Showing posts with label Photography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Photography. Show all posts

My Tips For Taking Your Own Family Photos

(Photos in today's post are from last year - I haven't been able to bring myself to sort through yesterday's disastrous photo attempts yet!)


Photos play a huge part in memory-keeping for me.  As I mentioned before, I am not great at remembering the smaller events of my life, but if I have a photo, I am able to immediately remember details that would otherwise be lost to me.

When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I realized how critical photos would be for me in my memory-keeping.  My babies all have grown too fast, and I am so glad I made sure we got some really good photos together to mark the passing of each year.  

For really big events, like maternity or newborn pictures, I've always outsourced and got my amazing photographer and dear friend to do some photos for me!  But for regular, run-of-the-mill family photos, I usually do them myself.

(Proof that I can sometimes take a good family photo with the tripod!)

Despite yesterday's photo struggles, I usually am able to get some pretty good photos each year, and I thought I would give you my best tips for taking your own family photos - or basically just tell you how I manage it.  I am still really just an amateur, hobby photographer, so your mileage may vary with these suggestions, but this is how I take our family photos.

(If you want tips for taking photos of yourself with a tripod - I can't help you, ha!  That's one tripod skill I've never mastered.  If I'm the lone adult in the picture, then it's most likely one I had Derek take for me!)

What I use:

My DSLR (I have a Nikon D5200 and a 50mm f/1.5 lens)
A tripod (this one)
A remote shutter release (this one)
My iPhone 7+



1. Scout out a spot to take photos ahead of time.  

Every time I've taken photos that have gone smoothly, it's been because I found a spot I liked ahead of time and started putting the photo together in my head.  I think about where I'll put the tripod, how I'll arrange the family, where I'll run in to join, etc.  I try to think about light and shadows and whether morning or evening would be the best.  The couple hours right after sunrise or right before sunset are best, and try to stay out of direct or dappled sunlight!  Good lighting is everything.


2. Pack an emergency photo bag.  

I usually pack a bag with things like a blanket to sit on, extra memory cards and camera batteries, candy to keep the kids happy, hairbrush, makeup, extra diapers, etc.  I've been burned before when I didn't think things through, so I try to plan ahead for problems that might arise so I'm prepared.


3. Be meticulous about getting set up.  

When we arrive at the spot I've (hopefully) scouted out, I take a couple test shots first to make sure my settings are proper and the light is good (I didn't pay enough attention to this yesterday, hence why a lot of our photos are junk).  I get my camera and tripod set up and fidget with it until it's directed right where I want the family to stand, then I have my husband go stand where I want him.  My husband is usually my focus point, because he is the only one in the family I can trust to stand still!  I get the kids arranged around him, and keep in mind to leave a space for me to stand.  

Once everyone is arranged, I go back to my camera, set the focus point on my husband, and ask him not to move his head.  Then I switch the shutter setting to the remote, go over and rearrange children if necessary, stand in my spot, and start clicking with the remote!


4. Check the photos!  

I usually have to repeat this process a few times to make sure everyone is looking good in the actual photos and everything is in focus.  I'm always sorry later when I don't take breaks and double-check the photos in the back of my camera!  I've taken a whole group of photos before, only to realize later they were all out of focus.

5.  Take a lot of shots.  

Most likely most of the shots you take with a remote are going to be just okay, but if you take a ton, you are more likely to get one that might work.

6. Be a little silly.  

In the photos where everyone is smiling, it's usually because we all just got finished yelling "chocolate cake!".  Seriously, instead of telling my kids to say "cheese", I tell them to say other foods they like.  Usually there is more giggling and general enthusiasm that way, which translates well in photos!  This is my favorite strategy for when I'm trying to get a good shot of just the kids too.  My best trick is to be a goofball, balance a pinecone on my head and then let it fall off, throw some leaves, peek out from behind a tree and make a funny face...all with my camera at the ready to catch the laughs!  It helps that my kids are quick-laughers too.


7. Tell everyone to look at one person.  

I really like a good "candid" shot, so after we try a few smiling at the camera, I usually pick a person and tell everyone else to look at them!  It turns out well when everyone is looking at one of the parents, but you have to make sure you are not just smiling blankly at the camera.  Look at everyone else as they are looking at you, or laugh a little, and it turns into a great fake-candid shot!



8.  Try tickling someone.  

When we have a child (especially a baby or toddler) who is crying, we tickle that kid.  We could be really obvious about the tickling and get more of those fake-candid shots while the kid is being tickled, like I talked about above.  Or sometimes we are really subtle about the tickling, so it doesn't cause a ruckus but leads to some good smiles.  There is a blurry line between crying and laughing, especially in photos, and sometimes tickling is the best way to save the photo session!

9.  Take it slow, and bring candy.  

When a photo session is devolving, I try to let the kids have a break to explore a little.  Often if they have time to get some energy out, they are ready to try taking another photo.   I try to take a breaks too so that we can also enjoy the experience, instead of being stressed about getting the photos done!  (Note: It's best if you start earlier than you think you need to so time is allowed for this sort of thing before you lose the light - another mistake I made yesterday.)  This can also be a good time to get more casual shots, or wider-angle shots of your kids exploring nature (I use my iPhone for this - maybe someday I'll get a better lens for scenery shots).




I have also been known to break out the candy to improve moods.  This is not normal parenting...this is parenting while trying to take photos.  Normal rules surrounding bribery do not apply.

10.  Know when to let it go.  

As I shared yesterday, sometimes photos just don't work.  I've been known to break our family photo sessions up into two shorter attempts, because little kids only last so long before they are ready to be done.  I've tried before to persevere when I could tell everyone was losing focus, and it's never gone well.  If everyone is crying and miserable, it's better just to call it quits.  You can always try again another day.  

Or you can do what I'm doing this year, and resort to getting your photographer friend to help, ha!  Some stages are just hard (ex: when you have an almost two year old), and reinforcements may be in order.  But don't let a bad attempt make you think you can't take your own family photos - it happens.  Just try again another day.


Have you ever tried to take your own family photos?  How did it go?






That Time It Just Didn't Work



I've been debating with myself on how to handle Sundays during my 31 days challenge.  I thought I might write about what our pastor's sermon was about each week, or maybe part of my testimony.  But Sundays are typically restful family days, and I didn't want to put a burden on the day, so I thought I would just play it by ear.

This morning we went to church, and the plan was to visit my mom and dad in the afternoon, and take some quick family pictures in the fall colors.  I thought I would be able to whip together a brief but insightful summary of what I learned in church once we got home and finish with plenty of time left for a TV show with Derek.

Easy as pie, right?

Not so much.

I have never had such a hard time taking good photos of my family!  The light faded too quickly, my camera wouldn't focus or my settings were off, and the kids were not cooperating.  A couple of hours, multiple crying children, and a bag of M&M's later, and I got a very small handful of usable photos.  I couldn't even get a really good one of Georgie at all.

I was fighting a grouchy mood all the way home, and even now I am just shaking my head wondering what in the world went wrong!  So if you've ever told me "I don't know how you get such great pictures of all your kids!"...well, today I'm not sure how I've ever done that either.

I'm sure I'll always look back at this year's family photos as the year it just wouldn't work.

But I hope I also remember a little bit about how cute they all looked, despite the lack of documentation.  How tall and handsome Wyatt and Clyde were in their bomber jackets.  How Gwen and Clarice beamed when I told them how ladylike they looked.  How Georgie pronounced "I wook pwetty!" in her baby voice.



I hope I remember the way all the kids breathed a sigh of relief when I finally called it quits.  How suddenly the tears turned into laughter as they threw leaves in the air, on top of their heads, into the water.

The way it felt when Georgie leaned her forehead against mine and relaxed into my arms, a tear drying on her cheek and her chubby little fingers clutching a blue M&M.

How Derek let me vent all the way home about what a disastrous attempt at photos that was and sulk for a little bit, but didn't hold it against me.  How he wrapped his arms around me and assured me we could try again.

I don't have much energy left in me to be briefly profound about anything at the moment.

But I am so thankful for my sweet family that I didn't get any good pictures of today.




Stuff I Like | June 2019


I have a few fun finds from June to share!

$1 Summer Movies

In case you weren't aware of it, a lot of theaters play older kids' movies in the morning in the summer and charge only $1 for admission.  (See this post for a general list, or just google "one dollar summer movies" in your area). The kids and I went to see "Turbo" with friends a few weeks ago, and I'm hoping we can catch a couple of the other movies before the summer is over!  Especially having a bigger family, we rarely get to go to the movies because it's so expensive for all of us - so this is one of our best chances to see something in the theater!  We don't care if it's an older movie.

Poesie

One of my recent goals is to read more poetry.  I have always struggled to find poetry that resonates with me.  I came across this app, which makes my attempt at poetry appreciation a little more fun -  the app has a daily poem, but it also has a bunch of free poems you can read within the app, organized by author or mood.  I actually found a couple poems I like this way!  However, the art choices for some of the category covers are a little...um, questionable, so don't let your kids poke around on there.

Colorized Photos

I ran across this album on Facebook, which contains iconic pictures that someone has taken and colorized.  Oh my goodness, they are amazing.  You know how sometimes you look at an old black and white picture and the person in it almost doesn't seem real?  The way these photos are colorized makes you feel like you are sitting right there in the scene, like you could have lived right next to these people.  It's just really neat.  I especially liked this one taken on D-Day, the ones of Einstein and Churchill, and this one from the Civil War.

Never Grow Up by Brooke White

I am a big fan of JJ Heller's lullaby album, and I know many of you are too.  Well, this album by Brooke White kind of reminds me of that other album.  The sound is a little different, but the lyrics are still all about memories with children and babies and growing up, with a bit of a lullaby quality to some of the songs.  I found it a few months back, but I've been enjoying it again in the last week!

The Far Country by Andrew Peterson

Another album I've enjoyed this month!  Once again, what makes the album for me is the lyrics.  The theme of this album seems to be the ultimate destination for the believer in Christ - which is Heaven - and looking ahead to the unseen in faith.  I think this is just a nice one to play in the background around the house on a quiet summer afternoon, and I've found it encouraging.

Note: Both of those albums are on Amazon Music if you are a Prime member.

Alma Classics

Some friends and I decided we want to read more classic books together, so we've started a little classics book club.  Of course, if I'm going to be reading all these classics, I can't think of a better opportunity to search out pretty copies to add to my collection while we are at it!  Unfortunately, the UK seems to have a monopoly on all the really pretty editions of classics, but I will not be deterred.  I found a couple of the classics on my list through online used book retailers, and one of the publishers I search for is Alma Classics.  They print paperback copies, but the covers are definitely some of the prettier ones available in the US, and usually you can find reasonably priced copies online.  Here's the Alma Classics copy of The Great Gatsby, which I recently bought for book club:



Kiddie Pools

This is probably going to make me sound a little hillbilly-ish, but there is just not much that is nicer on a hot summer afternoon (when you have five little kids) than to sit on the back porch in the sunshine, reading a book with your feet in the kiddie pool while the kids play.  It's nicer than taking them to a real pool for sure, because they are all right there in front of me so I don't have to worry so much about taking my eyes off them, since I can literally stretch my legs and touch them.  Nothing bad is going to happen if I read for a few minutes, because they are two feet from me.  But we still get the benefit of water!

Chirp Books

This is a new audiobook deal website!  I found out about it early, because I am also signed up for BookBub's ebook deal emails.  They have some good audiobook deals on here though, and a few different titles that I am interested in!  I'm just sitting on it for now while I think about which ones I should consider buying, but I figured I'd share with my fellow audiobook-lovers in the meantime.

Do you have any good finds from June?  Please share!







And A Merry Christmas To You!



Confession time: Christmas break has not exactly gone as I planned.

I had so many ideas for advent readings and crafts to do with the kids.  We were going to bake, and learn new Christmas carols and Bible verses.  I was going to continue waking up before the kids and get in a rich, meaningful personal Bible study leading up to Christmas Day.

And then the king of all colds struck us last week.  I tell you, if I ever needed a non-serious reminder of the sinful, fallen state of the world, this cold was it.  Even though we are well past being contagious, we still are struggling with scratchy voices and irritating remnants of a cough.  Derek took time off from work, and I rolled out of bed too late every morning for the past week.  Needless to say, my plans did not come to fruition. 

However, I finally felt well enough to get back to my new morning routine again this morning.  I grabbed the Christmas present I bought myself, an illuminated Scripture journal for the book of Hebrews.  I figured I'd just start by checking out the cross-references, and I stumbled across two passages that have helped set my heart back on Christ amidst the Christmas-Eve craziness this morning. (The first one is kind of long, try to take time to read through the whole thing - it's so good!).

"He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by Him all things were created that are in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.  And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have preeminence.  For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in Heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross."
Colossians 1:13-20

"For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
2 Corinthians 4:6


I just love how these passages talk about the light of Christ.  We are lost in darkness, in our sin, without Him - but when we were stumbling around in the dark, God sent us the light of Christ, the light of Himself.  He was born to make peace for us through the blood of His cross.  We are the ones who deserve darkness and death forever because of our sin, but He bore that penalty for us on the cross.  And now if we will merely raise our faces to His light, trusting in His sacrifice and what He has done to save us, we need never be lost in darkness again.





















Merry Christmas, friends.  I pray that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ is shining bright in your hearts this Christmas (and that you have more joy than Georgie in that last picture)!

Birthday Girl


Dear Georgie Bea,

A year ago, I was feeling completely miserable.  I didn't think you'd be coming any time soon, but I didn't see how I could endure weeks more with the way my back was aching.

Around dinnertime I realized that maybe I was feeling so awful because you were going to surprise me with an early entrance - and a few hours later, we saw your sweet face!





I was not expecting you to arrive early, but it was such a blessing!  And that has been your story from the start, darling.  An unexpected blessing.  It was unexpected to see that positive pregnancy test.  It was unexpected that you would arrive when you did.  It was unexpected that you'd have such a wonderfully sweet temperament.




I look at you now, and you stare back at my with your deep brown eyes and give me a dimpled grin.  I love the way your hair curls in the back, just like your daddy's.  I love how you "talk" to me and act disappointed until I reply.  I love how you stand up in your crib and bounce up and down when I walk into the room.





I didn't know we'd have a fifth baby, but there was a small part in the corner of my heart that dared to wish for you.  And the Lord saw that, and blessed me beyond what I expected.  You are my little dream baby, and I can't imagine not having you here.  I'm so glad the Lord gave you to me.







I will love you and like you forever, Georgiana.  Happy day, Birthday Girl!

Love Always,

Mama

On Decorating With Photos


(This new metal print is so cool!  Thanks to Artsy Couture for sending me a metal photo print to review.)

Do you ever wonder if it's narcissistic that we decorate our houses with pictures of ourselves?

A few years ago I heard someone mention how it could be narcissistic to decorate with photos of yourself, and for a long time I wondered if maybe that was true.  I can certainly see how decorating with photos could become narcissistic, like those movie characters who live alone and have a huge canvas of themselves adorning the wall above the couch.  But still, I don't buy that decorating with photos has to be a narcissistic thing.

I've put more thought into it, and even read about it in recent years, and I personally think there are a few good reasons to decorate with photos of your own family.  This is what I think:

1.  Decorating with photos adds to a feeling of solidarity between family members.

I think about decorating with photos differently now that I have kids of my own.  I think that for kids, seeing pictures of themselves with their family on the wall reminds them that they aren't alone - they are part of a bigger unit, a family, and that means something.  They play an integral role in a family, they are woven through the collective family memories that photos represent.  They can look at the walls and visually see their place in the family. In my opinion, that can't help but add some security, knowing your place in the world by being able to see it on the walls.

2.  Photos are memories.

I went to my parents house for the 4th of July, and my sister and I stood looking at an old vacation photo from when we went river rafting.  I mentioned something specific that I remembered about that day, and she mentioned something she remembered, and there we were bonding over a shared memory because of a photo on my parents' wall. I'm the type of person who doesn't really remember things until I see a photo - and then a whole cascade of memories floods in.  Not everyone is like this, certain personality types are much better at remembering and honoring the past in their hearts without any external reminders, but personally, I need the photos around me to remind me.

3. Photos can be modern "remembrance stones".

Remember how the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, and God told them to stack twelve stones from the river bed?  When their children asked about the stones, they could tell them of the Lord's faithfulness to Israel.  Well, to me, photos on my walls are something like a modern equivalent to that.  I want to work on this more in my home, by putting photos on the wall that are not only the perfect family photos, but photos that I can point to and say "Remember when God did that?"  He has been faithful to our family in many ways, and I want the photos on my wall to not just serve as an anchor for bonding and memories in my family, but also a way to point back to God's faithfulness.

Now, on to some practical things...

What is your favorite way to decorate with photos in your house?

Personally, I am constantly changing it up.

-I have small, square prints on a bulletin board above Derek's desk.  
-We have a wall collage of canvas prints.  Two of the pictures are of Derek and me from our 5th anniversary (they probably need updating since we just hit our 10th!), and there are smaller canvas prints of each of the kids' newborn pictures.
-I had pictures hanging along our stairwell, but I recently took those down because I want to re-do that wall.  I'll update when I figure it out.
-A metal print on my piano-top (which is basically my version of a mantel display, since I don't have a mantel).

The metal print is the newest addition to my photo decor - Artsy Couture recently asked if I'd like to check out one of their products and sent me this gorgeous metal print!  In case you haven't heard of metal prints, the photo is actually printed on a thin sheet of aluminum.  The colors are supposed to be brighter and sharper in printing with this method.



I ended up picking a beach photo from our vacation that I knew was not perfectly focused, but I was so impressed when the print came at how crisp it was anyway!  The colors really are gorgeous and vibrant, and it kind of has a certain glow about it that I am assuming is an effect of printing on aluminum.  I love the way it turned out, and it looks just as good as I thought it would on my piano-mantel.






Bonuses to printing on aluminum: it doesn't get retain dirt like textured canvas might, and there is no glass to break if it falls!

I poked around on the Artsy Couture website and they have a ton of options - not just for metal prints, but canvases, wood prints, traditional prints, cards, photo books, etc.  They also happen to be having a sale on large prints that ends tomorrow, so if you are interested, hop on over there and check it out!

What do you think?  Do you decorate with photos or not?  What are your reasons, if you have any?
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