Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category
Yesterday I was reading an article from the Wall Street Journal on the lengths parents are going to for great high school photos, including professional makeup artists, hair, and a whole photographer entourage for year book photos. I wish I could say I didn’t understand where they were coming from.
I have photo envy.
A little envy isn’t a bad thing. I am friends with several professional photographers on facebook. When they post their photos I want to grab my camera and emulate them. I try to recreate their masterpieces. Often I end up with an interesting photo, and I always learn something new. Imitating others is one of my favorite ways to learn. Yes, a little photo envy is good.
The problem arises, however, when I see photos I can’t emulate because I can’t go back in time, i.e. wedding photos and newborn photos. They don’t even need to be professional, just different from anything I have. In this situation photos envy can be paralyzing. Rather then growing and learning with my camera, I dwell on what I didn’t think to capture. Self doubt creeps in, and I find myself less inclined to pick up my camera. That same feeling also fills me with regret for not doing professional photos. I wouldn’t be missing photos if I hired a professional. And if I hired a professional I’m sure my thought process would be I wouldn’t be missing photos if I hired a better, more expensive professional.
I need to get past photo envy, but how?
I figure for a first step I need to force myself to focus on the positive of what I do have, and convince myself that I do have more good photos than I think I do. I decided to play a little game: find my top 5 favorite photos that I’ve never shared before. Not here or facebook. They must be taken by me and near duplicates of any that I have posted is cheating.
This is going to be hard. There are a lot of photos to go through, and I can be super critical. But, hey, if it gets some good photos out of the dusty corners of my hard drive and into the light, all the better.
My Favorite Never Before Been Seen Photos
1) Playing in her gym
While this one isn’t a stand out from a technical standpoint, I can’t help but be drawn into that smile and those eyes. She loves her gym and I love her smile! I’m also a sucker for a lite up, perfectly in focus eye.
2) My attempt at being artsy
When I was going through my folder I realized I had surprisingly few profiles, and no true profile. I think it’d be fun to have on that shows the shape of her head. This weekend when when I can utilize my super simply baby photography secrete weapon (aka, Domingo) I will have to take more!
3) Mommy Daughter Love
Nicki at just six weeks old!
I did a series of these with a tripod before going off auto. If you look closely, you can see the camera remote in my left hand. Despite being high ISO they all have a too long exposure, creating motion blur. This is one of the few ones with such crisp eyes. It’s not the most flattering photo of me, but what can I say? I’m such a sucker for those eyes.
4) Feet in Domingo’s hands & holding my hands! (I’m counting this as one. My game, I get to bend the rules )
Nicki’s feet are a bit smaller than the other babies her age at day care (sorry kid, you have short parents with little feet and big bobble heads and it’s apparently genetic.) I think I can get away with the “newborn” photo even though she was seven months old in these photos. I was happy to have a chance to redo these photos, I have learned so much about photography in the past ten months. One of the reasons I like this pairing so much is I think it shows so much improvement photographically speaking from the first fingers and toes photos. Mommy got good with her camera!
5.) Sleeping Beauty
While I love the shadows and light in this one, it’s a stand out also by the memories it invokes. I love that she’s sleeping 11+ hours in the crib these days, but I still miss my little pooky sleeping next to me. I miss leaning over and seeing this sight in the middle of the night. I miss the funny little noises she made while sleeping, even the not so little noises. I miss the way she’d play with her feet while she waited for me to wake up and get her. I miss the newborn stage! Why can’t they stay tiny forever?!
There we have it, my top 5(ish) never before been seen favorite photos.
My next step in combating photo envy will be to convince myself that I have enough good photos by hanging some up around the house. I’m thinking of another canvas print over the mantle, this time of the whole family. It’ll go nicely with the wedding painting we had done. Maybe something like our anniversary photo, but without the disheveled pillows in the background. Ut oh, better sign off before that photo envy starts to creep back in again.
Setup for our Easter photos was very last minute. Easter just snuck up on us. Friday night I sent Domingo to the store for an Easter basket and some plastic eggs. The eggs were decently stocked, but the baskets? Not so much. The only one left in white wicker had an ugly yellow cloth lining. After Saturday’s morning nap we made a quick trip to the store to get some decorative ribbon. After her afternoon nap it was off to a different store to get an Easter dress, and after she went down for the Night I sent Domingo to the fabric store to get a backdrop. Crazy last minute.
Our first attempt at photos was right before naptime. I know, rookie mistake. I woke up with a bad headache and it was the earliest I could pry myself out of bed. We only managed one smile (the above photo) in the morning, but what a smile! I think this is one of the very few times where she actually looks younger, partly because she has a mostly toothless grin. We were more successful after her nap when the lighting was better. She loved playing with the eggs and got so excited when we got out her Easter basket again. When I put her down in front of it she started doing the arm waving happy squirmy baby dance.
She started out taking the eggs out of the basket two at a time, but quickly learned dumping the whole basket was a lot faster.
Last week I posted some things I learned going off auto mode on my camera. But what if you’re not neck deep in the camera-setting-obsessed build-a-set-at-home momtographer-crazy-pool like me? Here’s my number one go to trick for taking photos of Nicki that dosen’t involve any camera knowledge. In fact, to emphasize that you don’t need expensive camera equipment or software, all photos in this post were taken with my cell phone and completely unedited. Not even to adjust the brightness.
Without further ado…
Cute, right? She’s looking out the airplane window and smiling. It’s safe to assume I’m not climbing over another passenger to take this photo. (I’m a crazy mom-tographer, not an obnoxious one.) I’m sitting in the same row as Nicki who is safely strapped into the window seat. That means Nicki is in-between the window and myself. If she were truly looking out the window, we’d be seeing more of the side/back of her head.
In order to capture this photo I’m using the same simple trick behind the holding the pyramids illusion. The human eye is really good at judging relative distances in 3-d. That’s why someone far away looks far away, and not just small. A 2-d projection of a 3-d object (e.g. a photograph) can trick our minds’ eye into interpreting the image differently. In this pyramid photo it looks like the man is looking at the pyramid in his hand. Of course, the pyramid is just far back, and the man in the photo is looking off camera at nothing at all. Since Nicki is a baby I can’t just tell her where to look. That’s where Domingo comes in.
In my airplane photo I’m actually in the aisle seat. Domingo is in the middle seat, leaning in front of Nicki to entice a smile. She is looking at Domingo and smiling.
A pullback. Ignore the quality of this photo. I wouldn’t share it, except that it shows how we made the top one work.
The window is about four inches above her head. I’ve rotated the camera about 30 degrees to the left so the window appears level with Nicki’s face and positioned it so Domingo is off frame. Voila, the illusion of looking out the window.
There are five possible axis to move your camera: up/down, left/right, toward-subject/away-from-subject, rotate and tilt.
Here she is with great grandma. If Nicki were truly looking at Grandma, we’d just be seeing much more of the underside of her chin. She’s looking at Domingo, standing off frame and making faces at her.
In this one she looks like she’s in the Christmas spirit, even though she’s clearly not looking at anything in particular.
I posted an edited version of this one a few ago.
For this photo I’m lying on my stomach, holding the camera about eye level (maybe Nicki’s shoulder) and have tilted the top of the camera ever so slightly toward Nicki so that the tree and presents are in a better position relative to her in the photo.
This trick doesn’t just work for babies! Back in my maternity photography days, I recommended looking six inches in front of the bump for a more flattering angle.
I have been completely off ‘auto’ mode on my DSLR since November. I’ve gone off auto before, like for the maternity photos, but this is the first time I’ve been consistently off auto. It feels awesome, my photography has improved so much, it’s ridiculous. Of course, I’ve had a lot of practice. Here’s what I’ve learned for getting the most out of my camera.
The camera’s metering light is usually way too dark
If there’s one really simple trick I’ve learned, it’s to typically shoot on the lighter side. You generally get better contrast (especially in the eyes) and photos look all around more professional. For portraits, your best bet is to increasing the size of the aperture. You’re background may not be in fully focus, which will have the added benefit of emphasizing the subject.
Don’t be afraid of High ISO
I switched cameras about a month after Nicki was born. I was so used to ’400′ being high and noisy that I stayed away from ISO 400 and above on my new camera. Technology has improved a lot since my first DLSR purchase. I can now get up to ISO 1000 without noticing much noise. If I had realized that sooner, I would have had much more flexibility with my shutter speed and f-stop, and could have gotten much nicer photos initially!
Even if it had been too noisy, a little noise is easier to correct in photoshop than a little blur.
It takes about four sessions before I get the ‘perfect’ shot
Take the baby toes and rings example. Yes, those are perfectly good pictures, but the aperture was slightly too wide, the depth of field slightly too shallow, and the shutter speed slightly too slow. The end result of the first photo session is a very nice photo as a 4 x 6, but I can’t do much else with it.
By the fourth time I had a handle on just how much light I needed, how fast the shutter speed (at least 1/80 if she’s being still, 1/125 or greater if not) and the right aperture (at least f/5) when shooting with my 85mm Macro. I LOVE the last set I took.
I took 3 sets of Nicki and the twinkle lights before I struck gold, 2 Halloween sets, 5 sleeping newborn, a ridiculous number of Santa hat photos… You get the idea.
Nicki is rarely as cooperative with me with each additional shoot
Which is not to say that she’s uncooperative, just that she is usually the most expressive the first time I take a set of photos. She was fascinated with the photo setup for the Halloween photos, and we had so many great facial expressions. But I was using the wrong lens (and the wrong aperture, and shutter speed, etc). The next time around, she was less interested. I’ve discovered this is not atypical. Babies get bored.
It’s not actually a problem if I plan ahead. The best time to try for photos is right after a nap when she’s well rested and not hungry. I get setup during the nap time and test the light using a toy as her standin so we’re ready to go as soon as she wakes up and I can take full advantage of her well rested happy mood.
I can sometimes elicit a smile if I dangle a toy or dance, but my ultimate secret weapon is Dada. If she hasn’t seen Dada in a little while, she will be ear to ear grins. But if she’s overtired? She will not smile, no matter what I do.
Which element is in focus will make or break a photo
I love shallow depth of field, but it is critically important that the right element be in focus. That’s typically the area you want to draw the viewer’s eye. This is especially true if it’s an area of high contrast (baby’s eye, the diamond in a wedding ring, etc).
There are several Photoshop tricks you can do to bring out the eyes but they have to be in focus first! Of course you can have artistic photos where the eyes aren’t in focus, but if you don’t have that artistic image in mind already from the start, you likely won’t stumble upon it by accident. At least I never have.
If I’m exploring with my camera, especially if I’m not sure how deep my field is, I usually make sure the focus area is over Nicki’s closest eye.
Flash isn’t all bad
Every photography article I read says to always use natural light. Flash can wash out the subject, and cast harsh shadows. But sometimes it’s useful. I try and use as much natural light as possible, but our house is dark. Even at high ISO the camera can have difficulties focusing, creating a “soft focus” effect without a flash. Flash controls light on subject. Shutter speed controls background light. Here’s a good article about it.
Angles matter, even for babies
Okay, so this is totally a matter of personal preference, but I cannot stand the up-the-nose angle. Sure, sometimes it cannot be avoided, and I’ve posted a few here (like this one). But it sticks out and is so distracting to an otherwise beautiful picture. I find this especially true if you’re shooting against a simple light background. Especially, especially if it’s a close up of the baby’s face. Nicki is asleep in this photo, I have no excuse for the angle.
Nowadays if I can avoid the up-the-nose perspective, I will. Every time.
The other day I was suddenly stuck by the desire to have newborn-toes-and-wedding-rings photos. I blame the desire on the fact that I’m suddenly taking so many more photos, and going back over the old ones. Nothing makes me want to pick up a camera more than looking at old photos, especially when I’m learning so much more about photography! I keep thinking about all the ways I can improve those old photos and pinning for a time machine.
I waited until Nicki was napping in the rock n’ play. (I love that thing, not only has it been a must have for newborn baby sleep, but some of the best photos are from the rock n’ play!) Her feet were elevated in the rock n’ play which made this a particularly easy shoot. The only problem? A seven month baby wakes up when you put something on her toes! She woke up instantly.
If ever there was a time for a safety spotter, rings on baby toes are it! Guess where that ring is going if\when she get’s it off! We also had a few sudden baby movements followed by hunting for the missing ring. It would definitely be easier to do this style of photo when she was a sleepy newborn.
Luckily I waited until she was 2 hours into her morning nap which is usually 2 and a half hours. Nicki was rested enough to be in a good mood, but really curious about what was on her toes. I ended up giving her a ‘new toy’ (a stuffed animal from my dresser she’s never seen) to distract her which gave me a chance to experiment with different lightening and angles. And they’re gorgeous. These are all unedited.
With the desk light on. Normally I prefer natural light only, but I like the added warmth in the photo.
Natural light from the window.
I am really impressed how well these turned out. Yes, her feet are a little plumper than they were when she was six months ago, but I don’t really think it’s noticeable. And, maybe even a little preferable? Lesson learned: never let the fear that your baby is too old stop you from picking up your camera.
I love these so much I have a new header photo for my blog and twitter account! I plan on changing my facebook cover photo as well, but I only recently updated it to a photo of the crochet baby blocks my mother-in-law made Nicki which makes her very happy. I’ll leave the baby blocks up for a little while longer first.
Before Nicki was born I have been the sole photographer in the family. Domingo didn’t even know how to take off the lens cap (or, as he claimed, he knew how but didn’t want to for fear of accidentally damaging my camera.) Now we trade off, so we can have some mommy daughter photos. Last night I handed Domingo my camera to take some photos of bath time in my never ending quest to have more photos of Nicki.
This was the fifth image on my camera.
Simply amazing. Is that not the best photo of Nicki?
Those eyes are stunning, and just draw your attention into them. The way the baby’s face is perfectly in focus while everything else is slightly out of focus. The lighting, the composition, every aspect of the photo work so well together. The tender way her hand is reaching back to my arm… I mean WOW. It is just perfect.
A close up of her face. I melt.
So how did he do it? How did he go from ‘where’s the shutter button?’ to taking breathtaking photo of Nicki in six months? Here are some tips if you, like us, have one photographer and one non photographer in the house.
Prepwork – This tip comes from a travel advice forumn: If you want someone to take a photo with your camera, configure all the settings in advance. That way the good samaritan taking your photo only needs to push the shutter button and you get the photo you want. When I was drawing the bath I set f-stop, ISO, and shutter speed. That way, all Domingo had to worry about was point and click.
Show – Take a couple similar photos and show the other person what it is you’re looking for. Over the past few months I would take a photo with Domingo and the baby, then ask him to take a similar one with me and the baby. I’d then point out (nicely!) how they differed. Maybe mine would have a tighter crop, or be angled differently. We focused on one element at a time, and his composition improved dramatically.
Patience – Really, when there’s a baby, there’s always an element of luck. Always. You have to follow the baby’s lead. There’s always another day.
I have to up my game or I might lose the job of family photographer!
I know, you’re probably tired of Christmas photos by now. I’ve been organizing my photos on my hard drive and I came across a couple of hilarious outtakes that I couldn’t resist.
Babyzilla destroys the set!
Most of our photo sessions end with Babyzilla destroying the set these days. Who could argue with such a happy baby, though?
Something apparently stinks. Hopefully it’s not Mommy’s photography.
Mommy’s Silly Billy
And I couldn’t resist a non-outtake.
Before the arrival of Babyzilla
Have you heard of the 365 day project? The goal is to take a photo of a subject every day for a year. It’s a wonderful way to keep life from passing us by.
I’ve been somewhat hung up about not having enough photos of Nicki. While my problem is not the number of photos I’m taking, it’s in the over reliance on my iPhone. While I’ve done my best to make the most of these photos, it just isn’t the same. I do have very nice newborn photography, and Holiday photos, but I’m missing the everyday style photos, and especially the mommy/daughter photos. I need a motivator to make me put down the iPhone and pick up the DSLR.
While there’s a lot of appeal to the 365 day project, it’s also pretty intimidating. I’m a full time student beginning her job search. Nicki comes home from day care around 5:30 and then there’s very little free time before starting the bed time routine. So I decided to do something a little different, a 52 week project. In 2013 I will find time to take DSLR photos of Nicki at least once a week.
Weeks 1 & 2
My goal is a photo session with Nicki (which will hopefully lead to good photos of course!). I also hope this project will help me feel better about the number of photos I have of Nicki. I can’t go back in time to her earlier months, but I can make the most of the months ahead!
My new favorite photo of Nicki and I, after a fair amount of editing.
I fancy myself a semi-serious armature photographer. There are few things that make me happier than being behind my camera’s view finder. Heck, I took 3 thousand photos of Nicki before she was two months old. I have photos I adore of her. I have tons of her with Dada, Grandma, even the cat. But something is missing. Me! I have so few photos of Nicki and I!
This week I stumbled upon this on my phone.
Photo credit: my wonderful husband.
Nice composition, but the photo has the double whammy of slightly blurry (most noticeably by my hand), and nosy from high ISO (most noticeably on Nicki’s face.). I was probably rocking when the photo was taken.
Of course as soon as I saw it I wished I had a DSLR equivalent photo. I wanted something I could print out and frame. But alas, this was taken when Nicki was four weeks old. She’s a bit different today, and there’s no way we could recreate the photo. If I wanted a framed copy, I was going to have to fix it up in post processing.
For the first pass, I did some smoothing and contrast adjustment. While I can smooth out the texture a little bit, but there’s little I can do about the blur and loss of detail. My best bet is to make the issues look intentional, or at least as intentional as possible. Since the photo already has a warm, nostalgic feel to it, I decide to emphasize that and give in an old-time feel. To me that meant a Sepia filter (I picked Sepia over greyscale to preserve the warmth.) I used a special program to do this, but you can also do this by adjusting your hue and saturation to get the color palette you want.
Adjusting hue and decreasing saturation to simulate a sepia color contrast. In this case since the image is already pretty red, I didn’t have to adjust the hue much. Had there not been as much red in the photo, I might have had to adjust the three color channels (Red, Blue and Green) separately to get the right red/brown hues.
The next step was to clean up the background a bit. I did this by using the clone tool to get ride of the glass of chocolate milk, and adding a slight vignette to put the focus squarely on Nicki and I.
A comparison of the original (left) with the final version (right). Click it to see the comparison in more detail.
I’ve done a few photo enhancements in my time, but without a strong graphic design/drawing skill I’m limited to tools like the clone brush and minor adjustments. There seems to be an huge business opportunity here for someone with true graphic artists skills. How many of us have that one photo they would give there left arm to fix?