Category Archives: tips

Color or Black and White? What to look for…

When a client expresses their preference for black and white or color, I approach the photo session with a different set of eyes.

If it’s black and white I’m after, I look for bold and well defined shapes, contrast between objects, and graphic backgrounds. I try to create simple, bold lines with cheeks and shoulders and to pay attention to light and dark. For backgrounds: rocks, boulders, and a sea of pebbles work well. Tall grasses are nice and create a little bit of pattern. Blurring out the background is also an effective technique and provides lovely contrast with the subject. Silhouetting a profile with sunlight is a dramatic look that is gorgeous in black and white and can be achieved by placing the subject between the photographer and the sun.

Newborn photography lends itself to black and white because babies are often pink and their skin tones are so different from their parents and siblings. In color, the eye is drawn to the stark color contrast instead of the harmonious shapes of the newborn in mama’s arms or lying on daddy’s tummy.

If a client wants color I look for color in the environment and try to juxtapose it with the clothing. If there are a lot of colors in a family’s wardrobe, it sometimes works best to pose them against a colorful background—green grass, blue sky, or trees and shrubs with colorful leaves. This will help the clothing recede into the background and make the faces pop more.

An environment full of textures, patterns and shapes, like the woods of the Greenbelt, renders best in color. If you turn such a picture into black and white, the subject often blends in because there’s not enough contrast.

A few  guidelines:

1) The eye always goes to the area of greatest contrast. That means if your blond, fair-skinned child is wearing a bright red shirt in a wintery landscape with dead grass and shrubs, your eye will be drawn to the red shape in the picture. If your child is wearing blue and being photographed against a blue sky, the face will pop out from the sea of blue because it’s different.

2) If you’re interested in black and white, find strong architectural details like stairs, arches, shadows, or anything else graphic, and experiment with posing your child(ren).

3) Close-ups of faces work very well in black and white, but experiment with the camera settings that will allow you to move close-in without getting blurry images.

4) Think about how your children’s clothes will work with the background you select. Keep in mind that green and red are the same value in black and white-—they both appear as a medium grey.

5) Try to decide in advance whether you’d like the images to be color or black and white.

6) Converting an image from color to black and white is not as simple as clicking on a button. Whatever software you are using should allow you to adjust contrast and brightness settings, and ideally to darken or open up shadows. If you do a straight conversion, the photograph will usually look flat and a little washed out.

Examples to come!

Take Your Own (Really Good) Christmas Pictures

Here’s a few pointers for beautiful DIY family pictures this season:

Natural light is the most complimentary. You don’t get flash burn and red eye, and things beyond 10 feet away don’t disappear into blackness. But most people are inside on Christmas, opening presents, playing, scarfing down a delicious holiday meal. So when’s the best time to take pictures, and how do you take advantage of natural light when it’s freezing out?

1) With pajamas on and holding up new presents, have kids, wife, dog, parrot stand in the doorway of the house facing outside. Run outside (bundle up if need be) and take their picture . Do lots of variations with everyone jumping, poking each other, having fun. Capture their authentic happiness. Think of the film strip machine at malls that give you a strip of pictures that are all slightly different. They’re fun, and they encourage being funny. Switch places with your spouse. If there’s a willing neighbor next door, ask her to come take the pictures. The key is to take more than one, because invariably someone has closed eyes, is moving, is blocked by someone else, etc. But if you have five pictures, one might be perfect!

2) Later in the day find a big window in the house with a lot of light coming in. Preferably on ground floor. Group the kids together or take individual pictures of them looking out the window. (Yes, you need to go outside again). It’s a plus if there’s icicles or snow on the window panes, even if you can barely see the face looking out. But the face will be nicely lit by the sun and that’s what counts. A Santa hat would be cute or have your kid hold up or adorn herself with decorations from the Christmas tree.

Picture to come!

10 Best Posed Shots—Fun with Food!

In this one your child is already posing so you don’t have to set it up! Children have a natural fascination with food and what they can make it into—all those shapes, colors and textures are irresistible. Food is fun! So the next time you see a culinary masterpiece in the making, run for your camera, or grab your iPhone. You will catch your child in a moment of pride and delight, hopefully with a radiant face. Time is of the essence….the best photograph is the one that actually gets taken!

10 Best Posed Shots—Baby Sleeping with Uncommon Things

Babies are usually beautiful and angelic looking when they sleep, so you’ll want to capture that anyway. But here’s a fresh angle to it: Place something unexpected next to or around baby while he sleeps. Something meaningful to you, or fun, or artistic, whatever your bent is. Some ideas:

1) a guitar or other musical instrument. If you’re a musician, you’ll then have two of your most beloved things in the world side by side. It’ll also give you an amazing contrast of scale and show just how tiny your little bundle is.

2) oranges, lemons, or other fruit with bold color and graphic shapes (round always looks harmonious). Arrange them any way you like. Try different configurations. Have fun with it. You are creating art!

3) flower petals. I know, it’s been done before. But not with your sweet baby! A bouquet right at his side would look good, or try sprinkling flowers around her.

4) stuffed animals/loveys. Find every single one in the house and surround your sleeping wonder with his new friends.

5) valentine’s day heart candies. Do a closeup of baby’s face so that your zoomed far enough in to read the cute phrases on the candies.

6) pictures of you and your spouse as babies. Here again, you’ll have to get close to make out what’s in the pictures.

7) all your jewelry. Fanciest stuff you can find! Drape it all over her and around her, as if she’s lying in a treasure chest!

How to get the best shots:

1) Get a ladder and place it as close to crib, bassinet, bed as possible. The taller the better. I know it sounds like a drag but it will be worth it!

2) Pick a time of day when there’s beautiful light coming in through a nearby window and a stage of baby’s nap when he isn’t likely to wake up, and throw open the curtains and shades.

3) Keep the camera very steady, increase ISO and shutter speed if camera will allow. All these can be done with camera phones, too. Experiment with the settings and turn off the flash.

I have to admit that I don’t have much to show here. I did not follow my own advice because I didn’t really think of these things back then when I was a new mom and sleep deprived. But if I could do it all again, I’d have a huge repertoire of these pictures! I would also lose the very distracting outfit and either don a white onesie or diaper with diaper cover. Or, if you don’t mind living on the edge and want the most artistic and beautiful images, remove his diaper while he’s sleeping and photograph him in the buff.

10 Best Posed Shots—Upside Down!

Try this! But only if s/he finds it amusing. My boy always loved defying gravity and it never failed to make him laugh. One parent needs to prepare the camera: increase the ISO and shutter speed if you can to best capture action, especially if indoors. Outdoors you will almost always have better light and thus, sharper pictures even with a moving target. Pre-focus on the farthest point that the flying head is going to reach if you have a manual option. If not, just point the camera down or to where the head will appear so that you will be ready to snap the picture. Hopefully your kid will want to swing around for a while so you’ll have a few opportunities to catch it. Keep shooting and hopefully you’ll get at least one winner!

10 Best Posed Shots (that you can do yourself!)

1) Family Self-portrait.

You can do this! You all need to scrunch together. And then get a little closer. It’s fun when everyone’s heads touch. Whoever has the longest arm gets to hold the camera. Take several shots in a row. Hold steady! Practice makes perfect. This is a great skill to have and will yield that most coveted and elusive image: the family (all of you!) out and about or just at home having fun. It doesn’t matter if someone’s eye gets cut out. We get the picture. And you will enjoy the memory.

No one ever photographs me and my son. (My husband would rather have his teeth pulled out. Although he does relent for birthdays and other special occasions.) So just to make sure that when he grows up he remembers that I was part of the family, I take pictures of us every now and then.

I use a Canon Powershot S90. I throw it in my purse. It comes to the beach with me in a Ziploc bag. It sometimes gets a little sand in it and I’ve been known to drop it, but it’s better to have a beaten up camera and fun family memories than a perfect camera that gets lonely sitting in a drawer at home. If an extra camera is too much to carry, familiarize yourself with your phone’s camera and how it will perform under different lighting conditions and distances from your face.

How to take advantage of unexpected photo opps

Here are my “boys” waking up in the morning after a little slumber party. It’s a little hard to figure out where one ends and the other begins. When I rolled out of bed and saw this, I ran for my camera. It was a sweet, tender, and serendipitous moment and I wanted to capture both of them waking up.

What caught my eye first, besides the juxtaposition of feet, were the haphazard and magnificent rainbows of color. It was all unplanned, but that’s what made the photo opp so alluring.

Here are some thoughts on approaching family photography:

1) Have your camera handy all the time. I carry a point and shoot in my purse and my pro equipment in a special cabinet in the house where I can have quick access.

2) Taking photos of your kids sleeping is usually not top of mind but should be—they often look angelic. My son could sleep through a tornado (even if it lifted the house up) so I just flip on the lights in the middle of the night and conduct my photo session with him unaware. In fact, last night I even hopped on his bed and pressed myself into the corner to get just the right angle. Most kids are in a deep sleep at some point during the night so try to figure out when that is. If you have light sleepers, you will need to be more stealthy. A camera that allows very high ISOs is preferable (I took these at around 4000 ISO—non flash pictures always look more natural) but if you must use the flash, and you can do so without jolting them out of sleep, you will have a lovely memory. You could also sneak in there at first light and open the shade a bit. Natural light is the most flattering.

3) Try to remove clutter from the background. There was a box, a side table, and an art easel behind the bed. I didn’t want to risk spending time moving things (or waking them with the noise) so I left the eyesores and removed them later in Photoshop. As you can see in the first photo, the space above the bed is completely white. If there were a hint of a room, that would look fine, too, but you really don’t want a busy jumble in the background because it will detract from your subjects.

4) Try different angles. Crouch. Stand on a chair. The best perspective may not be the most obvious and easiest one. Don’t be afraid to hold the camera very low with your cheek practically on the ground. After all, you’re usually pointing down at your kids when photographing them, and it’s refreshing for the angle to be looking up at them.

5) Zoom in. Either with your camera, or preferably with your feet (which will render a higher quality image). Crop out unnecessary pieces of furniture and body parts. Focus on what’s really interesting, or funny, or beautiful. Go as close as your camera will allow you to focus. Always focus on what’s most important, and don’t worry if the rest is somewhat blurred. This provides a nice focal point for the eye and is how the pros approach their subjects.

6) Take lots of photos. Be patient. If there is a funny or magical scene at hand, you are certain to get great pictures if you keep shooting and/or wait for just the right moment to click. Remember, you can always delete the outtakes once you get the winner!

My boy finally woke up. And look what he did when he saw me with the camera!

10 candid Kodak (Canon, etc.) moments not to be missed

1) Baby on mommy’s chest in hospital. Get close up! Crouch so that you’re at eye level. If you have an SLR, Increase your ISO so that you don’t have to use flash. Otherwise, hold a piece of paper over the flash so as not to disturb baby (and blow out her face).

2) First bath at home. Document that first hair color because it’ll change soon! Little suds in the hair and drips on the face and toes are so cute.

3) Asleep in mommy or daddy’s arms (best if mommy/daddy is also asleep). Capture the exhaustion of parenthood!!

4) TV face (since they are transfixed, you can be assured of catching the shot; you probably even have time to compose the shot well since they’re not moving anytime soon). There’s a beautiful picture of me and my sister side by side, as docile as can be, and I’d always wondered how mom coaxed us into cooperating for a picture. Turns out that we weren’t cooperating. We were just in a TV coma; she stood in front of the TV to get the perfect photograph!

5) Toe Sucking. Since you can’t predict the onset of this entertaining activity, keep the camera closeby when he discovers those yummy toes.

6) Filthy baby. Mud, sand, flour, paint. Sometimes it doesn’t occur to parents to capture the messy moments, but then your baby will wonder later in life if she ever really had down and dirty fun or if she was constantly clean, apron’d, and well-mannered. You’ll enjoy remembering all the colorful aspects of his childhood.

7) Screaming scrunchy-faced baby. Our instinct is to come to the rescue and comfort our weeping little peanut. But if you can manage to snap a photo before you swoop in, raging mad and teary faces are so endearing.

8) Flailing baby. Some video footage would be good, too. Otherwise, your high-schooler will never believe that he really had such tantrums. Lie on the floor with your camera and capture different angles. Some will work better than others. And then you can return to the task at hand.

9) Tickled baby. This one requires a fast shutter speed, too. Also requires a second person to do the tickling. You’ll likely catch some uproarious laughter, and you’ll love the memories even if they’re slightly out of focus.

10) Slumbering baby. Not in the carseat, though, because you’ll get distracting patterns and warning labels. Document the real sleeping environment because it will be a sweet memory. When he’s in deep sleep, open the blinds, turn on the lights and you’ll get bright crisp images. Try to capture a characteristic position, with feet sticking out of crib or clutching a lovey.