Ever wonder how some kids just seem to always have that twinkle in their eye, like in EVERY picture? Well that Momtographer has learned the magic of "catchlights."Catchlights - if you haven't heard the term yet, rest assured, you will. It's a phrase that gets a lot of play in portrait photography circles - and with good reason!
But what the heck are they? Some sort of magic lighting gizmo that comes with membership to the secret society of expert photographers? Um, no. Quite simply, they are reflections of light CAUGHT in your subject's eyes. The key to getting a catchlight is to always have your little one face the light source (i.e. a window, door or sunshine) so that the light can reflect back into their eyes.
Here's a little tip - if you can SEE it before taking the picture then it's there!
Once you master this little, or should we say BIG tip, you will be well on your way to transforming your snapshots from blah, to WOW!
And please - we BEG you - resist the urge to fake it! There are so many tips, tricks, tutorials and software actions out there to create a catchlight where there isn't one, but most of the time your kid ends up looking plain creepy! Besides, why spend your time learning how to fake something that is so easy to achieve for real?!?
So what exactly do we mean by facing the light source? Here let us show you...
Now that you "see" it, it's pretty simple, isn't it? Now go snap to it - we want to see those catchlights!
Now that we've turned off the flash and found our pocket of light, let's deal with what's going on behind, in front of, or maybe even all around your subject. Is there a visual obstacle course cluttering up your images? If so, clean it up!Start by taking note of everything around you... make a mental list. Toys, cabinets, poles, telephones, furniture, blankets, laundry, fence lines, literally everything. It's amazing the stuff we visually "tune out" that come back to haunt us in print.
Once you've made your list, ask yourself - does this thing add to the story I'm telling with this picture? Does this thing compete for attention with the star of the show?
For portraits (that is, intentionally posed pictures) the surroundings should never take away from your subject. Every item should only enhance it, or help tell your story.
Here is what seems like an extreme example of background clutter, but believe it or not when taking this photo Krista didn't notice ANY of it. She couldn't see past those sweet brown eyes!
Now look at this shot, while the background isn't jumping out at you like the above example, notice how the crib frame goes right through her sweet little head cutting it in half? This is a big no no, and a very common thing that takes you training your eye to notice.
For action shots, you want your background to give context, but not be so cluttered that it competes. (photo examples of good and bad)
Since we've limited your surrounding to your pocket of light, lets start by making sure all of the clutter is removed from the picture. Take a test shot. Chairs, phonebooks, grandma's spoon collection - if it's showing up and distracting from those baby blues, ix-nay from the icture-pay.
If your background still isn't working, don't be afraid of some heavy lifting! What's a little redecorating in light of a lifetime of fabulous pictures? (Hint - when furniture looks good in pictures, it usually looks even better in real life!)
Down the road we will talk about how to create backgrounds using props, papers, and other fun fabulous things, but for now, we are going to keep it simple and teach you how to work with what you have. Here's a fun fact - Krista has never used a manufactured background in a picture. When she wants a blank canvas, she either clears the furniture off of a living room wall, or uses somethi ng neutral like the front of a building.
Here is one in her living room, she moved a love seat over so that Chloë could sit in front of one of the only clear walls in the house.
Like learning to read light, it may take some time to develop your new eye - but once you start "seeing" the clutter in your surroundings, you'll never take pictures quite the same way again!
Want to see immediate improvement in your photographs? It's one of the simplest things you can do, but it's by far, one of the most powerful. Turn off your flash!You heard right - slap it down, turn off the switch, find it in your camera menu - do whatever it takes to turn off that flash in favor of more natural, available light.
Think about it - other than playing flashlight games at a campout, when in real life is someone assaulted with a direct beam of light, just a few feet away from their eyeballs? Hardly ever - but that's exactly what an on-camera flash does.
Unnaturally bright skin, harsh shadows, and unusual reflections... there's more working against you, than for you! For crying outloud, it's the secret weapon of the DMV.
Compare the following two shots taken moments apart - one with flash, and one using the natural light of a window to baby's left.
Turning off your flash may prove slightly challenging at first as it forces you to learn how to "read" the light around you - but that's a good thing. It'll force you to look for places with adequate light and begin to recognize light that'll offer outstanding picture opportunities. We promise - in no time at all you will be able to gauge the light in a room with little effort.
Here's another example - taken on the same day, one with flash, one with natural window light. There was no way to "get" this first picture, taken in a dark aquarium, without a flash, but doesn't the second picture serve the same purpose... only much more beautifully?
Editorial note: Our daddy model would like to disclaim that, for some adult subjects, no amount of natural light will improve their appearance. The mommy objects but humors his request.
There are moments when there just isn't enough light or time to compensate for the conditions (i.e. 4:00am on Christmas morning when stockings are being ripped apart, or their first evening bubble sculpture in the bath) and by all means use your flash in lieu of missing the moment. But as a rule, you're on our territory and it's a no flash zone!
EEvery home has at least one - a gorgeous pocket of light that will reward your efforts every time! A spot that will help you take pictures that just look GOOD.Your job is to find it.What we're looking for is an area of your home that bathes your beauties in bright, even sunlight. Think of a large window in your kitchen or living room, or bedroom. No good windows? Open a door! No good doorways? Open a garage door!
One of Adrienne's favorite places to take pictures of her daughter is in the bright light of her kitchen - it's one of the spots in her home that just works.
Too little light and she can open the door. Too much light and she can adjust the shutters.
Krista loves shooting in her living room, with it's 3 full walls of windows, but she also has a lot of luck in her bedroom with only one large window.
Just think bright, bright, bright when you're looking for the spot. When in doubt, snap a picture- the proof will be in the snap.
One you have found and mastered your indoor pockets, move outside and start investigating your neighborhood. Weather won't always permit you to be outside, but when it does, it's nice to know exactly the right spot to set the stage for those picture perfect moments.
Outside can be a little tricky with ever-changing light, bright sun, and dappled shade, but don't let that stop you! Our suggestion is to find a nice shaded doorway or overhang of a building and practice there. Check out our section on open shade for the nitty gritty!
As you get further along you will find lots of helpful tutorials about shooting in full sun, but for now, stick to evenly lit shade. The exception to that rule - well, any and every moment that you must capture that may not happen in the right lighting conditions! Happy snapping!
Maybe it was a year ago. Maybe it was yesterday. But chances are, if you're here, it's because you discovered that you are obsessed with taking pictures of your kids. Welcome to the club - we're moms who love our kids through the lens as much as we do in real life.
We know that you're here because you want to learn how to take pictures of your kids that are as extraordinary as they are. But it's likely you've also figured out that learning the science of photography can be a steep hill to climb. Anyone can take a snapshot, but learning to take snapshots as awe inspiring as your kid's world-class cuteness can be challenging.
We're here to help! We've already circled that hill, approached it from every right and wrong direction and know of a great starting place that doesn't defeat you before you begin. You won't get to the top tomorrow, but we've created a map that cuts out the scenic route to get you there at a fast fun pace!
We've put together a list of top transformational tips to help anyone at any level with any kind of equipment start taking better pictures now. Dive in. Try 'em out. Try 'em often. And once you get comfortable, go find another location and another and keep trying 'em! You'll watch your bag of tricks grow with the nuances of every location, pose and position. And as your skills grow, eventually some of the other articles and tutorials will begin to make sense.
(Or not, and that's okay too!!! *wink*)
Before you know it, your bag of tricks will be overflowing, and you'll be teaching us things that we never thought of before. We can't wait to watch you grow along with us! So don't wait another second, Momtographer... snap to it!
Krista & Adrienne
WHERE WILL YOU BEGIN?
If you had any inkling of how important a camera was going to be after your child was born, you would have already gotten a masters degree in photographic arts and practiced on the offspring of complete strangers while you still had the time. But it's likely you're reading up on our tutorials in between naps and feedings, on your lunch break or from your iphone in the carpool line. We know this. We understand this! We've sacrificed sleep, precious sleep for online newborn lighting tutorials and skipped many a meal while scouring photography message boards, which is why we're hoping to save you some time by presenting: Momtography 101.
Trust us, as the mothers of small children, we will not attempt to cram any more technical mumbo jumbo into your head than you absolutely must know. In fact, in the interest of not missing a moment of your child's life, we're going to gloss over some of the finer points of the science of photography and encourage you to revisit them as your understanding and time bank grows. Could this be dangerous? Well, yes, if your goal is to become a professional photographer. Because, while a professional photographer's goal is to be highly skilled in the science and art of photography, a momtographer's goal should be to be highly skilled in capturing moments in her life that matter most. We firmly believe that with a basic understanding of the material on our site you'll be free to paint with your camera the story of your family.
For the trigger happy... If you are a hands-on learner that starts to go cross-eyed reading a manual... or you just can't wait to get started... we suggest that jump right into our Learn By Looking! section or join our community over in the forums. We've tried to make everything as visual as possible so that momtographers with even the most basic of cameras will benefit from the tips we have to offer. You might find that you're happy leaving your camera in automatic and snapping away for months to come. Eventually though, you will probably hit a wall, and WANT to begin absorbing the terminology and applying it to your camera. And, if that describes you then by all means dive into our Serious Snap section and take a crack at some of the more advanced tutorials.
But before you go running off, if you can stay with us through the next few sections (and we hope you do!) we'll familiarize you with the most basic momtographer concepts. Concepts that we feel are universal to all momtographers regardless of experience or equipment. In keeping with our visual approach we try to incorporate as many pictures and diagrams as possible to guide you as you move through the material.
Finally, we don’t ask for much, we mean it when we say we are minimalists in our approach! But, there are a few things that we do ask and we hope that you will happily comply! The first thing we ask for is patience. It can be a rocky road at times getting to know and love your camera, but the reward is so sweet! Next, please bring a positive outlook on the process, if you aren’t having fun you shouldn’t be doing it, this is a hobby after all! And last if you are shooting with anything more sophisticated then the phone on your camera, go dig up the camera manual from the depths of wherever you’ve banished it to. It will be your new favorite reading material, well with the exception of this site of course!
Light.... ahhhh sweet light! There is nothing more central to taking phenomenal photos than LIGHT! From the beautiful glow of the early morning sun to the golden hour right before the sun sets, learning to read light, see what it does for your photos and use it is truly at the heart of great photos!
We could literally go on for days talking about different types of light, why we love it, how to use it, etc. But since we know you still need to raise your kids in between taking photos of them, we will try and stick with the Momtographers' less is more approach here too.
Essentially, there are three types of light:
We will start with the one we use most often and suggest that you do too - natural light! It's exactly what you think it is - natural. It comes from the sun... period. Now whether it's filtered through the clouds or by a window or shines harshly down on your subject at high noon is another story altogether, but all the same, if it comes from the sun , it's natural light. You could also call moonlight natural light if we were talking night photography - but even that comes from the sun!
As long as you aren't getting help from an artificial source such as a flash or a lamp, then you are working with natural light. The beauty of natural light is that it adds an element of authenticity to a photo that is incredibly hard to recrate with artificial light. There are conditions that exist in nature -such as the golden hour at dusk or just as the sun is rising at dawn - that are simply stunning and impossible to recreate any other way than by just going outside and snapping it up!
Natural light is also great for more practical reasons - IT'S FREE, it's always there, and there is no equipment involved! For the record, with very few exceptions, The Momtographers, Krista and Adrienne are natural light girls. But that won't stop us from diving into the yummy details of the other two for those of you more adventurous folks!
Available light, like natural light, is exactly what you would think it is by reading it's title. It's the light that's available in any given situation. More often than not, the moments we want to capture as momtographers are happening as life is happening, which means we have to lea rn to be flexible and use... well, what's available. Let's say you're standing in a room photographing your two-year-old blowing out her candles. Unless you positioned the whole party, cake and all around a bank of windows, it's likely you have a mix of light contributing to the scene. Light from a window, that flouresent kitchen light overhead and light from the candles. Welcome to the world of available light! It can be tricky sometimes, mostly when it comes to color, but nothing that a few tricks can't help you overcome. For more on the different colors of light - see our article on White Balance.
The last type of light is artificial light. Studio lights, flashes, speedlights, etc. are all forms or artificial light. In some ways, once you learn how to use these different tools created to help with photography, they are WAY easier to master than natural or available light because, quite simply, you can control them! There are no variables, nothing changes unless you want it too.
That's why so many professional photographers operate out of studios with artificial light. There's no hoping the clouds are going to be available for that 11:30am shoot. They set up their lights to look how they want them to look, when they want them to look. People who are super skilled with artificial light even know how to use it out in the field to fill in the holes when natural light isn't giving them the look they're envisioning.
The downside - it can be costly to invest in, cumbersome to set up, and intrusive to many of the spontaneous moments you want to capture, but not disturb. It's so involved, that most professional photographers who shoot on location have assistants who do nothing but help wrangle all the lights! Like everything else in the world of art (and photography, in particular), there is a time and place of artificial light. But in our humble opinion, perhaps with the exception of a speedlight (which can help deliver light in a pinch!) artificial light is the least Momtography-friendly of the lot.
As we said before, we could talk and debate all things light for days on end. But we promised to keep it simple and relevant so we're starting you off with 6 of our favorite most-common lighting situations, showing you the path to mastering them.
Have a look at one of our all-time favorites, window light!
We said it before in Brand Spankin' New, but we will say it again, because it is worth repeating! Learning to master composition is one of the single most powerful ways to transform your photographs! Learning how to tell a story, by what you do or don't put into a frame is an art form! And one that can be mastered no matter what kind of equipment you have, seriously, even an iphone! In the coming sections we will go in detail into some areas of composition that well make a big difference fast! But like everything in photography the best way to master it is PRACTICE, so snap to it!
In this section we will explore:
Angles- A look at how your vantage point can completely change your story
Rule of Thirds- A tried and true photography imperative
Backgrounds- Learning what to do, not to do, and what to watch for
Positive and Negative Space- Understanding the story that perspective tells
What NOT to do with props!- Come laugh with us on the do's and don'ts
Photography really is THIS simple: The light bouncing off of whatever you’re looking at enters through the aperture of the lens and waits for the shutter to snap open where it’s exposed to the camera sensor.
Aperture ---> Shutter -----> Image Sensor (ISO).
Your job is to find the right settings combination of these three basic parts of the camera so that the amount of light landing on the sensor makes for a pleasing exposure.
So what's a good exposure?