Posts Tagged ‘Momtographer’

December 19, 2016

Coming Together

Don’t you just love it when things work out?

santababy

There’s nothing like waiting until the last minute to ratcheted that stress level up to eleventy. Today starts our winter vacation, tomorrow we get on a plane to visit family. Before leaving I wanted to get a nice photo of the girls in their Christmas pjs to print and frame. I have been planning this for a few weeks. Today was our first attempt, you know, hours before I needed the photo. I am smart. S-M-R-T.

The chips were stacked against us. The thermostat went a little AWOL last night again, and the low extra temperature combined with Christmas vacation excitement meant for light sleep all around. The girls were a little wired to begin with, and not in the most cooperative moods though happy(ish). We did have a few temper tantrums today, not going to lie. Such is life with over tired little kids.

I took 110 frames in 8 minutes and 22 seconds (fastest shutter finger in the West, thank you very much), and most were pretty bad. Alexis thought it would be fun to pull her hat down completely over her head. Big sister thought it was hilarious and started copying, just as we convinced Alexis to leave her hat atop her head. At various times one or both of the girls would leap up from in front of the tree and run away. We got 109 frames of out takes and one perfect shot. I was shooting in continuous mode, like always, and this is still the only frame of both girls looking directly at the camera and smiling. The fact that it’s also the best cropped photo in the bunch and in focus? Icing on the cake.

How rare is it to get a photo I’m completely happy with? Let’s put it this way, I’m getting quite good at head swapping. The one with the good expression is the one where my camera settings are wrong, or it’s poorly framed. As long as it’s not a motion blur or depth of field issue I can usually fix it up in post processing. That’s usually my goal: fixable in post processing.

The above exposure is one of those rare times where the good expression coincides with the good settings and the good cropping. I brightened the image a scotch to post it online, but the original raw was what I used for both family and face book.

The good thing about taking a lot of photos? Sometimes you get lucky!

November 16, 2016

My Burst Mode Preference

I’m apologetically a fan of shooting in continuous (burst) mode. For me, a typical photographic moment of a human or animal suggest might consist of:

* A single frame of a moment the instant I decide I want to capture it. It’s usually poorly framed, uninteresting shot from a photography perspective as it’s literally more instinct than thought at this moment. The goal of this frame is to have a record of the moment in case it passes before I have a chance to “get it right”. It’s the I-don’t-want-to-forget-this-spontaneous moment photo.
* A couple frames of the same moment where I’m in the process of moving and re-framing to get a more interesting photo. Each frame is usually progressively better, but there’s always a risk of camera shake ruining the shot since I’m usually moving and shooting at the same time.
* A couple frames when I’ve re-framed the photo as I want it to guard against blinks, shifting gazing or any other quick momentary issues that might otherwise ruin a photo.

The usual result is usually around 4-5 frames. I maintain that anyone who insists that multiple frames should not be necessary does not shoot very young kids often.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working on some portrait orientation photos of the kids. My mother-in-law gave me a lovely photo collage frame last Christmas and I it’s beyond time to fill it. I’ve placed a step stool on the floor to keep the girls somewhat contained, but they only stay put for a moment. It’s a game: sit, smile, get up, giggle at Mommy’s reaction, run away, come back and repeat. Fine by me, games make for better expressions.

Here’s frames #1, #2 and #4 from a four frame block of Alexis. Frame #3 is nearly identical to #2, but contains motion blur not noticeable in the thumbnail.

alexisburst

Frame #1 is my least favorite. Her gaze is too high. #2 is the shot I was going for. Frame #4 with that smirk is a keeper from a mom perspective, but not the type of photo I was after for the collage. She’s also leaning forward slightly in #4 because she’s about to spring up from the stool and run off. (That’s probably the origin of the slightly blur to #3). Even in this relatively paused moment there’s still a lot of variation.

The initial shutter lag of my camera is 0.25 seconds, but drops to 0.11 for successive photos in contiguous mode. That’s not including the lag tag for my eyes to communicate what they’re seeing to my brain, and my brain to send the single for my finger to push the button. That may sound pedantic, but the human response time to visual stimuli is about a .25 second. All total, there’s a half second delay from identifying the “perfect moment” and having the shutter react. If I shot a single frame, I’d have just as high a probability of capturing frame #3 as #2.

Since I’m doing formal photos I don’t need to worry about capturing the spontaneous moment, but I still have that first, not quite framed right photo. Had it been the one with the best expression, I would have re-cropped it and kept it for my wall.

I think most of the critics of burst mode are favoring process over results. For a lot of photographers, the idea of shooting in continuous or boost mode is synonymous with “spray and pray”. Spray and pray refers to shooting first and frequently (spraying) without thought in the hopes of getting lucky (praying). Critics of spray and pray point out that it can be a crutch and does have a penalty associated with it. Each extra shutter action does create ware and tare on your camera (although the vast majority of us will never shoot enough for the extra ware and tare to matter.) Each file does take up additional space on your hard drive (if you’re like me and never delete anything ever that’s a significant issue). Finally, it costs you more time to go through each frame to find the best one. I’m guilty of this one too.

For us momtographers it’s not always about learning, or honing your skills. Sometimes you just want to have that beautiful photo for the wall, process be damned.

September 17, 2016

Camera Ready

alexis_posing

Who is this child, and what did they do with my Alexis?!

Alexis has long been my child who merely tolerates the camera. She’ll cooperate for me, provided I don’t over do it. But others? Nope. Her last round of school photos were a complete bust. She started crying the minute the she was brought into the room, so the photographer had her sent back to class without attempting a single frame. I admit I was more than a little bummed about that. This is the same studio that did the vintage style photo for the playroom, and I was looking forward to an updated version.

Rather than just be bummed, I decided to reach out to the JCPenney’s photographer we had success with. I called up and asked if they could do a similar vintage shoot. I also needed an updated family photo for our living room. Why not kill two birds with one stone?

That was last Friday.

The beginning of the session wasn’t promising. Alexis clung to me and cried when I tried to have her just stand by my side. But by the end of the session a transformation had taken place. Alexis was eating up all the praise she was getting for holding a pose and smiling, and the photographer kept doting on her for being so cooperative. It created a bit of a feedback loop and my camera shy little girl was behaving much more like her camera loving big sister than I ever remember her being. It was especially amazing because the photographer was giving her complicated directions I wouldn’t expect a two year old to be able to understand, but she did and happily obliged! She not only posed as requested, but held the pose for the photographer.

Today I got out my camera and asked Alexis to sit in the chair so I could take a picture. She posed herself (though this is one of the poses the JCPenney photographer had asked for), and held it long enough for several snaps. I shot Nicole next. Once Nicole was done, Alexis climbed back up into the chair with her teddy bear, ready for found two.

Before today it’s been four weeks since I last picked up my camera. I had been feeling rather uninspired. Now that I have two eager models I will have to make up for lost time!

June 11, 2016

Alexis’ Baby Book

I’m very delighted with how Alexis’ baby book turned out. The additional two and a half years of camera experience made an incrible difference, and the concept was easier to execute this time. Like last time we decided to go with a 24 page book and 12 images, one for each month. Rather than spell her age in the baby blocks, which proved challenging, I wrote her age on the blank left page.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

Second Time Leasons Learned

  1. Solid color onesies are the way to go if you’re going to shoot against a white background. I was worried about colored onesies clashing against the blocks, but the white onesies fadded into the background a bit too much. I liked doing a different colored onesie much better. A tan colored bear would have probably been better too.
  2. The bear is easier than the blocks, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. I’m sure any style of photos gets difficult beyond a certain age. I figured going into this project that I’d be able to at least get cute photos of Alexis interacting with her bear even if she wasn’t doing quite what I was hoping for. It turns out if your under one knocking the bear off set is hilarious, especially right after mommy just put it back.

Now all that’s left to do is wait for a coupon from MyPublisher. I have no idea what we’ll do if we decide to have a third child. I feel compelled to keep changing it up.

—-

Material Costs:
Bear – $20.

Nicole, stopping to smell the flowers
The 150,821th (literally, I checked) photo captured with my second DSLR. I can’t help but think all this practice has really been paying off!

My new go-to trick with child photography is to turn photo time into game time, and no game is too silly.

We’re well into the period I dub ‘Cheese Face.’ When Nicole sees a camera, she clenches her jaw, pulls back her lips, squints her eyes and gives her best “Cheese.” The end result is kind of like Sheldon Cooper’s Happy-for-Koothrappali/Kill-The-Batman face, just without the big eyes. Cheese face phase a common phase most kids go through when they realize what the camera is for. She’s smiling how she thinks the photographer want her to smile. To get ride of cheese face I need to get her out of her own head and not thinking about smiling.

The best way to get ride of the cheese face, to elicit genuine smiles and giggles, and to turn photo time into game time. I’ll ask Nicole not to smile. I’ll tell her to make a silly/angry/sad face, but no matter what Do. Not. Smile. Small children are just not capable of holding in a smile. She can’t help but burst out into giggles fit while trying to make her not-smile face. That’s the moment I get snap happy!

Another trick is to be decidedly silly. Will sing the ABCs, and instead of L M N and O, I’ll sing El-eme-eme-o (Elmo), or E-I-E-I-Owie. (That latter one was an idea stollen from Alexis who used to always sing Old McDonald that way.)

I’ve been employing a similar trick for poses. Whenever I try and pose her the photo always looks forced. She’s trying to sit still and thinking about how she’s supposed to be posed. She’s not having fun, and it shows. Rather than try and pose her directly, I find a game that will elicit the pose I’m after. Catch Me!, Run Me Over With Your Bike!, I’ll bet you can’t touch that flower with your nose! The trick is finding the right moments in the game to get the perfect expression, and to be in the right spot when it happens. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s magic. The funner the game, the more chances I’ll have to capture gold.

April 17, 2016

Not that Bad

I’ve been told I share a lot on social media. Every time someone makes a comment about how photographed my kids are a little voice inside my head shouts “I’m not that bad!” but truth be told, I’m hard pressed to think of people in my social circle who post more. So when I was rocking a sick child this afternoon and came across a marketwatch article which cited the actual average amount of sharing I was immediately curious how I compared.

The average parent will post almost 1,000 [specifically 973] photos of their child online before he/she turns five

The study is not exactly scientific, so I had to create my own methodology. The original study stated on average children were “feature” in 973 photos posted by their parents on social media before the age of five. Not knowing how they defined “featured” I decided to count every photo each child was in, including just fingers and toes. I also decided to count frames, individual shutter actions, not images. That means counting each photo in a collage individually. Near duplicates were included since they’re technically different photos. Exact duplicates, such as reposting the same image, or different post processings of the same photo, were not. I’m counting photos, not shares, after all. Almost no one posts photos of the girls besides myself, so for simplicity, I’m not counting those.

Unique Photos Shared on Each Platform (Nicole /Alexis):
Facebook: (337 / 77)
Instagram: (128 / 29)
Blog: (360 / 77) – And, man, this post did not help my count!

(Normally I double check my numbers, but this time I opted not to. I like math, but counting is rather boring.)

Removing the duplicates cross platform and I’ve only shared 364 of Nicole, and 141 of Alexis. We would expect the average person (according to the above study) to have posted 729.75 by the time the child was 45 months old (like Nicole) and 259.5 by the time the child was 16 months old (like Alexis). My posting rate is roughly half of the average. See – I’m not that bad!

Of course, you can’t really draw too much of a conclusion from the study, one way or the other. The methodology is unclear, it relies on self reporting which is notoriously unreliable, and it has a sampling issue. Besides, if you’re measuring how exposed our children are, number of photographs is a bit of a flawed metric. Is 1000 photographs taken at a single event really more exposed than 500 photographs taken on 500 different days? If I’m being honest, I think that’s why my number is lower than someone who knows me might expect.

In my effort to only showcase my best photographic work, I limit myself to no more than three photos per post, and only a few posts with photos a month. On facebook I have just two to four photo albums a year, including a yearly highlights album where I again limit myself to an average of two or three photos per month. I may not share a lot of photos in any one instance, but there’s a nearly constant stream of photos in my feed. Because I post fewer photos per iteration, but more iterations, it probably appears like I’m sharing more than I actually am.

On a side note, I still maintain some of this fear over social media sharing is blown way out of proportion. There are legitimate cases of detrimental over sharing, obviously. Re-punishing a child to capture a photo of ensuing tantrum is cruel (and hopefully just a one time lapse in judgement from that parent in the article). I also think the concern over the number of over-sharers may also be overly done. If one over-sharer has hundreds of friends, then hundreds of people know at least one over-sharer. The fact that those hundreds of people know an over-sharer doesn’t necessarily imply there are hundreds of over-sharers.

March 19, 2016

Three Weeks

It’s hard to believe it’s been three weeks since I last picked up my camera. Four if you only count photos I took of the girls.

hummingbird
Hummingbird tests the limits of my camera.
50% cropped.

Everyone always says there are fewer photos the second time around. I was determined that would not be the case for us. Taking relatively few photos of Nicole during her first couple of months was something I deeply regret. I didn’t want to have the same regret twice, not if I could help it. I made a concerted effort to take more photos of both the girls.

Once Alexis approached the one year mark, the pressure to capture the first year started to dissipate. I had been taking so many photos that I began to feel a little burned out from photography. It was the holidays, and I was determined to keep up the pace through Christmas and a little beyond. (I always have a few holiday photos that were taken post holiday.)

I took a few park photos in February, and then just kind of stopped.

Whenever I realize it’s been a few weeks since I’ve last taken photos I start to get a little anxious. Most of our family lives so far away, photos of the girls is how they watch them grow up. The only cure for that anxious feeling is to pick up the camera again, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes over the weekend.

Photography is a skill, and when not practiced I start to lose it.

November 19, 2015

Light Photo Month(s)

It started in the beginning of October. The first two weeks I decided to focus on formal photos which naturally meant fewer my more typical photojournalism style that I use for Alexis’ first year scrapbook. Then my hard drive crashed, and in the ensuing chaos I wasn’t much in the mood, nor had the time to pick up my camera. At the start of November, Alexis and I were trading colds. Sick babies generally don’t enjoy photo time. Nor do sick mommies. The camera stayed safely tucked away. The past two months I’ve taken half the number of photos I normally do, and those I have taken I’m not particularly excited about.

Tonight is the first of family arrivals for Thanksgiving and Alexis’ birthday. I doubt there will be much opportunity for Alexis’ monthly photos.

I’m feeling surprisingly zen about it. Most of the time. I can’t help what I can’t help, right? But sometimes I think about all the photos that are not to be. It doesn’t help that I’ve been feeling rather frustrated with my abilities lately. The image on the screen just never seems to match the one in my mind. Last time I felt a little down about not having “enough” “good” photos I made a list of my five favorite never before seen photos. I think it’s time I do it again for Alexis.

1) Binky Love

withthebinky

This one was posted to facebook, but deserves an extra shout out by virtue of how difficult the shot was. This photo was taken in the evening, in a dark room to not disturb the sleeping baby, and the only edit has been a resizing. Shutter speed: 1/20s. Aperture: f/1.8. A steady hand and perfect focal spot keeps the eyelashes sharp and the rest of the shot dreamy smooth.

2) Those Eyes

nonsmile

I normally only show photos of the girls smiling – I’m a sucker for a good smile – but those eyes? Love! A close up, both eyes perfectly in focus with an aperture of f/2? Double Love! Another resized-as-the-only-edit photo.

3) Gym Love

activitymat

Was she ever this small? Time goes by way, way, way to fast. I love the lighting on this one. Both cropped and resized.

4) With Pearls

alexispearls

The cost of this photo: $18.50. Two $8 strains of pearl necklaces, and one $2.50 hair bow. This one is much closer, both in style and editing, to the original inspiration than my last attempt. Of course I love those photos too.

5) Lashes

lashes

This kid had some serious lashes

Back before Alexis was born I had a fear that if I wasn’t careful the girls might think I had a favorite. I wasn’t afraid of loving them differently, just the appearance of it, and the possible ramifications on the girls’ confidence levels. That fear wasn’t helped by over hearing a conversation where two women were speculating on third’s possible favorites. Their go-to indicator to use: the number and type of photos of each child shared on social media. Apparently it’s not enough to judge moms based on how much their posting about their children in general, now we’re critiquing the rates she publishes about each child in comparison to the other. As much as I try not to get sucked into this kind of mommy wars pettiness it was a moment that’s kind of stuck with me. I have an Instagram account, a Facebook account and a blog. What if my posting became unbalanced on one of those platforms? Would the girls think I had a favorite the way these women thought other parents had favorites?

When Alexis was first born I took great pains to keep the number of photos between the two girls that I posted roughly even. You know, as could be drawn from a statistical random sample with zero bias. Totally normal, rational stuff.

After making the mistake of taking too few DSLR photos and too many iPhone photos of Nicole in her first year, I overcompensated. My DSLR was never far from reach, and it was the first device that I reached for. It wasn’t long before I had only handful of iphone photos of Alexis. Chasing after Nicole, on the other hand, necessitated using the iphone more than the big clunky DSLR. Given that I prefer to post my DSLR photos on facebook, and my iphone photos on Instagram, I soon found myself in a constant state of unbalance on both accounts. I found myself stalking Alexis with my iphone, hoping to take a cute photo so I could share the one of Nicole from a few days ago and vice versa.

That’s nuts. So nuts that even I see it. Extra especially nuts when you consider that the two kids have different personalities and different amounts of love for the camera. If I was happy with DSLR photos of Alexis capturing her newness, and iPhone photos of Nicole of her boundless energy, why wasn’t that enough?

As Alexis grew the personality differences between Nicole and her became even more apparent.

Nicole loves having her photo taken just as much now just as much as she loved it then at that age. She looks forward to photo day at school. Her school has a couple of different photographers come throughout the year. Nicole’s favorite is the one who does the vintage style photos, complete with movie star chair, sunglasses and boa. She always asks to see the photo of herself on my phone, and has Favorited her favorites. (I have no idea where this self confidence and love for the center of attention came from, but I love it!) Alexis? Not so much. On their last school photo day the photographer opted not to do sibling photos of the girls together because Alexis was protesting too much. Nicole was pretty upset when he made that call, and even cried a little herself. She wasn’t content with just photos of herself, she wanted some with baby sister too!

Alexis tolerates the camera better when I’m the person on the other side of it. She doesn’t mind a quick game of peak a boo with the camera. I’ve learned how to get a smile out of her by turning it into a game. Yet even with me she’s less inclined to enjoy getting dressed up or playing with props. I get short bursts of smiles and then she’s ready to move on to the next activity.

So I’m making a promise to myself, not to try and pretend both girls are exactly the same and not to worry that they aren’t. I love them for who they are, and shouldn’t try and jam them into the same mold. Let Nicole dominate my Instagram and Alexis my facebook. I will stop worrying about how that looks to others.

October 2, 2015

Focusing on the Formalities

It was bound to happen eventually. I’ve been picking up my camera so often that I felt my interest began to wane a little. I was beginning to feel like I was taking the same photos over, and over, and over again. I love the photo journalistic style, but after awhile of filming the same sets of subjects, in the same settings, it starts to feel very repetitive. I needed a new challenge.

alexisspotlight
Alexis in the spotlight, only this time achieved with an open window and not a desk lamp.

As luck would have it, I’m also shy of formal photos of Alexis. Turns out when you no longer have the two to one parent photographer to child subject ratio, the two man strategy of baby photography doesn’t work so well. It’s much easier to take photos of Alexis doing normal baby things (crawling, playing, cruising) than to worry about any kind of posing.

Challenge accepted.

I ended up using nap time to gather backdrops & props. I like to set Alexis down on the crib mattress instead of the rug directly, as the mattress helps keep the backdrop smoother than the rug does. There is a potential rolling hazard, so I mostly like to keep Alexis in a sitting position for formal photos. If she drops to her belly, I drop the camera. Once on my foot. Apparently that’s hilarious if you haven’t reached your first birthday yet.

The trade-off in pursuing formal photos is there’s less time for the photo journalistic slice of life photos I tend to take. That’s less photos to choose from for her baby book, and milestone posts. I think I am okay with that as long as ‘less’ doesn’t translate to ‘none’, and I capture the emerging skills like crawling and walking. I know I’m very happy with the above photo.

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