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Best Family Photography Tips for Beginners!

Updated on November 21, 2012

Getting that Baby on Film

In the many types of photography you may have to do as a photographer, baby shots may be the most difficult.

Even if you are not a professional photographer but you are trying to get a great looking portrait of your own child, getting them to cooperate is a major undertaking.

The first rule to live by with baby photography is that, as a matter of face, they ARE the boss of this shoot. The entire process has to be built around that fragile mood of this child. But there are a couple of tricks of the trade you can use, professional or amateur to get the best shot of that sweet baby.

Baby's respond well when they are fed and rested, with people they know and trust and when they get all the attention. So right off the bat, you as mom and dad can see to it that the shoot happens when requirement number one has been met. Now, that is not always easy. If you have an appointment to take the baby to the get his or her portrait made at the local photography studio, that mood may not be the way you want it to be.

That is why, if at all possible we would discourage taking the shots in a studio. If you can set up a shoot at the baby's home, where there is a comfortable setting and much that is familiar around, you have many more opportunities to get that smile that will make the portrait of a lifetime there.

Now that calls for a "house call" by the photographer but if he or she is a photographer that wants only the best shot of the child, they will work with what you want.

Another advantage of scheduling the shoot at home is that you know when the baby usually is at his or her best so you can schedule it when that time of day is just right. In fact if the photographer can show up during nap time, there is plenty of time to stage the shot before the angel awakens. And by eliminating the car ride to the studio, you take away a huge risk of that fragile mood going south en route.

A second tip comes from the fact that babies like people they know. So if the photographer has time to meet the child, play with him or her and get a rapport started, then they will be more receptive to playful direction to get the shot you want.

You will have to be clever how you introduce the camera as it can either be an object of fear or looked upon as a toy and the baby will want to play with it.

As far as the camera goes, think about the kind of equipment you will utilize to get that perfect baby portrait. You want it to be portable, so you can do those on location shots that work so much better. It should be small, both for portability and to not alarm the child. Digital is best because you can shoot lots of shots and never have to reload. But make sure it's a good quality piece of equipment that will shoot at a high resolution so when you get that prefect shot, it will transfer to a portrait printing nicely.

By setting up the room with the kind of backdrops that will create a good portrait, you can then have the baby begin to play with her or her toys and interact with parents, siblings or the photographer in a happy way. Before long that sound of the camera clicking and even the flash will become familiar and the baby won't pay it any mind.

The best shots are of the baby laughing. Try to get on the same level with the child as he or she plays. Mom and dad know the notices or games that always get a giggle so exploit their inside information extensively. The baby will enjoy getting to know you and hearing those familiar games coming from you should do well at getting that sweet laugh or smile you want.

By learning the baby's personality and how to get in sync with the child, you can coax pictures from the shoot that might other wise be impossible to get. And that is what you want if a portrait of a baby that you want to last a lifetime.


Proper Lighting as a Technique in Family Photography

When the you flip through the pages of a magazine or see a billboard, you might think that it was done in just one shot.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Professionals use rolls of film and then after developing, decide on the right shot before having this done by the printers.

The main trick to get the right shot is having the proper lighting to get the best impact from the audience. This isn't done by magic or something compared to rocket science. It's basically just using the right tools available to get the job done.

Even the average family photographers know the simple rules of taking a picture. The camera must not be pointed against the sun and a flash must be used if the background is too dark.

Professionals have another technique to make this happen. There is the option to use natural light coming from the sun if it's done on location or by using lights of different wattages to get the desired effect.

There are two kinds available. The first is called a hot light. Literally, this means using lamps that are very hot. The advantage of using this type of equipment is that you will be able to get the required brightness.

The problem is that such has been proven to be an inconvenience to the photographer and the models since both will sweat and it is hard to do a photo shoot under such conditions. The props used may also melt which is hard to replicate.

This brings the second option which is using cold light. This is very similar like the flash normally found in the camera.

There are many brands available that are either heavy or lightweight. You should make sure that the system is compatible with the camera since these devices cost a lot which can help produce better family shots in the long run.

Diffusers also help in lighting. They can be adjusted to certain angles to get the right family shot. People once used umbrellas to make this work but this has changed to a soft box that diffuses the rays from the lamps.

Lighting is key when it comes to family photography and can all be purchased from a specialty store. You should get the models out and only buy those that are known brands since this will assure that you get quality shots, in the long term. Keep your family photography memories in the proper lighting

Check out this book on Photographing your Family

Photographing Your Family: And All the Kids and Friends and Animals Who Wander Through Too (National Geographic Photography Field Guides)
Photographing Your Family: And All the Kids and Friends and Animals Who Wander Through Too (National Geographic Photography Field Guides)

Product Description

At certain moments—on a trip, on a holiday, or during those first weeks of parenthood, for example—have you ever wished you were a National Geographic photographer? In this unique guide, staff photographer Joel Sartore takes the mystery out of making extraordinary pictures of kids with a hilarious tour through his own family albums. Sartore’s photographs delight and inspire, from the first moments a newborn enters the house to Halloween parades, from visits with family and friends to fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Easy-to-follow tips and instructions make the creative process simple, helping parents approach photography in a whole new way. Digital photographers will appreciate tips on editing techniques, album innovations, archiving methods, and printing. Sartore’s charisma and humor make learning a pure delight.

Unlike competitive titles, Photographing Your Family is lavishly illustrated to show the many ways to make pictures, how Sartore captured these images specifically, and the philosophies a world-class photographer brings to his work at home—with emphasis on the contributions that relatives, friends, and pets can make to the story that is family.

Early childhood is a fleeting time that parents and grandparents go to great lengths to capture in photos. This book will appeal to a vast audience: families who want to create memorable albums, parents with new babies, and everyone who wants to give a truly unique and useful family gift.

About the Author

Joel Sartore has spent the last 14 years on assignment for National Geographic magazine and has also worked for Time, Life, and Sports Illustrated. His books include Nebraska, Face to Face with Grizzlies, and, in collaboration with Douglas Chadwick, The Company We Keep. He has been featured on NPR and CBS Sunday Morning, and was recently the subject of the PBS documentary, At Close Range.

 

Color or Black and White?

Color or black and white?

The debate regarding the use of color or black and white for photographs has been going on for decades.

Many traditionalists still prefer the formal appearance of black and white photographs. However, these days there seem to be only a few traditionalists left as more and more photographs are being developed in color.

Many people are opting for color pictures simply because they are simpler and cheaper to produce. This was not always the case, as it took sometime before the required technology for color photographs could surpass the quality of black and white photos.

Before color, black and whites were the standard print used for on film. Many historical materials that may contain pictures are often in black or white. During the early days of photography, black and white processing and printing was more inexpensive than color. At the same time, black and white photographs had better quality than color.

At the start, color photographs were to expensive to process and print compared to black and white. Plus, the outcome of color photographs was not as crisp or sharp as black and white. It was only until after the eighties when the quality of color photographs surpassed black and white.

Color in Today’s Photographs

Unfortunately the entrance of color printing into the main photography scene meant the decline of black and whites. As a result, the supply of black and white film dwindled as well as the facilities that could process and print them. In just a short time, black and white photographs became the exemption in photography while color became the rule.

In today’s world almost everything is in color. Photographers, amateur and even professionals prefer using color in order to better express the details of the pictures that they take. In addition, photographs processed and printed in color are cheaper than black and whites. In fact these days it is easier to get photographs printed in color than black and whites.

The technology used in photography these days is able to produce photographs that capture each and every vivid detail in color. Furthermore, the advances in photography have also made it possible for people to convert their existing black and white photographs into color. The results are astounding as the photograph is vibrantly reprinted in color without leaving any detail out.

The Resurgence of Black and White

Following the current trend in revivals, black and white photographs are experiencing a comeback as photographers are rediscovering the power of black and white imagery. Many people now view black and white photos as an innovative take on the usual colored pictures. At the same time, black and white photos impart a sense of reality that can be lost in colored pictures.

Print advertising was the first industry to revive the interest in black and white pictures. Gigantic billboards across the country featured ads done entirely in black and white. Since then, black and white photographs became requested all over the place.

Black and whites became popular with brides who wanted to add a historical and classic touch to their wedding pictures. Photography classes have also used black and white photographs as a great way to teach students on how light affects film. However the resurgence of black and white was inevitable because it's simply beautiful.

What goes with what?

In the early days, people had no choice but to use black and white since it was the only medium available to them. But today, people can choose what they want for their photographs. In most cases, the choice of using color or black and white is a matter of personal preference.

Keep in mind that most subjects can be taken in black and white. However there are times when using color can help bring out the true beauty of the subject. You may want to pass up a black and white motif for subjects that are known for color like an autumn settings, flowers and colorful butterflies.

Use a black and white theme for subjects where color may become a distraction to the viewer. Scenes of war or an accident are more compelling and less violent to look out minus the color of blood. In this way, black and white photographs relay more emotion without being too disturbing.

Filters for Special Effects

Have you seen picture ads in magazines that look so nice that they don't look real at all?

Some of them have been edited using photo editing software. But, definitely, most of them have been taken using a camera with a special kind of filter.

There are a wide variety of filters to choose from when adding to your camera equipment. There are filters for either color or black-and-white shots or both. Each filter has its own function, whether it be for enhancing the color contrast, improving sharpness, highlight flares and more. And there are filters for special effects like those photos normally seen in magazines and advertisements.

Here are some examples of filters that can be used to enhance the image by adding special effects to them.

Star and Cross Effect Filters

There are different star effect flares available such as Star-Six and Star-Eight. The Star-Six has six-pointed light flares, while Star-Eight has eight-pointed flares. These flares add more brightness to images. This filter is good when taking pictures of streetlights, theme-parks during the night or sun-reflections on glass structures.

A cross screen filter is similar to star filters except that the flare is four-cross. It also gives a dramatic effect to bright points in the image. It is ideal for taking photos of ladies wearing jewelry.

Spectral cross filter produces cross effects as well as soft-focus effects normally desired for portraits, outdoor shots with direct lighting or back lighting with increased cross effects. It is a filter with two transparent and colorless optical glass in a rotating frame with a black gauze-like fiber in between.

Vario cross filter gives an effect of four rays of light coming out from each light source point. It is a filter consisting of two glasses with parallel lines etched on each glass. The front glass can be rotated separately to modify the angle of the light rays.

Close-up Filters

As the name implies, these filters are for close-up photography which are better than zooms. These filters are available in +1, +2, +3, +4, and +10 diopters with the higher number giving a much closer shot.

Macro close-up filters are good for taking shots of small insects, flowers and other tiny objects at close-up. It has a +10 diopter rating with a 2-element, 2-group construction lens.

Split field filter takes a close-up shot of half of the image while the other half is normal. This is used for keeping in focus both close and far objects at the same time.

Multivision Filters

To create a fantastic effect of repeating an object in a single photo, multivision filters are used. These are available in 3PF, 3F, 5F, 6F, and 6PF where the number determines the number of times the object will be repeated. It works great with dark backgrounds or larger objects.

Multivision filters are made up of optical glass accurately cut into different facets. Color multivision filters add different colors to the image. There are two types available – 3F with three faces in red, green and blue, and 5F with five faces equally divided into orange and green colors.

Misty Spot Filters

This type of filters provides a blurring effect of the background of a clear and sharp central image. There are four types of these kind available.

A breezing filter gives unidirectional streaks of the blurred background. Gradual filter has streaks that seem to originate from the center image. The windmill filter has a blurring background that swirls about the center. The halo filter has blurring streaks that originate from a point at the edge of the field.

Diffusion Filters

Diffusion filters provide a soft focus effect on the image due to an irregular or uneven surface. This kind of filter is specifically used for portraits.

Center Spot Filters

The center of this filter has a clear spot that gives the center image a clear and sharp effect, while the background can have an effect of fog to make it romantic.

These are just some of the special effects filters available for professional and amateur photographers alike. It surely is nice to add even just one or two to your collection with the fabulous effects that it can provide on your shots.

Adobe Photoshop Family Photography

In the history of photography, there has never been a time that we can achieve such phenomenal results in editing as has happened in the digital age.

And while there are a myriad of tools that the computer and internet have made available to us to enhance and change the images that come from a photo shoot, none can top the popularity and power of Adobe Photoshop.

The program has become so synonymous with editing and creating effects that the term, “to Photoshop” has become a verb that means to enhance or alter an image.

We can “Photoshop in” new outfits, accessories or even people to a shot where it was just not possible before. So if you want a picture of you shaking hands with the president, you don’t have to go to Washington to get it, just “Photoshop” your image into the image of the president and it will look as real as if you had been there.

Similarly, we can “Photoshop” out things from a picture we don’t want to see there anymore. So if you have a physical flaw, that can be removed. You can even remove a distracting person from the background of the shot. The program is so sophisticated that these images are possible and you really cannot tell the alteration has been made.

Photoshop has become such a de facto standard for photo processing that if you are setting up a photography studio or business, a copy of the software is as necessary as Microsoft word or PowerPoint.

The good thing about this software is that it is readily accessible and a lot of people know how to use it. So if you feel insecure about learning yet another computer application, you can probably find a college student, someone at the high school or maybe the junior high that knows Photoshop in and out and can help you jump start your use of the software as well.

But Photoshop has not always dominated this genre. The program was created in 1989 by two brothers, John Knoll and Thomas Knoll. While the brothers developed Photoshop for custom uses they had at the time, it wasn’t long before the market potential of this software became evident. So, being smart entrepreneurs, John and Thomas founded a little company called Adobe and began operations in 1990.

Adobe has been a shining example of how to achieve success in the age of the internet. Today few of us who use the internet are not aware of Adobe. You probably cannot find a personal computer that uses the internet that does not have a free copy of the Adobe reader on it to read PDF files. The PDF format is yet another example of how this little company has created and then taken over a particular market of online business.

To really become skilled at using Photoshop, the first thing to do is probably find a copy to play with. Like most computer applications, you can probably find a copy on a friend’s computer just to tinker with it and get a feel for the controls. Then if your friend is a wizard at Photoshop, let him or her show you some of the real “wiz-bang” things they can do with Photoshop using the same menus you were just tinkering with. This little Saturday afternoon experiment could turn you into a Photoshop addict forever.

After that, you would do well to download a copy for yourself. You can get an evaluation version that will give you most of the features. But you really only need that if you are not sure if you are going to buy a copy.

Since Photoshop dominates this market, you almost certainly will buy a copy so you might save some frustration and purchase a licensed copy right away. Now, you will probably find yourself playing with the software for long hours just having fun and that’s great.

But don’t overlook the value of taking some organized classes in photo editing using Adobe Photoshop. These classes can show you the shortcuts and how to get the most out of the software.

From there on out, your imagination is the only limit to how you will use this tool to make your photographs better for your customers. And you will be able to respond enthusiastically when someone says, “that’s ok, you can just Photoshop that and fix it right up.”

Reader Feedback

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      kpcwriting2 6 years ago

      Great newbie photographer tips.

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      Anne-Geddes-Fan 8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing! Anne Geddes once told us that mornings are usually a better time to take photographs for babies because they are likely to be more settled. Also, her studio has a good old-fashioned rocking chair that has been working well in calming babies... sounds like good tips!