Posts Tagged ‘Do It Yourself’

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.

toerings

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.

whatsthis
What’s this?
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.

rings2
With the desk light on. Normally I prefer natural light only, but I like the added warmth in the photo.

rings3
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.

February 12, 2013

Pregnancy/Newborn Shadowbox

I’ve been planning on doing this for a while, but only recently found Nicki’s hospital bracelet. Domingo and I have been in mad panic baby proofing/spring cleaning mode, and I needed somewhere to store the ribbon and bracelets so I wouldn’t lose them again.

shadowbox

Living in California, I know it’s only a matter of time before the “next big” earthquakes hits and all my shadow boxes hit the floor. That’s why it’s really important to me that anything irreplaceable (i.e. hospital bracelets, ribbon) is removable and completely undamaged by the mounting process.

  • I scanned the original ultrasound into the computer in order to enlarge it and increase the contrast. Since it’s a print, and not the original, I felt comfortable gluing it down.
  • I used photo corners to mountain my three hospital bracelets.
  • I was going to glue down the photos, but we were out of high quality photo paper. Since I’m the impatient sort that didn’t want to wait until morning, I used photo corners for the prints as well. I plan on replacing them with better quality prints at some point.

Nicki’s hospital bracelet was the biggest challenge. The wrist band was still in tact as it had slid off her the first night home, but the paper identifier itself was in poor shape. (Someone managed to poop on it in the hospital. It was cleaned, but the paper is loosing structural integrity) I couldn’t use photo corners since there were no corners. I also couldn’t use pins since genius me seemed to pick out the only non pin-board backed shadowbox at the store. So – and I fully admit, I don’t like this solution – I used scotch tape. I made a little donut and attached it to the back of the plastic connector. It’ll come off, but it might leave a little residue on the plastic.

I’m on the hunt for a better way to mount the bracelet.

I also need a better way to mount the ribbon. I’m going to look for hooks that I can use to hold the bow up. I thought about detaching the bow from the ribbon itself, but I really like the fact that it’s the same ribbon went all the way around my belly. I was once that big!

I have a spray sealant that I’m thinking of using to protect the tag on Nicki’s hospital bracelet. My plan is to try it out on a number of different paper sources first. The sealant label says it works with paper mâché, so I imagine it will work, but I would hate, hate, hate to be wrong.

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.

bath
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.

bathface
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.

Adjust The Camera Settings Yourself – This tip comes from a travel advice forum: 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 The Other Person What You Want – Take a couple similar photos and show the other person what it is you’re looking for. Sometimes it’s easier to understand what someone is asking for when you can see an example. 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. They photos would differ, of course. Maybe mine would have a tighter crop, or be angled differently. Gradually over time Domingo’s composition began to match mine.

Encourage The Other Person to be Trigger Happy – The key is lots of photos, lots of angles. One difference between a beginner photographer and an expert is the number of photos you take. Encourage the other person to experiment: take a few photos standing, try kneeling, maybe head on, next from the side. Digital memory is cheap and the best way to learn is with practice. There are no bad photos, but maybe lots of ‘practice’ ones!

Of course, when there’s a baby, there’s always an element of luck. Relax, there’s always another day.

I have to up my game or I might lose the job of family photographer!

As Domingo and I were taking down the tree today, I made a comment of not wanting to pack up our wedding invitation ornament. Since the ornament display hook hasn’t been in use, I thought I would leave our wedding ornament out on the mantel all year round. I told Domingo this to which he replied: “Someone at work did that with an ornament made out of their birth announcement card.”

Wait. Why didn’t I think of that?!

So even though it’s after Christmas, I simply had to make another ornament out of our birth announcement. I also had to stop taking down the tree so I could post a picture of the ornament on the tree.

babyornament

I used the same card stock I used for the wedding invitation ornament. It printed gorgeous on the metallic paper, and it matched the wedding invitation so nicely.

I love it, but something is missing. It needs something to make it look finished. The wedding invitation ornament had one of the whine charm favors I made attached to the top, which did the trick nicely.

weddingornament
Our wedding invitation ornament on the tree for comparison.

Thinking back to our wedding, I remembered the bouquet charm I created and I got an idea. I can arrange crystals in the shape of an N for Nicole on a silver disc.

weddingcharm
Bouquet charm from our wedding, photo credit goes to our wedding photographer
I arranged our monogram in blue crystals for our “something blue”. The fabric flower was made out of a piece of my grandmother’s wedding dress (“something old”), and a piece of Spanish lace (“something new”), and the chain was my mother’s (“something borrowed”).

I haven’t decided yet which color to use. Right now I’m leaning towards a soft pink (to match the invitation) and attaching a ruby bicone (her birth stone) to the charm. I also have to find the left over discs, or order more. Since I won’t be able to convince Domingo to leave our tree up for a month or so while I figure out what I want to do and order what I need, our birth announcement ornament will have to go unfinished for now.

Ah well, I have 11 months to finish it.

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We decided to skip Halloween costumes this year. Nicki is too young to understand, and, since we weren’t planning on going out, a custom didn’t make sense for us. We did have her skeleton sleep and play, so when I started feeling the momma guilt of skipping her first holiday, we thought we’d do a Holiday photo shoot and send out cards to family.

Nicki was only a little over three months for this photo. She’s obviously not sitting on her own yet, but can sit while propped up. To create the card I envisioned I needed to get a little creative.

For this photo I started by folding two towels and placing them on the floor for padding. We have hard wood floors, and Nicki will kick when excited. I didn’t want her to hurt herself by accident. Next I got the plush backrest pillow and put it on the towels. I had bought it umpteen years ago when I was off to college, but never really used it. Since I can’t ever throw anything away, I still had it. I placed the backrest on top of the towels so I would have a cushy spot to prop Nicki up.


The setup

I draped a black backdrop over my setup and with a few props and I was good to go. I adjusted my camera settings so my metering light showed a bit dark and upped the contrast in post processing for a spooky effect.

We got a couple good ones, it was hard to pick a favorite. Ultimately I decided to go with the smile, even though a few of these invoke a more halloweenish feeling. Grandmas adore the smiling babe.

Nicki kept scooting forward in what Domingo called the ‘limp skeleton’ pose. Gotta love her facial expression. I predict she’s going to be quite the little ham!


Another good limp skeleton.


Here’s one were she’s holding a pumpkin between her two hands.


A good one of her ‘sitting.’

August 25, 2012

Newborn Photography Recap

Now that Nicki is on her way to two months, I think our ‘newborn’ photography days are over. It was fun, and I certainly learned a lot. I wish I could photographer her in this stage forever! I wish I could cuddle with her in this stage forever!

newborn

Tips:

I know I’ve said this before, but apparently I don’t follow my own advice, so it bears repeating: Take lots of photos! Even if you think you have ‘the shot’ take a couple more from different angles and different distances. I loved the photo of Nicki and Phia (the second). I wanted to have a canvas print of it, but what looks good as a 3:4 aspect ratio, does not necessarily work for a 4:5! It couldn’t be cropped without cutting off some of Nicki. I spent two weeks trying to recreate the shot, but lightening did not strike twice. I did get a similar photo to use, just not one I liked nearly as much. I would have saved myself a lot of grief if I had just taken multiple photos when she was sleeping in the perfect pose.

Practice, practice, practice! I can not tell you how much more I loved the photos of each successive iteration over the ones from the last. The first ones? They’re okay, but I like them no where near as much as the one on the top of the page. I wish I could take everything that I learned and go back to when she was just days old. What I should have done was offered to photography my friends’ newborn babies. That way they would have gotten free extra photos (they can still hire a professional, of course), and I would have had the experience.

Comfort is king! Try and make your baby as comfortable as possible. Turn off the A/C, fill their belly’s with milk, etc. Don’t force them into any pose that your baby seems to be resisting. You wouldn’t want to risk hurting your baby, after all! I find that the more comfortable Nicki is, the easier I have posing her, and the more likely she will remain in that pose long enough for me to take a picture. You can hold her (gently, of course!) in a pose for a few seconds and she’ll keep it. If she’s uncomfortable, she’s much more likely to wake up and move.

For older babies, once you place them down on your setup, give them a few minutes to settle back down – even if they remain asleep. At least in our case, if I started fusing with her diaper, or trying to pose her too early she would wake up again. Even just the sound of the shutter could wake her if she wasn’t in a good deep sleep. Similarly if she wakes up in the middle of a shoot, take a break to see if she’ll go back to sleep.

Props are nice, but they don’t need to be expensive and you don’t need to go overboard. I tried several different backdrops, including ‘professional’ ones. The backdrop I kept coming back to? A 2 yard block of fabric I bought at Joeann’s for $5. Not only was it beautiful and amazing soft, but at $5 I won’t care if the baby stains become permanent!

Remember, you only need a few good shots, and no one has to see the bad ones. There’s a lot of elements at play here, baby’s mood (or her sleepiness), lighting if you’re using natural light, baby’s bladder, etc. When working in manual mode, I’d have all the settings that I want. Then the sun would go behind a cloud, and all of a sudden my exposure is too dark. I’d correct it, and the sun would come back out. The first day I attempted to photography Nicki, I hated every photo I took. It’s easy to get hung up on what isn’t working, but try and focus on what is instead. Each time you pick up the camera, you will have better results. Don’t stop because you think your baby is ‘too old’. While babies grow fast, they don’t change that much day-to-day. You will have another opportunity.

I love baby fingers and toes. (Who doesn’t, really?) These were some of the hardest DIY Newborn Photos for me to take to date, and I don’t really have advice other than to be patient and keep trying until you get the shots you want.

What makes them so hard? Well, their teeny tiny for one, and baby tends to move them around a lot. Keeping focus on a teeny tiny moving target can be a bit of a challenge. And when you want to take a photo of the baby holding your own hand, well, it just adds another bit of complexity. I even tried a sleeping baby, and while that helped, she still moves her hands and feet even when zonked.


Nicki holding my finger

In the above photo she’s holding my left hand, which enters the frame from the right. Yes, my wrist is bent backwards and awkwardly positioned to keep my arm out of the way as I take the photo with my right hand. I’m also blocking the light, and on top of that the background isn’t smooth. C’est la vie.

holdinghand

Those are Domingo’s hands in the next two photos. Much easier!

I was happy with our last iteration of new born photography. One thing about me, though, I can never have enough photos!

For the DIY maternity photos I used two props: a pink ribbon and my stuffed unicorn, Phia. I thought it would be fun to use the same props with Nicole, so I could compare in-the-belly with out-of-the-belly.


With Ribbon

Props are also great because they give you a point of reference as to how big the baby actually is. Nicole has been on the smaller size on height/weight charts. She was under 8 lbs and only 20 inches at two weeks, so I doubt she’d be much more than 9 lbs flat now. Some babies are born larger than that at birth! Yet her full head of hair and tendency to stretch out tends to make her look older than she actually is. I also have a tendency to fill the whole frame with the baby, which gives the perspective that she’s much bigger than she is in reality.

The fact that she can now lift her head, if but just for a second, and follow people with her eyes also makes her look older. But it’s darn cute to take of picture of her doing that!


Hi, Mama!
I need to find some craft project to do with that ribbon. Maybe a picture box with the pregnancy and newborn photos.

One new trick I learned was to use a heating pad under the blankets. Nicki is much more inclined to stay in the newborn “frog” position on the heating pad. The bunched up look also makes her look a little smaller and more ‘newborn’ like. She’s also much more inclined to sleep on the heating pad. And I thought my days of sleeping baby photos were over! I think she looks much more ‘newborn’ in these photos then the ones I took over a week ago. (I ended up retaking some of the same poses from last time for just that reason!)

I set my heating pad to low, and placed it under the waterproof blanket. It is electric after all! Alternatively, I could have left it on to warm up the spot, then turned it off before placing the baby on it.

She was so content on the heating pad that I was able to experiment with a lot of different angles and camera settings. I’ve found that shooting from a low angle, with the camera perfectly parallel to the baby tends to make the baby look a little longer and leaner. Shooting high and at a slight angle will make her look a little more chubby and cute. Getting her to arch her back a touch while she sleeps also helps. I also found a wide aperture really does wonders for making baby’s skin look smooth. For the one with Phia, I set the F-stop to f/2.5.


With ‘Phia’

If Phia looks a little different it’s because, well, she is. Someone had a little accident on our first photography attempt, and someone else made the mistake of putting Phia in the washing machine and dryer. Phia came out of the dryer looking like she had had one of those army buzzcuts. Her main and tail were so matted down they were completely flat. I was able to brush them out using corn startch, but they are still quite bushy rather than straight and wispy like before. She’s still drying out. At least I can now add “restore a stuffed animal that was destroyed in the washing machine” to my list of skills. Of course, I can also add “destroy a stuffed animal in the washing machine” too. In the mean time, this is Phia’s stand in, Phia #2.


Phia and Nicki before the great Pee Incident of 2012. It’s not the best photo, but we only got three in before the event happened.

We’ll try again with the real Phia later.

July 27, 2012

DIY Newborn Photography

There’s truth in what they say, that the first two weeks are a bit of a blur. I hadn’t made up my mind about newborn photography – whether I would do it myself or higher a professional – but the next thing I knew Nicki was two and a half weeks old and we hadn’t even looked at photographers, let alone booked one! Playing to my fears that we had waited to long, the internet said three weeks is ‘old man age’ for newborns. Newborn photos are easiest for babies 8 to 10 day and younger, when they are the most sleepy. I panicked. Had we missed our opportunity?

I was a bit intimidated. I liked the maternity photos I took, but that was over a period of 40 weeks. I had plenty of time to learn what works. Normally I take hundreds of photos to get a few I really like. Newborns are not exactly known for their patience. I was worried I had waited too long and Nicki was no longer in her sleepy newborn phase. I knew I’d have only a brief window to try.

DIY newborn photography turned out to be not as difficult as I thought. Being behind the camera rather than in front of it, like for DIY Maternity Photography makes a world of difference. Still, I see areas I can improve.

I started with the advice I had read on the internet:
(1) Turn off the A/C and up the heat. Warm babies are happy babies, but naked babies need more heat to be warm! We let the temperature rise to 76 degrees in the house.
(2) Feed baby. Babies with full tummies of warm milk tend to be sleepy, and sleepy babies are more manageable. I stripped Nicki down to her diaper to feed her. I then removed her diaper, wrapped her up in a towel (just in case!) and rocked her to sleep.

I used the love seat for my photo setup. The seat offered me a variety of angles to choose from. I could crotch down to baby’s level or stand up if I wanted to take any looking down at her, shoot with her directly in front of me, or angle to the side. I turned the love seat around so it faced the window and the good light. I also removed the back cushions so the backdrop fabric would drap nicely. The seat cushions were fairly firm, and good for resting baby on. I did try and angle the cushions slightly for a better view of baby by placing a rolled up towel under them the back corner of the cushions. I then put a plastic cover over the couch (we had one pee incident during filming!) and a nice white linen over top to act as the backdrop. Once setup, I was ready to feed and prep the baby.

Nicki still cooperated with me, and I was able to get a sleepy ‘newborn’ photo. Belly full of warm milk, some rocking and she was asleep and pliable (though maybe not as flexible as in her younger weeks. I kid, I kid.)

awake

sleeping2

Nicki did cry the first couple of times I put her on the couch. Since we use the Rock N’ Play she wasn’t used to lying flat on her back (or on her tummy!). But after a few minutes, she calmed down and decided she liked the position. It also helped that we picked early morning, when she’s usually her happiest go-lucky self. Another great aspect of the DIY approach, you can shoot multiple times or multiple days. If baby is fussy and not cooperating one day it’s no problem; just try again tomorrow. The photos I shared were over a couple different iterations. I snap as many photos as I can before she gets fussy and look at them afterwards when she’s down for her nap.

One word of caution: have a spotter/baby calmer. I had my mom help who is a bit of a baby whisperer. She made sure Nicki stayed far from the edge of the couch cushion, so I didn’t have to worry about accidents. She also talked to the baby while I snapped away to help keep baby’s interest and direct baby’s attention. It also made for this hilarious outtake.


Outtake 1: My mom’s hand as she pats the fussy baby.

And, of course, sometimes you strike gold by accident.


Outtake 2: I dub this one “You wish you were as cool as I am”
June 25, 2012

Another Chance at Photos

There’s still no sign that Zippy will be making her appearance any time soon, so I took the opportunity to take a photo of Domingo and I together (which I haven’t done since Mother’s day!)

I know, I’m a walking cliché. At least I admit I have a problem… right? Here’s a few more that are less cliché.

I still don’t think I look very pregnant front the front, let alone a couple days shy of my due date! I did finally order a backdrop & backdrop stand, so I’ll be all set for some newborn photography!

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