The Basics

January 30, 2010

You’ve heard the terms before: aperture, composition, exposure, depth of field, f-stops, ISO and shutter speed. But you’re just a parent, an amateur photographer, and its just not possible to master photography. The solution, or so you think, is just to get an automatic camera and not worry about all of those “technical things”.

The problem is, it is not that hard or difficult to learn how to use these things, and the rewards far outweigh the small effort required to figure them out. In fact, most of today’s modern point-and-shoot cameras have enough functions to enable anyone to improve over the program, or automatic settings, results.

Let’s take a few moments to explore each of these terms in a little detail.

Aperture

Schedule of Aperture

Schedule of Aperture

Aperture in photography refers to the opening of the lens in your camera. When you press the shutter release button it allows light to come through the lens on to the collector. Aperture is measured in f-stops such as f/2.8 etc. The smaller the number the larger the lens opening. Click on the diagram to the right to see this relationship in a visual format. Notice how the openings get larger the smaller the f-stop numbers.

ISO

On most digital cameras there is a button that allows you to choose the ISO setting which refers to the sensitivity of your camera to light. For example, ISO 400 is twice as sensitive to light as ISO 200, ISO 800 is twice as sensitive to light as ISO 400, and so on. The higher the ISO setting the noisier the image will be. In other words, the fuzzier the image will be. Often times the ISO setting is the easiest way to manipulate the camera aperture and shutter speed combinations.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is measured in the amount of time the lens is open to light. Typical shutter speeds are expressed like 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 and so on. You use faster shutter speeds to stop motion, typically like 1/250, 1/500 or 1/1000. This will eliminate the blur and make your image look like it is suspended in mid air.

Depth of Field

Depth of field is the field or area in the photograph that is in focus. In some cases you may want your subject to be in focus and the background out of focus, such as when you are photographing people and don’t want the background to distract the viewer. In other cases, say photographing a landscape where a road or fence goes off in the distance, you may want everything to be in focus.

A long depth of field is when you want to include the environment in the photograph, and a short depth of field is where the entire background is out of focus.

Composition

Composition, in part, is figuring out what you want to be the focus of your photograph and then using all of the above tools to achieve the desired result. You can see that by learning to use these settings you can have more control over your photographs.

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!
BettySignature

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Gorgeous Light

January 29, 2010

Light is perhaps the most important consideration when photographing children. There are all kinds of light, sunlight, indirect light, incandescent light and fluorescent light. Regardless of the specific kind of light, where the light comes from and strikes the subject is also very important to us.

Light strikes our subject from four basic directions: Frontlight, Diffused Frontlight, Backlighting and Sidelighting. The most common is Frontlight, but the most useful for creating incredible images is Sidelight where you can create the most dramatic interesting photographs.

In the beginning most photographers are more concerned about the amount of light rather than the quality of the light and its effect on our subject. As you learn to see how the quality of light can work in your favor you will begin to use different kinds of light on purpose to create certain looks or evoke and convey a particular emotion.

Sweet Light

Sweet light is that light that we find early in the morning or at twilight. Some photographers will only photograph using this particular kind of light because it will minimize flare and is less likely to create unflattering effects on our subject.

Child at Sunrise

Child at Sunrise

Light also affects mood – you have probably noticed the quiet hush just before dawn and twilight, and this is a wonderful time to be working with a child in a photographic session.

The Challenges

One of the challenges of using this form of light is that it is fleeting, appearing and disappearing in a short period of time. In order to use this light effectively you need to be well prepared ahead of time and work quickly while you have the light you want.

Once you miss this window of opportunity a few times you will realize just how fleeting this gift is! Get familiar with sunrise and sunset times, and then observe these times on several occasions so that you understand the time available to get the photographs you want.

The Rewards

Once you become familiar with the timing, and have practiced preparing for the time available, you will discover some incredible images you can capture during this time.

Your reward will be a child who co-operates willingly, who presents some very sensitive looks and who will look very good in this kind of light.

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!
BettySignature

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Technorati

January 29, 2010

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Latest News If You Are About To Purchase A Canon Digital Camera

January 28, 2010

If you’re thinking of buying a new compact digital camera, then you might want to wait a month and check out the very latest models to be released then by Canon. They have updated their Powershot A-series with several new features and are offering four new models which cover the entry level budget photography sector pretty comprehensively. We have been using Canon for years and love the reliability, ease of use and good quality lenses that they are renowned for. So if you too want to purchase a Canon digital camera check out their latest models:

The new Powershot A495 and A490 replace the popular Powershot A480, as a budget, very user-friendly compact digital camera. They both have 10 megapixels and a 3.3x Canon optical zoom lens. With Smart Auto modes, face detection technology and a new low light mode as well as smart flash mode, these little cameras do all the work for you, so that you really do just have to point and shoot. They also have great video capabilities and a new software option that allows you to upload video directly to YouTube. Retailing at $129.99 and $109.99 respectively, these compact cameras are a very affordable choice for the teenager in your life, or if you want a pocket camera as a back-up to your SLR, so that you never miss a shot of your kids when you are out and about.

The Canon Powershot A3100IS and A3000IS replace the current Powershot A1100 IS, both have a 4x optical image stabilized zoom and a large 2.7” screen. The A3100 has 12 megapixels and the A3000 10 megapixels and they are the first of the A series cameras to have Lithium Ion rechargeable batteries, instead of using AA battery cells, which should extend battery life to around 230 shots per charge according to Canon’s tests. Both cameras have the Smart Auto functions, Face detection technology and Smart Flash exposure as well as video capabilities. They retail at $179.99 and $149.99, respectively.

Two new creative modes have been added to all the new Powershot models: a new poster effect mode, to create retro poster style images on camera and and Super Vivid to add saturated color to dull images and bring a picture to life with rich color.

While there are no user reviews available yet, as the cameras will only be released in late February 2010, it could be worth waiting to buy a new compact camera, so that you get the very latest in technology. Alternatively if you are a bargain hunter, you might well find the previous models that are about to be replaced being sold at discounted prices as the new models come in to take their place.

Mum and Photographer

Mum and Photographer

Advice For Parents On Photographing Children

January 27, 2010

Many who want to photograph children decide to do so when they first become parents. All at once nothing in the world is more important than nurturing and observing this perfect little baby that has joined your life.

Watching each and every movement, hearing each new sound, the softness of baby’s skin, the rosy cheeks and each awe inspiring change compel you to want to remember them forever, and photographing your child gives you that record.

Your Favorite Subjects

Each change, each miraculous moment helps you to begin to really see this child of yours. Whether it is sleepy eyes in the morning, soft light through a window as your child contemplates their day or a beautiful smile, they suddenly become your favorite subjects.

As a new parent you want to capture those images and remember them forever. Who has a better opportunity to photograph your child than you? You need to learn to relax and enjoy the pleasure of making simple and spontaneous photos of your child.

Silly Child

Child Acting Silly

You Have The Inside Track

As a parent you have the inside track on your child’s looks, moods and special quirks. You have access to your child all day every day which provides an opportunity to record the full range of their activities, interests and expressions.

Have you ever observed the photographers at those malls or mega stores? They aren’t exactly tuned in to your child’s idiosyncrasies and often have a hard time overcoming your child’s shyness and desire to be private.

Your Child Has The Inside Track On You Too

But, don’t forget – your child knows you too. Somehow kids know just what buttons to push and a friendly photo shoot can go from “Come over here and let me snap a picture of you, you look so cute” to “Stop teasing your sister and get the dog out of the picture!”.

Before you know it you are frustrated and threatening to put your child in timeout or send them to their room, all because you wanted a special photo of them doing something they love.

Caution – Remember Why You Are Photographing Your Child In The First Place

Be patient with your little ones, even when they are misbehaving when they are a little older. Don’t be so concerned about getting that “perfect shot” and forget why you are photographing them to begin with.

Try working with your neighbor and have them photograph your children and you photograph theirs. You know you will be nicer to her kids than you are to your own!

Be Inspired!

Pay attention to your creative journey, past and present, which will help you develop your own style and signature. That style enables you to create more interesting and captivating authentic photographs of your kids.

If you were to ask 10 people to photograph the same child you would discover 10 different approaches, styles and photographs, because the eyes of each photographer are influenced by their past experiences and their personal tastes, so don’t be afraid to develop your own unique creative style.

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!
BettySignature

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Create A Unique Photo Book As A Romantic Valentine’s Gift

January 26, 2010

Romance isn’t just about candle-lit dinners and boxes of candy with big bows on top. Real romance lies in the personal touch, in showing how much you love someone with a few heartfelt words just for them, or a unique gift that you’ve really thought about and taken time over. We’ve posted several great ideas for Valentine’s gifts already, including a pink Canon camera and a gorgeous canvas print, but if none of those seem just right for your partner, how about creating a unique photo book, celebrating your personal love story, as a truly memorable gift.

Dig out photos from when you first met and once you’ve finished exclaiming over how young you both look, scan them into your computer (unless of course you met recently enough for them to be digital pics!). Find photos that tell your story and bring back precious memories: the amazing vacation you took together, the first house you bought together, your wedding day, the birth of your children, or whatever milestone moments of your lives that come to mind.

Once you have found and selected your photos, it is easy to make a professional looking photo book by laying out your photos together with some text. Write your own messages or add favorite poems and quotes. You can be imaginative and write up your story in the style of romantic fiction, or just add dates and places as more of a factual record, but be sure to include a message of love at the beginning and end, so that your gift has that essential element of romance. You could even add a secret message by placing a single word on each page amongst the photos which put together make up a 20 word message of love. Or create your own unique way of putting together a photo book, there is no limit to the possibilities.

Photo books tend to have a minimum of 20 pages and a maximum of 80, so you’ll need at least 20 photos but can include many more if you lay out several per page. Allow yourself plenty of time to play with the layout and select photos. The biggest problem you’ll have is keeping it a secret from your partner, as you spend hours leafing through old pictures and exclaiming or sighing over the happy memories they evoke!

Mum and Photographer

Mum and Photographer

Breaking The Rule of Thirds – Part 2

January 25, 2010

In our previous post we discussed some situations where you might want to break the rule of thirds. There is still another reason you may want to think about slightly modifying the rule of thirds as well.

The images produced by today’s digital cameras have simply taken the technology from the 35mm film camera days and used it as a basis for the images the digital camera creates. The problem here is that a 35mm image when blown up will create an 8X12 image and NOT and 8X10 image.

What this means is that you need to be careful when you frame your photographs because 8X12 picture frames are not easy to come by, whereas 8X10 picture frames are. The same is true of photo albums which are mostly formatted to accept 8X10 photographs instead of 8X12 photographs.

You can certainly get photo albums and photo holders that will accommodate the larger images, but they will be more expensive and perhaps more difficult to store on a shelf or in a drawer. I provide a link to get some of these items at my archival photo storage page.

When I know I am taking a photograph that I will later want to use in picture frames around my home I try to make sure I allow some extra space either above the subjects head or below their feet. This way I can trim the 2 inches from the image but still preserve the essence of the photograph for display.

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!
BettySignature

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Breaking The Rule of Thirds

January 24, 2010

Using the rule of thirds comes naturally to some photographers, but for many it takes some time and practice before it becomes second nature. But once it does become second nature you will see an overall improvement in the photographs you take.

You will recall that the purpose of the Rule of Thirds is to think about what the point of interest of the photograph will be, and to place that point of interest along one of the lines or where the lines intersect. In other words, you purposely place what you want your viewer to see first using the rule of thirds as you compose your picture.

Break The Rule

Rule of 3rds Misapplied

Rule of 3rds Misapplied

Like all rules, sometimes you need to break it. For example, look at the photo on the right. The photographer has obviously applied the rule of thirds by aligning the subject of the photo along the vertical line in the right hand third of the frame.

The problem here is that the left hand side of the photo is stark white with nothing in it. Therefore, while the subjects draw your eyes to them the blank space to the left is very distracting. In addition the photograph is overexposed.

When To Break The Rules

Some rules are meant to be broken, and ignoring this rule does not mean that your photographs will be uninteresting or unbalanced. On the other hand, a wise photographer I know told me that if you are going to break a rule you better learn the rule well first!

Sometimes placing the subject of your photograph in dead center can make a lot of sense and produce a very powerful image, in particular when you are taking portraits, where the subject of the photo is looking directly into the camera lens.

Another example might be when you are taking a group photo, or you simply want a landscape photo say of your home or farm, then ignore the rule and simply center the image in the frame. In this situation the image will fill the frame and the whole image is the focal point of your shot, not anything specific within the shot.

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!
BettySignature

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

The Rule of Thirds

January 23, 2010

As you begin to explore photography you will be confronted with a lot of technical terms which may tend to make you think photography is too difficult and will take more time to become good at than you care to spend. The truth is that spending a little time learning the basics will not only let you get better photographs, but it will bring out creativity in you that you may not realize you had.

The Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is also known as the “Golden Rule” of photography and, while not an absolute requirement or necessary, will still help you create more interesting photographs in most cases. The rule of thirds is a rule of thumb arts and designers use when creating their work.

The rule states that an image should be imagined as divided into 9 equal parts by placing two equally spaced lines horizontally and vertically through the image, and that the most interesting parts of your composition should be placed along one of these lines or at the intersection of 2 of them.

Help The Viewer Interact With Your Photo

Studies have shown that when someone first views a photograph their eyes will naturally go to one of the intersecting points rather than the center of the shot. In other words, applying the rule of thirds has this natural way of viewing an image instead of working against it.

Notice the two photographs below and observe how the image on the right is more interesting than the image on the left:

Centered Photograph

Simply Centered

Using the Rule of Thirds

Using the Rule of Thirds

While both children are doing similar things you can easily see that the photograph on the right has more interest to it than the one on the left. The most common kind of photographs taken are similar to the one on the left, however, as you can see simply taking a little time to understand composition and applying the rule of thirds can result in a much more interesting and engaging photograph.

You Want Your Photos To Be Interesting

After all, when friends and relatives come over to visit one of the things most of us do is bring out the photo album or fire up the computer to show them recent images of our family and kids.

We are all waiting to hear those “ohhs and ahhhs” when they look at our photographs. Another benefit of learning a bit more about composition is that we begin to create images that harken us back to that moment in time we snapped the photo, and it helps us record the history of our child or family.

So, the next time you are taking pictures image the grid you see on the left while composing your photo and try and create an image like the one on the right – you will be pleased with the results!

Rule of 3rds Grid

Rule of Thirds Grid

Child Under Blanket

Baby Under A Blanket

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!
BettySignature

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Valentines Day Is Coming

January 22, 2010

It’s almost upon us – Valentine’s Day. Everywhere I look I see pink and red, hearts and flowers. The candy makers are in full swing with their advertising, and the minds of gals are filled with thoughts of romantic times with their significant others.

Candy and Flowers

The only problem with candy and flowers is once they are gone – their gone! Not only that if you have kids there is always competition for the candy, and if the gift is flowers then you need to take a photo of them before they wilt and die.

Oh, sure, you can take one of the roses, stem and all, and press it into a book while later adding it to your scrapbook. But flowers are biodegradable, and soon enough will wither into dust.

So What To Do?

Well, pink is the theme of the day, so let me suggest a Cannon pink digital camera. Now, before you think it is too expensive, let me show you one you can get for little more than a Benjamin.

Even if you have another camera or two around, this is one that is sure to please. It is about the same size as a deck of playing cards, can slip easily into any shirt pocket, or can be carried by a strap on your wrist.

It produces beautiful images, is easy to use with lots of shooting modes like Auto, Program, Portrait, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Fireworks, Aquarium, Underwater, ISO 3200, Indoor, Kids & Pets, Night Snapshot, Digital Macro, Long Shutter and Movie. Yep, that’s right – you can even take movies with this slick little camera.

A Camera For All Occasions

With all of those shooting modes you will always be prepared for any occasion, and it comes with all of these items:

The Right Color

It even comes in the right color!

Cannon Pink Digital Camera

Cannon Pink Digital Camera

If you need more information you can check out my review of this camera at Cannon SD1200 IS Camera Review.

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!
BettySignature

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

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