Archive: ‘Composition’

Three Little Girls

Monday, June 20th, 2011

How do you photograph three little girls?


I had a friend over with her precious girls a few days ago and I was so reminded of the difference between boys and girls when it comes to photo shoots!

These little girls were so sweet and relatively easy to photograph! They seemed to do what I asked and we had so much fun as they were fine with and even enjoyed the camera.  Boys,  on the other hand, don’t  seem to  enjoy the ‘modeling’ experience at all! Shocking!  This is why I have had to work on more candid shots with them. I can’t even get my boys to sit for more than about 10 seconds so you can imagine how amazed I was when these little girls seemed to sit and do what I asked them to do so easily!  I know a lot of it has to do with the fact that I wasn’t their mom but the whole experience seemed to be a little easier and more natural in some ways….it must be a girl thing!

Here is the result of the photo shoot and some tips !

1. Get the shot you know you want first. I had this idea in mind right when they walked down to the backyard so I tried to arrange it before we got into other things. This is a huge tip for any event or shoot you are doing. Get what you want first and then the rest is a bonus. I thought this shot would be fun to try and it was! Try it with you kids but be sure that their chins are up high enough so the light is good on their faces. (Oh, and you may try to mow the grass first!)


2. Try to get individual shots of each child when you have more than one child to work with..moms like that!


love the feet!


3. When photographing a toddler…you have to follow them around as they will never be still so put your running shoes on and expect to get some exercise! This shot was taken on the run so I put my camera on the sports setting! Wait to shoot when you see the catch lights in their eyes.


4. If you can put them on a swing or otherwise contain them, it will help!




5. Be ready for the spontaneous stuff…there is no way that you can ask for this so you must be ready with your camera.. and I mean already looking through the lens when it happens.  I have learned to watch them through my lens when  walking around with them. If  you wait for them to do something cute then try to shoot it, you will miss it every time.


6.  Try different poses in different places. Even when you think that you have what you want it is always good to move them around and try a few different poses. I am always amazed at how often it seems that we end up liking the shots we didn’t plan for.


7. Try different angles.


8. Get close up with a far away background.


I had so much fun with these girls! If you have girls at your house, go pull out those pink dresses and get silly and have some fun!

Most shots were taken with my 50mm fixed lens. I used the no flash setting for a bit to see what my camera thought the setting values should be then I adjusted when needed.  We had the blessing of a few clouds in the sky occasionally to help with the bright sun.

Bird Nest Update: for those waiting on the bird nest story. I am very sad to report that our beautiful eggs did not hatch. In fact, the mother left the nest right around the time they were to hatch. Looking into it further we realized that the eggs didn’t fertilize. Hopefully we will get another opportunity to watch another nest soon.

How To Shoot A Cowboy (Before He Shoots you!)

Friday, June 10th, 2011

The decision has been made. The 7th birthday this month will be about Cowboys. Not super heroes or space aliens this year but good ol’ vintage Western Cowboys. So here are a few vintage tips on how to shoot that cowboy (or cowgirl) of yours!


A few tips to begin.

  1. Look for great natural light (turn off that flash). No fancy equipment needed, watch for the catch lights in their eyes to make sure you have enough light on their faces.
  2. Try to get it right straight out of the camera, busy moms don’t have a lot of time for post editing. (None of these shots were touched up at all.)
  3. Tell the story and make it fun. Candid shots are generally my favorites but every camera mom needs to learn how to take good portrait shots of her kids.
  4. The Lens I mostly used my 1.4 50mm fixed lens for close up people shots. Fixed (or Prime) means that it does not zoom or move in and out, you have to physically get closer with your body.  Fixed lenses are much faster than zooms and allow you to shoot at half the ISO at the same shutter speed in low light, so the photos are much sharper. There are fewer moving parts making the glass more accurate. Look into getting this lens, it is inexpensive. A good prime lens is much better than an inexpensive zoom lens. It will instantly make you a better photographer allowing you to get a sharp focus with a wonderful blurry background even on your green box button and other auto settings.

The soft morning light or early evening light is best. These were taken between 8-9am and is the perfect time for kids because they are not tired and it is not too hot yet this time of  year.


These shots are not candid exactly but I did try to get natural looks and smiles (their ‘shooting’ was candid of course!)


Only you (not the pro) knows what those natural looks look like. That is why it is important for you to get the confidence (and the right lens) to do this yourself!

Make it fun and make them laugh…


Red bandanas are good for photos.


Ask for mean cowboy faces…


Watch for those sweet hands…


then ask for one….


then for another.


Props are good… (notice the great catch lights in his eyes? With hats on it is good to ask them to raise their chin a bit to keep the shadow from the hat off their eyes).


Or you can move the hat up a bit.


No need for eye contact all the time.


Keep shooting even when they are not paying attention to you….


Let them change positions often to keep it fresh.


Serious is good…



but serious is hard when you are almost 7…







Sepia is good color for Cowboys.


Finally, don’t take too long,  Cowboys are busy and on the go (with horses to round up and bad guys to get) …..


…so make your ‘photo time’ with them short and sweet!

Happy Trails!

Most shots were taken with the following settings:

ISO 100 F Stop 2.8 for single cowboy at least 4 for both. If you use a low f stop on more than one person chances are that one of the people will be out of focus. Shutter Speed 1/200 or higher (possible with the lower f stop).

Baby Baby Baby!

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Photographing little babies is just so …..  fun, and stressful, and tense and …hard!! But so worth whatever it takes to get the job done.

This photography  effort below was not perfect. I am just a mom trying to figure this stuff out and I make plenty of mistakes on my journey, but this new mom was happy to have some pictures of her little girl, mistakes and all, and I was  happy to get the practice and learn some things.

I headed out the door with my bag packed:  one white satin baby blanket, some white tulle, a few simple baby outfits, a rattle, crunchy bright toy,  my 50mm 1.4 lens, an empty memory card and a full battery.

What I was hoping to find when I got to the house was: nice window light and a fed ‘not sleepy’ happy baby!

Here are some thoughts on what I learned and a few tips.

Pack a little simple outfit just in case the mom forgot. I like lots of baby skin showing but a little simple dress for a girl or shirt for a boy is cute too. I brought this  little pink slip along with a cloth diaper cover…always use a diaper cover (found at most specialty children’s stores) there is nothing cute about a disposable diaper.


I found some great natural window light in the upstairs foyer. We put the white blanket over some pillows and tried to set her up a bit.  Remember to turn off the flash!

You may or may not always get the smile you want at this age…so be happy with the tongue!


Be even happier if you get the tongue AND the smile together! Notice in this shot that the head needs to be tilted down a little more. Note that the tulle in the background keeps the carpet from showing.


Try to face the baby directly toward the window light. Notice the light in her eyes?  I have had some success with mom holding baby and getting the over the shoulder shots. But she has to hold her up high so the baby isn’t buried in her shoulder.


I used my 50mm lens and learned that the f stop needed to be a bit higher than it was with the close-up shots  These were shot at 2.8, ISO 160, shutter speed 1/100.  When  your f stop is low and you are close,  the depth of field is shallow meaning that only a sliver of the photo will actually be in focus. In this case one eye is in focus and the other one is not because it fell a little behind the right eye and out of the focus area….this is called a shallow depth of field, only a small part of the are is in focus. I should have increased my f stop to include a larger area.

After a little crop.


I always like to get hands in the shot, both hands seems to be a bonus.


Try different angles and work through the crying and diaper changes. Don’t get discouraged; one minute they will be screaming and the mom will be anxious then the next second they will calm down. Although an extra pair of hands to help is good, I seem to have the best success when mom leaves the room!


Try changing to black and white post editing. This is black and white with the temperature warmed up a bit.


I had to get flat on the floor  for this shot but I love it. Once the crawling starts this shot will be hard to get so get it before they start moving!


I love the interaction here with mom. The beauty of this shot  is that you can’t really tell if she was laughing or crying! So keep shooting through the crying! You may be surprised!


Finally, keep shooting till the very end when baby gets tired and the ‘nuzzling’ starts. At this point it would have been good to get some sleeping baby photos but she was changed and put down for a nap. I felt like I needed a nap too!


Camera Mom Tip:  Practice is the key to getting better with your photography. Remember with babies especially you will have to take a lot of shots. Practicing with a baby doll is a good idea. I like to plan a few sessions so I don’t feel so stressed to have to get it perfect the first time!

Where Is Andrew?

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

I know I spend a lot of time on this subject but I think  it is important!  Look for details that define your life and your kids. These next few shots define one of Andrew’s favorite things to do.

He loves to color.

If I can’t find Andrew, I just go to the coloring supplies and he is usually there. If I can’t find Evan…well that is another story!


Looking for details within the details will help you get more creative with your story telling photography.  The details are everywhere.


This shot was taken with a very low f stop and it was pretty close up (a shallow depth of field) hence the blur.

I do keep the art stuff in the kitchen so he will work at the kitchen table where there is natural window light coming in. I can’t stress enough the importance of your light source when you are photographing people. Learning to turn your flash off and find the natural light is one tip that will improve your photography more than anything else.


This shot shows where the light source is. Notice how his left side is in the shadow and his right side is getting light. If I shot his face from the side I was standing his face would be too dark.

Get creative and think out of  your ‘box’ and experiment with different angles that you would generally not shoot.  Try not to ask for a pose.


Details require zooming in and cropping with your camera. (Andrew colors very carefully inside the lines as you can see, it is part of his personality!)


But the most important light lesson here is to look for the light on his face and the catch- lights in his eyes. The light source will usually be behind you for these type of shots. I let him keep coloring and just walked to the other side of the table for this shot. I like his hands by his face…I am a big fan of kid hands and getting them when I can.


(I wanted to keep this shot as natural as possible and get into his world so I did not ask for a pose. I simply composed the shot in my viewfinder and waited a few seconds then just said his name; he looked at me and I took the shot.  If you wait too long you will miss the shot.)

So what is Evan generally doing when Andrew is sitting quietly at the table coloring?

Well, you just never know…..


This day he decided to take a ride in his big sisters book bag.. totally his idea of course!


I am not sure how he thinks of these things….


1/25, ISO 320, F stop 2.8

…but he does…often! (not sure how he fit!)


(foyer window light)

You just never know with Evan …  and that is what makes life with crazy Evan so fun!


Most of the shots were taken with a little bit lower ISO than I usually use inside. The shutter speeds were around 1/30 – 1/50, also much slower than I generally use. Remember that with a high ISO you get more ‘grain’ so experiment with your settings to get the look you want. Each camera will also be slightly different.


I’m so glad I have these shots. They happen in a split second and you generally can’t ask for a repeat so you have to be on your toes for sure!

As I have so much fun photographing the twins and my daughter now, I  often wonder what shots I would have of my oldest son’s life had I understood the concept of storytelling photography years ago.  I did a good job of documenting events back then but it is a bit sad to lose those day to day stories as my memory fades.  I feel like my camera allows me to see fun things about my kids that otherwise would go unnoticed. Use your camera to know the people you love just a little better!


Camera Mom Tip: Turn  your flash off, learn your manual settings. Natural light is always better than the harsh flash with people, so learn how to find the light and use it. This tip will help  you more than any other when you are learning to get more confident with your camera.

People are always asking me how I have time to get this stuff…

It is a trade off…. I trade a clean house for fun photography….I’m thinking I’m getting the the better end of that deal : ) When my kids ‘grow’ out of the house I will have time to clean it…maybe!

Checkers Anyone?

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Dinner is on the stove, the aromas are filling the house,  little stomachs are hungry and mom announces that there will be no more snacks before dinner! A distraction is needed and quick…. then a little voice saves the day and says “who wants to play checkers?”


They scramble to the table….


… to figure out how to beat their big sister who knows ‘everything about everything’ according to the little guys who are half her age.


Hunger pain pre-dinner-meltdown disaster is averted.

As I grab the dishes to set the table;  I  quietly grab my camera.   Most of my photo ops are totally unplanned.

But I have to be quick.

And sometime I miss the shot.

But I always miss it if I don’t try.


These everyday not-fighting-actually-getting-along-sibling moments warm my heart…..because they are so rare!  I’m so glad I have them tucked away.

Grab them while you can your kids will grow up and be gone before you know it and you will need your photos to remind you of the sweet times : )

Tip: camera was set at 1/125, 2.8, ISO 1250. but other settings would have worked. My camera has a high  ISO setting which makes it easier to take shots indoors. The low f stop number give it the blurry background and it is fun to play with that. Remember that you need to keep the shutter speed over 100 if they are still and over 200 if they are moving to keep your photos sharp.

I Love 70 Degree Days in February!

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

We HAD to go outside yesterday.

It seemed strange to take off our jackets in the middle of winter, like we were skipping school or eating the icing off the top of the cupcake instead of the cake.

We did it anyway.

The boys went out ahead of me while I finished the lunch dishes. I followed behind  them with a last second decision to grab the camera ‘just in case’…  (Believe it or not I don’t wear it around my neck!)

I walked out and found them on the bench together with their crayons. Evan was holding the picture while Andrew was drawing it….in his new drawing journal his big sister gave him for Christmas.  It was a sweet rare moment to see them being still. (If you are a mom of girls you may not know what I’m talking about!)

Nothing says ‘childhood’ to me quite like a good ‘rip in the knees of your pant’s….how about both knees ?  : )


and crayons and dirty fingers….


and long eyelashes……on boys…..


and of course sneakers with worn toes from kicking invisible footballs on the driveway

and feet that don’t touch the ground….



Valentine candy


and did I say dirty fingers?


…and  Indiana Jones…

with his homemade whip (fire hoses from the fire truck?)


and Indiana Jones with a permanent dirty face

and his  red motorcycle (with the big wheels)


But my favorite pick of the afternoon was the untouched, unedited straight out of the camera final picture that I almost missed….

I decided to leave the puppy dog tail in the shot….now we just need to find the snake and the snail …

I’m sure we will.


The fleeting un-staged signs of childhood, they are right in front of you every day you just have to see them.

Have fun finding them at your house!

I kept my ISO on 160, my f stop around 3.5 and changed my shutter speed depending on the light for each shot, sun or shade.

I Love Melissa’s Room

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

She is 13.

I love the fact that her room reminds me of her personality. Happy and whimsical, bold and determined.  With three boys in the house it is necessary to have a girlie room for the only girl :)  I love pink and I am so glad she does too….


This is the other side of her room…the side that says that she works 20+ hours a week in the gym and loves every minute of it. I love her determination.


finally I love that she is still my little girl, the evidence is tucked away in a corner of her room but I know it is still there…

….she does too.


Have a great time capturing your heart with your camera !  : o )

I Love the Simple Story-Telling Shots

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Don’t overlook the little things that make up life. When I think about the things I love about Adam this photo describes one of them.  He is good with the little boys (most of the time!) but it can be a challenge to capture this quality. Look for creative ways to do do this. I have found that zooming in on what is happening is a good way to bring the story to life. No need for faces in this shot, If I had both faces the story may have been a little too complicated.

I love this simple story.


1/125, F stop 2.8, ISO 160

‘Things I’m In Love With’ Month

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

February is Valentines Day month so I have decided to use that excuse to talk about photographing the things we love!  We will have so much fun this month!

This is one of my favorite things, a true storytelling shot. So, why was my husband so surprised when I told him that I had to get my camera before we ate the droughts?! I do love my husband more than Krispy Kreme but …. for some reason I took the picture of the doughnuts instead of him to start this ‘Things I’m In  with Love’ month! He will have his turn!


YUMMMM!!!! Can you just smell them? They were hot!


1/320, 2.8, ISO 3200 (it was at night with weird kitchen light so I needed the high ISO)

Do you have pictures of your favorite things? The things that make you happy and give you a good feeling just thinking about them? Why not? Take some photos of your favorite things today! You will be amazed at how well you do this…it is easy to photograph the things we love. While you are at it be sure to get some shots of your husband’s favorite things and your kids’…you should know what their favorite things are and have photos of them!

Make your list and have fun!


You Can Tell The Story Without The Face

Friday, January 28th, 2011

This is another TPA (Teen Photo Attempt) and I think it works!

If your child doesn’t want their picture taken don’t get discouraged, you can still get the storytelling shot. The trick is to look for the details that ‘show’ the story. This is such a wonderful descriptive photo of my daughter (being the gymnast that she is).  Your child has things that really define their personalities that you can photograph. Think of what they are and get creative when you see them! You have to be on  your toes to get these shots …don’t let them pass you by!


1/640, F stop 4.0, ISO 100


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