Archive: ‘Posing Tips’

Avoid This Big Mistake

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

One big mistake that camera moms make when it comes to taking those ‘quick get the shot’ photos in every day life is that they don’t pay attention to the available light.

You know the moments that I am taking about: a moment arises – – someone says ‘who has a camera?’ and 6 people pull out their phones!

This moment happened to me yesterday and I was so glad that I had my iPhone! We were at a wonderful violin exhibit with our violin teacher and met the man who refurbished all the beautiful violins in the exhibit. Our teacher was so excited to get her photo with this very famous man (to be honest I had no idea who he was!) but she was thrilled to meet him unexpectedly.  So 6 moms got their phones out and everyone basically got this same photo: (I took this one so I could show you this good bad example!)


I saw what was happening…. and decided to be bold and ask the three people to turn around and face the light. They did not have to move much just simply do a half turn and face the exact opposite direction. I realized that with the bright window light behind them the photo would be a failure. I also knew that our teacher really wanted a photo with this famous man and I didn’t want to let her down. Sometime to be a good photographer you have to be bold and unpopular for a moment. They did not want to move; people never do. I waited for everyone to finish (taking their bad photos) and kindly asked the 3 subjects turn around. I was smiling and begging .. please, please, please… : ) They finally did and I got this one  shot but it was much better:


Understand that NOTHING changed on my iPhone. I simply asked them to turn around and face the light! That was it.

I am so glad that I took the extra effort to get this for our teacher she is so happy to have it.

Remember that photography is all about light. Study it, use it and make it your friend. And don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Sometime people and circumstances won’t cooperate but when they do it is always worth the extra effort!

hint: if there is no way to turn the subject toward the light then…I hate to even say this… you will want to turn on your flash. Your camera may not want to turn on the flash automatically because it will ‘see’ tons of light and think that you don’t need anymore. However if the light is behind the people it won’t matter and their faces will be dark and you will have to turn on the flash. But only use the flash as a last resort! Always ask them to move first and face the light! Especially in a setting like this where there is plenty of beautiful available light!

A Creative Photo Shoot for a Very Creative Teen!

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

I have a very talented photographer niece. We all saw her work on a recent post…her photos of a graduating senior. Well, my niece just graduated herself so we decided to get some senior shots of her while she was here. I wanted so badly to capture her creative personality in these shots so the pressure was on!

We worked together and came up with some shots she was happy with. I was behind the camera but she had a lot to do with the posing and ‘feel’ of the shots.  It was really fun working with her. Most of the time when you work with teens they are not so happy to be in front of the camera so this was a fun time for me!

I used a very inexpensive reflector for some of these shots. Using a white foam core science board also works well to get the light back on your subject’s face even when you are outside and you think you have plenty of light.



She really liked the different angles and poses so I let her lead the way!



I personally liked this pose a lot..try it with your teen or any age child. Again, it helps to have the white board to reflect some light back on their face especially if they are this close to the ground or they are not facing the light source.


Keep moving the camera to try something that you generally don’t do.


Different expressions bring out different parts of her personality.



I think the biggest tip is to let your teen participate in the photo shoot and don’t be the ‘boss’ telling them what to do. Ask them what they want and keep asking…you will be pleasantly surprised with what you end up with! But most importantly, they will be too!



Most of these shots were taken with my 50mm fixed lens (love that lens!)

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).

Not Just Baseball Going On at the Ball field

Monday, April 11th, 2011

One great thing about being a mom with a camera is that you get to capture unexpected moments that happen all around you in your day to day life….moments that can’t be planned out or repeated for the photo appointment with the pro. I love this photography stuff and I love surprises! I feel like I get to open presents all the time!

At the game last week, I was getting the biggest kick watching this baby. One of his big brothers plays on our team and while I was shooting the big kids I was also able to keep my eye on this little guy.


This baby was on his grandmother’s lap and she was getting the best giggles from him as only a grandmother can do.  Can’t you just hear him?!  I immediately knew that I had a little magic to capture.


The perfect thing about this moment in time is that it represents something that is pretty rare…. nice light with a spontaneous slice of ‘baby life’: the tongue, the hands in the mouth, the instant change from a giggle to a stare to tears then back to the giggles… If I were going over to this sweet family’s house to photograph their kids, this would never happen…because you can’t plan this stuff! That is why you, the mom, have to learn how to use your camera and get these rare shots at an un-planned moments notice.


My f stop was low so I got the blurred background but I had to be careful to think about the depth of field issues as I moved from the far away shots on the field to the up-close shot right in front of me with my big lens.  In general, when you have a low f stop with a close up you will have only a very small slice of the subject in focus. Notice how some of his face is in focus but not his ears in the shot above? This is called a shallow depth of field. The further away I get the more everything would be in focus. It would have helped to have my 50mm 1.8 fixed lens with me, note to self: bring that lens to the ball filed.

Love those baby hands!


The middle brother got in on the action as he got some sweet mama love and kisses.


Notice the wonderful light on the side of his face during that yummy time of day?  Also, this shot works better with the fence in the background blurred out, if it wasn’t it would have been distracting to the subject.


Did I say I was glad to get those cute little baby hands?


..and more hands…


Aha, now we know why the obsession with the hands…there they are…the two little teeth…

He was just so cute I wanted to eat him up!

So, be really flexible and be on the lookout for these unplanned shots when you are with friends…once you start looking you will see them where you least expect them…


…..even on the ball field!


Camera Mom tip:  Look for the story within the story and be ready to take the stuff going on around you when you are at an event. Also, when the moment is right and it is working…..keep shooting! Gone are the days when we had to stop and change our film and miss the shot. Be prepared with an empty memory card and extra cards just in case… take full advantage of the moment and don’t get stingy with  your shots.

I am not a pro and these photos aren’t perfect as I am still learning a lot, however, if you were this mom wouldn’t you be so glad to have them? : ) So don’t worry if you are good enough,  just go practice and have fun and good things will happen!

most shots were taken at dusk with f stop 2.8, ISO 200, 1/400

Why Is The Bunk Bed in the Bathroom?

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Sigh……our second baseball game got rained out, we still haven’t even played the first one!

We do like rain but maybe not this much of it! It has been raining and raining and we have been trying to keep busy inside. So, I pulled out an old toy that I had put away for a ‘rainy day’…or ‘rainy week’  in this case. You know…  your kids think they have a new toy when you put one away for 6 months and then pull it out!

The Fire Station (they got when they were three) has become a favorite once again! It is our boy version of a doll house!

I parked it right by the glass doors in the basement  – – – so I could take advantage of the light ‘just in case’ I needed to get my camera out : ) I call this being a prepared camera mom. Remember to do this. Your kids can play with their toys just as easy in good window light as they can in another not-so-good-light  spot in your house!


(See the natural light coming in the windows? That is what you are always looking for. I never use my flash  – – and I mean never. Once  you figure out how to set a few dials on your camera  you will not need to use your flash either. Read the camera info on the Help Me With tab above.)

The boys decided to bring the Star Wars crew to the Fire House. So the  Slave One   landed on the helicopter pad …


(This is what my posed shots look like – – which  is why I generally don’t take them!)

and the ‘Lego people’ came by for a visit…


(Oh my, dirty ‘rabbit ear’ hands! are those MY boys?!)

and the bunk bed was put in the bathroom and stayed there for a very good reason!


(not a bad place for the bunk bed… pretty convenient as Andrew pointed out that you have to go to the bathroom right before you go to bed and right when you get up!)

They had a blast…on this rainy day….with an old toy!



(this camera mom was a bit bored too so I tried a few new angles)

the watch dog did her job watching (?) their every move on this lazy rainy day…


and she even posed nicely for her photo…dogs do well in natural window  light too…


and the cat wanted to come in…but changed his mind and ran back into the rain when he saw the boys playing…wonder why?!


We ended the afternoon with some good reading at the kitchen table (by the window light) and got homework done early.


and this mama got a few shots in of her little reader …with green marker on his face…


(his brother was writing Chinese letters on his face…didn’t realize he knew Chinese!)

…all thanks to our new ‘old’ Fire Station…and our rainy day!


photo mom tip: Rainy days are a fool proof way to get that yummy photo light. The window light is so soft and creamy with the overcast sky.  Do try to put your kids toys in this window light and look for the little catch-lights in their eyes (the little white reflections) that tell you there is enough light on their face for a good exposure. These shots were taken with the following settings:

ISO between 1600-2000 because we were inside and it was overcast

F Stop 2.8 notice how some of the close-ups have extra blurry backgrounds,  with a low number here you get more blur when you are close up

Shutter Speed 1/80 – 1/100 since there wasn’t a lot of movement/activity I could slow it down a bit and keep the ISO a little lower

No post editing done on these shots as everyone was hungry and dinner needed to get cooked!

Scrapbook note: I do put my photos in a digital photo album. I will post more sample pages soon to show you how I go from what you see on this blog to what the books look like. Remember that your photos need to live in a book on your coffee table or in your kid’s room (where they will be rubbed and loved by little hands)…they do NOT need to live exclusively on a flash drive, memory card or in your computer on a blog or Face Book page! Let’s get them out!!!

Storytelling Photos: What is the SQ?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

"A picture is worth a thousand words"… what a great quote! But if I had to change it, I would say: "A picture is worth a wonderful story."

Once you grasp that quote,  you will fall in love with your photo-taking hobby in a way that you have never known!  A great photo should tell a great story…or at the least be a ‘story starter.’  It should make you want to either tell the rest of the story or want to know the rest of the story…the happy ending, and the meaning of the life around you.

Some photos are just perfectly wonderful portraits of the people we love…all smiles and happy.  I Love-Love-Love These:

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And then there are some that give you a little more information and make you laugh!  clip_image004Boy, I remember this day! What a mess it was to clean baby powder up from all over the house! These twins of mine keep me on my toes, and it started early as you can see here. This one of the boys’ room sure prompts me to tell a story! Can you see Evan in this picture?  His brother buried him that day in his room!


Then there are the ones that create emotion, you can actually feel the feelings that the people in the photo may be feeling,  They leave you wanting to know more. These are just priceless to me. In the photo below, it looks like the coach is telling the player something really important, perhaps the secret to baseball that every little boy wants to know! Don’t you want to know what he is saying? This photo has a high Storytelling Quality!


Here is another great storytelling shot:


Can’t you just feel the love here? I believe that the best photos are not just the best exposures, they are so much more than that….they are the ones that have the extra intangible feature that can’t really be explained. It is the feeling you get when you open an unexpected gift that you love. It brings up good emotions and makes us feel something. This is wonderful when this happens with a photo. I call it the Photo ‘SQ": the Storytelling Quality. (kind of like IQ!) I mentally assign an SQ value when I am putting my albums together. I know that I can’t possibly put every photo in my album, so the ones with the highest SQ make the cut.

How do you know you have a storytelling shot?  They are your favorites. Your favorite photos are easy to pick out because they are the ones that make you laugh or maybe even bring a tear to your eye. They may also prompt you to start telling the story behind the photo. Or, if you are looking at your friend’s photos,  they make you want more details.  You begin to wonder and ask questions in your head and you are impressed with something …the photo speaks to you.

Every man that sees this shot below feels the need to tell me stories of their BB gun days! It is so funny — this definitely has a high SQ!


It has a little higher SQ than the one below even though I love this one too:img_0114S

Storytelling pictures are more than snapshots;  they are a reflection of an emotion. They are so valuable because generally they are harder to get which makes them more rare. They take an awareness of a spontaneous moment and a ‘mom’s heart to spot those moments when they are happening. But when you get that shot, the feeling is wonderful and so worth the patience and effort it took!

Look through your lens in a new way: ask ‘what story am I trying to tell?’ and figure out how to do that in your photos.  A good photo journalist has to learn how to tell a whole story with one photo.  Move past the ‘what am I trying to document’ stage to ‘what do I want the viewer to feel’ or ‘what emotion do I want my photo to bring’.  You will be amazed at what you come up with! Don’t worry so much about having your kids smile at the camera all the time; try to get the photo to tell a story instead.

Stories are happening all around you every day so get your camera out and start telling them….they will become your favorite ‘gifts’ to  yourself and your family!

Composition and Triangles

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

There is a general rule of photography that when you are taking a group shot it is best to look for and/or create triangles.   Posing can be difficult depending on the ages of the people but the general rule is to stay away from putting people in  a straight line vertically or horizontally. 

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then I usually add a  crop:


Of course, like every other photography rule out there, this rule can be broken:


… but generally you will like the triangle pattern better!


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