On the last page, we encouraged you to slow down, to notice the little things that make the mundane - special and unique.
Here are some more specific suggestions of what to pay attention and how to capture it.
Start with the big picture.
You know why it's sometimes hard to see the big picture? Mummy ( Daddy ) goggles. Let me explain.
You know how when you look at your child, what you see is your child. That’s not unusual. We all do it. You child is happily engaging in some activity, and you look at them and your heart just melts a little. So you pick up your camera, maybe you zoom it a bit to get a good shot of your child’s beaming smile, and you click.
If you are like 90% to parents out there, you took a photo that looks a bit like the one here – you get a portrait of your child. But that’s it. No story, no context, no connection. And it might be a fabulous portrait – we want those too! But does it SAY anything about your child? Your “mummy goggles” are filtering all the stuff around your child that to your subconscious mind just didn’t have the same importance.
You of course registered what was going on because you WERE in the moment. It’s just that you didn’t make your camera register it all.
But when you force yourself to take the goggles off, even for 1 day, wonderful things happen. The big picture. The full story. The WHO and the WHERE and the WHAT is happening.
There will be time to close in on the details ( and we want those too!). BUt I would like you to make a conscious effort to capture those pull aways too.
Think of subject placement
Central is not always best. Try offsetting your subject to the side - using the RULE OF THIRDS is very useful here.
If you're not familiar with the concept, this composition principle predates photography and according to the rule of thirds, you divide the space in front of you into three equal parts - both horizontally and vertically. At the intersection of these lines are your strong points - places where you want to place your subject.trong
Does it matter which strong point they should go? There is no hard and fast rule but the placement should make sense in the space you have.
If you're capturing a child on a beach, you are more likely to want to place them in one of the bottom ones to give you the view of the sea and the sky.
But if you have a child jumping down from a bench, you probably want to give them some space to jump into so it would make more sense to place them higher up in the frame. If in doubt - experiment!
Look for the detail
When people are asked to recall things from the past, they recall two things. They recall the general ambiance and they recall the little things. We are able to remember really small details decades after, small things that somehow stirred some emotions or sensory experience – like the feeling of a smooth pebble you picked up from the riverbank that one time you went for a swim there. Or the look of your son’s perfect little tiny fingers curled up around your finger giving you butterflies in your stomach.
We are creatures of extremes. Our memory does not like to dwell in the middle, we go wide or we zoom in right to the detail.
So how do we go about capturing that lovely detail shot? Your main job is to find a way to isolate your detail. And there are a few ways in which you can do it.
Isolate the subject by physically removing the distractions
And I mean it quite literally – walking up to your subject and moving away all the stuff which does not belong. A variation of this is using something – like a blanket – which will cover the elements you don’t want to see in the image and help highlight your subject.
Isolate the details by finding an angle which minimizes the distractions.
For instance – if you’re shooting directly from above your subject, you will only need to make sure that the area your subject is directly on is clear, the rest can be as messy as you wish. Shooting at flat angles, parallel to the ground can help remove distractions from the ground and help you build depth. Pretty much the worst angle you can do is one where you shoot at a slightly tilted angle. Where you are in relation to the subject makes a difference too – sometimes shifting even a few inches to the side or up or down will make a huge difference to what you can see.
Isolate the subject by using other elements in the frame to draw our attention to it.
Sometimes it’s not so much about removing things from view as it is about using them to shine a spotlight on your subject. Find something that can frame it, contrast with it can work very well.
Isolate the details by choosing a lens length which narrows down the field of view.
Or in plain English – choosing a zoom length which will show a lot or little background in your photo. Remember yesterday’s lesson? We showed you how a ‘no zoom’ setting can show a lot more of the space then the “zoomed in” one. You can use this to your advantage here too – to minimize the amount of distraction in your shot, just zoom in!
Isolate the subject by creating a blur effect which helps you visually ‘hide’ things in plain sight.
If you want to know how to create that blurry background we have a tutorial on how to create that blurry background which is a part of our Clickstarter course. I’m not going to replicate it, but simply link it here to the pdf print out which walks you through it.
A BIB BIG CAVEAT HERE ON THE BLUR FRONT: you will be seeing images come through on the facebook group where the blur is like milk, thick and impenetrable and the lovely details stand out against it beautifully. You will try and replicate them with your camera and get very frustrated and annoyed that yours don’t come out that way. You will be blaming yourself but the truth is – it’s not you – it’s your lens.
In most cases, in order to get that really strong blur, you do need a lens with what we call a wide aperture. The lenses which come with your camera as standard just can’t compete. But it doesn’t mean you can’t get any blur, just not quite as much. Your two secret weapons will be zooming in as much as you can – and I mean ALL THE WAY – and getting physically close to your subject. This bit a bit more technical, so if you're not getting how you like it – post to FB – I will help!
Other technical considerations
Your camera settings: If you’re shooting on auto, you have 2 options – if you have a setting on your camera called Macro, use that – it allows you to get close to your subject in order to focus. Alternatively, you could try the “portrait’ preset which is set up in a similar way or you can just leave your camera on auto.
If you’re shooting in priority modes ( A, AV, S, Tv) – switch to Aperture priority and set your aperture to the widest setting ( smallest number)If you’re shooting in full manual, again, get your aperture as wide as it gets and use the other settings to make it work.
Your lens: Zoom, zoom and then zoom some more. This is what will allow you to create that separation between sharp and blurry. And get close to your subject.
Look for something sensory
The ability of our brain to recall sensory experiences is amazing. Lemon Lemon Lemon juicy Lemon Lemon...
Is your mouth watering yet???
Just the thought of how something lemony feels in our mouth makes our brain produce more saliva to 'process' it.
But it's also a way in which you can make your images stronger, create more of a response.
When you're observing your child doing not much at all, are they experiencing something sensory?
Sticking their tongue out to help themselves concentrate? Playing with sand? Twiddling a soft toy in their fingers? Absentmindedly messing with their hair?
Look at how their body responds to it - do they stick out their tongue to help them navigate a tricky lego construction phase? What are their little fingers doing?
Can you zoom in at the detail level and really notice the sensations they get through their fingertips, through their skin as they are fully engaged in the activity? What are they looking at? what are they touching?
Look for the emotional connection
Often your child will not be on their own but will be interacting with someone. You maybe? Or maybe a sibling? Or another member of the family? Or even a pet or a favourite toy? Those connections should not go unnoticed. Try a candid approach :
Try capturing real moments and relationships between people – they don’t have to look at the camera – an adoring gaze by the grandparent looking at their first grandchild will make a memory that will tug on your heartstrings for a long time afterward. Focus on the interaction and try capturing both the details – like grandma’s hand clasped by the tiny baby fingers or dad wearing all your child’s best bling for a teddy bear tea party, as well as a bigger picture to show what was happening. The fly-on-the-wall approach helps eliminate the awkward family portraits where people just face the camera square on with a strange grin, standing in a straight line. You low which ones I mean. I bet you have them too ( I do). And I know that sometimes people just freeze when the camera arrives or just expect for everything to stop while the photo is being taken, My advice is – don’t fake – instigate. Don’t tell your child – and now smile at ‘grandma’. Tell grandma to play a game of tickles or Chinese whispers or a guessing game and capture the interaction as it unfolds. Real smiles and belly laughs will always win over the pretty fake ones. Look for the touchpoints - literally.it’s amazing how little our brain sometimes needs to interpret intimacy – just a touch of the hand, captured on camera will speak louder of the relationship between two people than anything else. Whenever you have people touching - however briefly - it always shows closeness, connection.
Look for the quiet moments too. Children tend to gravitate to one another even if they’re not doing the same thing, they tend to be in each other’s space. Don’t ask them to look at you, don’t interrupt. Just capture. And whatever you do, do not say cheese!! Oh, and don’t expect for all of them to be looking in the same direction at the same time