Get Creative – Make A Panoramic Photo With Your Kids

July 1, 2010

Panoramic photographs have been around for a long time, way before digital cameras came along. Have you ever thought to make a panoramic photo with your kids in it? In the early days there were two different ways to make a panoramic photograph. One way was with special cameras loaded with extra wide film, and which could take photos that were much wider than they were tall.

The other, more traditional way, is to take a series of photographs and connect them in a manner similar to a collage. Using this technique you could make a panoramic photo with your kids! Unfortunately, you can often see seams between each picture because they are layered, one on top of the other.

Fortunately, digital photography makes it possible for us to make a panoramic photo with your kids. Creating the panorama on your personal computer is actually pretty similar to making a collage of prints. The software on your computer simply takes the series of photographs and stitches them together digitally in such a way that the seams are invisible.

Make A Panoramic Photo Of Your Kids

Make A Panoramic Photo Of Your Kids

First, you need to take a series of photographs of your kids and the scene behind them, some of which won’t even have your kids in them. For the best results be as careful as you can as you take the original images. The better your images the better you will be able to make a panoramic photo with your kids.

To get the best set of photographs it is best to make sure they are taken at the same level. With the camera on a tripod you can simply swing it from left to right as you take a series of photographs that you will later stitch together on your computer.

Perhaps the single most important step is getting the correct overlap. The software on your computer will need to know how to combine each image in order to make the finished panorama. To accomplish this, try to get a 25 to 50% overlap between your images. If you make sure some of the scene you photographed in the first image also appears in the second image, then the stitching software on your computer will be able to match them and combine them into one wide photograph.

If you are interested in taking pictures of your child as an art form, I would highly recommend this book: Photographing Children Photo Workshop: Develop Your Digital Photography Talent

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

ps: Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter “Real Kids Photography” here!

Try Photographing Your Children Through A Glass Window

June 29, 2010

Now, you might ask why would you want to photograph your child(ren) through a glass window, but the truth is some of the best photographs we can get are when the children have no idea that we are photographing them. If you happen to be in the house and glance out a window, you may see your children doing something very special that you just know they will stop doing if you go outside with your camera.

It is in these special instances that you need to learn about photographing your children through a glass window. The first thing you need to be aware of is the light in the room. Is it reflecting off of the window? Can you turn off your flash unit? How clear is your image through the viewfinder?

If you have a camera that you can use filters with, then a polarizing filter is in order for this kind of shot. A polarizer does a few nifty things for your photograph, but the most important one is that it will eliminate reflections caused by glass by blocking the polarizing light.

If you can use a polarizing filter, the one you want is a circular polarizing filter. A linear polarizer won’t work well for this kind of photography because it can confuse the camera’s light sensors.

If you use a polarizer correctly you can reduce or eliminate any glare significantly.

Photographing Children Through A Window

Photographing Children Through A Window

If you don’t have a camera that accepts a polarizing lens, then consider taking the photograph at an angle through the glass. Turn off any lights in the room, and if the window has ceiling to floor curtains get between the curtains and the window. This will effectively block any light from the room.

 


While not the best solution, it can get you some very intimate and interesting photographs of your children. They will not be aware of you, and without using a flash they may not even notice you, or know that you have taken their photograph.

The important thing here is to make sure and take a lot of photographs of your children as they grow up. They change so quickly that the only way to be sure you have an accurate record is to take lots and lots of photographs of them; and given how cheap it is with digital photography, why not?

If you are interested in learning more about photographing children as an art form, I recommend this book: Photographing Children Photo Workshop: Develop Your Digital Photography Talent

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

ps: Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter “Real Kids Photography” here!

Camera Shooting Techniques And White Balance

June 22, 2010

If your camera shooting techniques have allowed you to omit thinking about white balance, then you should read this article. Many digital cameras come with a control for something called white balance which allows you to correct your images with white balance settings. White balance is important because different light sources have different color temperatures, meaning that when you photograph your child the image will appear to have a slightly different color tone depending upon the kind of light it is taken in.

You may have noticed this yourself without really ever paying any attention to it. You may have observed, for instance, that the light given off from regular light bulbs appears more yellow than the light which streams in from outside. And other sources of light — like candle light and fluorescent lighting — certainly give off very different colors of light than sunlight or ordinary light bulbs.

Photographers and scientists have gone to the trouble of cataloging the different color temperatures given off by various light sources. Higher temperatures appear warmer, or slightly reddish, while cooler light sources tend to add a blue tone to your pictures. It is not at all unlike the way a flame has different colors at its outside than in the center of the flame. Why? Because those different parts of the flame are at different temperatures.

Lets look at the color temperatures of several different light sources:

If your camera is set for one kind of light source — daylight, for instance — and you photograph your child who has been illuminated by a very different temperature of light — such as tungsten — the resulting image will not reflect the true colors in the photograph. What should be white will turn out looking a little reddish. This is why you need to be able to correct your images with white balance setting changes. Ordinarily, we don’t notice this ourselves, because the human brain is very good at interpreting what the eye sees. Our brain adjusts for different color temperatures so that the white almost always looks right, no matter what color of light we see our subject in. Of course, cameras are not quite that smart, and that’s why we need to adjust our camera for white balance.

The white balance setting on your camera allows you to pick out exactly what the color temperature of the scene you plan to photograph is. In most cases, your camera can automatically adjust to conditions. If need be, however, you can do it yourself. You will know that you need to adjust the white balance on your camera if your pictures routinely come out shifted to the blue or red end of the color spectrum. If your whites are not white — in other words, your camera doesn’t do a good job of correcting white balance — then you need to do it yourself.

A word of caution here. If you get into the habit of manually adjusting the white balance, remember to reset the white balance to auto when you’re done with each shoot. Otherwise, you might forget that your camera is balanced for fluorescent light when you shoot outdoors, and you wind up with very strange results.

Adjusting White Balance Presets

Most digital cameras will let you choose from a small collection of white balance presets. In addition to automatic white balance selection, your camera probably includes white balance settings for conditions like incandescent light, fluorescent light, an external flash unit, and cloudy or overcast days.

Choosing a White Balance Preset

The camera shooting techniques for changing your white balance setting varies from camera to camera, but the process is typically fairly simple. For the specifics on your camera model, check your camera’s users guide. In general though, this is the process:

Setting White Balance by Real Kids Photography

Setting White Balance by Real Kids Photography

You can see an example of the menu setting in the image on the right.

Measuring White Balance Yourself

Sometimes, if you’re in a tricky lighting situation, such as a room that has both incandescent light and candlelight, you may need to set the white balance manually based upon the actual lighting conditions in the room. This may seem complicated, but it’s really not that hard.

Before you start, you will simply need one additional item: a white surface that the camera can use to set the white balance. Typically, you can get by with a small square of white poster board or typing paper. Or, you may want to choose a white balance lens cap disk that you can carry in your camera case. To order yours, just click on the image of the disk pictured here. However, this is for a 72mm lens, so remember to order for the size of lens that you have.

To set the white balance yourself, follow these steps:

The camera will now expose any pictures you take using this new white balance setting. Be sure to reset the white balance back to automatic when you’re done taking these pictures; otherwise, you may try taking pictures a day or two later in very different lighting conditions and wind up with some very bizarre results because the white balance setting is completely wrong.

So remember, learn these camera shooting techniques of how to correct your images with white balance, and the photographs of your children will be consistently better and more pleasing to the eye.

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

ps: Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter “Real Kids Photography” here!

How To Improve Your Indoor Photographs Of Children

June 21, 2010

When we photograph our children indoors we are often less concerned about harsh sunlight than we are about having enough light for our photograph and the proper color of light. If we are to create great images of our children then you need to know how to improve your indoor photographs.

In addition, the evil “red eye” is the nemesis of many an indoor photograph as well. For the most part, however, for common snapshots of your children indoors it is probably just fine to use the automatic camera settings and the internal flash unit.

But, if you really want to get great indoor photographs of your children there are a few things you can do to move the odds in your favor.

Use The Best Indoor Light – Window Light

Using Window Light Photographing Children

Using Window Light Photographing Children

Natural light will always be the best light, so whenever possible position your child near a window to take advantage of the natural light pouring into your home through the windows. Here are some tips on using this kind of light:

 

How To Avoid Red Eye

Remember, the dreaded “red eye” is what happens when the camera flash reflects off of your child’s pupils. You can see this effect on any living subject, but it appears particularly spooky on dogs. The important thing is that red eye occurs more often when photographing your children indoors, underlining why you need to know how to improve your indoor photographs.

Now that you know what causes red eye you can learn some easy ways to avoid it. Here are three common ways to avoid red eye when photographing your children:

Correct The Color Balance

The color of artificial light, like the lights bulbs in the home, is entirely different than the color of natural outdoor light. And that means that different kinds of artificial lights have different colors.

Because of these variations in color many indoor photographs just don’t look right. The good news is, though, that you can adjust for different light sources with your camera settings. Called white balance, it will help you make sure that you get natural colors in the photographs of your children regardless of what type of artificial light you use.

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

ps: Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter “Real Kids Photography” here!

Consider The Light In Photography Images Of Your Kids

June 18, 2010

Better Than Flash

A second source of light is just the ticket to eliminate shadows, reduce contrast, and even out the lighting in your pictures. When you want to reflect some light on your children sometimes you can do that with fill flash, and sometimes a small reflector will do the job just fine.

A reflector many times is better than a flash unit, because the light from a reflector is softer, and that typically makes for much better pictures of your children. In other words, it is always better to use natural light — and that includes reflecting it — than the use of electronic flash.

Reflect Some Light In Photography

There are two ways to get into reflectors: the cheap way and the expensive way. Believe it or not, you really don’t need an expensive reflector from your local photo shop in order to move light around — you can enjoy a lot of success just using a glossy white sheet of poster board. Purchase a sheet of poster board from your local art supply store for a buck or two and try it out.

Flashpoint 5 in 1 Reflector System

Flashpoint 5 in 1 Reflector System

The problem with poster board, of course, is that it is often difficult to carry around. For a more compact reflector solution, try the cover photo reflector at your local camera store. Personally, I really like Flashpoint collapsible disc reflectors.

 


These clever little reflectors fold up so small that you can almost put them in your pocket. Take them out of the bag, however, and they pop open to a variety of handy sizes. I use the Fashppoint 32″ 5 in 1 set of reflectors that measure a Little over 2 feet across, and I find that’s a great size for most of the things that I want to photograph.

When you are ready to take a picture with your reflector, you will probably need some help. It’s very difficult to hold the reflector and take a photograph at the same time. So instead of trying some type of photographic gymnastics, ask an assistant to hold the reflector. So that the light reflects from the sky onto your child. Try to have them hold the reflector to minimize shadows or lumen eight the dark side of your child’s face.

You Can Bounce Light In Photography

If you’re digital camera has a hot shoe or input for a flash synchronization cable, you can attach an external flash unit for additional light control over your photographs. I love using flash units because the flash head tilts. This means that you can tilt the flash so that it reflects light off the ceiling or wall, thus diffusing the light and creating a softer effect in your photograph.

Be sure that you’re not reflecting light off of colored walls, though, or the reflected light might paint your subject some rude shade of yellow. You may also want to disable the built in flash unit on your camera when you use an external flash unit. Check the camera’s menu system for flash controls, try different ways, since some pictures can benefit from dual flash units arriving on the scene from different directions.

Reflectors serve a second important purposes well. When you are out in the field trying to take a picture, the wind can sometimes get in the way. You’ll notice this most often when you’re trying to take a close-up of a child and their hair is blowing in the wind. The solution? Compose your picture so that you can use the reflector not only to add light to the scene, but also to serve as windbreak. That’s right, reflectors can block the breeze and give you a more stable picture.

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

ps: Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter “Real Kids Photography” here!

Improving Your Outdoor Photographs

June 17, 2010

Beware of the sun

When you want to improve your outdoor photographs of your children, always take a quick look at your watch. By that I mean that there are better and worse times during the day to take photographs. The worst time of all is probably mid day, when the sun is directly overhead. The noon sun creates extremely harsh shadows and casts unflattering light for almost any kind of photographic session when the extremely bright light (particularly in the summertime) can tend to overwhelm a digital camera.

So, what is the alternative? Well, you can shot your photographs earlier or later in the day. Professional photographers traditionally like the warm colors created by the Sun in the late afternoon, but shooting photographs of your children in the morning is almost as good. If you are traveling, or are on vacation, for instance, you want to get some very good pictures,  then you can plan your photo sessions for the early morning hours and then again for later in the day.

A great compact camera with built-in flash and zoom features

A great compact camera with built-in flash and zoom features

If you make a conscious effort to take your best pictures before or after the high noon sun, you’re halfway home. You also need to think about the position of the sun in the sky. In the old days photographers were taught to take pictures with the sun to their back. The reason was very simple: the sun would best illuminate the subject.

Unfortunately, if you are photographing children, the sun would blast that light right into their faces, causing them to squint. That made for some mighty ugly pictures. A much better solution is to position the sun over your left or right shoulder, but no matter where you place the sun, don’t shoot towards the sun unless you are intentionally trying to photograph the sunset or a silhouette.

Use fill flash

While most people think of their cameras flash as something to be used at night or in the dark, is also a great way to improve the look of your photographs during the daytime. Set your camera at it’s forced flash mode, and use it to shoot portraits of your children and any other outdoor photographs of them. You will find that the flash fills in shadows quite nicely, dramatically improving the quality of your images. You may be surprised, in fact, just how much full flash can do to improve photographs that you thought were pretty good to begin with. Remember, you will need to be fairly close for this to work. Stay within the published range in your camera or flash manual.

This is a great camera for fill flash.

Creating Silhouettes

Another cool idea is to photograph your child as a silhouette — in fact, new photographers do it all the time. They just don’t always do it on purpose..

The easiest way to photograph a silhouette of your child is simply to position yourself so that the child you would like to silhouette is arranged against a bright background, such as the sky. Point the camera directly into the sky and slightly depress your camera shutter release — that locks in the exposure based on the bright sky. Then, recompose your picture of the child and shoot. What you’ll most likely get is a grossly underexposed subject, since the exposure was based on the brighter sky. If your child isn’t quite silhouetted, you can underexpose the image even more using the EV controls on your camera. You may also want to use your camera’s spot meter to lock the exposure on a brighter piece of the sky.

You may discover that the child is out of focus because the camera focused on infinity when you pointed it at the bright sky. If that’s the case, check to see if your camera has a separate exposure lock button and use it. If not, you may need to set the exposure manually or focus the camera manually instead. One way or another, when your subject is too close to infinity you need to find a way to separate the exposure and focusing aspects of your camera.

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

ps: Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter “Real Kids Photography” here!

Basics Of Flash Photography

June 15, 2010

When we are photographing children many times we need to take the photograph when we are indoors, say for example at a birthday party or pajama party. In order to capture the very best images we need to make sure that we understand the basics of flash photography and use them as we photograph the children.

Remember – photography is all about light. In earlier posts I have discussed photography when we are using the existing light in a scene and how to control the camera to take advantage of or compensate for a particular lighting situation.

Panasonic Lumix ZS5 Digital Camera

Panasonic Lumix ZS5 Digital Camera

But we don’t always have the ability to use the ambient, or existing light, to get the photograph that we want. Sometimes using the light that you have doesn’t work quite well enough, however. This is why professional photographers spend so much time working with flash units, strobe lights, reflector units and other devices to enhance or supplement the existing light.

Almost every camera you pick up will have a flash unit either attached to it as part of the camera, or will have a “hot shoe” which allows you to attach a flash unit to the camera.¬† Mastering Canon EOS flash photography is a favorite subject of mine, and Canon flash units use the cameras hot shoe.¬† The flash unit is a tool to bring extra light with you to brighten up many kinds of pictures.

I have found that most people really don’t know how to take advantage of flash units when photographing children, so I will provide some posts that deal with fill flash, red eye and bounce flash photography.

Lighting isn’t just about using flash units either. You can use reflectors to spread light around for a more pleasing photograph of your children, and you can adjust the white balance setting on your camera for better lighting control as well.

And let’s not forget about night lighting as well.

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

ps: Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter “Real Kids Photography” here!

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