July 18, 2013

A Momtographer’s First Year

Some days it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that I am now the parent of a one year old, or that it was over a year ago that we were waiting for signs of Nicki’s arrival.

eyesoverexposure
One of our monthly photos from 11 months. I was going for an image that resembled a drawing more than a photograph, and dialed the brightness, contrast way up while decreasing the saturation.

At the start of the month I found myself in a bit of a photography funk. I was suddenly struck by the fact that my “baby” photography days were over, at least with Nicki. I kept thinking of all the missed photo opportunities to capture her babyhood on film. I took 28,357 photos of Nicole in the first 365 days, so I know this fear is all in my head. And yet, while I have photos that I absolutely love, that photo envy has a tendency to creep back in.

I can think of two reasons why the feeling of “too few” photos keeps coming back, especially from those very early months. Nicki never really looked like a typical newborn. Her full head of hair and beautiful dark eyes made her appear older than she actually was. Secondly, now that my photography is improving, it’s hard not to critique my own work and notice those past flaws. My top five photos? In (1) the sleeves need to be rolled down, (2) the depth of field is a little too shallow for that angle, (3) my body and hand position is awkward, (4) The depth of field is too shallow and the tip of Domingo’s left thumb is out of focus and (5) would be absolutely stunning if it were a true profile and the light was illuminating the shape of her head. This is not to say that they’re not very good photos, or that I’m not very proud of those photos. I only wish to point out that they’re not “perfect” and that these types of flaws are more pronounced in those early months when I had much less practice.

Of course, my skills are improving. And not just my skills with the camera. That above photo? Here is the SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera).

sooc

One of the things I’ve always wanted to learn was photo editing. There is a lot that can be done with a “bad” (ordinary, everyday, etc) photo to create something interesting. Cropping, Rotating, Saturation/Hue/Lighteness levels, Something. While the goal is to get it right ‘in camera’ each “bad” photo gives me a opportunity to play with my graphics program. I love the top photo in this post, even though the SOOC isn’t particularly unique or striking.

These days I’ve also been making more of an effort to showcase my better photos. Ironically, while I might notice the imperfections of any one photo, the more time I spend with the collection as a whole the better I feel about my photos overall. I guess this revelation shouldn’t be too surprising. A few months ago a study was published showing looking at one’s own profiles on facebook tends to improve mood. It’s like looking at your own highlight reel.

As a result of increased confidence I find myself relaxing more when it comes to picking up the camera. When Nicki was 11 days old I took a family portrait of the three of us. I took exactly 15 photos using a tripod and a remote: 4 were too badly cropped to be saved, 2 had motion blur and 2 were badly out of focus leaving me with seven usable ones. That felt like plenty. Yet a month later I took 392 photos of a sleeping baby and her stuffed unicorn so I could order just one print and I still wasn’t completely satisfied with the photo I choose. Lately I’ve been drifting back the other way. While I’ll still trigger happy during activities (e.g. splashing in the tub – you never know when Epic Splash is coming!), I’m back to taking only a handful of photos for those detail shots – like the putting her feet up on the high chair. I only took 12 of those. This change does not a moment too soon, once again I have less than a memory card’s worth of free space on my hard drive.

newfamily

They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master anything. Assuming an average frame rate of a photo every 30 seconds and with 28,357 photos that would mean I’ve spent roughly 307 hours on photography. Imagine the possibilities with 9,693 more!

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  1. […] exposures. I wanted to see if I could do anything with them. I immediately thought of my previous attempt at editing a photo to give it the appearance of a drawing. The first step was to dramatically increase the brightness like an over exposure. I decided to […]


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