Photography for parents: Five tips to photographing your children inside your home

The other day I offered tips on where you can take your children outside of your home to capture memorable photographs of them. Today I want to assure you that you can also photograph your children inside your own home, no matter how dark or cluttered you think it is.

DSC_9625The key word in this post will be “light”, because no matter what your house offers in the way of light you will need light to make your photographs dynamic and interesting. Luckily you can almost always find a way to add more light to a situation and document the moment naturally unfolding before you.

Here are five ideas how to capture better photographs of your children inside your own home:

1) Move them to the light. If you can move them without ruining the moment that is even better. One idea is to encourage your child, or children, to move to an area of the house where there is more light before they begin their activity. This can be in a more lit room, near a window, by an open door or next to a lamp. Of course there is no need to share with them why you are asking them to move their activities elsewhere because, like most children, then they won’t do it.

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2) Get more light on the situation.

You can add more light to your scene in a variety of ways. A few ways include adding a speed light to your camera and bouncing the flash off a light colored surface (preferably white so you don’t pick up the hue of the wall or ceiling), increasing your ISO, widening your aperture, or simply opening some curtains or pointing a light in the direction of your scene or subject. Turning the lights on in a room won’t always provide flattering light, but this is an option. In some cases turning the light on in a room will actually cause your photos to look even worse because you will pick up what is called ambient light (the light in the room) and it could give your subject odd colored skin, either too orange or too blue depending on what kind of light is used to light the room.

DSC_1444-EditWhen it comes to flash, I rarely use the flash that came built into my camera as it often creates unflattering, blown out images of subjects with red, glowing eyes. Instead I use a speed light and bounce the flash off of a wall or ceiling to better light the scene. To learn more about using bounce flash you can read here or watch here.

Of course, if your skills are even more advanced you can use strobe lights or another form or off camera flash or lighting, but that is another post for another day.

3) Watch your backgrounds.

Don’t stop the action but if you can stealthy move the distracting element from behind your subjects then do it, even if you have to ninja roll to push the lamp out of the way. Of course, if you are like me and were born without the athletic gene it might be more distracting if you attempt to move the item and lock your back up in the middle of the ninja roll and start screaming in pain. In the instance where you can’t move the item try to move yourself so the object is out of the view of your camera. If you’re knowledgeable in Photoshop then you could also clone the object out of the background.

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5) Get in close or move further back and try different angles.

Don’t be afraid to move in closer to your subjects, but moving further back (if there is room where you are) can capture environmental portraits or show the viewer what is really happening around the subject. Trying different distances and angles can help add unique and eye catching images for the viewer but also help you to really remember the moment and the details around it.

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Bonus tip: let go of your expectations of perfection

This bonus tip is the most important of all the tips and is one you should keep in mind no matter where you are photographing your children. It is also the most difficult tip for me to put into practice, even though I know how important it is.

Children are never going to do exactly what we envision when it comes to photographs of them so we need to accept that our photographs won’t always come out the way we envisioned it in our mind. Sometimes the photo may be even better than what we imagined.

Letting go of my expectations is hard for me because as a photographer I see what I want to capture in my mind and if it doesn’t unfold the way I imagined then I may begin feel discouraged and disenchanted with the moment.

Unfortunately, if we focus too much on our concept of a perfect photo it can lead us to miss precious, camera worthy moments.

Approaching photographs with your children while having the mindset that you are there to document moments, no matter how they unfold, can help make photographing your children more relaxing, enjoyable and memorable for you and them.

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Five places to capture memorable photos of your children

DSC_3155You’re thinking to yourself right now – I’m sure you are – that your house is too dark for photos of your children and that your flash is unflattering and makes your children look albino (which isn’t bad if you are an actual albino, of course.)

So, where can you take photographs of your children that you will cherish for years to come if you don’t believe you can take them at home? (And actually you can take them at home and I’ll tell you how in my next post.)

There is nothing better than being able to distract your child, and maybe even you, with something fun so you can photograph them while they are in action and you are all relaxed. Here are five ideas where to take your children for some photographs of them that you will want to frame and put on your wall or print out to place in your scrapbooks.

1) A local playground. Here is the key about taking photographs of your children at the local playground: don’t try to pose them. In fact, not trying to pose them anywhere is probably the biggest key to child photography. Strict posing of young children often results in disaster and that disaster usually includes tears. Sometimes tears are acceptable for photographs, if you want to capture the emotion of the moment, but minimizing them is always desirable.

If you want photographs of your children as they really are, let them play and photograph them as they play, whether that’s getting messy in the mud or sliding down the slide. Are you looking for a photograph of them looking right at the camera? Well, then get that camera ready because without a doubt they’re going to need mommy or daddy at some point and they are going to turn and look for you and, consequently right at you. And if they don’t? Calling their name once or twice will, sometimes, result in them turning their face toward you. The moment they turn is when you snap the photo you want because as all parents know, asking for them to stop and pose for you may result in cheesy smiles or, worse yet, shakes of the head.

 

2) A hiking trail.

Not only are you all exploring and experiencing nature but the natural backgrounds and soft lighting created on many hiking trails is the perfect setting for memorable images of your children. If you’re a homeschooling parent, and even if you’re not, you can also make the excursion an educational one by learning more about the plants and trees and animals you encounter.

A couple tips: make sure to protect yourselves from ticks (as Lyme Disease carrying ticks are very prevalent in many areas of the United States, especially Pennsylvania and especially in 2018.); wear protection from the sun; bring water, a snack and a first aid kit; and read up on what those poisonous plants, like poison ivy and oak, and poisonous snakes look like!

One other tip for hiking trails: expect a mess at some point so try to grab your photographs early in the hike if you’re looking for photographs of “clean” children. I have no concept of a “clean child” in my family so this one isn’t a concern for me, luckily, and I just roll with the mud and the wet moments that are sure to occur.

_DSC08493) Museums.

Your local, or even not so local, museum is a great place to learn about history or art and photograph your children. Not only can a museum provide dynamic and interesting backgrounds but it can also provide faces looking up at paintings (great lighting and a good look at the face for the scrapbooks), colorful backgrounds and children engaged in hands on learning experiences.

Visiting a local museum is also a great way to support local art, history, science, whatever the museum features. Tip: be sure to double check for any signs that might prohibit photography in certain areas and again, like other excursions, take snacks (if they are allowed) to be sure you aren’t stuck with photographing hunger-induced meltdowns.

 

4) Small fairs or art shows.

Almost everything about a small, community fair or art show lends itself to stellar photographs of your children that capture their true personalities. There are rides (laughing faces), games (winning faces), food (messy faces), and sometimes animals (sweet faces). Yes, you may have noticed a theme in that previous sentence because capturing the face of your child is what this is all about after all.

As is the case in other locations, be sure to watch your backgrounds so you don’t end up with the creepy looking dude at the fair standing in the background of the smiling image of your little one.

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5) Ice cream stand.

Nothing makes a kid happier than dairy and sugar, unless, of course they are lactose intolerant. Actually, in all seriousness, my son is lactose intolerant and he takes enzymes that allow him to digest dairy, so the lactose intolerant still can enjoy a trip to the ice cream stand and you can photograph your children while they are in one place, slightly confined and entranced by their frozen treat. Fun images to capture are their ice cream mustaches and their first few licks when the ice cream is bigger than their head.

Bonus: if the ice cream stand has a miniature golf course with it! Even more fun photos can be taken while they play through the course a couple of times.

A couple closing thoughts to keep in mind before you head out the door for photographs with your children:

– make sure your camera battery is not only charged, but in the camera.

– make sure your digital camera has a memory card.

– If you are using a phone, make sure you have a full battery charge or bring a car charger with you.

– try to get yourself in a couple of the photographs so your children know you were there too.

And last, don’t worry if your child doesn’t look at the camera in every photograph. Photographs of children not looking at a camera but still having a good time, laughing or loving each other will still provide great memories for them and their family as they grow.

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December 10 on 10

This is the last 10 on 10 blog circle for 2016, which doesn’t even seem possible!

My life has been all over the place the last month and I missed last month so I just thought I’d share some of my favorite images from the past couple of months.

Please continue to follow the circle by visiting Tricia Bovey.

The lost art of real photography | Pennsylvania Documentary Photography

I was admiring a photo on Instagram the other day and tried to imagine how the photographer was talented enough to capture an entire family in silhouette in front of the most amazing sunset. Honestly, those photos make me doubt my photography skills a bit even though those type of images are not my style. It turned out the photographer was talented enough to capture the family in one take but the sunset was an overlay she added later. In other words, the photo, like many you see today, was an enhanced image and therefore an inaccurate view of reality.

Many times even those amazing sun flares we photographers swoon over are, in fact, fake and were never even in the original, out of camera, image. It is unfortunate that I know find myself looking at a photo, admiring it and the wondering “I wonder if that sunflare or those bubbles were actually there or if the photographer added them in Photoshop.”

Yes, I edit my photos, such as lowering highlights or adding some color, which is often needed in the RAW format I shoot in, but, no, I don’t add skies or elements that weren’t there in the first place. I won’t say I never have done this, because I have, once or twice. In fact, I recently edited a child out of a photo because he wasn’t mine and the image was stronger without him. I immediately felt guilty at having changed the reality of the moment and essentially erasing a person because they didn’t fit my idea of how I wanted to remember that moment.

The problem with all this editing and adding elements that were never there is photographers have only added to the world’s already warped idea of perfection. Little girls and boys today grow up believing they have to look a certain way because that’s how the women and men in the magazines look. If only all young girls and boys, and even women and men, understood that photos in the magazines are often manipulated to the point that who you see on the page is not who you would see if you were to bump into these women and men on the street.

I can’t even imagine how difficult life is for the person in the photograph because they are expected to always look like the woman or man the photo editor created.

Many photo editors are insanely talented and true artists. Their work and their ability to transform the photos a photographer has taken is to be commended. What I hope many will remember is that their final creation is not always reality.

I edit my photos by enhancing colors or converting to black and white and darkening and brightening shadows to bring my vision into focus. I very rarely remove or add elements (people, pets, bubbles, sunsets) that were or were not there. If I do I feel uneasy, as I mentioned above.

It isn’t that I believe my more minimalist style of editing makes me better than photographers and photo editors who take editing to the extreme. Not at all. It’s simply my style of photography.  I believe both styles are art.

I choose to keep my images as true to reality as I can. Maybe that’s because I understand how harmful an altered perception of reality can be to our society as a whole, not only the youth. Maybe it’s also because I was trained as a journalist to report the truth, the good and bad, because by doing that you present an accurate account for historical purposes. I know that many reading this may scoff at the idea of journalists today being accurate in their reporting and I’ll leave my comments on that for another day because that is an entire blog post in itself.

Even though I prefer my images to be more documentary, I can’t deny the art behind the heavily edited or manipulated image, so I hope it doesn’t sound like I am condemning those images. Manipulating and changing a photograph can help the artist create their vision and I recognize and absolutely understand that. I do, however, see the unfortunate side affect of the viewer believing the image is real and I think that if a photograph has been manipulated that much the photographer or photo editor should be willing to say they manipulated the image.
 

The camera is much more than a recording apparatus, it is a medium via which messages reach us from another world.
                                                                                          ~Orson Welles

This post is part of 99 days of blogging with Melissa Firman

I wish I was a better mother

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I wish I was better at being a mom.

I wish I didn’t cry like a toddler when my toddler won’t nap on the one day I really needed one myself.

I wish I didn’t let curse words fly out when she won’t sleep and when I know better and when I’m supposed to be that good Christian who never makes a mistake.

I wish I didn’t get grumpy on the days she gets grumpy.

I wish I didn’t get aggravated beyond belief when my 9 year old stares at me blank when I ask him why he didn’t brush his teeth last night or why he isn’t eating his dinner or why he’s playing Minecraft when I told him to do his homework.

I wish I was the mom from the books and the movies and the TV shows who pulls her children on her lap every single time they have a break down and hugs them and tells them it’s OK if they cry, mama doesn’t mind not getting sleep or not getting a break or never eating a warm meal.

If I was that mom then I wouldn’t feel so guilty. If I was that mom then I wouldn’t have to cry instead of nap when the toddler finally does fall asleep. If I was that mom I wouldn’t sit and wonder if some day my kids are going to tell all their friends about all the mistakes I make and all their friends are going to feel bad for them because their moms never do that stuff.

Some days it is just flat out exhausting wishing to be someone different so you can be better for your kids.

This is the part of the post I should write something encouraging and uplifting about how all you can do is try, but today I’m not feeling it. I’m just feeling the discouragement, the failure and the sadness at all the motherhood missteps I made.

 

Woe is me, the temporarily wallowing in her misery mom, who I guess, needs to remind herself if she wasn’t at least a somewhat good mom then none of this would bother her.

 

 

The week in focus | Elmira NY Child Photographer

Last week we had a mix of nice and rainy days but Little Miss didn’t care what the weather was because she rain outside to slide on her new slide no matter what the sky was spitting.

It’s a inexpensive slide meant for toddlers but even her brother found a way to have fun with it, by leaping off it and attempting 360 turns in mid-air.

It doesn’t matter the height of the slide, Little Miss, who isn’t even 2 loves them and finds a way to get to the top and slide straight down to the bottom.

We visited a playground last week that had three different size slides. She was in toddler heaven, running back and forth to each one. She has no fear, climbing up a ladder to the top of the one playground set that had even me a little nervous to climb.

If she’s this much of a daredevil at 19 months, I have no ideawhat the age of 2 will hold!

 

Embracing the role of motherhood

For 13 years when someone asked what I did for a living I said “I’m a newspaper reporter”.  It made me feel like I had accomplished something in life. Four years of college, a degree, and a job in what I went to college for. I was a contributing member of society. I was a public servant, informing the community. I was important, at least in some small way, or so I thought.

Then I burned out on the news and, really, on people. I left newspapers, convinced my love for photography would translate into a successful business. Then I could say “I’m a photographer”

I left the paper for two reasons: to be home with my son and to start a photography business. When the photography business never happened I was left with . . .being a mom because in my mind I wasn’t a photographer if I didn’t have a business, which, of course, I now know isn’t true.

Just a mom.

Just.

A.

Mom.

I couldn’t imagine having to answer the question of what I did for a living with “I’m a mom. JUST a mom.”

As a kid, I’d never imagined myself a mom. I’d always pictured myself traveling the world as a writer and photojournalist.

My mom was “just a mom” and I had never looked down on her for that so I had no idea why being “just a mom” filled me with a feeling of personal failure.

Why was it bothering me so much to be “just a mom”?

I think the society we live in today, especially in the United States, tells moms that being a mom isn’t enough. The idea that being a mom is the best job a woman can have is very popular but only if a person can say “I’m a writer but I’m also a mom and that’s the most important job I have.”

If a woman can only say “I’m a mom. It’s all I do” I believe many look at her as if to say “is that really all you do?”

Last year I sought out a natural doctor for some health issues I’ve been having. She asked me what I did in my spare time. I started to tell her I was a mom so I don’t have much spare tome and she interrupted me “but what do you do for you?” I photograph my children in what I feel is an artistic way and told her but she shook her head in disapproval and I immediately felt that shame at being “just a mom”. Here was another woman, maybe even a mother herself, reminding me that I needed to be more than a mom. I needed to do something more with my life. I couldn’t just be a mom.

Other women shame each other into believing they need to be more than a mom but I don’t believe God desires there to be any shame felt when a woman’s sole job, so to speak, is “just being a mom.”

I’m working on accepting this title of mom, which I know sounds weird since I’ve been one for almost a decade.

I’m practicing saying “I’m a mom,” and not needing to add after it “And I am also a photographer.”

For me, photography isn’t a job, and I don’t want it to be. It’s part of who I am in the same way being “just a mom” is part of who I am and who I always will be.