Brandi asked: What camera would you recommend for a mom who just wants better day-to-day pictures of her kids? My camera stinks and there are so many out there it’s overwhelming for someone who knows nothing about photography!
I actually receive this question frequently online, through email, and from clients in the studio. I think it is such a popular question because the answer is constantly changing. I haven’t bought a non-pro camera in years, so while I can explain to you what all the specs actually mean, I haven’t done much research on brands and models in a long time. Because camera companies are coming up with fabulous new digital camera models constantly, I would recommend learning more about what the features actually DO, and then you can research what current models have the features that are most important to you. I recently found this article which I think is a really great starting point for anyone buying a camera. It was posted by The Verge, a relatively new tech site, and it goes over all of the basics of photography and camera body types. I highly recommend you read this while you get started on your search!
Kelly asked: How many pictures do you actually take during a toddler shoot and how many of those would you say you’re happy with. They’re quick it’s hard to catch them!
Haha! Kelly, you must be a photographer yourself because anyone who has photographed a toddler session knows you often end it completely exhausted and with a very full memory card! I’m no different. In fact, let me go look at my session I shot this morning. I had a two year old boy in the studio and took 526 images! That includes all of the light tests, set tests, color balancing, etc. It was a dark day so I was working with shooting almost wide open, a slow shutter speed, and a high ISO. That means there will be a LOT of out-of-focus shots. I often overcompensate shooting in a situation like that so I would say that number is the very high end of what I shoot at a toddler session. All of our client galleries are approximately 30 images, so I will take those hundreds and gradually narrow them down to the absolute best. I want every portrait to be a “wowzer”, and the rest get dumped!
Rachel asked: What settings do you use indoors if there is very low light to still achieve crisp pics?
This is another good question for today because it might have been one of the darkest days I’ve had a session in a very long time. And could it have been for a newborn session? No. It had to be for an active 2 year old! But we made it work. There are no special settings I use and I’m usually changing my settings throughout a session depending on the look that I am trying to achieve. I always shoot pretty wide open, and I wont go below a shutter speed of 125 unless it’s for a newborn, so if the conditions are too dark, I reschedule the shoot. It happens 2-3 times a year that there isn’t enough natural light for me to conduct a session in our studio. If today had been for a family or group, I would have had to reschedule because you can’t shoot a group at f/2. In fact, it is pretty darn hard for a toddler too!
Anya asked: What editing software do you use?
Photoshop CS4…. but the girls are harassing me to get CS5 so I’ll probably give in soon :0) I might just wait until CS6 comes out at this point!
Sharon ElizabethPhotography asked: I just thought of this today while driving.. what do you do with the props you no longer use?
My husband calls me a hoarder. I think I just like to be prepared. I have everything stored in our studio basement! I’ve been thinking I should have a giant yard sale soon though!
Liz asked: Working with toddlers is so tough! What’s your favorite music/toy/activity to help get them out of a funk? I think most of us parents are listening with a close ear as well And PS. Are you having any specific pregnancy cravings??
I’ve learned with toddlers that once you lose them, it’s all over. With that in mind, I start the session really fun. I want them to forget that there is something I want them to do, and instead distract them with the illusion that I’m the fun lady with all the toys who occasionally makes strange animal noises. We play fun music and have plenty of toys on hand. If they don’t want to do something, I don’t push it. You NEVER want a power struggle with a toddler, because you WILL lose. Instead I rely heavily on trickery and bribery. Trickery allows me to get them into the sets or props I want while making them think it is their idea. Bribery is the last resort at the end of the session when I’ve almost lost them. I pull out our studio treasure box and try to get those last few shots!
As for pregnancy cravings, I’ve got a blog post coming on that too, but I will say that salty foods and ice cream top the list. I wish I had more easy questions like that to answer! LOL
Jess asked: You often shoot stunning backlit photos – where and how do you meter to make sure you’re not under/over exposed? ♥
For backlit shots I ignore the light meter. Instead, I manually expose by eye. To be honest, I never really light meter. I mostly shoot in manual to my taste while keeping an eye on my histograms. Unfortunately you can’t even trust your histogram for a backlit shot because most of your highlights will be blown out to get your subject properly exposed. Depending on the strength of the light source behind your subject, you may need to overexpose by 1 stop or you may need to overexpose by 5 stops! The bad news is there is no perfect formula. The good news is, you can get a perfect exposure by simply switching to manual mode (M) and playing around a bit. You do want to ensure that none of your subject is overexposed or “blown out”, and that will take a little bit of experience to eyeball as you can’t rely on the histogram. If you have a point and shoot camera and want to experiment with backlighting, the “snow” or “beach” modes are often set up to compensate for backlight, so give those a try!
Melanie asked: How do you juggle keeping everyone in focus when you have 3 or more people in a photo using only natural light? I always want the eyes to be in perfect focus, but often can’t bring my f-stop up high enough.
There are many factors that go into the depth of field in your image, so there is no one answer to this. I was actually just asking my friend Amy, another local photographer, about this a few weeks ago when we were discussing using different lenses. The focal length of your lens, the f stop you are shooting at, and your distance from the subject all contribute to a formula for how much of your image is in focus. Here is a great chart on calculating depth of field: Depth of Field Calculator
You can try a few things first, like increasing your fstop number or switching to a shorter focal length lens. If you are stuck with your settings here are a few tricks you can try:
- Shooting from the same position and focusing manually, toggle your focus from the furthest subject to the closest, shooting a few frames at each focal point. This will allow you to later composite in photoshop the sharpest of each subject.
- Using single point autofocus, select a focus point in the center of your group, then recompose the shot.
- If you know you only have a few inches of DOF to work with given your settings, try to get everyone’s faces onto the same plane through your posing. This means if there were a giant, imaginary sheet of paper directly in front of your clients, everyone’s noses would be touching it. To accomplish this, you could try posing your clients and then have them try to get their cheeks almost touching!
- Back away from your subjects! The further you back away, the more you will get in focus. You can always crop in a bit in the final shot.
I hope you all enjoyed January’s “Ask Me Anythings”. I’ll be posting on Facebook before our next one, so stay tuned and your question just might get picked! In the meantime, you can check out our past FAQ’s here. Don’t forget to share the love on facebook if you want to see more Ask Me Anything posts!