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!

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