I really really really love Christmas. I cheer up instantly pretty much from the 1st December or as soon as the fairy lights start going up all over the place. They’re such a lovely accent among the doom and gloom of the winter, I really couldn’t be without them.

But photographically speaking – if there is such a thing – they are great because they give you fabulous opportunities to get some beautiful BOKEH.

Bokeh is a real word ( I promise), it comes from Japanese and describes the light circles we can get on our photographs, usually in the background. Like the ones below ( all our students photos).

The great news is that they are actually not difficult to capture and they bring such a lovely festive feel to your photos. Follow our 3 steps and you’ll be bokeh-in all over your photos.

The process:

Before go go any further, make sure your camera is set right:

If you’re shooting on auto: set your camera to Portrait or High Sensitivity.

If you’re shooting in semi-auto or manual mode : set your aperture to the widest available setting ( smallest number you have) and ( unless you;re using tripod or something else where you can just set your camera steady by itself) up your ISO to 800 – 1600 ( or until you’re able to get a shutter speed above 1/60s).

If possible, try to make sure that the subject you’re photographing is facing a window or another source of light.

To make bokeh as attractive and as effective as possible, we are essentially trying to throw them out of focus as much as possible. And here is your 3 step plan to achieve it.

Step 1. Distance to the lights

The closer your lights are to your subject, the more in focus they will be. So to give yourself a chance of getting it right, move your subject a little distance from the lights.

xmasbokeh-page-1

Step 2. Distance to your subject.

The further you are from the point you are focusing on, the more everything in the frame will be in focus. Easy way to test it – grab your camera and hold one arm in front of your lens. Take a picture focusing on your hand. Now without moving an inch from where you are or changing anything on your camera, focus on something a bit further away. If you compare the two pictures, you’ll see that one has comparatively much more blur in the background than the other.

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Step 3. Zoom in

The more you zoom in on your subject, the more you compress the entire space in your frame ( trust us on it) and the more your lights will be thrown out of focus. So use as much zoom as you can in the space you’re in – longer zoom will require you to be physically further away from your subject or it won’t let you focus. Yes, I know in the step above we made a point of saying – get close to your subject – this means, get as close as you can with your zoom stretched out. Try to zoom in so much that your subject occupies at least half the space in the frame.

xmasbokeh-page-3

 

 

 

 

IN SUMMARY

1. Get your subject away from the lights

2. Get close to your subject

3. Zoom in on your subject

Good luck and a very happy Christmas from The Photography for Parents team!

Feast your eyes on more wonderful examples of bokeh from our students!

 

 

 

So you have your camera and you’ve been happily snapping away. But how much do you REALLY know about your camera’s key functions? Take our quiz and find out!

( The quiz was designed to cover key functions which you may find across a range of most popular DSLR and bridge cameras. In some cameras, some of the functions may be hiding under a different name or variations. Sorry we can’t include them all)

How well do you know your camera? Does your camera have no secrets from you or do you know how to make it do exactly what you want it to? Do you know your way around all your buttons and dials, or are the number appearing on your screen filling you with dread? Take our quiz to find out!

Once you get into photography, your list for Santa will never be short on options. Here is 5 things we think make wonderful presents for a photographer. If you haven’t got one of these yet, there is still time for Santa to get you one ( or more ) of these…

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Photoshop Lightroom from Adobe

We love Lightroom. It’s a powerful yet intuitive software that serves professional photographers around the world – with a price tag that even amateur photographers can afford. Buy it as a self standing software product with a one-off payment of £99. Or even better, get it bundled up with full Photoshop and a tablet version of Lightroom  on Adobe’s Creative Cloud Photography subscription for a whisper over £8 pm

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A practical and beautiful camera bag

If you’ve looked for a camera bag in most camera shops you would have seen the bulky, black or khaki nylon bags. Practical – yes, beautiful – no. Luckily for all female photographers out there, there are plenty more options available now which merge both practicality and style. Check out brands like Epiphanie, Cheeky Lime, Jo Totes to name just a few. In the UK, you can buy them via CosyCameras or LoveCases

 

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A nifty-fifty wide aperture lens

If you haven’t moved on from your kit lens yet, now is the time. Affordable prime 50mm or 35mm, wide aperture ( F1.8) lenses for Canons or Nikons ( other brands are available too!) will transform your photography! Dreamy bokeh, creating beautiful blurry backgrounds and really isolating those details – all that with a new lens. Retailing around £100 depending on the brand. 


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Good sturdy tripod

You want one that’s sturdy and secure, one that won’t wobble on uneven surfaces with good swivel head. It should also let you switch between horizontal and landscape modes effortlessly. For a true pro grade, expect to spend upwards of £200 but for an enthusiastic amateur, we like this budget Manfrotto model.


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Wireless memory card

Download your photograph to your phone, iPad, computer without having to take your card out of your camera or fiddling with cables! Several options up there – Eye-fi, Flash-Air, or Transcend – the way they work with your devices may differ slightly from one to another so worth reading up before you buy…ehm…point Santa that way

And finally, a little cheeky plug for ourselves – if you do have a camera and love taking photos of your kids but want to get more out of your camera and get more thoughtful and more creative with your photography – do check out our courses – online or face to face – now both available with 2 advancement levels.

 

Feeling like you’re taking the same children’s photos over and over again?

It’s so easy to fall into a routine with anything, photography included. We tend to be drawn to the same poses, the same angles, the same perspective and before we know it, we’re in possession of hundreds of photos that only vary ever so slightly. If that rings a bell, it’s time to set yourself up a challenge and see how what you see through your lens, changes – and with it – your photos.

Today’s challenge, if you’re willing to accept it is COLOUR.

It’s amazing how a choice of colour can make or break a photo. Use it to accentuate a point of interest and that’s where everyone’s eyes are drawn. Usea toned down palette of similar pastel colours and your photo goes from boring to dreamy. Use contrasting background and make things ‘pop’ agains it.

Your challenge for the weekend is to pick a colour or a colour palette and  try to incorporate it into your children’s photos you’ll be taking throughout the weekend – be it in the background, as an accent element or just recurring splash of colour. Think about how it dominates or defines parts of your photo. Observe how using it in the background or the foreground makes a difference. Match it with similar or contrasting colours. Whatever you do, it has to be in every photo you take.

Some inspiration for you below:

 

 

 

If you’re like me ( and let’s face it : thousands of other parents ) – your phone, your hard drive and your Instagram account are full to the brink of your children’s photos. But can you find the ones you like easily? Are they ordered in a way you can have a clear view of your photo collection? If they’re not, you’re missing a trick and should get them organised pronto. Here are our steps to a well organised photo collection.

1. Organise your folder structure: 

Yes, it’s an obvious one but so easy to get wrong. Decide what your folder structure is going to be: are you going chronologically? Or by event? Or by who’s in the photos? A combination of all would  work too. Below is our recommended structure – think about managing it in 3 levels (well, potentially 4 but more on that later) :

Level 1: All your photos in one place

You don’t want to be hunting your photos all through your hard drive! Make a habit of keeping them all in one place for easy management.

>Sarah’s Photos

Level 2: Selection by year

Chances are, some events will be repeated from year to year : get a simple chronological order in place and you’ll find it a lot easier to manage, search and cross-reference

Sarah’s Photos
    >Photos 2012
    >Photos 2013

Level 3: Further refinement – including the “who, when and where” info in the Folder name.

Do pay attention to what your folders are called – the names don’t need to be this exhaustive, but I find it does help. The point is, they need to make sense to the future you. If you search for a photo 5 years fro now and open a folder entitled : Jake_May – will you instantly connect it with Nana’s visit?

Sarah’s Photos
    >Photos 2012
           >Baby Jake_May 2012_ Nana’s visit
           >Jake_birthday_June 2012_Kiddieland
>Photos 2013

File names

Are your photo files named DSC_9019 or Image_3097?  Chances are, if you saw them in your file catalogue, you wouldn’t have a clue what kind of photos they were without opening each one. However, if you renamed all the photos to something a bit more meaningful, like : Molly_Park_April13_122 –  you get all the most relevant info – who’s in the photos, where and when they were taken without having to open them. They are search friendly and so even if your folder structure collapses, you can still look them up quickly. If you’re using a photo management/editing package like Lightroom Photoshop, you can rename ( and even tag) all the files at the point of download. Otherwise, you can very easily rename them in batch afterwords – here is a little handy tutorial on how to do it : http://www.mediacollege.com/computer/file/batch-rename/

Sarah’s Photos
    >Photos 2012
           >Baby Jake_May 2012_ Nana’s visit
                    >Jake_Nana_0512_001
>Jake_Nana_0512_002
>Jake_Nana_0512_003
>Jake_Nana_0512_004
>Jake_Nana_0512_005
>Jake_Nana_0512_006
           >Jake_birthday_June 2012_Kiddieland
>Photos 2013

2. Select your best photos

This will hurt. I know, I know. The thought of getting rid of any photos of your precious little baby is a daunting one. But hear me out. If you’re keeping ALL of them in the same place and having to trawl through ALL of them to find the few amazing pics, you’re wasting a lot of time and are more likely to miss the really good ones that you’d love to show to the world. So here is your baby-steps, 1-2-3 solution to making this task a bit more manageable.

When you have half an hour or so, pick one lot of photos ( perhaps from the first month of your baby’s life or a specific event) and go through them with the following key

1: The Picks: go through your photos one by one and  “star” or “favourite” in some way all the really good photos – well exposed, well composed, best frame out of a few similar ones, showing something unique or just making you smile. Only the good ones. Not the “kinda good”, not the OK ones. Just the really really good ones. These will form your “Best of ” collection – ready to be shown to friends and relatives or displayed in any way.

2: The Rejects: in the same way you went through your photos to pick the stars, now go through it again and pick the obvious duds. Blurry? Delete. Strange facial expression? Delete. Bad crop? Delete. Trust me. Get rid of them now. You will not frame them, send them to relatives or find time and inclination to ‘fix them” (unless they truly are one of a kind and depicting a very special moment in your child’s life)

3. The rest : not good enough to make the cut for the “best of” folders. Not bad enough to just get deleted. Keep them all together in one folder for reference, as “spares” and because you can’t bring yourself to cutting them all. Maybe archive. But don’t mix them with the Stars.

So finally, your promised Level 4 or your folder organisation is your “Best” and “Others” folders. Easy.Peasy

Sarah’s Photos
    >Photos 2012
           >Baby Jake_May 2012_ Nana’s visit
>Best_Baby Jake_May 2012_ Nana’s visit
>Jake_Nana_0512_001
>Jake_Nana_0512_002
>Others_Baby Jake_May 2012_ Nana’s visit
>Jake_Nana_0512_003
>Jake_Nana_0512_004
>Jake_Nana_0512_005
>Jake_Nana_0512_006
           >Jake_birthday_June 2012_Kiddieland
>Photos 2013

You could of course attempt the selection through a different key – 5stars / 4 starts / 3 stars etc – but will you remember what was the difference between 3 stars and 2 stars? Whatever system you chose, the key is to stick to it and keep it up. If you have a large batch of older photos to organise, start small. First, set up a new structure which will serve you from now on. Then go step by step through your older photos in smaller batches, starting from the most recent ones. This can be quite a labour intensive job so do it in a way that works for you. Don’t take too much on either – if you have 10 000 photos to go through, concentrate on getting the main structure: levels 1, 2 and 3 in place, and go back to making more choices later when you’re no longer drowning in disorganised photos. And make sure that all new images that come through are dealt with according to your new system and best practice straight away. You’ll thank yourself!

3. Back up

This should really go without saying but please, please make sure you have more than one place you keep your photos. Burn them to a separate hard drive, create an online backup – just make sure you have somewhere else you can get to your photos in case your computer gets stolen, broken or the hard drive corrupts. Flickr now offers 1 terabyte of free storage ( equivalent to 500 000 full resolution photos) and  you can make it as private as you want. Just do it.

If you flick through your photo collection, you are likely to see quite a few photos that look distinctly  like one another. We tend to find one or two angles that ‘work’ and produce satisfactory results and just limit ourselves to them. The thing is, however nice they are, they rarely tell a powerful story and can get a little bit…dare I say…boring?

This little creative exercise doesn’t require anything apart from 15 min of your time. Try it! It may just help you shake things up!

1. Get yourself a timer ( the old fashion kind or on your phone  – we’re not fussy)

2. Pick a time of the day when your child is calm, preferably preoccupied with something, or for babies – asleep.

3. Make sure your camera is ready, you checked your light settings to make sure the photos have the best chance of coming out bright and then…

4. Set the timer on for 15 minutes and take as many VARIED photos as you can. Move around your child, shoot from above, from behind, from the floor. Go very close and move a few feet away. Shoot the little details and take in the whole scene. Notice the light and how moving around your child will change things.

5. When the time is up, stop shooting and review your photos.

Most people will  exhaust their ‘go-to’ poses in the first 5-10 minutes so the last 5 minutes is the time when you push yourself and are forced to find different angles and perspectives. Some of the photos will turn out great, others not so. It doesn’t matter, if you discover even just a couple of new angles, this will be worth it.

Give it a try!

 

Your camera’s best friend is your camera bag. It needs to do just one job – keep the camera, the lens ( or lenses) and other accessories safe and snug and resistant to bangs, bashes, drops and biscuit crumbs. And for most part, this is where the camera producers have stopped when it comes to making them and the vast majority of camera bags are black, nylon and 10 shades of ugly. Recognise this ? black camera bag

Luckily, with increasing numbers of female photographers, I’m seeing more and more brands embracing the style as well as functionality and there have been some gorgeous designs coming out from companies like Epiphanie, JoTotes or Cheeky Lime. Their camera bags look like stylish purses and handbags with the added benefit of being designed to fit the camera in. I tend to leave their websites open on my hubby’s laptops and tablets around the time of my birthday or Christmas but the hints remain unanswered as yet 🙁

 

Here are a few beauties I’ve had my eye on for a while now – no black monstrosities in sight! These are sold by a UK firm Cosy Cameras who specialise in feminine camera bags (this BTW is a completely honest endorsement – I am receiving not a penny or for this!)

palermo-almond-frontT ketti-chevron-frontT Epiphanie Lola Red FrontT cheeky lime frontT

The downside to their beauty is as with everything – their price. Though some are more affordable than others, on the whole expect to pay from around £90 upwards.

For the more budget conscious of us, you may want to hack your way to a cool camera bag. I would recommend buying a padded, separate camera insert which you can then pop into another bag that you already own. These are altogether more affordable – you can pick one up from around £7-£10. I would recommend getting one that fits snuggly inside the bag you want to use – you don’t want it knocking about too much. Depending on how your bag closes, you may also want to get one that has an additional flap or a draw-string top to keep it safe from the elements ( the elements being potentially your kids, pets, squished raisins and the aforementioned biscuit crumbs).

baginsert3 camera bag insert1 bag insert 4

 

So there you go – no reason at all not to give your camera a stylish home! And with a great bag, there’s simply no excuse not to go out and shoot more!

Enjoy!

Ania x

 

 

 

 

We often get asked about some of these in class so we decided to compile a little “cheat sheet” to the most essential and commonly used ( or misunderstood) photography related acronyms. You can download the pretty file in pdf format from the link below and if you like it, don’t hesitate to let us know – we have a few more in the pipeline!

12 Essential Photography Acronyms

 

DSLR : stands for –  Digital Single Lens Reflex camera

WHAT IT MEANS –  Single Lens Reflex camera describes a camera where the light travels through a single lens and then is reflected by a pop up mirror, which relays the image to your viewfinder. It specifies it is a Single lens reflex camera to distinguish it from Twin lens reflex cameras developed around the same time. SLRs describe e general type of a camera, DSLR are SLRs that use a digital sensor in lieu of film.

AE : stands for –  Automatic Exposure

WHAT IT MEANS – The camera measures the light reflected off the object or scene you are pointing it at and automatically adjusts all its parameters :  the aperture, shutter speed and light sensitivity as well as whether or not to fire off the flash to take a correctly exposed photograph.

AF / MF : stands for –  Auto Focus / Manual Focus

WHAT IT MEANS – Auto focus refers to the camera’s and the lens’ capability to achieve sharp focus on a selected part of the picture using a sensor, a control system and a motor. Some lenses will allow you to switch between auto mode and manual mode, some offer only manual focus (often the case with older legacy lenses).

A ( or Av) : stands for –  Aperture priority

WHAT IT MEANS – Aperture priority is a semi-automatic camera mode which allows the photographer to select a desired aperture value and let the camera adjust the rest of the settings to achieve a correctly exposed photo. Aperture values are responsible for how much of the image will be in sharp focus and how much will be blurred and out of focus.

WB : stands for –  White Balance

WHAT IT MEANS – White balance refers to a camera setting responsible for adjusting the colour temperature of the photo to achieve a photo with the most natural looking colours (without orange, blue or green-ish tinge). Settings include : sunny, cloudy, flash, tungsten, fluorescent etc. There is also a possibility to adjust white balance based on Kalvin temperature scale.

DOF : stands for –  Depth of Field

WHAT IT MEANS – Depth of Field refers to an area in the scene we are trying to photograph, which will appear in sharp focus on the finished photo. Where only a small area of the scene appears in focus (and what is located behind and/or in front of it is blurred) we talk about “shallow depth of field”.

Exif : stands for –  Exchangeable Image File Format

WHAT IT MEANS –  Exif is a standardised system used to encode information on the parameters of the photo taken (date/time, camera settings such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO speed, metering mode, focal length, copyright etc ) onto the photo file itself, allowing you to review this data either in your camera or once uploaded onto a computer.

ISO : stands for –  literal acronym: International Organisation of Standardisation,

WHAT IT MEANS –  In photography ISO refers to a measure of light sensitivity. ISO values typically range from 100 to 16 500 and beyond and determines the level of light sensitivity of your camera. Lower values are used where a good quantity of light is available (daylight photos outside) and the higher range is used to compensate for worse light (indoor photos in poorer light).

S (or Tv) : stands for –  Shutter Speed Priority

WHAT IT MEANS –  A semi automatic camera mode where the photographer sets the desired shutter speed value and lets the camera adjust the rest of the settings (aperture, ISO) accordingly to achieve a correct exposure. Expressed in fractions of a second, the smaller the fraction, the faster you are able to take the photo and capture movement.

P : stands for –  Program mode

WHAT IT MEANS –   A more complex automatic exposure mode. It sets the aperture and shutter speed automatically but still allows you to change some of the settings such as whether or not you want the flash to pop up or what ISO setting to select.

M : stands for –  Manual mode

WHAT IT MEANS –  A fully manual camera mode which allows the photographer to set every single camera parameter based on their needs. The photographer manually selects the aperture value, the shutter speed and the ISO value as well as whether or not to use flash.

RAW ( not an acronym, but often used like one)

WHAT IT MEANS –  Often thought to be an acronym, Raw file format refers to a picture file which is preserved by the camera “as shot” – without processing it or compressing into a more portable format such as jpg. Shooting in Raw will require from you to have photo processing software capable of working with this format.

 

Download pdf 

We contributed a guest post for the West London Mums blog talking about strategies for taking great holiday photos this winter. Thank you Monique for featuring us! Photos by our lovely instructor Katia Muscara.

Photographing Christmas

Let me ask you first – what do you think about when you think: Christmas?

For me it’s the twinkling lights  strewn around the house and outdoors, it’s the shiny baubles on the tall and clumsily decorated Christmas tree, it’s the anticipation of the Christmas morning and then the look of joy on my daughter’s face as she tears into the presents – wrapping paper franticly torn with eager little fingers – all rosy cheeks and wide eyed. It’s also all the festive food and the whole extended family squeezing in around the table. And when I think of Christmas photos – that’s what I want to see. For you it might be something slightly different but do this first, before you start shooting, picture it first in your head and plan accordingly.

1. Be prepared

It should go without saying, but it’s all too easy to forget in the heat of the Christmas preparations, so I’ll stick it here anyway: make sure your camera battery is charged and your memory card clean. In fact do it now, whilst you’re thinking about it. Done? OK – let’s move on. Will you be taking photos indoors? What’s the light like? If you need to use flash indoors, think about softening its effect by either bouncing it off the ceiling (if you have a detachable flash), or even just using some semi-transparent paper to stick over your pop-up flash to ‘mute’ it a little.

2. Tell a story

Family Christmas to me is a story of love, generosity and special family traditions. How will you tell this story? Think about how this holiday unfolds for you and take photos before, during and after. It’s great to have photos of both the prep stage, or before the main celebrations begin and everyone is still just milling around, and the main event itself. ANTICIPATE : want to get the picture of kids just realising ‘Santa has been!’ – get in there early with your camera at the ready. Then again, telling stories is not just about the sequence of events. Sometimes you capture it in just one photo – a carefully composed image that shows both the action and the context – it’s not enough just to show a child’s face brighten up in amazement if you don’t show what they’re in awe of.

3. Focus in on the detail

It’s the million details and props that make the festive atmosphere – colourful decorations, hand-written letter to Santa and milk and biscuits left out for him, special Christmas table dressing and Dad’s special reindeer slippers. Use the depth of field to your advantage to isolate the festive details and show them either on their own or with the rest of the action happening in the background. And remember to get in there early when photographing festive foods as the turkey carcass rarely makes an attractive photo.

4. Let it be light

To me, a big part of the Christmas ambiance is the thousands of twinkling lights. I love them so much I dread the day each year, when I have to take them down in January. They can be tricky to capture in all their glory but there are a few tricks that may help.

First of all : kill the flash. The bright light from the flash will completely wash them out, making them barely visible. Instead, try to plan to photograph them when it’s still relatively bright so that you can get by without flash. If you can, increase your ISO (or if shooting with a compact camera, see if you can find a high light sensitivity mode) and extend the exposure time – a tripod will be your best friend here.

5. Cultivate family traditions – or create new ones!

Does your family have a holiday tradition? Matching Christmas jumpers? Mince pies for breakfast whilst the kids break into presents? A trip out to see the town’s Christmas lights? If so, make absolutely sure you photograph that. If it’s something you do each year, it may be a fun idea to think of a photo you could replicate each year, that will show how the kids grow and how some things just remain constant. You’ll thank yourself in years to come.

Christmas is such a fun period – we tend to forget about it a little when we’re all grown up, but having kids really brings it all back. So enjoy it. Capture it. Share it. And make absolutely sure you pass that camera to someone else from time to time so you remember you were there too!

Happy Christmas!