Posts Tagged ‘Momtographer’

February 2, 2015

Capturing Sisterly Love

I’ve gotten so much better with my camera, and photographing Nicole, that I didn’t really give much thought to how much more difficult it would be to photograph the girls together. I thought I’d be able to hammer out a few good photos in time for our Christmas card. In retrospect, the difficulty should have been obvious.

When I’m photographic Nicole I can easily take ten frames to get that one good frame. That’s why I always shot on burst mode – better odds that I’ll hit that perfect hundredth of second moment. Some frames her eyes may be closed, the framing is off, the exposure is wrong, etc. And she’s mostly a cooperator! If we treat the photographing the two girls as independent events (a not unreasonable assumption when they’re both in a good mood, terribly inaccurate if one of them is upset for whatever reason), then it’d be 1 in 100 frames to get a good shot of both of them simultaneously. Mathematically the probability of getting a good shot of one kid (1/10) times the probability of getting a good shot of the other (1/10).

We can extrapolate out for n kids getting the function: probability_of_good_shots = photographer_hit_ratenumber_of_kids. Thus the number of frames needed when photographic n kids to get one good frame as a function of n can be plotted as follows:

number of frames needed
f(n) = 10n

In other words, it gets exponentially harder with each additional kid.

Hmm. Alexis looks mighty concerned.

My hit rate is less than 1%, so I might be underestimating the difficulty. Or overestimating my skill.

going in for a kiss
My best one so far. I just wish I had panned a little more to the right and the lighting was a little better on Alexis’ face.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Swaddle the Baby. It helps keep the baby calm and, as an added bonus, helps the baby appear more newborn like. That’s very handy when it may take you multiple tries to get those 10^n frames! Alas, Alexis is now a champion swaddle buster.
  • Have an Assistant. Not only are you going to want a safety spotter (depending on the age and activity level of your toddler, a total must!) but getting the girls ready in unison helped maximize our in-front-of-the-camera-time. Daddy swaddles while mommy assembles the camera.
  • Bribes. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out! I’ve found that my energetic, rambunctious toddler exhibits a little more self control when a piece of candy or new toy is on the line. When photographic near a baby, that’s a trade off I’m willing to make.
  • Patience, Patience, Patience. I feel like a amateur photographer again, which can be frustrating. Nicole is pretty perceptive. If I let my frustrations get the best of me she’ll pick up on it and will instantly be done with photo time. It’s better to keep it fun, and hope I get lucky.
  • and Learn to Love the Outtakes. Hi, my name is Sarah, and I’m a recovering perfectionist…
January 5, 2015

Breathing Room

When I was counting all the reasons why the timing of Alexis’ birth was just about perfect, I forgot one little detail: I’m obsessed with photography. I not only wanted to get a ton of newborn photos, and family photos (which almost didn’t happen at all), and Alexis’ monthly photos, but also formal Christmas photos of both the girls, all in about a four week time stretch while learning out how to function as a family of four and celebrating the holidays. I took nearly 6,400 photos all totaled, including of both girls and inanimate objects like ornaments on the trees. Needless to say, I was putting a ton of undue pressure on myself. Now that it’s January I no longer feel the pressure to take specific kinds of photos. (Although I’d still love a non holiday themed family photo if I can arrange it. And some more of just the girls.)

I decided early on that the best way to save my sanity was to not try and duplicate my favorite photos between the girls. I have less time to play momtographer as a mother of two. Often my time with the camera is split between the girls on the weekends. Nicole has always enjoyed her time in front of the camera, and I didn’t want her to feel replaced by the baby so I always offer to take photos of her as well. So far the responses are about a 3/1 split between yes/no. Since I’m a mom of 2, there’s less time to be had behind the camera anyway. It would be impossible to duplicate Nicki’s baby book with Alexis. There were times when the book felt like an impossible project as just a mother of one! Getting those photos in the later months took a team effort between Domingo and I. Blocks are very enticing for a mobile baby.

I also have more skill this time around. I’ve been practicing with my camera, and off again on again in auto mode for the past two years. The first photos I took of Alexis are far superior to the first ones I took of Nicole. When I look at some of the early photos of Nicole I can’t help but think of all the ways I would have taken them differently. If I were to take the same style of photo with Alexis as Nicole, it would invite the comparison between photo quality. I already beat myself up enough when I make photography mistakes, no need to keep reminding myself of the previous ones.

So I strive for similar, but unique.

This one is pretty easy to duplicate when home alone on maternity leave.

Speaking of help, I’m sure I would not have been able to take so many photos (or kept my sanity in tact) without it this past month. Between my parents visit, and Domingo taking most of the month of December off, I had a tremendous amount of help. I was able to get some sleep, and spend quality time with both girls, and even enjoy the holiday! Yet in just a few short weeks our home still started looking like a total disaster. I have no idea how other parents manage it.

My goal for the coming month: get the house back in order

When I first picked up my camera to take newborn photographs of Nicole, I was convinced I had missed my chance. It was already well passed the golden 10 day mark, and I had never done it before. I was worried I wouldn’t get her to fall asleep, or ball up so nicely in that quintessential newborn pose. As luck would have it, I’d continue to be able to get “newborn” photos all the way up to 6 weeks.

This time around I was determined to start early, so that I could film Alexis in that golden period that photographers rave about. And boy did I start early – at just 3 days old!

Babies change so incredibly fast! I mean, “duh!”, but I didn’t see it before because I wasn’t taking as many photos. This time I have some photos of Alexis in nearly the same pose from different days and I see it!

Alexis at 1 week
One Week

Alexis at 2 weeks
Two Weeks

Look at that head growth! And to think, she started out in the 96th percentile for head size, just like her big sister did.

As fast as they grow, you can still make an older baby look tiny

I couldn’t figure it out with Nicki. I had photos of her as a sleeping “newborn” at 6 weeks were she looked smaller than at 2 weeks.

Perception of size is influenced by relative head size to body size. Newborn heads are about 1/3rd their body. How the head is positioned next to the body can make it seem larger or smaller. In this pose Nicki’s body is turned away from the camera, making her body look smaller relative to her head. When her body is parallel to the camera, it looks the longest, making her appear like an older baby.

Props are also incredibly helpful for size comparisons, especially when shooting against a simplified background.

Just because they’re young, sleepy and flexible doesn’t mean they’ll pose the way you want them to! As much as Alexis likes to have her arms swaddled, she likes to stretch those legs. I have tried time and time again to get her to curl up for a photo. No dice if she’s awake, and even asleep she’ll stretch out those legs and stick her butt up in the air.

While I have yet to get her in my favorite balled up pose, she has rewarded my patience with some incredible expressions. I’m getting so many smiles that I’m beginning to wonder if it’s not just the smile reflex or gas, but actual smiles. Crazy talk, I know.

6 days old going on 3 months?

As much as I’d love to have a balled up baby pose, I do enjoy having different photos of the girls to put on my wall. They are, after all, different people.

Lesson learned: shoot early, shoot often, but don’t sweat it if you miss some days or even a week or two. They are darn cute at any age!

July 20, 2014

Two Year Old Portraits

Hair Wispies
One of Nicki’s daycare teachers occasionally asks me when I will cut Nicole’s hair. Never. I love those hair wispies!

Last year I didn’t explicitly plan on doing One Year Old Portraits with Nicki. We were already doing the girl with pearls photos, even if I didn’t share them until much later. Between the amazing photographer our daycare hired to do all the kids (they specialized in a vintage theme, and brought all sorts of fun props), and doing the department store (specifically for graduation, but we also got a few of just Nicole) I had a tone of ‘professional’ photos as well.

This new daycare’s hired photographer is more typical of school photographers, and not nearly as awesome. We probably will do department store photos, but not until I’m further along so we can get some maternity shots as well. I figured I would try for some DIY Two Year Old Portraits.

Side note: I have relaxed some about taking A Bazillion Awesome, Amazaballs Photos (tm). I’m tend to prefer one or two large prints type, rather than gallery walls, so I really only need to luck into a handful of really awesome photos. It takes the pressure off considerably!

I’ve always loved that dreamy, innocent, eyes cast down pose. This was amazing easily to achieve. I just gave Nicki a book to read through.

Those lashes! That button nose!

A good smile was harder to achieve, but that was my fault. We turned on some happy toddler dance music, and Nicki was having a grand time. The problem was we were doing the photos early morning (before our plans to go out) and the sun was not cooperating. My settings were not quite right to accommodate both the less light, and the active dancing toddler. Many of the happy photos ended up being at least a little blurry.

Two Year old Smiles
Perfect little pose. Photo sharpened to an inch of it’s life. Too bad mommy’s camera settings were anything but.

I used the same blue background for the superman photos. I liked the cream outfit Nicki wore, but it doesn’t really work with the blue. I think next time (and there will be a next time since Nicki enjoyed herself and I’d like to get my camera settings right!) I’ll try the peacock colored bed sheet.

February 4, 2014

My Lifeblood Apparent

I first started using the ‘momtographer’ label as a way to preemptively stave off criticism. A mom is generally referred to as a ‘momtographer’ when she is so in to photographing her kids that she fancies herself the family’s professional photographer. The stereotypical momtographer doesn’t have the skill she thinks she has. Like her, I knew I was going to come across as obsessive with the camera, with a possibly over inflated sense of ability. Using the label ‘momtographer’ was a way of acknowledging that fact. If I call myself a momtographer, than maybe no one else will feel the need to, and maybe they wouldn’t feel the need to point out my photography flaws either.

It seems the label fits better than I intended. My photos are my lifeblood. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to be detached from them.

When I was in gradschool there was no distinction between ‘work’ computer and ‘personal’ one. It was all one device. All my photos were just a finger stroke away. I’ve become accustomed to having them close. Whenever I had the itch to look back over old photos struck, I could scratch it. And scratch it I did.

To give a concrete example, a few days ago I had a bump in my site traffic coming from facebook. While I can’t see the original facebook post that cause the traffic bump, I can see that it was linking to my rings on toes photos. My first reaction was to go to the post myself. Where those photos worthy of a facebook link? I posted only four photos, but took many more. My next impulse was to open the directory where they are stored to see what other gems I may have captured that may have been better.

I found this:

I normally err on too shallow a depth of field, but I think the extra shallow depth of field works really well here. It helps that her toes are in focus. If I have one quibble it would be nice if all 10 of her toes were visible.

I knew I often flip threw old photos, but I it wasn’t apparent how frequently until I started working again. Multiple times a day some past memory will pop into my head, and I have the urge to go back over past photos. Waiting until I’m home to see if I captured certain moments was driving me batty. Having facebook and instagram on my phone is a poor substitute. They represent just a small fraction of my photos, and not necessary the best.

A few weeks ago I joined a photography forum at work. An expect mom was seeking advice for newborn photography. Many of the photographers in the forum posted some of their work to illustrate their recommendations from setups to camera settings. It made me yearn for my photos. Did I manage to capture anything remotely in the same league as these guys? Could I apply any of their post processing advice? How does my work compare?!

Nicki’s Foot
A similar photo to one of the ones posted in the photography forum.

I told Domingo about my photo separation anxiety, for lack of a better phrase. He joked I should quit my job to become a photographer. That might work except it’s not the camera part I am having troubles being apart from.

P.S. Can you tell I love baby toes?


Being a Graduand

I have met the requirements for my degree. My cover sheet has been signed (the last signature was acquired Friday and, according to the shipping tracking information, arrived on campus Monday morning), my dissertation has been submitted online. I am a Graduand. There is nothing left for me to do but wait for my paperwork to be processed and the degree to be officially conferred.

That still feels so surreal to think about. It wasn’t that long ago that I wasn’t sure if I would graduate. I did order a copy of my thesis in book form. Maybe it will feel more real seeing my name ‘in print’.

Our Amazing Daughter

Nicki has been such a joy, I don’t even know where to begin. She’s adapted amazing well, (and quickly!) to her new life – the new home, the new daycare, the new schedule. She’s an incredibly happy little girl and tolerates most anything life throws at her, which in the past month has included six new teeth (4 molars!) a stomach bug which she handled better than Mommy & Daddy, and a cold. Her sunny personality has made this whole transition so much smoother.

I’m also thankful that she appears to really enjoy having her photo taken which lines up nicely to my hobby of taking her photo! Sometimes I think she even understands what the camera is for. Lately she’s smiling for the camera and not just at me behind it. She can even be quite the little ham at times, and loves seeing the photos afterwards. This afternoon she kept asking to see the view screen when I was flipping through the photos. She recognizes herself.

The Best Partner Anyone Could Ask For

Domingo has so many praises to be sung: awesome father, amazing husband. He was willing to move here to be closer to my work, never complains about the late shift with Nicki, and can operate under less sleep than I thought humanly possible. I know it’s trite and cliche to say, but I love him more and more each and every day.

In keeping with the photography theme, I will add how thankful I am that he puts up with my obsessive momtographer tendencies. The above photo was taken at the park Thanksgiving morning. A few weeks back I was perusing facebook and envious of all my friend’s fall photos. Here in California highs were still in the near 70s. We have two seasons: summer (hot and sunny), and winter (rainy and cool). We were still in ‘summer’. Since we don’t really have fall here the way the rest of the country does, it doesn’t really make sense for me to lament not having an opportunity for fall themed photos. After all, those aren’t our memories. Still, they reminded me of growing up back East and I wanted some!

I found a park with some leaves on the ground (a thin layer atop mostly wood chips). The park was fairly busy on the weekends with little league, but we figured it would be fairly empty Thanksgiving morning. We dressed Nicki in her light sweatshirt so the photos would feel more fallish, went early in the morning before it warmed up too much for her to wear it. While every sane person was getting their turkey prepped, we were snapping our ‘faux fall’ photos. Our little ham loved it.

The Starting of New Traditions

We started a new tradition this year. After Nicki went to bed Thanksgiving night, and with family still visiting, we decided to put the Christmas tree up. I think it ads a little bit of extra holiday magic to have the tree appear overnight – kind of like the tradition of Santa bringing the tree, but much earlier in the season.

Nicki woke up first in the morning, per usual, and was completely mesmerized by the tree. When Grandma woke up an hour later, Nicki ran to her, exclaimed ‘Tree!’ and lead Grandma back to it. It was adorable.

I can’t wait for her to experience the magic of Christmas, and to make that happen for her. I loved the holidays growing up (what kid doesn’t?) and I’m so excited to be creating these new traditions with my family.

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.

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).


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.


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!

I keep assuming the reason I’m taking more photos these days is because I’m forcing myself to pick up the camera more often. As I think about it, though, there are more opportunities to pick up the camera: crawling, walking, even just playing with toys. She’s doing more so there’s more memories to capture and save for posterity.

This weekend I was looking for something different to capture on digital film. I poked around on the internet, but was coming up empty for ideas until I stumbled upon a photo of a sweet baby boy looking out the window. The boy sat on the floor, his back to the camera, flanked by a stuffed animals. (ETA: I finally found the photo that served as my inspiration!) It was such a sweet photo. I thought of our living room window and how I had used it for my DIY maternity photos almost a year ago to the day.

As luck would have it, there was a cloudy drizzle early this morning, is unusual for this time of year, giving the curtains a soft glow. I couldn’t resist.

Whenever I look at this photo I instantly image a few decades into the future, but also think back to a year ago when I stood in the same spot. My heart, it melts.

I shouldn’t lament the end of of posed baby photos. It’s true, I can’t pose her anymore. She’s going to do her own thing. Sometimes that will work for the photo I have in mind, sometimes it won’t. Nicki didn’t want to just sit still in front of the window, peacefully amoungst the stuffed animals like the boy I saw in the photograph. She wanted to play. Even her favorite a stuffed animal sitting by her side would not distract her from grabbing the curtain and twirling it around herself.

The best photos aren’t forced, anyway.

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 đŸ™‚ )



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.

March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

Happy Easter!

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.



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