Friday, January 21, 2011

Mommy Photography Tips & Tutorial

I was trying to think of what I should do for a photography post and finally decided to just start with something simple.  I wanted to give a few tips that mom's can use to take better photos of their kids.  So here we go:

  1. First and foremost take lots and lots of photos, especially when you are trying something new.  I read somewhere that typically only about 30% of your photos are worth keeping from each shoot.  I find that to be pretty accurate.  If I take 200 photos at a session I will have at least 60-70 photos that are keepers.  The problem when photographing your own kids is that it's hard to trash even the bad photos.  : )  I have that problem too, but I've been trying to take a more technical eye to my photos of Ana Kate.  And the more photos you take, the better you get.
  2. Don't try to take the 'perfect' posed photos.  Let your kids play and capture the natural movements, expressions, and smiles.  I love the natural un-posed photos more than anything.
  3. Remember to get down on your kids level when taking photos so they aren't always looking up at you.  I often am down on my knees and even sometime on my stomach when taking pictures of Ana Kate.
  4. When having difficulty taking photos with an active toddler, try giving them a toy as a photo prop.  I am constantly chasing my 3 year-old and I find just giving her something to play with really helps.  Bubbles, an umbrella, a guitar.  It keeps them interested and you get your photos!
  5. Don't worry about always having a smile on your child's face.  Some of my favorite pictures are of my daughter with a serious or pensive expression on her face.  I often have people ask me how I get her to do that.  I just take lots of pictures and I don't always expect her to smile.  When you continually ask them to smile, you will usually get really fake smiles.  I find getting them to laugh is much better is you want a smiling picture.
  6. When taking close up photos of the face always focus on the eyes (specifically the eye closest to you).  This is especially important when using a wide open aperture on a dslr camera.  I typically have my aperture (f-stop) set at 2.8 - 4.5 for close up shots.
  7. Spot meter off the face.  I always do this.  I have read many other ways to do metering, and I've experimented greatly, but I find this to work the best 90% of the time.  (Keep in mind this works 90% of the time for me because I mostly do portraits.)
  8. Play around with editing.  I often see great pictures of the subject, but the photos are too dark, or the eyes are shaded.  You can fix these problems very easily with just a tiny bit of editing.  I use photoshop for my editing, but there are some great free editing programs out there. (picnik, picasa, etc.)  Even using your computers editing software is better than nothing and can make a huge difference.
  9. Keep the background simple and free of distracting objects.  This is mostly important indoors, but can also be a factor in outdoor photos.  Just be aware of your background and try to keep it simple.
I have several other tips, but I think I'll leave those for future tutorials.  Since my last point was about keeping backgrounds simple, I thought I would do a tutorial specifically on how to make a great professional looking background very easily.

Here are a couple of pictures I took today in my studio of Ana Kate: not necessarily the best pictures (check out her fake smile above), but they'll work for background demonstration purposes.  Granted this background pattern is a bit busy....but I was trying it out for some Valentine's photos.  I typically will use a a solid background.  I do have stands for backdrops, but thought I would show you how to do it with everyday items around the house. 
Here is how I set it up:

 I just draped 3 yards of fabric over two bar stools and angled it towards the light.  This wasn't quite tall enough to get a picture of Ana Kate standing, but worked great with her sitting and would be tall enough for a younger child.  The fabric cost less than $15 and you could use any type of blanket, quilt, sheet, or throw.

I hope this helps out with your photography.  Please leave a comment if you have specific tips and tutorials you would like to see.


Amanda said...

the tips are great!! I am going to try to get better at taking pictures. Thank goodness you are a such a great friend I can call on your help to get Amelia's pictures done! :) I can't wait for our session today! I hope Amelia is a good as she has been the last 6 days!
Ana Kate looked so cute in the pictures. I love the back drop too! I think it looks great!

Shelby said...

No. Way. I had no idea I could do a backdrop so easily! These are fantastic tips, thanks so much for sharing them!

I broke down and started shooting manual yesterday and although it's taking some getting used to, I liked being able to control the shots a bit better. Thanks again for taking the time to share.