Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Hey everyone, Beckie here! I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starting to think about what to do for our annual holiday card. I love to take advantage of the time off over the Thanksgiving holidays to take our photos each year, so I thought I’d provide a few tips on a “do-it-yourself” photo shoot!
1. Scout out your location…and make it low stress. For me, this means the best spot for photos in my own yard. No packing up the family and no frantically searching for a potty when your three year old declares “I gotta go pee pee!”. Best of all…when you have a go-to location that is easily accessible and low-stress, it’s easier to get out there and do practice photo sessions (remember, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!). Be sure to consider the best time of day for your selected spot, the temperature (cold weather makes for red cheeks and noses!), and the background for your shots.
2. Get to your location and set up before you gather the troops. This is a low-stress way to make sure you’re all ready.
- I go to my spot with my camera around my neck, double check that my lenses are dust and smudge free, check the memory cards, and start taking a few test shots to set my ISO. Also use this time to set your aperture to a good starting value. For the photos you’ll see below, I set my ISO to 400 since it was an overcast day and my aperture to f3.2 because I was taking pics of my kids (as a rule of thumb, keep aperture above 2 for 2 people). I know I’ll have to re-meter once they get here, but it should be a simple adjustment of shutter speed at that point.
- Set your camera to burst mode. I know, I know – the professional photographers reading this right now are cringing! But kids blink, make faces, turn their heads, etc. Getting a rapid series of photos for each pose is the easiest way to increase your odds of successfully capturing THE perfect holiday card photo. And like we learned last week – it’s super easy to swap out closed eyes for open ones, allowing you to create the perfect photo!
- Put your camera to your eye and frame up a few shots. Think through a few poses (sitting or standing? together or separate?) and look through your lens to ensure that background distractions can be minimized. Remove anything that disrupts the pattern of your background (you want the background to be easy to ignore, not upstage the people in your photos). If you have multiple lenses, especially prime lenses (that don’t zoom to varying focal distances), make sure you have the proper lens on your camera for the pose you wish to start out with.
- Gather props. For a holiday shot, you might want to have a few props on-hand to let your subjects play with. For the holidays this can be a string of lights, a few holiday ornaments, or even a chair, bucket, or bench for your subjects to sit on. Don’t be afraid to try new things! Digital photos are easy to delete :)
3. All set? Bring on your subjects! For me, that means calling the kids over from the neighbor’s yard where they’re playing :) Get them set for your first pose and meter off your subjects faces, changing shutter speed as necessary. When shooting kids, I keep my shutter speed over 200, so if you see your shutter speed getting close to 200, go ahead and increase your ISO right now!
4. Whatever you do…don’t say “SAY CHEESE!”. You’ll end up with…cheese face. You know, that fake, plastic smile. Tell them funny stories, make funny noises (bodily noises, however fake, work wonders for this!). The whole idea is to keep it FUN for the kids so they stay engaged with you.
5. Take a test shot and double check the lighting – look at the image captured in your LCD screen. I love overcast skies for my photo shoots. They eliminate the complication of shadows, squinting, and splotchy shade…but it is a bit more difficult to make sure you get enough light on the faces of your subjects. This is why it’s good to have a reflector on hand for just this situation. Relative to most other camera equipment, a reflector is a low-cost tool that makes a HUGE difference. With my handy dandy reflector, I got my first good shot just TWO clicks into my session!
Here’s the “pullback” of this setup. You can see my daughter holding the reflector for me, and that it was pretty close to my son. It was perfect for reflecting light back up under his ever-present cowboy hat :) I stood right behind the reflector to my daughter’s right. Oh – and the reflector became THE BIG THING for the photo shoot. The kids were so excited to take turns holding the reflector and it became the perfect bribe: give me a good smile, get a turn holding the reflector :)
It’s very important that you remember to check your meter throughout your session! Clouds move, the angle of your subjects’ faces to the light can change, and other things that may require you to adjust your shutter speed up/down to keep your photos properly exposed.
6. Ok – seem simple so far? Let’s add in a second kid! I did take time to get lots of individual shots of each of my kids, which will allow me to use the best shot of each one in the event I don’t capture a great photo of the two of them together. Once I had a few poses of each child individually, I instructed them to sit “booty to booty” and this is what I got:
ISO400, f2.0, 1/3200
7. Looking through my camera I thought the above image was great, but when I looked at my LCD screen I realized that they looked kind of stiff. Neither one of them really knew what to do with their hands. It’s important to encourage interaction between your subjects so that you can capture genuine emotion. So for the photo below, I asked them to put one arm around the other person - and I really love the results! They seem much more relaxed and like themselves:
ISO400, f2.0, 1/3200
Here are two more examples of wonderful interaction between kids. These are our awesome neighbors (and friends my kids have had their whole lives!). I just LOVE these photos, they have so much personality and exude so much joy. The kids had a blast posing and you can tell!
ISO640, f3.2, 1/640
ISO640, f3.2, 1/1000
8. Kids will be kids…so be ready at all times! I got this cute picture of my son goofing around, which I love not necessarily for a holiday card, but because it totally captures his funny/silly personality. Even though he was moving around, my shutter speed was high enough to avoid motion blur.
ISO400, f2.0, 1/2500
9. The same photo above also brings us to the next lesson…your yard will likely have some immovable distracting objects in the background, like these trees behind my son. Truthfully, they don’t bother me so much. But if you you’re a perfectionist and want to get rid of them… simply use your clone tool! Voila…
I’m no expert with the clone tool, but I have played around with it and developed a technique that works for me. With the clone tool, the idea is to “copy” portions of your photo that you like and use them to hide portions of your photo that you don’t. So I used the grass behind my son to clone out the trees and bricks behind him. I generally make 2 passes over the area I’m cloning out, and vary the size of the brush I use so that I don’t have an obvious pattern duplications. This whole process took me about 10 minutes (and I was watching TV at the same time, LOL!).
10. Finally…keep it short. I’ve found that about 20 minutes is the most I can get out of my kids before they’re bored and ready to be done with me. One frame looks great – the next, their eyes are looking away from the camera, they’re not smiling, or just as bad – the smiles are totally fake. This is another reason why I prefer at-home shoots, so that we don’t spend a tremendous amount of time preparing for a shoot that will last 15-20 minutes. The shoot with the neighbors was literally about 10 minutes long and I got at least 15 AWESOME shots of the kids in 4-5 poses to share with their mom :)
OK, that’s it! I hope you are inspired by some of the tips here to plan your own photo shoot! Oh, and if you’re looking for the perfect holiday cards to showcase your incredible new photos, be sure to check out the new holiday card collection by Shabby Princess!
Come on back tomorrow – if you’re thinking of doing any entertaining this holiday season you won’t want to miss Kylie’s post!