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Simple and modern baby photos – getting started

 

 

 

Welcoming a new baby into your life and your heart often means a beginning of a little bit of baby photo obsession. Trust me. I’ve been there, done that, got myself into photography business 🙂

But all too often, the great kind of baby photos seem elusive. We end up with hundreds of phone camera snaps but not so many of the better quality ones, suitable for printing. And I know that often parents start with their ‘proper’ cameras, only to become disappointed with what they get out of it, where in reality, sometimes a few very simple tweaks is all it takes to make the photos look great.

With that in mind, we created a guide in which we explain 10 beautiful, modern and simple baby photos which you can achieve with almost any camera and no fancy props beyond a simple blanket laid out on your bed. The guide is free for you to download and put into practice  🙂  It’s a non-technical guide, meaning we don’t go on about specific camera settings, instead focusing on how to capture the images, using almost any camera, where and how to position your baby, what shooting angle to choose and what common pitfalls to look out for.

Below are a couple of pages from the guide to give you an idea what you’ll be getting:

 

 

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5 tips for taking great photos of your children in the bluebells

 

 

Are you getting out there with your camera today?

If you want to make the most of the bluebells while they’re still in full bloom, here are our best tips for seriously beautiful photos:

An important caveat here : bluebells are an ancient wildflower but they can be vulnerable to habitat destruction so make sure that when you go exploring your local woods, you cause as little harm to them as possible = don’t pick, don’t trample, leave them as little disturbed as possible. 

 

1. You want LOTS of them

Pick an area where the bluebells are nice and dense – the strength of a flower carpet is in the sheer volume of the photos – give yourself the best advantage by finding somewhere that has an abundance of flowers! Here is some help finding bluebells near you from the Woodland Trust. Our student Sarah Gannon used the abundance of flowers beautifully – by focusing on the logs in the front, she made the bluebells melt into background, creating a beautiful scene, rich in colour and with subtle texture.

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Photo by student Sarah Gannon

2. Think big picture

Before you zoom in on the photos, consider the overall magical scene with the gorgeous flower carpet that’s painted in front of you and shoot that as well – make your photos high and wide, choose a wide angle focal length and picture the whole scene.

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3. aaaand the detail

Once you’ve got those wide images, don’t forget to explore the delicate nature of the flowers by going closer in and creating tighter frames. Putting the wider shot and the detail together can give you a really beautiful collage.

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4. Get your angles right

Most people shoot from where they stand, without varying the height of the angle and you can make such a difference by getting a bit lower to the ground, you know, where your subject is. Try shooting low, at around the flower height, get your kids to crouch down or sit down amongst the flowers to get the most of it. By shooting low,  you allow yourself to develop a good depth in the photo, almost multiplying the volume of the flowers. Shooting from above and into the ground takes away the sense of flower abundance. In the photo below, the little girl is crouching among the flowers with some at the front being out of focus and some lovely and sharp ( for those of you comfortable around a camera, that’s playing with a shallow depth of field)

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5. Bluebells as foreground

Don’t just think of the bluebells as a gorgeous background. Bringing them to the front and either keeping them sharp and your subjects blurry or just using them as a bit of a blurry background can bring a real 3D dimension to your images, lifting them from ordinary, to something a bit more special. Our student Valsa Shah kept the bluebells sharp in the foreground which adds lovely texture to the image. The silhouette of father and a daughter in the background has the perfect blur which means our eyes don’t go there first, focusing on the flowers instead, but at the same time it’s delicate enough to make it clear who they are.

photo by student Valsa Shah

photo by student Valsa Shah

 

 

 

Camera settings:

Choose a shallow depth of field for creating varied texture in the images – ideally you want some flower details around your subject that further melt into the background into a blur of colour and light. You can create it either by picking a wide aperture ( the smallest possible number on your camera), getting close to your subject and zooming in ( ideally all 3 ). Don’t just think background when it comes to creating a texture in the photo – shooting through the flowers brings in a great candid dimension to the photos.

And above all – have fun and mess around with your kids – let them play and  capture the joy! Get them to hide behind logs and flowers and examine the flowers from up close! Play pick-a-boo behind the flowers and encourage them to explore by themselves. When they have fun, beautiful photo opportunities will always follow – you just need to capture them!

Happy snapping!

Want to learn more of what your camera can do? Check out our photography courses, designed especially for Mums and Dads with a passion for photographing their families – just like you! Pick from face-to face, London based classes and Online workshops.

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Creativity exercise – see the bigger picture!

There is a certain trend amongst new photographer, especially when it comes to photographing children and that’s to get very very close to them. It’s partly because we like to see these details : the chubby little toes, the gorgeous eyelashes, the gummy smiles – you name it. It is also partly because we are always so physically close to our children – when they’re babies, they’re almost never further than an arm’s reach.

But for all the details, you can lose a lot of the story of your kids childhood, a lot of the space and details. So we say, challenge yourself to taking images with a bigger picture for a few days. No close-ups, no tight head and shoulders portraits – try to see them and the space they’re in. You might just love it!

Here are some examples to get you going

 

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How to take blurry background photos?

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What to photograph when you photograph babies?

What to photograph when photographing babies? Because, well, they don’t do a lot, do they? How to capture something interesting when all they do is lie there / sleep and feed? HOLD THAT THOUGHT.

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Feeling in a rut? Try this creative exercise: 3 angles

We all get in a rut, however much or little we shoot. It could be that go-to head and shoulders portrait that you already have 3000 of, the same comfortable spot you shoot or just not being able to come up with fresh ideas. You look at other people photos and somehow they all look better, more polished, more inventive.

Well, there is a way out of this samey-samey rut and that’s to take on a photography challenge or exercise and commit to it consciously for at least a little while. Just enough to feel yourself being pushed out of your comfort zone.

We make it easy for our students and alumni – we have a private Facebook group with weekly themes and exercises to focus their photography practice. Our recent theme is “3 angles” which is a really useful creative exercise for anybody, regardless of your level of advancement.

All you need to do, is to photograph your chosen subject – be it your child, your pet, a location, your fancy dinner – from 3 different angles. It’s as easy as that but you will quickly find that it will make you take images you wouldn’t have otherwise shot. Some of them may be terrible – let’s face it, there are only so many good sides a person can have. But some of them will be revelations, surpassing your expectations and helping you find new ways of seeing things.

3 angles. So very simple. You don’t need instructions, you can shoot them in auto if you prefer but as long as you do it, you train your eyes and your photography instincts. Go on, give yourself a challenge this weekend!

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WANT TO LEARN MORE? 

Our AUTUMN photography classes – in LONDON and ONLINE start in September!  Click on the images below to find out more! 

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The most common mistake in portrait photography

There is one thing, that without you ever touching any of your camera settings, dials, buttons and modes can be the make or break of your photo. It’s a mistake we see most often with new photographers. And it’s one you can correct with a flick of your wrist.

I’m talking about your zoom lens. Or rather the fact that your zoom lens does an awful lot more than just zoom.

Most people assume that your zoom is there to bring distant object closer to you. The more you zoom, the more you can bring them in. By the same logic, your ‘least zoomed in’ lens position is therefore the ‘neutral’. Right? WRONG! 

Check out the two images below. The first one was taken with the lens not zoomed in at all and the second, zoomed in to the max (within the constraints of that particular lens). We moved a few steps backwards with the latter photo to maintain the same proportion of the portrait in the frame for comparison.

 

Quite a difference, wouldn’t you say? Now, you may not know the child in question, but I can assure you, that she looks nothing like the first photo. So what happened here?

The photos above illustrate beautifully how the length of your zoom ( or to give it it’s proper name – your Focal Length) changes the way the space in your photograph is shown.

So what does the zoom actually do? 

The less you zoom in, the more your camera will stretch the space – if you take a picture of a room at your least zoomed in and compare it later to what it looks like ‘to the naked eye’ you will see that the photo will make the space appear larger, longer, deeper, more spacious – now you know the estate agent’s favourite tool!

So far so good, but unfortunately, especially when you take a photo up close, it will do the very same to the person’s face – stretch it, skew it, exaggerate the facial features, producing an extremely unflattering image.

By contrast, zooming in, compresses and compacts the space, making the space look smaller, distances shorter, and human faces – much, much more flattering (with the added bonus of often creating the blurry background we like so much). It will also reduce the amount of visual clutter in the background of your image. Just compare the two images below and how much you can see behind the child in the first and second image.


lensWhat is best for portraits then? And how do I know how much zoom is enough?

If you have a DSLR, chances are that when you look on your lens, you will see some numbers on the side – on most lenses that come with DSLRs as a standard, they will often go from 18 – 55.

  • 18mm, for most entry level cameras will be the shortest Focal length – the least zoomed in – it will give you the widest, longest largest space and alien looking portraits
  • around 30mm – this will be most ‘life like’ when compared to the view with the naked eye. The portrait will be fine, though if you get to close, it may still look a little ‘off’. Generally safe enough for portraits though.
  • 50mm and more – that’s when the compression comes into play and people start looking their best.

If you’re shooting with a compact or a bridge camera ( where the lens doesn’t detach and there are no markings on the lens) you’ll need to do a little trial and error to determine where your good portrait range starts. Test your zoom range by standing in the same point in the room and taking a succession of images of the space , changing nothing but the zoom – a little bit at the time. Witch each picture compare how the space feels to what you see with your naked eye – when it starts looking about the same or smaller than your actual space, that’s where your good portrait range starts.

TEST YOUR SKILLS

  • Find a willing portrait volunteer
  • Set your camera on the longest zoom first – try to fill the frame with your subject’s face so that their face covers at least 50% of the frame – leaving just a little space above the top of the head and below the shoulder line. Take the picture
  • Try to recreate the same image with reduced zoom ( around 30mm this time). You will need to get closer to your subject to achieve it. Take the picture.
  • Bring your zoom all the way down and get closer still to your subject – you may be finding yourself almost uncomfortably close to them. Remember, we’re trying to get the same proportions of face to frame.
  • Compare the images – notice how the face changes with each zoom change. If you have a longer lens ( 100 or 200mm) try it as well to see how it affects the image.

A little caveat here. I am not actually advocating never using short focal length ( small zoom) with people photos again. The advice above, applies mostly to portraiture, and especially when you are relatively close to the person you photograph. It is still absolutely fine if you want to capture a wider scene and when your subject is a little distance away.

WANT TO LEARN MORE? 

5 things to do to make your snow photos look great!

“Did you SEE that Mummy! We can go an build a snowman! And play snowballs and …”

Here are out 5 top things to do if you want your snow photos to look beautiful.

1. Change your White Balance to ‘cloudy’ 

Your camera doesn’t really understand pure white ( and pure black for that effect ). Because of that, it tries to bring it down to a pale shade of grey and we all know how attractive grey snow looks. If you leave it to its own devices, the effect will be greyish, blueish photos. Changing your White Balance ( WB) to cloudy – warmifies the image, making it closer to how we perceive it.

2. Overexpose.

I know, counter-intuitive, but hear me out. This is again down to the whole not understanding white thing and trying to bring it back to grey which essentially ‘dims’ the picture. Find a button on your camera with a +/- on it ( that’s your exposure compensation button) and use the scroll wheel ( if you’re on DSLR – this might differ for bridge cameras) to push the meter towards +1. Take a few test pictures to double check and adjust as necessary but you should find them looking better than on ‘correct’ setting. Just don’t forget to bring it back to zero later!

3. Keep your shutter speed fast for pictures of falling snow unless you want them to look like lines.

Start from 1/250s and adjust upwards if necessary to preserve the roundness of the falling snow flakes. Go even faster for the obligatory snowball fight  of course! Just make sure your camera is nice and safe (snow = water = trouble)

4.  Think of your background and foreground.

Want to make it clear in the picture the snow is falling around your subject? Make sure your background has something dark in it ( trees are good) so that the bright snow flakes have something to stand out against. Using a shallow depth of field will help to blur some of the snowflakes in the front creating a layer of depth.

5. Think of the larger picture as well

It’s easy enough to zoom in on the red cheeks, excited smiles and snowflakes settling on the eyelashes but get the larger scene as well! Head out to the park or a wide open space and show the beauty and calm of the snowscape. If your child is wearing contrasting colour – even better – it will make them stand out against the background and draw the eye.

And above all – have fun!

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How well do you know your camera?

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!

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New creative exercise – the colour challenge

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: