Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tips for taking back to school pictures

Tips for taking back to school pictures

            Could there be a better photo opportunity than back to school? You’ve spent a small fortune on new clothes, shoes, and accessories; why not take advantage of it and capture the crisp beauty of them that will never be seen again. If your kids are anything like mine, it will only take a few hours before those new threads become the dirt, grass, and who-knows-what-that-smudge is stained garments we are all too familiar seeing them run around in.
It’s a milestone in their lives and a great time to document on camera exactly who they are right now! Every year brings so much change to our little ones and because we see them change gradually over time, it is not always evident to us how much they change in just a short 12 months. So my challenge to you; is to preserve this moment in their lives. There are no fixed rules in photography and of course you want to be creative, artistic, and put your own flare into it, but these are a few basic tips to help you enhance your back to school memories.


First and foremost, for any photograph, assess the lighting situation. Photography is all about light! A photograph is after all, a recording of light. So making sure that you have a well lit subject will make or break your photo. Place your subject and look at them; do they have any funky shadows or sunspots? Set your ISO as low as possible, start with 100 and only go up if you have to, and to expose your subject’s face. This should be the focus of your image! Natural light is best, you can find great lighting at any time of the day; it really just depends on how you use it. It can be a little trickier around noon, when the sun is in the middle of the sky, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. If needed, use the shade; it is useful for attractive flat (spread evenly) lighting on your subject. Just be sure that you are setting your exposure for your subject and not the background. Move around your subject, and see which angle works best for the light. If you are inside, make use of your windows. You will need to up your ISO, I don’t recommend using a flash. Unless you are shooting in the dark, there is really no need for it and often times it makes the photo unflattering. Have fun with it, test your limits, and experiment to see what works for you and your style.

It is critical that you learn your camera’s autofocus settings and how to use them! It seems that every camera is different, so take a minute and learn how to use yours. It is a worthy investment of your time. My camera has several different autofocus options as to where it selects the focus point(s) I chose the one that works best for me, (explain)
There is nothing more frustrating than having that amazing shot where everything just fell into place perfectly and everyone looks amazing BUT all of your subject’s faces are blurry and the background is what is in focus. At that point your image went from that trophy shot you want to blow up and mount on your wall, to the trash. Set your aperture to a setting where, if there is more than one person in the picture, they can all be in clear focus. Not just one of them. Another trick is to try to have all of your subjects on the same plane. This way you can still get that nice bokeh (blur) in the background and have all of your subjects be in clear focus. In my opinion, it is extremely important that you are setting your focus on your subjects face, namely the eyes.  If need be, I set my focus (on the eyes), keep hold of my shutter button and fix my frame. Do not zoom in/out or move closer/farther from your subject once you’ve set your focus, only move what is seen in your frame and that focus point should stay in focus. It may be different for your camera, you will have to try it out and see what works best for you.

Point of view
Keep things interesting. Shoot from different angles, get up high, get down on the ground, and move around! You don’t see your children from only one angle so don’t always shoot them that way.  See things from your child’s perspective. Take a few shots from the same position, one with a bit of background in it, crop it in a bit and take a good close up. Then move around them, get down low or step up onto something. Pay attention to the details and give yourself a variety. Try not to use too much empty space in your frame, remember the rule of thirds. You should also be aware of what is directly behind your subject. Does it look like the tree is growing out of their head or the line of the fence cutting them off? If so, you don’t necessarily need to move your subject, but your position. You will be amazed at the difference your pointof view makes in an image!

Lets be honest, we’re dealing with kids here! You will get a good 15-20 minutes out of them (If you’re lucky).  Make sure they are well fed and well rested before attempting any kind of photo session. Try to get your posed shots out of the way as quickly as possible. Have your camera’s settings ready to go before you pose them and be ready to go when they are! If you are planning a wardrobe change, put them in their best outfit first, children tend not to enjoy changing clothes too often. If you are working with more than one child, get your group shots out of the way in the beginning. They are less likely to feed off each other’s naughtiness early on.
Bust out the props! Giving them something to hold will not only give some play to your shot, but it is likely to keep them in one spot, if only for a moment. So let them hold their favorite stuffed animal, it may also help them relax a bit. For some reason everything changes when they know the camera is watching.
Bribery! Just make sure that you are willing to make good on those promises if you ever want this to work again. To me it is worth a small toy or a piece of candy to get a priceless picture out of them. Sometimes I have candy in hand, if they can see their reward they may be more willing to cooperate.
Act like a fool! Kids are very easily amused, so take advantage. Fart noises and faking injuries (hitting yourself on the head, falling over, etc.) work exceptionally well. Steer away from making funny faces unless you want them to make funny faces too! Most small children enjoy a good animal noise. For the older ones, ask about their interests and get them talking. In between your questions you can snap shots and get some genuine facial expressions. Talking about that cute boy/girl that sits next to them in class might just get you a candid smile!
If they are being exceptionally difficult, and depending on their age I try the old revere psychology bit, “whatever you do, don’t laugh!”. You can even have a helper pose for you, kids often like to be the center of attention, so if they see brother or Daddy getting all the glory posing for pictures, and you no longer want to snap away at them, they will be inclined to jump in and ham it up!
Sometimes, no matter what you do, they just won’t want to cooperate. In that case, you may just want to throw in the towel and try again on another day. It’s best to keep everyone happy and you sane!

The Good Stuff
Take advantage of your child’s individual personality, capture them just being themselves. Let them play with their favorite toy and call their name, be ready to snap when they look up. Let them choose their outfit; they will be obliged to pose for you when they are comfortable and ready to show off what they chose. The best part about that is that it really showcases their personality. Instead of writing it on a chalkboard and having them hold it up, ask them what they want to be when they grow up and dress them up to play the part. Include their favorite things in the photo with them. Let their favorite food show all over their face. Cover them in their favorite color (Shirt, shoes, stuffed animals of that color, etc…) Most of all, make it fun. Enjoy capturing the memories while you’re making them, because that is what it’s all about. Be sure to show off your little one (and what you’ve taken from here) in my photo challenge on  Enter the event and upload your favorite back to school picture that you took! Feel free to like my page while you’re at it and share these tips with your friends and family! You can also Follow Me on Pinterest