Have you ever wondered why professional photoraphers need assistants? It's not so that the photographer doesn't have to carry their own bags (though I'm sure there are some photogs who see it that way!). It's because the photographer needs to be able to focus on the moment that tells the story - even if the backdrop and lighting surrounding the story isn't the best shooting scenario. By taking care of small details that would otherwise make a scene unusable, an assistant frees up a photographer to work their creative and technical magic. Maybe it's holding a reflector to bounce more light into an area - or maybe it's using a diffuser to diffuse harsh lighting - there are so many things that an extra set of hands just out of the frame can do to help make magic within the frame!
Today I got in a little practice being the mommy of two - though I'm sure a real mom of two would tell me that I was cheating - I had two three-year-olds! We did all of the fun things that three girls could possibly do without a sleepover and nailpolish. We got smoothies ("Hey Sydney's mommy - are we going to the movies?"). We went to a jewelry store where they ran to the engagment rings like tiny moths to a flame... proof that diamonds are in our DNA! We even went to the toy store!
I had a return to make to the local 'R' Us, so I obliged them to a walk through the store, store-credit in hand. We ran through the bouncy balls and tinkered with the toy trains, but when we got to the end of the play kitchen aisle, both girls stopped in their tracks, mouths gapped in awe. There, behind a wall of cardboard and cellophane was a shiny red cash register - complete with a headset, walkie talkie, hamburgers, frieds, chicken mcnuggets, a happy meal box and CREDIT CARDS! I didn't even pretend we were going to fight it.
When we got home, I tried to direct the girls to set up shop in the open shade of the back porch. No.such.luck. "Old McDonalds" was destined to go into business in one of the least ideal places in the yard - under the playhouse. As the bright full sun was lowering in the sky, the girls weren't safe from it's glare - but they didn't care - they had a drive-thru window! Meanwhile, mommy was stuck with the worst contrast imagineable, peppered with the shadow of the monkey bars overhead.
So I pulled out my pop-up diffuser - a round, white disk that photographers use to soften harsh lighting situation. But professionals usually have someone or something holding it into place - I needed it just over their heads at a 45 degree angle. Clearly I wasn't going to be able to hold it and shoot. ASSISTANT!!!! (crickets.)
Enter the bed sheet. I grabbed an old sheet that we use to cover plants on the coldest of nights and tied it to the monkey bars. VOILA! It wasn't edge to edge coverage of the drive-thru, but it bought me some even open shade! Next time I'll actually take the time to march indoors and find a white sheet because the redish plaid did give off a color cast that I'll have to work on in my photo editing software, but hey - it did the job! And bed sheets can be tied almost anywhere - to tree limbs, fence posts - anywhere you need the harsh lighting of the sun diffused.
"Welcome to Old McDonalds, may I take your order please?"
"Okay, one french fry, one chicken nugget, one diet coke - would you like an ice cream?"
"Thank you - have a nice day ma'am."
This month, our favorite resident pop-tographer, San Francisco photographer and designer Marc Javier, re-launched a great new webiste at MarcJavier.com. We were smitten by his artistry and, shall we say, the sense of urban wonder in his images for both his clients and his family. So, what else could we do but put Marc in the hot seat - and he delivered! For the record... this Poptographer rocks!
Can I be real with you guys for just a minute? This week stunk. No, it didn't stink in any sort of life-altering tragedy sort of way, but in that "I really have no idea which end is up on this whole motherhood thing" kind of way. If I had a paper calendar, I would have written in red sharpie "FAIL" on every square this week. Actually, it was so pitiful and emotionally draining, that shoud I have been the sort of organized person that could commit to a paper calendar, I would have invested in a self-inking stamp of the word "FAIL", just so I would have it around (and so that little hands couldn't get to the red sharpie I'd inevitably leave out on the counter.)
For those of you who didn't know me prior to the launch of this site 7 weeks ago, I suppose this means we're past our first date and I should let you in on a little something. I don't love photography for the pretty pictures. I guess that's a fringe benefit, but it's not why I'm here.
Photography saves me. Truly.
When I'm having weeks like the one I'm having, it's like the reassuring voice of a girlfriend who's been there. It's an objective, yet gentle friend that helps me keep perspective. The stories it shares are a reminder as real to me as the banana stting in my bathroom trash can (after my 3-year-old decided Girl Scout cookies is the true breakfast of champions) that I have to remember the whole journey, not just the ditches.
When, after a year without a single bedwetting, we've puddled the floor three days in a row, I can look back and see her tiny tush in diapers and remember how far we've come.
When her gymnastics coach has to leave five children against the wall doing handstands so that she can retrieve her from the foam pit, I can recover from the horror by remember from which genepool she emerged.
When a morning-long battle over running a brush through her hair ends with "I don't like you anymore", I can be reminded of what she would actually look like if I let her go to school as though she'd just rolled out of a pop-up tent.
And finally, if my red-streak continues long after this transition from being an only child to a big sister settles out... if I somehow fail to let her know in the day to day just how much I love her... she will someday be able to look back and realize that her mother was in awe of her every moment.
Keep twirling sweet child. You will always be my first baby.
In my journey with my camera and my family one thing I have come to understand is that with any frame worthy moment there is usually more then one story going on at any given time. Take for instance, a simple Saturday morning snuggle session with my biggest girl and her daddy. I looked over from my computer to the scene of my Chloë Yoshe cuddled up with her daddy looking so small and sweet and knew immediately it was picture worthy! But once I grabbed my camera I realized that there were many stories here to tell.
The story of my dear husband taking a break from his busy morning to just be a daddy while sneaking a glimpse of his wife.
The story of my biggest girl taking advantage of the rare quiet moment while her sister napped to watch a cartoon.
The story of a daddy's big strong hand holding his tiny daughter close.
Or The story of the cuddle itself and my daughter's sweet expression.
You always have options, so when you pick up your camera with each snap of the shutter think about what story you are going to tell!
Snap to it!
In the spirit of showing progress and documenting how - with just a little practice - you can really kick your family photo's up a notch, allow me to showcase one of our awesome members, Leslie. Leslie recently jumped at the chance to have some one-on-one feedback and mentoring on our "M&M Momtographers & Mentoring" thread. You can read more about it here if you missed it.
Being the eager momtographer that she is Leslie was our first mom to post a picture and ask for help. Below is the picture that she posted.
With a little discussion, some critique and a few clear pointers on what she should do differently, we sent Leslie on her way to give it another go! And WOW did she improve! Not only was her straight out of the camera shot pretty impressive but with just a little effort... look at that edit!
(Straight out of the camera - putting her new skills into action!)
TA DAHHHH... The Final Product!
We are incredibly proud of Leslie, and equally proud to see the Momtographer's methodology at work helping moms take better pictures of their families.
You can see the entire discussion that brought Leslie to this point here, and also begin your own journey and start posting!
Snap To It!
I love the internet - where else can you catch up with someone you haven't seen since high school and pick up instantly? Well, I haven't seen my friend Courtney in *ahem* a number of years, but from her Facebook page it seems the only thing that's changed about her is the number of gorgeous children… including her latest who is 5 months old today!
So in celebration of today Courtney, here are some tips for capturing your baby boy!
First things first - find your pocket of great light. Where are the good windows in your house? Glass doors? No glass doors? Take advantage of this gorgeous weather we're having down south and open one up! Windows and doors take the bright sun and diffuse it into gorgeous portrait-taking light, so find your best and brightest portal and plop that baby boy down at the edge of the light. (Or you might want to try a baby doll first so he's fresh when you get your camera settings perfect!)
What do I mean by the edge of the light? Here… see how my not-so-little one *sniff* is positioned just on the shadow side of the light?
Now look what happened when I put my duff down just inside the door - me sitting in the light, and her just on the other side - magic! And since she's facing the light - look at what it did to her eyes!
Now lets talk about backgrounds. From what I've seen on facebook, your little man should be lifting his head and pushing up. Since we want a decluttered backdrop, use a bench, ottoman or even a chair like the one Sydney's sitting on and place it behind him. Now take a very neutral blanket (dark and heavy wools, felts, etc work nicely - but so do plain white down comforters!) and drape it over the back of the ottoman spilling onto the floor under him. It doesn't have to be perfect, just make sure it's not distracting. If it's large enough, you could even put a boppy or a dog pillow underneath it to give him some reinforcement.
Next - you have a Sony DSLR-A300 camera, so rather than get into how to use your manual controls (because I'm just not familiar with your camera!), lets try and take advantage of the built-in portrait mode. That should be your equivalent of Aperture priority mode. While you're at it - turn off your flash! You want all natural light here. According to the Sony Website, there should be a "flash off" position on the Exposure Mode dial.
Also, check your ISO. If you find a really great pocket of light, you should be able to stay between 100-400. The lower the ISO the better RAW files you have to work with on in your computer. How do you know what that number should be? Take a test picture. Too dark? Bump your ISO. But be careful - go too high and you'll introduce noise.
Speaking of Raw files, are you shooting in RAW or JPEG? For these precious portraits, you want to be in RAW, or at the very least, RAW + jpeg so you have both on hand. Just make sure your memory card is clean so you have lots of room!
Okay - now that you're done with your menus and dials, get on your belly and shoot! Go eye to eye with that baby boy. Connect, laugh, tickle, sing Elmo songs! Don't just rely on your zoom - get in close with your camera. You don't have to see the whole blanket in every shot. What if you just got his head? Just some toes? Get down low with him and just see what happens! Just make sure he stays facing the light!
And finally - come over to the boards and show us your pictures!!
When we created this site - we had two main goals. The first was to create a fun, warm, safe place for moms to show off pictures of their kids. Done - check! The second was to create a place where moms are continually challenged to learn how to take better pictures. Almost done- half check! :)
I (all bias aside!) think we are off to a GREAT start! The information is here and available to you, but I really want to to challenge you to take it a step further and start the process of taking better pictures! Don't worry, we are going to help! :)
So here's what I want you to do:
1) Participate in the monthly challenges! It's fun and there are cool prizes!
your set up. Myself and/or Adrienne will critique and give suggestions for improvement for every picture posted, from composition, to post processing, to focus, we will get down and dirty with SPECIFIC suggestions. We ask that you follow up our suggestions with another picture attempting to put them into action! It's going to be a conversation, give AND take to help you improve.
This thread will be in the same vein as "Critique Me", but will be much more in-depth and focused. Other members are welcome to jump in if they have something to add or a question about anything posted, but we promise to do the heavy lifting here. The goal is to have at least one thread strictly dedicated to helping you take better pictures! :)
SNAP TO IT!
When we think of Rockin' Momtographers, few rise to the top of our coffee cup as quickly as Allison of Snippets From Suburbia. Krista first stumbled across her work a couple of years ago and started following her 365 project on Flickr. All she could say was "WHOA!" This mother of two had some serious skill behind the camera! And Adrienne appreciates anyone who's not afraid to take themseles a little less than seriously - the humor in some of her work is just plain refreshing.
We were tickled when she agreed to be our February feature for "This Momtographer Rocks!" And we promise... if you don't giggle, smile and gasp once or twice while surfing her portfolio, we'll return your money, no questions asked (after you tell us where you put the money). Enjoy, and we'll just go ahead and say "Told ya so!" now!
TO MY CHILDREN
The tweet read, "RT @kirtsy: I've watched this 100 times. And I want to send it to every mom I know. http://bit.ly/cgZCwZ Thank you, @katherinecenter" I had a few spare minutes (ever looking for a diversion from what I SHOULD be doing) and after all, I am a mom... My heart stopped inside my chest and after several moments I realized that I wasn't breathing. I hadn't connected with anything this way in a very long time. It was the best spent 2 minutes and 41 seconds online ever. Thank you twitter!
I've watched this video now more times then I care to admit and shed a number of tears that only another mom could understand or guess. And you know what, I'm ok with that. It made me think of all the things I have wanted to say, If only I knew how. This is something that I have struggled with in my own journey as a mother. I have journals that were started with all the best intentions, that are still waiting for their pages to be filled. And there in lies my problem so many things I want to say, but am never quite sure how to say them. Whenever I write them down I feel like it's only part of the story, but doesn't paint the whole picture. I want them to know the whole picture, I want them to see themselves the way I did. Then I realized, It's through my images that I can tell the rest of the story. My camera is an extension of my heart, my mind, my hand, and my mouth. It tells my story in way that I never could before. I am so grateful to have found my voice through my lens, because now I can tell them the whole story, I can show them, and they can know.
Momtographers, this community is in it's infancy, but I hope that now as we lay the framework, it's built with the spirit of empowering every mom to find a voice to tell her story. To show her children all the things she want's them to know. We want to empower you so that you can use your camera in a way that brings you joy and satisfaction. If you are like me and find that sometimes words escape you, I hope that you feel powerful now knowing there is another way.
To my children:
Since the moment I felt you flutter in my belly I've loved you with a love that I never could have imagined. From your funny faces, to your sad ones, tears and giggles, first steps and first bites, you are beautiful, and sensitive, funny, clever, and a little naughty. The way you love each other amazes me more and more every day! I love you my sweet girls. And when words aren't enough or don't flow the way they should, there are the images...