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photo tips

by Shawni

There are a few “frequently asked questions” that I get on this blog, and in e-mails pertaining to the blog…and in phone calls.

And since I’m putting my new 2009 word to work, CHOOSING to totally limit time on the phone or on the computer, I figure it’s better to answer the questions here rather than always e-mailing people back or figuring out their whole life history on their blogs when I return comments. I have the toughest time not being able to get back to people, especially when people write such nice things, but I have to simplify where ever I can.

So here goes: My Five Top Simple Tips for Capturing Kids (these are from that tv segment I did a while back…scroll down to see the place to push “play” to watch it if you want)

…and just a disclaimer: I definitely don’t “know it all” about photography…I’m still learning more every time I pull my camera out…just sharing stuff that I’ve learned that people ask about.

1. Turn off the flash. Lighting is key in taking good pictures. If you look for beautiful light, you are almost bound to end up with beautiful pictures. Adding a flash is, in my opinion, a great recipe for messing that up. Flashes distort what could be beautiful. Sure, there are occasional times you must have one…at night (if you don’t have a high-enough ISO) or sometimes to use as a fill-flash. But as a general rule, get rid of that flash!

When I first started family photography I did it purely on my driveway in front of my garage. I know, that sounds very picturesque, right? But I promise it looked like studio lighting. I bought a black, king-sized flat sheet and hooked it up to the bottom of my open garage and shot away. Something about the light bouncing off the pavement with that backdrop created beautiful light.
And this one was on my back porch (which is north-facing, my personal favorite):
Porches or garages are great in the shade….again, the pavement creates a great reflector of beautiful sunlight to light up faces.

This one was on our front porch:

Open doorways (with you outside and your child/children looking out the door…great light). This one is right inside our back door:
Even though shady areas work great, don’t limit yourself just to that. In the early morning or evening when the sun slants just so, there is gorgeous light to be found.
…and don’t forget back-lighting:
If it’s too hot outside (like it is most of the time where I live in the desert), you don’t need to invest in expensive lighting equipment if you want to get good indoor shots. You just need to know where to look for the light. Almost every home has got some good lighting somewhere if you just look for it.

I utilize beautiful light inside my house wherever I have north-facing windows:(that’s my bed in the background)

This is by my friend’s north-facing window:
2. Composition. Get creative with it.

Get down on the ground:
Look down at subject from high above (try standing on a stool or chair):
Get closer. The closer we get, the more we really “see.” Try getting so close you only capture half of the face. Get close-up and take pictures of toes, fingers, just a smile. You’ll be so happy with the results.

3. Catch emotion.…and relationshipsI also always asks kids to laugh instead of to smile. If you ask them to smile they undoubtedly make a super cheesy smile, and I’m not a huge fan of the cheese-ball smiles…unless it’s totally “them” in which case, I love the cheesy ones.

Remember, subjects don’t always have to be smiling…
…or looking at the camera…
4. Capture the little things.

I think it’s important for moms to remember to capture little things about kids whether it makes an artistic picture or not. I love this one of my Lucy because it epitomized her at that time in her life. With her bedrooom around her and her morning smile and her blanket there beside her that she HAD to have to sleep with every night. I want so much to remember all those little things. So I take pictures of them. I wish I had pictures of things like that from when I was growing up.

5. Always have a camera ready.

My big camera is too big to carry around all the time, (although sometimes I do feel like it’s attached to my body), but I ALWAYS have a point-and-shoot in my purse that I can pull out when I have an opportune moment. It also videotapes which I love so I can capture things on the go. (My six-year-old has captured some masterpiece videos with it that we are going to love some day.) You don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment.
I seriously LOVE this picture of my baby. Because that’s how she sat every, single day in her high chair…legs crossed neatly over each other while the top half was certainly far from “neat.” And I’m glad I had my camera right there to get it.

And this is one of my favorite pics. with my old camera…totally Claire. She always ran like that…with her tongue hanging out. And if I didn’t have my camera ready I would have forgotten that.

Let’s remember though, that I’m a little bit crazy when it comes to trying to capture every moment. I want to hold on to time a little too much sometimes.

But photography helps slow things down for me. And that makes me happy.


Jan June 1, 2009 - 6:53 am

Wow…that was great for a novice like me! Thank you so much. Now I want you to do a segment on how you edit your photos. I have a Mac and use their editing programs, but I think I crop them all too much or just don’t know what looks good. If you ever get a minute hook us up with some of those pointers. Loved looking at all your beautiful pictures and children. I especially loved the one of Grace in the green dress. The color is so vivid and she is such a pretty girl.

momoftwo June 1, 2009 - 12:47 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this with us! Great advice!!

1LDSmom June 1, 2009 - 2:22 pm

Thanks, Shawni! Love the tips!

SydneyMin June 1, 2009 - 3:20 pm

Thanks for the tips, Shawni! Now I won’t have to waste any time emailing you for photography help 😉 You are awesome!

Shannon June 1, 2009 - 3:37 pm

Thanks for these tips, Shawni. They seriously helped in my mini photo class. 🙂

Meredith June 1, 2009 - 3:46 pm

As always, thank you thank you!!

brettandsarafamily June 1, 2009 - 4:49 pm

Loved the tips…thank you! I’m excited to give them all a try. I need all the help I can get in the photography department. Thanks Shawni!

ellen June 1, 2009 - 6:23 pm

awesome! thanks so much for sharing!

Holly Janeen June 1, 2009 - 7:57 pm

perfect short list of advice. thanks!

ellen June 1, 2009 - 10:19 pm

I love your pictures and thanks for the ideas.

Mom June 2, 2009 - 12:00 am

Thanks for all the wonderful tips . . . I love your work!! Do you have any favorite spots in the Valley of the Sun that you would suggest for casual, novice family photo shoots? You know, the kinds of places I could take my kiddos, let them play, and end up with some great shots? Any suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks!

lovinglife June 2, 2009 - 3:41 am

Shawni–thank you SO much! I learned so many good things. You are so sweet to share so many secrets. Hope you guys are enjoying summer. We still have 2 more weeks of the crazy school schedule. Can’t wait to have my kids back to “all mine” soon. 🙂

Cheryl June 2, 2009 - 3:57 am

THANK YOU! I love your photos. It is what first caught my eye when I come to your blog. They are ‘works of art’ and truly capture the happiness and love you can find in children (and families).

I can’t wait to put all your tips into practice. I love taking pictures and aspire to get some beatiful shots of my kids like you do so often of yours!

Tricia June 2, 2009 - 4:18 am

K, Shawni – I’ve been following your blog since I got the link from your Christmas card. It’s so fun to read, and your pictures are always amazing. Thanks for the entertainment and for the tips – you’re awesome!!

Kathy @ Real Mom, Real Life June 2, 2009 - 6:10 am

Thanks!! You are a natural. Thank you for making these tips easy for a beginner to understand… wonderful!

Jonah and Aja June 2, 2009 - 8:07 am

i like!
your tips are great and we miss you guys. i really liked watching your news clip too about taking great photos.

Lori and Matt June 2, 2009 - 3:01 pm

Great pics! What point and shoot camera do you have?

Kami June 2, 2009 - 4:42 pm

Hi Shawni! I don’t comment often, but your photography is what I love about your blog. I think it’s so nice that you share these tips. so Thank you! You have great subjects to show off your talent. 🙂

Karlene June 2, 2009 - 8:24 pm

Thank you for sharing all your tips! They’re so helpful!!1

Natalie June 4, 2009 - 12:23 am

Thank you for your generosity in sharing such great tips. You can inspire on so many levels!

Kara June 6, 2009 - 6:10 pm

Great idea!!! Good choice. This way you didn't have to lose anything either!

Kelly May 25, 2010 - 5:53 pm

Beautiful photos! Do you have favorite editing programs? Your pictures are amazing.

jane August 22, 2011 - 8:24 am

Shawni, I want to ask your opinions on a few questions about my camera. I am looking to switch from a Nikon to a Canon and I want to make sure I get the BEST camera. Especially here in Singapore I have been given several differing opinions and I don't know who to trust!

Can you help? My email address is: jane.boyer@gmail.com

I looked for your email on here, but could not find it.

Thank you!

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