Love this location this time of year. It’s a 1/2 mile walk but worth it! I contacted this fabulous family one Sunday afternoon to see if I could photograph them that evening. The answer was yes but no??? It’s 1:30pm and you want to meet for family portraits at 6:00pm? Ok!! Let’s do it! I went to their home at 3:30pm and helped them pick out their clothes. All outfits were from their closet except dads shirt and we did a quick run to the store to get him a shirt. We met at 6:00pm, drove to our location, walked in with camera and cooler in hand and had a really good time. I finally got to shoot in this location and it fit this family perfectly as they our outdoors people and obviously up for a spontaneous adventure. I have this portrait on my office wall and LOVE to tell this story. The thing is, family portraits do not need to be stressful. With me guiding you and helping you every step of the way, it truly can be fun! If you are feeling spontaneous and love this look, let me know, I’m happy to get your family to this location and capture memories and relationships of your family.
Learning camera basics doesn’t have to be horrifying or boring. At first you might find yourself wondering if you’ll ever get ‘f-stops’. However, after awhile, and the more you use the tools, your mind will suddenly tick over and there will be an ‘Ah, I get it!’ moment. This level of understanding is really fundamental to controlling the results of your photographs. And if you can take the time to learn
them before jumping in, you’ll be thankful later. It’s kind of like baking a cake. We can all buy a cake mix at the supermarket and pump out a reasonably ok cake. However, if we were a chef, we would follow our own recipe, and of course it wouldn’t just be a cake – it would be a bakery master piece.
The idea is to know the tools well enough to know when, how, what, why and where.
Even if you have been shooting for ages and you think you might know all the camera basics, I’m going to challenge you because I know myself that I can’t be reminded enough of how ‘stuff’ works…
apertures, shutters, and iso’s
There are three basic elements in understanding how exposure works; the aperture, the shutter, and the ISO.
So, we are going to do a quick run down of each.
First is the aperture. – Your lens.
It’s often explained as being like the iris of your eye. It opens up, to let more light in, and closes to let less light in. What is confusing about aperture is that the ‘wider’ the opening, the smaller the number that it’s called.
For example – a ‘small’ aperture is f1.4, f2.0 or f2.8. Where as a large aperture is f8 or f11. An aperture when open wide is a smaller number. So if the iris is big, the number is small. If the iris is small, the aperture number is big.
What does aperture really do? Well it controls the amount of light that is let in, however more importantly to us; it controls the depth of field.
The shutter speed – the curtain in your camera.
Think of the shutter as just that … a shutter. It opens to expose the photograph – just like a curtain, and closes again. The higher the number that the shutter is, the FASTER it does it. And the faster it does it, the less light that it lets in. Shutter speeds can be minutes long – or faster then the eye can blink. So a slow shutter speed would be : 1/25th – if you had a fast moving child and your shutter speed was at 1/25th the child would be blurred. Simply because the lower the shutter number, the longer it is left open to expose. Allowing for more movement to be recorded. In a single frame that movement is going to appear as a blur. A slow shutter also lets a lot of light in. On the opposite scale if you had a shutter speed of 1/2000th then you’re likely to freeze the moment in time. When thinking about shutter speeds the two key things to remember are:
1. If your shutter speed is anything below 80 – you are better using a tripod. Anything above 125 is a safer bet.
2. If your shutter speed is around 2000, you would want your aperture to be wide open or there simply wouldn’t be enough light let in to expose the photograph.
The ISO – the film speed
Whether you shoot digital or film – the ISO value is important.
The ISO on a film camera is the film speed. On a digital camera it’s simply amplifying of the image sensor. ISO speed defines the amount of light that is let in. And the more light that is let in – the higher the ‘grain’ to cope. You may have noticed that some photos have more ‘grain’ or ‘noise’ then others. This is judged by the ISO rating. The lower the ISO, the less grain. A fine grain film would be 50 or 100 ISO. However this doesn’t let in much light – so it can be more difficult to work with.
A very high grain ISO would be 1600 or 3200. As you can imagine, this
speed lets in a lot of light, is very very easy to work with however the
grain is very obvious. So, the key thing to remember about ISO’s is: If you want a sensible amount of grain, and a reasonable amount of light – try an ISO of 200
to 400. If you’re working in very low light conditions you can use a higher ISO –
it allows for so much more light – such as 1600. However, remember your photograph will be very grainy.
Depth of Field
Depth of field is the distance between the camera and what is in focus in front of you. It also refers to what is out of focus behind what is in focus. Point and shoot camera’s are not very adept at playing with wonderful depth of field concepts, and sometimes that is what people notice the most about professional shots. Changing the aperture: either having a wide-open aperture to focus on a small part of the subject (i.e. baby foot) or having the aperture stopped-down to keep most of the scene in focus (i.e. traditional family portrait) controls depth of Field (DOF). Using a shallow DOF (wide-open aperture) in some images makes the focal point quite obvious. This is a wonderful technique.
There are many uses for shallow DOF, including putting the focus on a body part,
rendering backgrounds out of focus, or highlighting 1 person in a group of people. The possibilities are endless, and we encourage you to play around.
Play with your camera. Next week we will talk about human connection.
There is a photograph in everything. We just have to see it. Feel it. And of course
make it work. All too often we read how photographs capture essence, capture real life, capture this and that. It’s something that we strive for, but often find so hard to achieve. Let’s discuss ways to help you achieve that. Giving things life and making them breathe in a photograph, can often be what makes or breaks it. Look at your desk for example. It might seem very un-photogenic. But there is so much there to see, such as lines, forms, shapes, color, shadows, and reflections to name a few. And then there is the connection between you and your desk. Your body language. How your subject connects with their environment can form the basis of a story in one frame. And sometimes using parts of the environment or forms and shapes is all that is needed to tell the story for us! Such as using photographing shadows instead of the actual people. Yielding the best results can often come from…honest human connection.
exercise your imagination!
Taking photographs of children makes you a parent, a child care worker, a teacher, and a photographer; sometimes all at once. But more then anything it makes you a dreamer. Children have imaginations larger then life – and if we could find a way to tap into that, even just glimpse it, we can come up with some fantastic child like memories. And for me, this is one of the most important elements of photographing children. It comes from you seizing the moment and taking the children on a photographic journey that they will never forget. Something fun, something crazy, something inspired and something that puts a smile on their face for years to come.
Its about finding the Neverland within us and pulling their imagination into our camera’s. It’s just about having fun. Create, be imaginative. You don’t need much to have creative fun, so don’t be fooled into thinking that you need amazing props or toys. Sure it helps, however you can do just about anything with a piece of newspaper for example. Kids love make believe. They will play with a broken pipe and turn it into hours of adventure. That is the kind of fun that promotes imagination and captures so beautifully on card! Have real KID fun with your subjects and capture it all!! Don’t forget to lose yourself in the moment as well…really enjoy it! If you’re having fun, then your subjects are sure to be having fun too! It might seem like such an obvious thing but loosening up and really having fun will yield better results. Attitudes are contagious!
We, the photographers, affect the result of the mood – of the moment. We really can and do affect the outcome of our photographs. Our mood, our warmth, our being there lends itself to how others will react. Don’t be fooled for a moment that we have tricked them into thinking we are not there.
Learning to see.
In the connections chapter, there is a mention of how there is a photo in everything. And just because there is, I thought Id mention it again and again. As photographers we can all take a photo of a child, standing there, center frame, smiling. Easy. The moment you decide not to take a shot in the standard way is the moment you actually start to ‘see’ and ‘look’ through your viewfinder. To really draw out the subject, and really bring interest into the photograph, its about trying to take it in a different way. Get creative! You could even place the subject to the side of the frame instead of the center, and you would be off to a great start.
Getting the kid to come out of the kid!
By thinking outside the box and helping children to go on an imaginative journey and play ‘with’ you, we can set ourselves up to capture some great moments. Go on a magical adventure, a wild romp through the forest, or a quiet hunt for butterflies. Whatever it is, have fun. Yes, I’ll say it again, go have fun!
Cheeky Cheeky is that smile that kids give you when they have just taken the last cookie. Kids have a habit of wanting to do loads of cheeky cheeky imaginative things, and sometimes with a little bit of coaching on our part they will come up with some crazy ideas that will make any camera jump with excitement. A good place to start might be in the yard, with the hose, with the pet. There are certain things in every household that children are simply NOT allowed to touch. Or do. Like jump on the table, eat candy or play with moms jewelry.
Every day in child care centers staff come up with wonderful ideas to entertain, educate and relax children. Ideas like the ones they use can really help to promote imitation, creativity and exploration in all of us! However, they don’t then have the task of capturing it all perfectly with a camera. Being cheeky cheeky with our
subjects and capturing it all at the same time can be quite a tricky thing!
* Get down on the child’s level.
* Put the camera down!! Pick it up every so often – but put it down to have fun
* Shoot from the Hip!
* Even if you have the camera at your face, make it seem like you are more interested in what they are doing and are there to have fun with them.
* YEP! There is a creative and unusual photograph in everything- we just have to find it! 😉
Practice on your own children, or a family or friends child if possible. Set up an activity where you have used your imagination and input to create. An idea that makes you feel like you’re a kid again. Aim it directly at the subject’s age group, directly for your subject. Then once it’s set up, really play and really have fun. Put the camera down, and in between the fun just pick up your camera here or there to capture it. Have fun with your activity and subject. If you’re really having fun it will show in your photos!
Whether you are a scrap-booker, a photo enthusiast or a professional your own flare will always show through your photographs. Whether your realize it or not.
Its all about what you love. There are certain parts of photography that we keep going back to, or keep doing because we enjoy it. There are those photographers around us that we look up to – and there is usually something key or similar about their styles. Our own style is something that will change and grow as time moves on. Almost like “collecting styles”. It’s these collections that really make us our own photographer, because if we do it for the rip-roaring time we are going to have then we are simply following our own path. It’s all about finding a style we love, and developing it. And if it’s not a *love* then it’s not really a style. Meanwhile, we will always be trying new things on the side. As those new things develop, some will become uninteresting and some will interest and inspire us. We can add the parts we love into the style we already have… Build and grow. At the end of it we have a whole new style all over again. Simply put, finding one style is like chasing our tail. If we must pin point it, it’s simply what we love, and what gets us to pick up our camera and push the button – that is where our style lays…today. Being a photographer is about being a life long student. Have you ever seen a photograph and thought – “Wow that’s fantastic, I *wish I could take* a photo like that – I want to go out and try to capture a similar mood or feel!” – That is inspiration. So don’t be afraid to study others and be inspired by them. After all, all artists study other artists, and photographers alike. Be sure to get inspiration from many avenues, on and offline.
I’m often asked for one piece of advice for someone just picking up a camera and pointing it at children. I wish I had some fantastic soul searching, dream reaching answer. But I don’t. Truthfully, as I’m sure you’re aware; photography isn’t as easy or seamless as it looks. When taking photos of children and families, it’s about getting consistent, honest and innovative results. And I think that most of us find that the consistent part is the hardest. That’s because so often we try to run before we can walk. Even when we are shooting for the love it, we have to start somewhere. The perfect starting point is learning to get consistent results with our cameras. To really understand the functions of our camera, and it always helps to learn these things without falling asleep.
And what about honesty? Showing our subjects for who they are, and taking photos that bring the viewer straight back to the time, the place and the feeling. Because if you really think about it, that’s what we find attractive about our own family albums. We love to open them up, and remember how Rylee used to chew her hair. How the river would sound at granddads favorite fishing spot. Yes sound. A strange concept in a photograph. But have you ever had one remind you of taste, touch, smell, or simply a feeling? What if you could once again run your fingers through the sand, and feel the river rush between your toes as they dangle in the water? If you could be reminded of that feeling as if it were the first time you ever felt it…by simply looking at a photograph. Or how much would it mean to us, now as adults, if we could have pictures of us as children spending time with the ones we loved. The ones who have passed. Even the family snap of us standing in front of the Christmas tree back in 1980 can be super funny. And in some strange way, it can take us back to being that little. To being a kid. And this is the very reason that we will be exploring how to get pictures of just that. Kids being kids. Kids in their world.
They bring to the table humor and honesty. They spend their time with an energetic keenness to explore, touch, taste, feel. Their enthusiasm is endless, and their honesty is real. They will tell you how they feel, if not by words, by expression. And they won’t hide it. If you want an honest answer to a question – always ask a kid.
Kids are everything. And they are the best cure for inhibitions in adults, and lucky for us, we are there to capture it all on card. Next to kids, adults find themselves being honest, being enthusiastic and just breathing in life. Which leads me to life stories. Getting all that real gritty stuff, and being innovative, creative and artsy in our delivery. Once we are familiar with our tools or even just confident enough to trust ourselves with them, it’s only then that we can get to the real heart of photography. The people. Not camera’s, equipment or rules. Just
people. It can be so satisfying trying to get people in their own environment, doing their own thing. Its hard…it is. Its really tough being creative in our delivery when its on the spot and we only have a split second to think about it. But it’s so fun! And what about those set up situations. They, too, can be just as rewarding. Where we conceptualize a photograph, aim at a goal and carry it out. Have you ever felt that tug when you’re looking at your photos? That hearts desire to have done it better. You know, where your head is cursing and your shoulders are suddenly bearing this heavy weight. That feeling that we just can’t be creative enough and that we are unable to get our minds to bend and flow. Oh yes, we all feel like that. And we all have creative blocks. And sometimes I think we all feel a little silly for even admitting that we ache to be creative in capturing pictures of our own kids and families.
But we have every right to want to be creative, don’t we?!! Ill take it as far as to say that the moment these feelings stop, is the moment we become stale. Being innovative with our photography is like the icing on the cake. We can’t just do the same old thing over and over or we’d creatively fall asleep. A good place to start that whole inner artist thing, for me anyway, is to wake up every morning and think to myself… “Wow a whole new day, a whole new day of things to discover, photographs to take, kids to hug, life to live.” I just hope in some way, even if in a small way, that today is a day of discovery for you too… and tomorrow, and the next ..and so on. I believe in life learning. This is photography right?! The art of no right or wrong. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, or even if what you are doing follows set rules. Have fun, explore, and create. If you’re just picking up a camera, wow, I’m so excited for you. I hope this creates at least one creative spark for you… I’ll be thrilled. Because that spark could be the one that sets you on fire.
your camera gear.
To get started, the only thing you need is you, and a camera. Any old camera will do.
However to get manageable results a good SLR camera. These days, DSLR’s (digital SLR’s) are a dime a dozen. It’s really your choice as to which brand you choose. One thing to keep in mind is that you do get what you pay for in regards to DSLR’s and lenses. In other words – the more you pay, the better the product. However, you can take a great photo using a box with a hole. Remember that, and don’t worry too much about your gear. My advice is to only purchase what you need. Learn the tool before purchasing another one. It’s so easy to get caught up in the gear rat race.
first time shooter quick tips.
* Light. Natural light – First thing to watch is the light. The sooner you get your mind use to observing the light, the better. Start noticing shadows, which direction the light is coming from, and what the light source is. This is something you’ll get good at seeing over time however to start :
* Watch out for sun spots and harsh light across their faces. If your finding there are big spots on their faces from the sun then you are better to move into another position.
* Same goes with when they are squinting into the sun. It makes the subjects look unnatural and uncomfortable. It helps to find somewhere that has even light, such as in the shade. If there’s no shade, turn them around so that the sun is behind them, rather then in front.
* If indoors – position yourself in front of a window or doorway and have them look out at you. It helps with catch lights as well as provide extra light.
* Whatever you do, don’t ask them to smile. In fact, if that fake smile
beams its way towards your camera.. stop. Or take it for blackmail later 😉
* Move closer. Fill the frame with the subject. If you’re looking through your viewfinder, and there is lots of stuff around the subject that you don’t want as part of the picture, then move closer.
* Watch your composition. Instead of having the subject in the center of the frame, move them to the left or right of the frame if there is space around them.
* Shoot your heart out. If you’re a digital user, you have no excuse. This is commonly called ‘over-shooting’ – however I call it ‘having fun’. The more you take, the more options you have! I don’t personally do this in my business but I do encourage mom and dads.
* Are the kids sick of the camera? It probably means their not having fun. Kids will do anything if they are having fun – even play up for the camera.
So if you’ve just picked up your camera, and your pointing it at your
children (or someone else’s) watch : Light, Composition, the subject, their environment and FUN. And remember, no cheese! Did I mention light?
some come to clear your path…
This mama and her babies are on a new path in life. Change is scary but one thing that isn’t going to change is their amazing relationships together. It was very important to this mama to capture this time together and so we planned a session that worked for her! Less is more sometimes. Enjoy your new images, Jennifer & kiddos. Keep your head up, one foot in front of the other and keep smiling! You got this!!