Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tell Me Your Secrets

I need to know your secrets – you parents who always have beautiful pictures of your children on your blogs. So many of you have cute pictures of your children looking into the camera, smiling, their hair just so, their clothes clean. How do you do it??

I must have thousands of pictures of Ashley taken over the last 12 years. The only really, really good ones are the ones taken by professionals. But you all post so many candid shots, shots which it appears you have taken in your home, in your yard, on vacation, etc.

And don’t even get me started on school pictures. I buy them every year because I would feel like a bad mother if I didn’t. But almost all of those pictures are ugly – really ugly. Now, Ashley is beautiful but somehow the school photographers turn her image into something not so beautiful.

I’m very grateful for the pictures my brother (a professional photographer) has taken over the years. I’m very grateful for the pictures taken by a friend of Amy’s (also a professional photographer). Two examples are shown below. And I’m very grateful for the pictures that Amy and my son, Chip, take of Ashley. Many of them have turned out well.

But then there are the ones I take, like this one....

Ashley is strangling the cat - the picture is blurry - and a random foot is at the top of the picture.

I really want to be able to create a lovely image of my lovely daughter. So tell me your secrets, please…

Today I am thankful for digital cameras. I can’t even imagine what it would cost to develop the hundreds of pictures I take just to get one or two passable ones.


Deana said...

I usually get the best pictures of Max when we are outside. If we are inside, I open all the blinds, and let in as much natural light as I can. And I try to have the camera close by so when he's in a giggling fit I can get a few hundred pictures and hope for a good one!

I also noticed that once we went from the regular digital camera to the digital SLR, our pictures went from good to great.

Corrie Howe said...

I wish I could help. I don't do anything. I think my kids are naturally photo hounds. The pictures I love most are of my daughter. Most of the time she looks like, "Do you see what I have to live with by being the only girl in this family?"

I think digital cameras are great too!!!!!!!!

Penny L. Richards said...

I send in a Rifton chair from home for school pics--otherwise I get knees in the photo (that was, uh, nice), or he's slumped half out of the frame (no, thank you). The chair I send always works better than whatever the photographer brings (it's too small for everyday use, but perfect for the portraits).

For candids, digital means you can take 100 and only love one of them, which is the only way my holiday photos don't look like evidence in an assault trial. But also, my kids are camera hounds like Corrie's.

The trick for me is getting the pensive natural pose you manage to get from Ashley--as soon as they hear or see the camera, it's all goofy faces and poses here.

Dalya said...

Why not stop getting the school photos and go to walmart with her so you can be there and help them to understand what you want?

Your pictures are lovely and heart warming. They are life. Life is hardly ever in focus. That is Ashely looking happy, the foot shows there's other people in you're lives. My child is hearing, so I just wave my hand or make a noise so he looks at me and as he turns I tend to get the most candid photos, I love them. So I definitely agree with Penny.

But I still think you should try the walmart photos they're afordable and do a good job and will take your input, it's never just sit smile snap next like school photo.


MNicoleM said...

I'm not a parent, but I am a special education teacher by day and photographer by night ... the biggest secret is to take MANY pictures - one of them is bound to turn out OK.
Other tips (specifically to the pic with the cat, just to have a reference point)
-it might have been better if you got down on her level (that assumes she will continue to interact with the cat while you squat or sit down, of course)
-to get rid of the blur either use flash, get more light, or use a faster shutter speed/smaller aperture
-get closer than you think you need to get - closeups are almost always better - plus you're less likely to get things like feet in the picture (you could also crop the photo afterwards, but you lose some quality if you crop too much)
-another way to get that foot out would have been to turn the angle of the camera - we always think vertical or horizontal when we take pics, but sometimes holding the camera diagonally makes a cool shot

The above comment about opening windows is great, too - and a dSLR is great - if you know how to use the settings. If you just use the "auto" on a dSLR you're wasting money and will still get mediocre pictures (in my opinion).

Here are some pics I've taken of my kiddos, if you're interested :-)

Ashley's Mom said...

Thank you all! These are great ideas. Hopefully I will become better at picture taking and will share with you my results!

Nicole, love your blog and really glad you commented so I could find it! Your pictures are wonderful.

Queenbuv3 said...

I take LOTS OF PICTURES (one or two are bound to come out ok)and get on their level. I even get on the floor or the ground if I have to. I also keep my camera in the same spot in the same drawer so I can grab it quick and catch them doing something interesting. I almost always use a flash even outside because it eliminates shadows.

I don't do school photos for either kid anymore. They are overpriced and unnatural in the pose and are ugly as you stated.

Keep taking pics, practice makes perfect!

Azaera said...

I'm with everyone else I just take tons of pictures in a row until I get some that I like. Honestly like 50% of my pictures of Skyler are blurry or he's making a messed up face. Haha. He does love the camera though so he tends to smile a lot as soon as he sees the bright orange light my camera gives off when I center the shot. I think that helps.

Marla said...

I think your pictures are precious but I can understand your frustration.

I went to art school and have been obsessed with photography since I was in middle school. Have you ever thought about taking a local photography class? That might be a lot of fun, granted fitting the time in for that may be a challenge, I know.

Do you like your camera? I use a Canon EOS Digital Rebel and I love it. It has a heavier 35 mm feel. I do not like small digital cameras because I have to hold too still for too long for it to take the picture or it just does not feel good in my hands.

A good camera that takes higher quality images can make all the difference. It is okay to use automatic settings because the images will look way better than a smaller, less expensive digital camera. The Rebel is very easy to use, I think.

You may want to check out a website that makes fixing up pictures very easy and you can do a lot without joining. Check it out and mess around with some of your photos. I use Photoshop but I get a kick out of this site and like how they have fun and quick ways to add to your photos.

When you use the site always adjust and fix the lighting on your picture before anything else. It is usually called 'levels' and is the easiest and most important way to tweak an okay photo into a way better image.

Natural lighting makes for the best photographs. I love overcast days for shooting. The more sun the more difficult it can be to get a good image.

I am also amazed at the images I can get with my Blackberry. I use this when I am out and about with M. My iPhone took even better pictures but I had very poor service in this area so had to switch.

As someone else said it is good to get up close. I am often laying totally flat on the ground looking up at M to get some images. I am almost always crouching and up very close. If I am not up close I usually crop my images. Taking many pictures is good too. You may take eighty and have two or three that are good. Delete the rest and save those.

Think of being at Ahsley's eye level and always be thinking how you could try a different angle. And don't be afraid of posing Ashley if you have the perfect lighting. M loves to dress up with makeup and pose for pictures. I don't know if A would be into makeup and dress up and going outside for a shoot but that can be when M is most willing to cooperate because she loves all the attention she gets while we do the shoot.

I do love your pictures. I hope this gives you a few ideas to play with.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm late but I LOVE the picture of Ashley at the beach. I can just see her experiencing the world, the beach, in her own way and being happy. The beach is also one of my favorite places. She can't see or hear, but she can FEEL (both through her senses and emotionally): and I can see that in this photo. Really amazing photo.