I rarely have the luxury of having an extra set of hands with me on a shoot, unless it’s a mini shoot of my own monkeys and my husband is around. (This is another reason why he is The Unlucky Spouse! )
My kids are used to having spontaneous mini shoots now and, strangely, I think they are starting to like it! Just this month, they started asking me, “Mom? Can you bring your photoshoot camera?” Jaw-dropping!
Here are some behind-the-scenes images taken by my husband with his smart phone. I was so excited that he took these because you can get a good sense of the environment and also see from where I am shooting in these shots.
HALLOWEEN COSTUME MINI SHOOT
Behind-The-Scenes #1: (That’s me on the right side in grey and red.)
This is what I shot:
The next set is my favorite because you can tell from the behind-the-scenes shot that I had to get a little inventive.
There wasn’t much to work with! Just dirt, little grass and lots of dried prickly plants.
This is what I shot:
Then I went to the left side where I could climb into the prickly plants. I wanted my Mia cat to look like she was sneaking around in the grass. Once I was in position, I told her that she (a cat) heard a noise, and she acted that out. She was so believable, it was uncanny. Meow.
I visualized these images before I took them, so I knew how to set my camera and knew what angles to take them. There is something super satisfying about photography when you capture the shots that you envisioned.
Happy shooting, my friends!
Most days, I whole-heartedly believe that my husband is incredibly lucky to be married to a Photographer. He gets free portraits! Do you know how much money he saves?!!
But then there are times — and those come few and far between — that I feel maybe, just maybe, he is not so lucky. He has to be my model when he may not want to. He has to be my subject when I want to experiment with light, with new equipment, with a new style of shooting.
This weekend, we attended a good friend’s wedding. It was so beautiful to watch the union of two very much in-love people tie the knot. That also means there was a lot of time waiting. So what is a Photographer with a camera to do? heh heh.
I’ll explain more.
Here is the groom’s parents who both radiate extreme pride… (I love this shot!)
And here is a shot of the incredible bride and a very happy groom…
I can photograph them all day…okay, more like all WEEK (did you see the bride’s dress?!!), except this was my view most of the time…
So I took lots of shots of light fixtures.
And although they are beautiful (who doesn’t love crystal chandeliers?!!), it wasn’t enough. I’m a Lifestyle Photographer. Gimme a person!
Ahhhhh…..better than light fixtures. Better than backs of vendors.
See? This isn’t all just for fun. I’m going to throw in an actual tip!
When photographing adults, their hands need to have purpose. Their hands don’t have to be busy crocheting or playing thumb war; they just can’t hang straight down in a limp way.
When I told the hubs to have one hand in his pocket, here is an example of the RIGHT way and the WRONG way to do this…
Can you tell we had fun with this?!!
This was a ramp that the caterers used to bring in the food. Voila, a good shooting location!
Even with my heavy camera, we pulled off a few “selfies”…
A want to give a big THANK YOU to my husband who was such a trooper for being my model this weekend and a special thanks to all the martinis that helped make these photos possible. Haha
Have a great weekend, my friends. And, as always, whatever you photograph, have fun doing it!
If you read my post, The Curse of the Professional Photographer, then you know why I don’t bring my camera with me when I go out and why I usually photograph my kids with my iPhone. Sad, isn’t it?
Well, last night, I took my 3-year old monkey out for a real photoshoot.
It was an impromptu styled shoot that I threw together by grabbing things as I went out the door. How’s that for planning?
If you are a parent, you’ll know what I mean when I say that photographing my own kids is THE hardest to photograph!
With that said, I feel giddy about this shoot because it shows Ava’s personality really well.
This girl loves to dance, laughs really easily, and has a great imagination. I am so in love with her.
How is a Styled Shoot different than a Lifestyle Shoot?
A styled shoot for children/families operates pretty much the same as a regular lifestyle session, except that there is set-up work involved. The kids would be able to play as they normally would, but the “styled” part of it provides them with an activity, which brings everyone together AND gives your shoot a theme.
I am so inspired by styled shoots. If you are a client with an upcoming shoot, please don’t hesitate to run ideas by me. Together, we can come up with something that is fun and fitting to your group.
Once you’ve been a professional photographer for a few years, some things become automatic. You critique images you see, whether you want to or not, and do it mostly in your head because it happens so often. Wherever you are, you spot where the “good light” is. This is a great asset as a professional when you are on a client shoot — however, when you are shooting for personal reasons, like photographing a casual BBQ with friends, it can be a curse.
So why do I not like bringing a camera when I go out? I’ve become critical of what and how I shoot. And I have a higher standard of what constitutes a decent image.
When I’m out with my family, I want to enjoy them. So if I bring a camera, it’s better to wear my Mom Photographer (or “Momtog”) hat, not my Professional Photographer hat. But that is hard to do.
Here is an example:
Below is a photo I took last week during our vacation. For most of our stay there, I left my camera at the beach house. One day, I took my camera with me to capture our easy-going beach lifestyle, so I wore my Momtog hat. I took photos as any parent would take of their kids. I didn’t pressure them to be subjects in a photoshoot.
Looking at the photos today, I cringe. I am fighting the urge to delete them from my hard drive.
What Most People See
“Siblings standing in the water at the beach on a sunny day. They are happy and hugging. It’s a Keeper.”
What a Professional Photographer Sees
Yep, all of that goes instantly into my head….and MORE! I just ran out of space.
Am I being too critical? Maybe. But this is all automatic. I am not trying to find things wrong with this photo or any other photo.
I still remember how it was before I started my business when I’d look at personal photos and be in love with how it transported me to that day. And that was it. Was something crooked or was something cropped unaesthetically? Who cares. I didn’t. Did I shoot mid-day in the harsh sunlight? Most definitely.
Before becoming a Professional Photographer, I enjoyed more photos that I took on a casual day.
Know your camera, learn photography rules, hone your skills, develop a more critical eye, so you can improve and grow as a photographer.
When it comes to personal photos, capture your life on camera, however it happens, and know that not every photo needs to be a work of art. It is better to capture moments than miss them.
I reserved this past weekend for doing taxes, but since I finished them a whopping 3 days early (impressive, right?!! ), I had the weekend open! I decided to take Mia, my 8-year old, out for a spontaneous styled photoshoot!
Styled shoots are pretty much the opposite of Lifestyle Photography.
Instead of capturing what naturally unravels, I am posing and sculpting scenes. I find this to be a refreshing departure from my usual style. I could tell my model what to do and position her exactly where I want!
So I opted to take Mia to an old schoolhouse and barn for a country themed shoot. At one location, I gave her pigtails, which reminds me of Little House On The Prairie. (Does anyone remember that show or am I the oldest person who reads my blog?!!)
Photography Info: You can style any shoot pretty much. As long as you have willing participants, you are golden. Families with children under 5 years old, for example, may not be the best subjects for a styled shoot. Other than that, just have fun with it!
Enjoy your day. Every day.
I have to confess. I am terrible at something. Well, I am terrible at a lot of things, but in photography, there is something I really really suck at: self-portraits. Good thing no one will hire me to do a self-portrait!
So the other day, I needed to submit a headshot of myself to a company I work with (EM Marketing). “I can do a self-portrait,” I naively thought. Gah!
If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve read how I found this little project to be a form of torture.
Aside from preferring to be on the backside of a camera (thank you very much!), I also had the added challenge of needing a white wall as the backdrop. With 3 little kids and a lifelong love for Art, I have paintings, children’s artwork and photographs everywhere. The only blank white walls are in areas that receive little sun or have no space to put a tripod, like the stairs.
My only option was to remove a large canvas and STAND ON A COUCH! Why didn’t I just move the couch? Well… silly me. I thought it would take 5 minutes. *eye roll*
- I didn’t have space for a tripod because I wanted to use a long lens. (Hey, I need all the compression I can get, so I used my 85mm/1.4!)
- I couldn’t get my wireless shutter remote to work, so I had to use the self-timer button on my camera, which meant running back and forth.
- I needed to focus on an object and then stand in the exact place of that object immediately after pushing the shutter. Oy! Since I had to be so close to the wall, I used a large aperture to create some blur behind me. No one needs to see all the marks on my wall, right? That meant it was easy to be out-of-focus. In fact, I took about 100 images and only about 20 were in-focus.
- I was on a strict time limit. There was a cute little 3 year old who kept running into my frame or touching my camera/tripod!
- Did I mention that I don’t like being in front of a camera? Maybe I should have listed this as #1!
My Focus Object
This was one of my test shots.
I had to knock down poor Mr. Bear every time I hit the shutter. Sorry, Bear.
Behind the Scenes
I know this is a poor quality image. My 3-year old, Ava, stole my iPhone from my desk and started taking photos!
You have to give me ‘props’ for sharing this embarrassing photo, right?!!
1. Find a place with decent light.
2. Set your camera to manual focus. You will get the most control that way. Then focus on an object where you will be or focus on something in the same plain as where you will be.
3. You may want to dress in full (not just the top half), even if you plan on doing a standard headshot. *ehem* I can attest to that!
4. Set your camera to take multiple photos per shutter release. You can do this with most DSLRs under the Self-Timer menu. I set my camera to take 5 photos each time, with 10 seconds in-between snaps, so I can get in my next diva pose (yea right!)
5. Avoid doing self-portraits. Just kidding.
Phew, good thing this one came out blurry!
So why am I sharing all this with you?
There hasn’t been anything about my journey as a photographer that has CRACKED ME UP this much since The Worst Photoshoot Ever! I’ve always believed it’s healthy to laugh at yourself once in awhile, and I thought that you could laugh along with me.
And maybe for one or two of you, it would help to see that everyone has challenges and embarrassing moments. Everyone!
My first-born is turning eight today and that brings about mixed feelings. Nah. I lied. It just makes me sad.
I am sad that time sped up once I had baby number two and even more after baby number three. I miss those quiet days when we played School and Hair Salon.
I am sad that she is losing those precious baby teeth that I have grown so fond of seeing whenever she smiled. Or sang. Or told long tales.
I can’t believe she is in the final stretch of second grade. I still remember putting my phone three feet away from her to motivate her to army crawl.
I remember getting a call from her preschool that she had an accident, and I thought my heart was going to jump out of my body from beating so fast. The feeling of
wanting needing to do everything I humanly can to protect her and keep her safe was bigger than I could ever imagine.
I remember taking walks with her to save snails from getting squished, picking wildflowers and collecting rocks that I had to mysteriously “lose” because she collected too many.
I remember her twirling in the sunlight with a new skirt and her singing Twinkle Twinkle to cheer up a crying child at the park. She has the biggest heart I know.
One thing that I will never regret is having taken sooooo many photos of her. I’ve documented every First, every newly learned skill, and all the little things that bring tears to my eyes — both the happy and sad kind.
That’s why I love photography and will never stop.
Happy birthday, my Mia Pie. You are one of the most special people I’ve ever met, and I am so blessed to be your mommy.
I love you times infinity.
Why is it that your own children are the hardest to photograph?!!
The bigger question is: why do I make the mistake of photographing my own kids on New Year’s Day after bathtime in their jammies… and think it will only take 5 minutes? Every. Single. Year. Who am I kidding???
Well, not all traditions are easy — but I have to say, I am so glad I made this our family tradition!
So that 5 minutes quickly turned into 30, and my poor husband had to perform A PUPPET SHOW just so I could get this one shot of the three of them looking like they are the Asian version of the Brady Bunch kids!
Thanks for your help, Schmookie Pookie Ookie Bear! (j/k. I don’t call him that! He is probably gagging as he is reading this!)
Below are a few more shots that put a smile to my face.
Ian asked me to take a photo of his “pirate face”. I didn’t know he had this so-called face, and I didn’t ask any questions I didn’t want to hear the answers to.
So I just took the shot like a good Mama-razzi!
Um. Again, I didn’t ask.
My little 2-year old, Ava, has never done this before: pose for the camera! What the??? Who is this child?!!
She loves to read about Princesses and Fairies…and Umizoomi (in case you were curious).
And here’s one I played around with for fun…
It is more whimsical than my usual lifestyle images because it mixes illustration with photography. What do you think?
I wanted to share some of my favorite products, most of which I acquired or discovered this year! They are not all photography-related. It’s just a fun list I wanted to share; no one is paying me to endorse their products.
Alright, so this is purely personal. So don’t judge! Like my friend, Cheryl, used to always say in a ghetto-fab way, “Love! Don’t hate!”
I have to start my list with this product because this mug is how I start each day!
This heavyweight ceramic mug was designed with oodles of love by my 3 monkeys on Mother’s Day! The side you see here is written and drawn by my son, Ian, who was 4 years old at the time. “You make me happy. You’re the best mom ever. You cheer me up when I’m crying. I love you.” <3
[It is a logo-free mug from Starbucks and only costs $15. I'd buy 10 of these, but that would dilute the importance of this one. So this will be the only one of these mugs I own.]
Faster Memory Cards
It could be any brand, though I prefer SanDisk, but the point here is that it’s worth spending a little more to get faster cards: Class 10 and a minimum of 45MB/s.
In previous years, I didn’t think it mattered THAT much since I don’t shoot video, so I had been buying the Ultra line, which has speeds like 30MB/seconds. Having 45MB/seconds recording time means I no longer get a lag when I check the LCD screen on the back of my camera after shooting a burst of images. It is a significant difference.
I have SanDisk Extreme in both SD and CF cards. I’ll never again go back to memory cards that are less than 45MB/s.
In past years, I’ve been sort of a cheapo when it comes to buying lens filters. I figured I didn’t need anything fancy since I only needed them to protect my lenses, rather than filters that had other “jobs”, like make the clouds pop out or make the sunlight look like a big star. So why get a high-end filter, right?
This year, I traded up and purchased Nikon filters. I figured Nikon must make high quality filters since it makes awesome lenses…and they’d need to know how to make filters that keep the quality integrity of their lenses, am I right?!!
At first, I didn’t find much of a difference between this filter and a low-end filter. After I used it in various lighting conditions, I noticed less chromatic aberration! This saves me time in post processing. Booyah!
[Just for comparison sake, a 77mm UV filter can range from $9.49 to hundreds of dollars. The Nikon Neutral Color filter, shown here, is currently $100.]
Black Rapid DR-2 Straps
I use this strap on every client shoot and would never leave home without it. ‘Nuff said.
[This BlackRapid DR-2 double strap retails for about $130 and is worth every penny. To compare the two double straps, here is my review.]
I can’t help it. I love using fun pens. When I saw this big fuzzy Keroppi frog pen at the store, I was all over that! Brought it straight to the counter to pay for it. (It was the last one, and I couldn’t chance someone taking it!]
My Keroppi pen makes filling out forms and writing checks fun. Well, maybe not as much the latter one.
The Bossi Bag by THEIT
If I am going out and need my camera, this is the camera bag I’ll take with me.
If I am going out and don’t need my camera, chances are, I would still choose to take this bag. Yup, that’s how much I love it. With purses, I’m not as much of a
cheapo budget-minded shopper. I have big brand snazzy handbags, but The Bossi Bag is lighter and more functional than a lot of my expensive ones. And let’s be honest, it’s cute!
Here’s what it looks like on the inside. It fits a full frame DSLR body with 2 lenses, iPad, iPhone, wallet, keys and lipstick. Pretty much everything, but the kitchen sink…and that’s only because kitchen sinks are way too heavy. And most likely full of dishes.
If you’re curious, here is my full review on this product.
I have two of these: one in my lens bag and one in my rolling camera bag. It’s a complete necessity and I use it before every single shoot I do! It’s the best $8 I’ve ever spent.
On one end, it’s a tip to get rid of smudges, like fingerprints. The other end is a retractable brush to remove dust and hair and whatever crazy thing that gets blown onto it. It’s like a Superman of camera accessory products: it looks innocent (Clark Kent), but it can do pretty heroic things!
[I don't think there is much of a difference in brands, and there are many. This Nikon one goes for $8 on Amazon.]
Happy shopping this holiday season… and let me know if you stumble upon any cute and fuzzy pens!
If you’ve been following my blog since I first started it in 2009, you may remember The Worst Photoshoot Ever — which, of course, is a photoshoot of my own family! (You need to read that blog post if you want a good laugh!)
Since then, I’ve stopped doing self family portraits because it yielded terrible, horrible, cringing results! It’s flat-out embarrassing actually.
Now I either hire another photographer to shoot my family or I’ll do the shoot, but just of the kids. So that’s what I did 3 days ago!
Below are a few shots from my minishoot of my monkeys. (This Summer, I had 4 monkeys as my stepdaughter, Kaitlyn, got to stay with us!)
Alice In Wonderland
Getting 4 kids ready for a morning photoshoot as well as preparing for the shoot can create quite a time challenge. So we got off to a late start and the sun was too bright for my liking.
I decided to shoot on a path where there was mostly shade and one narrow slice of light. I love the results. It looks like they were walking in a garden tunnel.
The “tunnel” and tall plants make this image feel like it sprang out of Alice in Wonderland!
Kaitlyn, Mia and Ava are all growing up so fast. Sigh.
My Little Man
Ian styled his own hair and was quite proud to sport it with his tie.
My Four Monkeys
It fills my heart with joy to see all four of my monkeys together. And happy! I mean, look at ‘em. They are grinning ear to ear.