back lightI often get asked by moms how to take better photographs of their children and even how to use their camera. I love teaching, so I am more than willing to help!
Light and knowing how to see it is the most important part of photography! It's important to know how it shapes a subject in order to achieve your vision. In this post we are going to talk about front, 45 degree, side, back and top lighting.
If you just got your camera and know how to use it in manual mode stick around, even if you don't this good knowledge to have just to take better smartphone photos. However, I highly encourage you to research how to use your camera on manual mode. You'll have so much more control over the vision of your photograph!
Start with a subject you'd like to photograph, maybe even a person. Use the same subject in each photo in the same position every time. Also use the same light every time, whether it's a flashlight or a lamp or you can use a soft box kit like mine.
Front lighting is when your light source is directly in front of your subject. Front lighting makes everything flat and you'll lose detail in your subject like textures. Shadows are very subtle and even non existent and objects tend to lose their shape. If you are looking for smooth skin, beauty type shots this is the common set-up.
As you can see in the photo the flowers look very flat and two dimensional. The texture in the flowers petals and on the leaves are lost. Same with the picture of my son below. Light in front of his face has nearly eliminated all the shadows. It makes his skin look even and smooth.
Real Life Example
45 Degree Lighting
Light is angled at 45 degrees from your subjects nose or whatever point sticks out the most in your subject. This lighting is the most popular for portraits. It's often soft and the shadows are gradual giving a beautiful 3D look in a 2D medium.
You'll often hear 45 degree lighting called Rembrandt lighting after the famous painter who used it often in his portraits. It's more dramatic than front lighting, but oh so beautiful! It's my favorite type of lighting other than side light, which I'll talk about next.
Real Life Example
Side lighting comes from the side of your subject and emphasizes texture. It's extremely dramatic and often used in portraits that exhibit loneliness or sorrow. You'll see it a lot in publications like National Geographic and Time.
When I say it emphasizes texture a great example of it would be in a portrait of a senior citizen. It'll make their wrinkles and lines in their face stand out much more than any other type of lighting. On men it'll make stubble stand out and well as tiny stray hairs.
As for the flowers, side lighting highlights all the wrinkles in the leaves, little hairs on the edges of the leaves and the smoothness of the vase.
Real Life Example
Lighting from the back of the subject emphasizes the shape of your subject. Silhouettes are an example of back lighting, but back lighting also highlights the contours of a subject. This means the light will create a a halo effect around the edges of your subject.
If using artificial light it's best to use lights that are small in order for them to hide behind your subject. It's best to use back lighting on subjects that you can see their profile or the distinct shape of what the subject is. Otherwise it'll look like a black blob in your picture and not distinct.
Real Life Example
Lighting from Above
When thinking about lighting from the top you should remember you are emphasizing form of your subject, where as back lighting is the flat shape of a subject. Think sphere versus circle.
You're also going to get some pretty harsh shadows on the face for example like the forehead over the eyes. Think about when you take a photo in the mid day sun of a person in a baseball cap. Their entire face is black because of the bill of the cap over the face.
Real Life Example
If you are new to photography lighting is definitely where you should start. It's something you need to recognize with both natural and artificial light. Knowing what your seeing and how it shapes your subject will dramatically improve your photography and you'll start seeing it everywhere you go!
Have questions about the lighting above? Leave me a comment below. Otherwise I would love to see examples of the photographs you take with your new knowledge on lighting.
As a photographer one of the most common questions I get asked is “how do I organize all my photos?” Many of us have 2,000 or more photos on our phone. Photos can take up a lot of space and can really slow down the performance of your phone. So, we need to figure out the best way to keep our photos organized, easily accessible and visible because whats the point of taking photos if you can’t see them!
1. Back Up
I’m an Andriod user, so I use google photos to back up my Samsung photos. Google photos storage is unlimited for smartphone photos. Personally, I think it’s the best option out there!
If you’re an iPhone user back up your photos to iCloud, but its a limited amount of space then, I believe, you have to pay a monthly fee.
You can also back up to your computer and external hard drives. I use all three, the cloud, my computer and an external hard drive. As soon as I am done taking photos I immediately download all my photos to these devices. If you automatically upload to the cloud the better because you don’t even have to think about it!
2. Delete, delete, delete
For some reason when we take pictures we tend take 10 of the same situation and each one is slightly different. Pick the best one of the series and delete the rest. There’s no reason to have all of those photos taking up space on your phone, especially if they all pretty much look the same.
Many parents feel bad when they delete photos of their children and it’s because you’re emotionally attached to them. Look at it this way, millennials and the generations after are the most documented generations ever. They probably have 100 photos of them eating their first birthday cake to your 3 photos. So don’t fret about deleting photos. Your kids have more photos of themselves then we ever did and what in the world are they going to do with all of them.
Every smartphone, camera and video camera has an internal clock, which means every photo you take is dated and even geographically marked now. Which also means your photos are already organized for you! So awesome, don’t you think?
What about when I transfer the photos? When I transfer them they are all mixed up?
If you transfer them to the computer most likely it’s organizing them by file name. You can just left click and tell it to organize by date. Easy peasy!
The whole point of taking photos is to see them right? How often do you go through all of them when they are on your phone? I am guessing maybe once a month if that. Do you even know what’s on there from last year?
No? Well then print your photos. There are so many cheap and beautiful options out there there’s no excuse. The Shutterfly app offers free 4x6 prints, plus other different free offers every month, you just pay for shipping.
However, my favorite is Social Print Studio. Not only will it print phone photos, but it will take photos directly from Instagram too! They have so many fun options for very reasonable prices.
But what if I have a lot of photos to print from every year, like thousands? Wouldn’t that cost a lot of money?
Yes it would! So this is where you have to channel your inner Marie Kondo and only print the ones that spark joy! Really, how many pictures of your napping baby do you want to have before they all look the same. Pick the ones that really spark a memory or tell a story and print.
5. Now the last step is the easiest, but has the most value! Display!
Put your albums on coffee tables and your prints on walls so you and your family can see it everyday, plus they are great talking points for when you have guests come over.
All done and so easy! The hard part of organizing is already done for you because technology is awesome! I remember having to date photos after I printed them and put them in albums. The tedious part was figuring out what went where and the order of everything. That’s already done for you and picking which ones to print is the easy part. So there’s no excuse now you should be printing photos and making albums left and right.
Life is so different for us now, since our nights as drunk 20 year olds walking from old town Roseville to your house. I never expected you would marry a Scotsman and I would have chickens on two acres. It's not where my visions of us took me. I still think we will be old, husbandless and living together, sitting on our front porch yelling at kids to get off our lawn. But we'll be really old!
However, I would not change a thing about our lives as much as we may complain about our children. You are, by far, one of the most amazing moms I know. Just the fact that you lived in Ghana with two children astonishes me. You are brave! I would have had a mental breakdown that far from home. You are so adventurous and I see that spirit in your girls!
I am so glad I got to do a small session of your girls because I got to see how great of a mother you are! You are nurturing, but at the same time you know how to walk away and let them build their own independence. The best part about seeing you with your children is that you instinctively know how to talk to them. You don't baby, you're authoritative, but not mean. It's a comforting authority if that makes any sense, lol! I learned a lot from you and have copied your demeanor in trying situations with my son.
Just know that you are doing a great job! Seriously, i'm not just saying that because you are my friend! You have raised amazing human beings who are kind and smart and look up to you. They will be independent, self sufficient girls who will grow up to be independent, self sufficient women.
Peak into the Ross Sister's Life - Photo Slideshow
There's no better portrait than a portrait of a mother and son! Why? Well because I have a son and it's not often that I get to take pictures with him. Like a good photo, not of us making silly faces because that's what boys do at 3 years of age. So when moms come to me and want a session of just them and their son, like Kassie and Alex, my heart melts just a little!
Kassie is a school teacher and a wonderful mom! She already has Alex writing his own name, which makes me feel a little behind. She and Alex are so sweet together and I feel like they always have so much fun! Alex is a funny kid! He's got such a personality and is always smiling. I don't think I have ever seen him lose his temper.
So far I have been lucky enough to photograph them every year and I can't wait for our next session together!
Hour long sessions are designed for the busy parents who need a quicker session, but still want to capture all the personality within their families. We start the session with 20 to 30 minutes of direction, then the second half of the session I like families to play and engage with each other. It's half portraits and half documentary. The best of both worlds!
Need help figuring out what to do for the second half of your session? No worries, I can give you lots of fun activities for your family to do. Here are some examples:
On Location or at Home
Location photo shoots are amazing opportunities for family photo sessions. There are so many options outside. You could go on a short hike, you could play a scrimmage game of soccer, you could go on a nature walk collecting different specimens or whatever it is that your family normally does to have a good time.
If you're still stuck and need help thinking about what to do for a session, I am here to help. I used to work for a with kids at a Parks and Recreation Department, so I love to plan fun little activities. I also have explored lots of places in Northern California and know some great spots for photo shoots.
But maybe the best place to do a photo shoot is in the comfort of your own home. You know at your house the backyard is the place to be! So having a photo shoot there would be ideal. You can use the same ideas above in your backyard as well!
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Just remember I want your family to be comfortable and have fun! We don't want to try to fill your time with one activity after another. Pick something you know your kids will really enjoy. The safest bet is to pick a location your family visits often or have me pick it for you. If you need any help deciding please fell free to call (916) 955-3269 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arbaugh Family: Half-day Session in the Morning
I often get asked, "What does a family documentary session look like?" or "What is it?" when I tell people what my niche is in. They are often more curious about what the photos will look like at the end. So I put together two slideshows to help answer those questions.
These are two half-day sessions. The first session is of the Arbaugh family in their home doing their morning routine. The second session is of the Hood family doing their evening routine. The half day and full day sessions are strictly documentary. I photograph what unfolds, whether it’s laughter, tears or a tantrum, nothing goes unnoticed!
I often get requests for these sessions from moms who are the only picture takers in their family. They often tell me, “I am never in any pictures of me just being with my kids. I’m always the one taking pictures with my phone. I want something with me to put in my scrapbook.” Those three sentences are exactly why I do family photojournalism.
Is this something you would do? If so, I would love to get to know your family! Or you can take a peek at my FAQs if you still have any questions. Also, you find more about pricing here.
Hood Family: Half-day Session Evening
Like adults kids just want to be seen, heard and loved. They want to feel like they belong. And I'm not just talking about when they are at school and with friends, but family too. Was there ever a time you didn’t feel like you belonged within your family?
There were times I felt like the black sheep, but I knew my family still loved me. One of the ways I knew they loved me was through photos. I saw photos of me and my family around the house smiling, laughing and hugging each other everyday! It was important to my mom that she honored the time we spent together because these photos were a display of love.
So here are 5 awesome reasons why you should print your photos and add them to your home's decor, if not for you than at least to honor the love you have for your children!
Kids Learn About Where They Come From
Did you have maternity photos done? I did. I have them around the house in frames. When my son first noticed these photographs he asked “why is your belly so big?” I said “that’s because you are in my belly growing into a baby.”
Of course, the conversation stemmed from there and we talked about how mommy’s grow babies in their bellies, so on and so forth. Don’t worry we didn’t have the birds and bees talk yet. He’s only three! That time will come, but not now, not now.
Here are some of the things we talked about.
They Learn Their Place in the Family
When I read that sub-header I thought of some angry father yelling at their child saying stuff like “you will know your place and follow my rules because you live under my roof!” But that’s definitely not what I mean here.
What I mean is simple. They learn that mom and dad are their parents and that they are loved by them! They also learn that mom and dad are their safe place. A place where they can talk about when they are hurt, sad, mad or happy! A simple family photograph can remind them of this concept because can understand that just from a little photograph.
They Learn About Genealogy and Structure of a Family
Often family portraits are not just of mom, dad and children. Many families take photos with grandparents, great grandparents and aunts and uncles. So get a couple of extra prints of those extended family portraits and build this cute family tree for your scrapbook (coming soon).
Use this project as a teaching tool. It'll help your child understand how the family structure works. You can talk about where mom and dad came from and what aunts and uncles are.
Photographs Show Children that They are Respected and that Time Together is Honored
I’m sure you have some photos where the boyfriend was cut out or ripped off and you threw them into a fire to watch them burn! Wait, is that only in the movies? We, and movies, do this because that photo honored a time in our life that we want to forget. So having photos of mom and dad holding each other or kissing each other honors their relationship together and the fact that they have photos together shows they respect one another.
The same goes for having your children in photographs. It shows a child you respect them and the time you spent with them. It reinforces the positive memories with your child and honors that memory by displaying it on a wall for them to see everyday. It’ll remind them that spending time with family is important and fun!
Which leads to the next point.
Putting a Family Photo in the Child’s Room Reinforces the Sense of Belonging and Importance of Family.
I am actually guilty of not having family photos in my son’s room and I blame Pinterest! I blame Pinterest because they have all these cute baby rooms that are themed and when you’re designing your nursery you’re not thinking about family photos. All your thinking about is the cute design and how can it be perfect for them. I don't remember one single Pinterest idea having family photos in the room.
I wonder without photos in the child’s room are we encouraging an importance of material things like toys and movies? Lots of baby and kids room are themed with Disney movies or cartoons or stuffed toys and is not family oriented. I would love to see themes that include more family photos, even if it's just of the parents holding baby's first toy. I think that is an idea for a future project and blog post.
I know most of us take pictures on our smartphones, but what do you do with those pictures later? How often do you review those pictures? If you are anything like me (before I became a professional) you may have looked back at them once a year. You only did that when you were trying to free up storage space.
I think there are very few us that actually print them. If you don’t print them you should at least review them. It’s another way to show your child that you honor them and what they were doing when you took the photo. Hopefully, you share those photos with them as much as you share them on your Facebook and Instagram account.
Places you can print your smartphone photos:
On the Shutterfly app you can print unlimited 4x6 prints. You have no excuses now!
For higher quality, but affordable prints check out Social Print Studio. They also have an app where you can print photos right from your phone.
So how many family photos do you have in your house?
Do you have any in your child's room?
Tell me about your favorite ways to display photos in the comments below.
Until next time!
Thanks to the Arbaugh family for scheduling a half day session with me to capture their morning routine. It was amazing to see such a big, loving family just having a great time!
Documentary photography is for everyone and for everything. It’s the type of photography that stirs up emotions and looks at life for what it really is.
I know that "being in the moment" is hard when you have distractions like the dishes, laundry, email, work, school and a mile long list of “to do’s”. But there are so many times that we are missing the real moments with our kids because we are thinking about so many other things.
However, if you are anything like me, you stop to play a quick game of tag or a picnic with the teddies, all the time! I have a billion photos of my husband and son in those moments, but rarely of me. Wouldn't you like a photo with your children doing the things you normally do? Wouldn't you want a photo of the memories you'll actually have? I do, I want that! (Raising my hand with enthusiasm!)
1. Capture REAL moments!
You'd be surprised all the stuff you miss and frankly ignore as a parent. It's just something we learn to do to survive, haha! But kids are weird and hysterical.
Seriously, they are a crack up! It's those weird things that we remember the most. We'll tell their boyfriends and girlfriends later on and use photos of our kids in bath tubs to embarrass their future wife or husband.
Although, I think the most important point about all these memories is that we, as parents, were there too. We reacted. So you should be able to look back at those moments and be represented too.
2. We do a "day in the life" session for our wedding day and that's it!
Then for the rest of our lives we have this need to get fall portraits done every year. You know for the Christmas card and to hang one more portrait of us in matching outfits on the wall.
Ok, don't take this the wrong way because I do love a good portrait (I am a photographer after all), but it's not a real representation of you and how you'll be remembered.
How often do you coordinate outfits on a normal day? (Uh I have to say for me, NEVER.)
Do your kids enjoy portrait day? (Mine doesn't)
Is it stressful for you? (Yes, yes, yes!)
Oh and do your kids remember anything significant about that day? (Nope, except for the ice cream I got him after).
Then why do we insist on doing this every year? Let's relax and enjoy our time with our kids and have someone else capture the fun!
3. You're on your phone enough
This kind of relates to number 2 and I can't say it enough that smartphones do not compare to professional cameras, especially when printing photos.
Like many parents, you are busy, very busy. The smart phone is what you have on you and yes portrait mode is pretty amazing! However, have you ever tried to print a large photo from your phone. They are awful! Phones still don't match professional cameras when it comes to mega pixels and the right lenses make all the difference. Smartphone cameras only go so far and don't you want to be in the photo too?
Also, professional photographers have hours of education under their belt in order to make those amazing shots and hours of practice. Last year alone I took over 30,000 photos. That’s a lot of practice!
As a parent you don’t have a lot time to learn how to take really amazing photographs that a professional can get. So hire one for vacations, for parties and for regular days. Anything really. The photos will be better quality and won't be stuck or lost on your phone.
4. Get back to making memories instead of taking them.
How many of these milestones and events in your life are you missing from the pictures? Birthdays? Baptisms? Vacations? Day trips? Baby shower? And the list goes on.
Get back to being there, being in the moment, being a family. Because you don’t want your child to be asked what they remember of you during their birthday and they say “mommy was on her phone.” Make memories and let someone else worry about taking them.
5. What kind of legacy do you want to leave for your children?
Family legacies are “a set of beliefs, values, and attitudes that are passed down from generation to generation through the messages that children receive from their parents,” according to the Center for Parenting.
Some families believe that money is the only legacy you can leave behind, but a legacy is more than that. A legacy can be someone who makes history, who is a leader or who makes a difference in their children lives.
So how does your legacy look? How will it be captured? Is it wall of posed portraits or real moments of the legacy your leaving your family?
Ready for a different kind of photo session? Shoot me an email and tell me all about the memories you want to make and legacy you want to leave!
Sometimes you just get lucky! I'm certainly lucky to have this family back for another session. Seriously, they are the perfect family! They couldn't be any prettier and they just added another little girl to the family. She was even born on New Years Eve and what could be even more perfect than photography session as the sun sets at the pond at the El Dorado Hills Library park?! Nothing, absolutely nothing. I think I'll let the slideshow speak for itself and let you oogle at this beautiful and amazing family!
Family photos can get pretty boring year after year. Sometimes there are photos lined up in people homes of the same picture, but everyone is a little older in their hallways. I always think to myself, don't you want something different, something that tells a little bit more of who your family is. This is why I always add a little bit of silliness to all of my sessions (pretty sure I have talked about this before).
My family is definitely silly and our pictures are not "normal," but those are my favorite pictures. It's just who we are as people. We love life and are a truly happy family! When families are silly I often see the real sides of them and they end of being the photos that hang up in their home. Besides it's just fun to do as well! That's why when my friend Brenda contacted me I was so excited to do a session for them. I knew they would be willing to be a little silly and have fun with their photos. Of course, I think it paid off because I got real smiles and awesome family photos of them.