I get this question all the time from my South Jersey friends and moms. A lot of mammas just received a new fancy camera as a Christmas gift and are not sure on how to use it. But guess what?
- You Do Not Need A Fancy Camera!
Your camera doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles to take a great photo. Believe it or not, with some cell phones you can take a decent photo (now they may not be truly professional, but they can still be nice photographs.)
Read what I’m about to say…It is NOT the camera that takes good photos. IT IS THE PERSON BEHIND THE CAMERA that makes all the difference. It’s about learning some basic key elements, in regards to photography.
- And these elements are explained, below!!
- Read Your Manual
Whether you only have your cell phone, a point and shoot, or DSLR…
I started off photographing landscapes a few years ago. While starting out, I used an 8 MB camera. At first, I didn’t know what the “hay” I was doing! When I began, I shot in landscape mode… Yup, I was a total noob. However, I took it upon myself to learn my camera in and out. I read my manual from beginning to end.
By the time I started looking at new cameras, I was shooting in manual mode and I also learned the key fundamentals and basics in photography. Which helped me to transition nicely into my next camera.
And guess what? Because I put in the effort to learn my camera and these basic fundamentals, as I’ll discuss more in-depth, I even published some of my 8 Mb photographs in 2 books!
If you are not comfortable shooting in aperture priority or manual mode yet… Switch your settings to portrait. Most point and shoots even professional cameras offer this mode. It is a good place to start. It will at least be a good starting point to learn.
- Learn About Composition
I can’t stress this enough. If your photo starts off with good composition, then you’re headed in the right direction as this is the key component in photography. Your composition is the strategic placement of objects and elements in your photograph.
Generally, this is your subject which should be the main feature and then the colors and background behind or around your subject, help to define your photograph.
For example, you don’t want to dress your kids in white and put them among a white background. They would get lost! Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule. However, this is also why I don’t like working with too many props and am a minimalist. Your subject can be swallowed whole with too many props, taking away from your main feature, the star… Your kid!
And that leads us to this…
- Make Sure Your Child Is Well-Rested and Well-Fed Before You Start
There is nothing more pleasant (sense the sarcasm) than a tired baby. They are miserable and they are cranky and the results of your photos will be unpleasant. The same goes for a hungry baby/toddler. I schedule my sessions around nap time and stress this to my clients in order to get the best results in our sessions!
- The Eyes… It’s All About The Eyes…
Nothing is worse than a photograph out of focus. It can make or break the photo. The best way to ensure a great composed photo, is to focus on the eyes. This is the number one rule to taking portraits. If you can do this, you will set a great foundation moving forward!
- The Art Of Distraction
Ahh, this is sometimes the best strategy. I find it can be a bit difficult from a few months age (about the time they can crawl) to about 3 years old. To get your child to sit and smile for you… Well, good luck! The best thing I’ve utilized is the art of distraction. When I do photographs of families with young children, I put a pez dispenser on my hot shoe (where you would attach an external flash) and I fill it with candy.
I tell the kids if they “behave” properly and we get a few smiles then they can have some candy. It also works as a tool to smile at. I just tell them to smile at Thomas the Train or Dracula. It works like a charm.
I also like fun/controlled play. Having a child blow bubbles or playing with a doll or stuffed animal also works. You’ll usually get a genuine smile and it is a win-win for both mom and child. They are enjoying themselves and mom is getting great natural smiles in their photographs.
- Light… There Be Light!
Lighting is a huge component in photography and is just as important as composition. Light can make or break a photo!
For outdoor photos, you want to avoid the harsh midday sun. If you have to shoot in such conditions, make sure you find a shady area or have your subject face you with their backs to the sun. This will avoid harsh and overly exposed faces/shadows.
The best time to shoot is actually when it is cloudy. This is the most ideal circumstance. Also, us photographers like to shoot in what is called, golden hour.
Golden hour aka magic hour is usually an hour before sunset. It is the perfect time to shoot photographs! Reds and soft light make your subjects truly POP! Most professional photographers utilize this timing of the day. You can see a true difference in photographing at this time as compared to mid-afternoon sun! Try it out. You’ll thank me.
While indoors, make sure you are near a window that allows nice light or that the room is well-lit!
- Posed Photographs
If you are looking for a little more of a posed shot of your kids, I recommend containment. What I mean is, if your child is just a crawler and does not like to sit still, sometimes it is best to put them in a basket, box, suitcase (of course opened) etc. Have someone wave a favorite stuffed animal beside you and you’ll probably get some nice smiles out of it. Containment only works for a short period of time before a child starts crying, but if you can work in this quick few minute window, you’ll have at least one killer photograph!
- Being Click Happy
Taking the time to compose your photographs and then clicking is most ideal. A lot of moms try to click a million times in hopes of getting that one good photograph.
The best way to learn photography is to learn patience and to act like your digital camera is a film camera. This will help you to become a better photographer in the end.
A lot of folks don’t know this, but if you are what I call “click happy” you are gradually degrading your camera! There’s a term called shutter actuation to where you camera has a certain threshold of clicks of its shutter before it clanks out. The more clicks, the more servicing of your camera and the more degradation of your investment over time!
- The Details
Take notice of the little things with your kids like snot, small hairs out-of-place, a stain on a shirt. These are things that can be difficult to correct even by Photoshop users! If you take notice of these before and while you are taking photos, you will be happy with your results!
Last, But Not Least…
Always keep your camera charged and ready to go at all times! You never know when you’re going to capture that special moment of your child! So bring your camera everywhere with you (of course, within reason)! It will help you to be a better hands on photographer! And who knows, with enough practice… You’ll be onto being a pro/hobbyist in no time! Best of all, you’ll be able to truly capture some beautiful moments and create lovely photographs of your babies!
If you can master the above, you’ve got yourself a great foundation to move forward in your photography journey.
Take car and happy shooting!