniel July 27, 2010 06:38 am

    Bahhahaha! that's hilarious! I mean, is she ok?

  • Ed O'Keeffe July 27, 2010 06:37 am

    I have noticed a lot of my friends taking self portraits of themselves with the camera pointing down at them (particularly if there is two of them). This angle always seems more flattering.

    The self timer function on the camera is certainly one of the most dangerous. There has been many occasions where I have seem cameras tumble to the ground when I photographer has let go of the tripod to take a photo on self timer mode - next seen the people tumble quite like this though - funny!

  • Charli July 27, 2010 06:36 am

    Sometimes the obvious needs restating!
    Love the pictures to go with the tips; hilarious! I certainly won't forget these tips! :)

  • Pete Langlois July 27, 2010 06:33 am


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