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Monday, January 21, 2008

Stepping Into Their World

Shortly after I posting "When I Press The Shutter", I decided that since so many of you seemed interested in taking better photographs, I'd set to composing a few helpful articles. My intention is to lead you in the right direction while giving you plenty of room for your own creativity. Photography should be unique to your personality, but everyone basically uses similar techniques.

Initially, I wanted to only touch on a single aspect of photography in each post, but I have failed to separate two of my most treasured techniques as they work together so well. This first post will cover both: Move in close, and change your perspective.

Parents love taking photos of their kids. That is a fact. Everywhere I look, I see photo after photo of children. Children playing, children eating, children sleeping....etc. The question is....What makes a photograph more than just a snapshot? Why do some photos just look like someone pulled the camera up and pressed the shutter, and some look like you are almost if you could reach out and touch the child?

I find that most people stand a good distance from their subject, lift the camera to their face and start snapping. In my opinion, these photos capture the scene, but fail to really capture the moment. I like to move in close, get down at their level, and step right into their world.

Here is an example:

This first photo is a typical shot I have seen. The child is sleeping on the sweet. So the parent stands there, and takes a quick snapshot.

As you can see.....there is hardly any focus on the subject here. There is so much in the photo. The couch, the child, the clutter....nothing truly stands out as the most important aspect of the photo, right? It is flat, and uninteresting.

The first thing you can do to make this a better photo is to simply move closer. It's up to you whether you want to move with your feet, or with your zoom, but just move in closer. Fill your frame with the subject of your desire. You don't want to capture the want the memory of your child sleeping. So move those feet, or press that zoom, and fill your frame.

Much better, yes? However, that darn pink pajama is distracting isn't it? Why would you leave it there? Do you want it competing for the viewers eye? Just remove it if possible.

If you want to take this photo a step further, you can simply get down at the level of the child. This brings the photo into the child's world. You are not looking down on her sleeping, you are right there with her while she sleeps. To achieve this, simply squat or kneel.

Do you see it? Can you see the difference in the three photos? If it isn't feeling very clear, just take some time to try it on your own. Take the photo the way you normally would. Then remember what I said, "Move closer, and get down at their level", and see if you get a different result.

Here is another example:

The first two photos here are the typical snapshot. Lots of clutter around the child, with little focus on her. The angle is slightly looking down on her.

Now....move closer.

Not bad. The focus of the photo is clearly the child who is painting, but it is still lacking some feeling....some emotion. Let's trying stepping into her world. Let's squat down and take the photo at her level, and see what happens.

There we go....see how we can see more of her face. It is almost like we are right there painting with her. Note that the background is a little fuzzy. This is ideal. It can't always be achieved with a point and shoot camera, but you can try. The best way to blur the background in a photo like this is to use your zoom instead of moving closer. If you zoom in on the child, the background will be out of focus making the child stand out more.

Now you may want to try moving around the child to find different perspectives. Taking photos from several different positions often tells the story more clearly.

What do you think? Are you seeing it? Are you recognizing anything that you might do to change how you photograph your child? Can you move closer? Can you get down at their level?

I know you can. I believe that these two simple steps can make a world of difference in your photos, just as it did mine. Try it. Let me know if you see any difference. I'd love to hear all about it. I'd love to see you photos.

If you have any questions or aspects of photography you'd like me to address in a future post, please let me know. I'd love to help you out. Photography is a process, and we are all somewhere along that line of process. I have so much more to learn, and I'd be happy to share my trials and successes with you.

*** oh and don't forget I'm on Top Momma!

CLICK HERE!!!!! You know you want to. Click it a few times in fact. I get a referral each time you click the link, and a click each time you click on Sugar's sweet photo. Isn't that fun? I can't think of a single thing I should be doing today other than clicking. Can you? ***

37 Live It or Love It:

kat said...

That was a great post. Thank you for the helpful tips and the "visuals". I'm going to try and change the way I look at things through the lens.

Your pictures are simply amazing.

holly said...

this was truly great. and it has really inspired me to try some stuff out. i could probably do this. we shall see.

the top example, though, i usually have to achieve with photoshop. i will *try* it with my box.

what an excellent walkthrough, though. you could put this on wiki how or something, too.

Unknown said...

Whoa! Thank you for that. I bookmarking this because I just received a new camera for Christmas and I'm so afraid of it.

Julie said...

A wonderful, informative post, Corey! Thanks for the reminder to get close! :)

jennwa said...

Those are great tips, I will definite;y being changing how I take my photos. Thanks.

Jen said...

Hi Corey - I always love looking at your pics :-) You are a fabulous photographer and that is some really, really good advice! It's the same thing I always tell my scrapbooking friends when they comment on my's by far the easist way to improve your picture. Thanks for putting it together so succinctly - I'm going to link your article on my blog, if that's ok :-)

Cheers, Jen

Michie said...

Hi, I'm new here, but am so happy to see some photo taking tips. I'm a scrapbooker too, and would like to learn how to take some better photos. Thanks. :)

Megan Cobb said...

You rule, chick. That was a really great, simple, easy-to-adopt lesson. My issue is always lighting, though. I've taken photog classes, read books, even entered a few contests and won (okay, I was a kid, but still!). I can take pretty decent staged photos, but capturing moments I haven't CONTRIVED is difficult because the child and the light never seem to be in the right places. The flash on my camera does terrible things to color, and I frequently end up with a beautiful subject (ahem) in a thoughtful or hilarious pose, but the photo is completely unusual because it's grainy and blurry or pale and washed out. What would you say to a woman who wishes she had the sun on a string so she could just pull it into the right position when she needs to, to capture her lovey's special moments?

Don Mills Diva said...

Wow - excellent tips and I really saw what you were talking about - thanks a ton!

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

Awesome, Corey! So helpful. I have been trying to do this, but you put words to what I was wondering. MORE like this, please, you Top Mama, you!

Autumn said...

Great tips Corey, very simply put and easy to follow. Sometimes.. I get some odd looks when I'm trying to get the right angle. While camping I had some strange looks from passers by as I layed down in the bushes to get the right angle on some trees. LOL But the end product is so worth it. Will you be doing Photoshop tips too? Because.. I totally suck at photoshop and you rock it!

Corey~living and loving said...

I am delighted that so many of you are enjoying this. I do hope that you post some of the pics you get when trying to move close and get down at their level. I'd love to see the results. :)

Jen....I couldn't follow you back to your blog. It is totally okay to link to this post. The more people who see it....the better. :) I'd love to help anyone out. :) Oh and let me know where your blog is so I can visit. :)

Unknown said...

GREAT advice, Corey!!

Anonymous said...

What a great post! Thank you so much for sharing that with us - I am off to see if I can make it work for me!

Unknown said...

That was a fantastic post! So well explained.

Heidi said...

Great tips! Thanks! Now, here's my question for you: My little guy is always on the go! It's so hard to take pictures, too much movement... I can capture 25 pictures and not even get one! What's your advise? Beside get out the video camera!!!

:) said...

Corey, I love this post. I will definitely experiment more with capturing the feelings of the subject. I have a question for you. I bought my camera online and it is a pretty popular brand (Kodak EasyShare). I am pretty certain I am not using to the fullest potential but the manual doesn't explain every use. Would a specialty camera store be able to answer some of my questions regarding the camera? I am not sure how to overcome this example would be settings....any advice?

:) said...

Corey, I love this post. I will definitely experiment more with capturing the feelings of the subject. I have a question for you. I bought my camera online and it is a pretty popular brand (Kodak EasyShare). I am pretty certain I am not using to the fullest potential but the manual doesn't explain every use. Would a specialty camera store be able to answer some of my questions regarding the camera? I am not sure how to overcome this example would be settings....any advice?

david mcmahon said...

You're a photographer after my own heart, Corey. There'll be heaps of people who benefit from this great advice.

I could not have put it more succinctly.


Burgh Baby said...

You did a wonderful job of explaining that (the only photography concept I think I get right). I'm going to have to show it to my husband because he's always mocking me for chasing our Toddler with the camera while I'm on my knees. But it's getting down to their level that makes all the difference, isn't it?!?!

Lindy said...

This was really well written Corey. Your writing voice is much like your photographic voice - warm, inviting, and personable. You always make me want to pull up with a comfy chair and a cup of tea for a cozy chat : ) And your pictures of Sugar... well that goes without saying. My favorite part of the post!

Beth Cotell said...

Thanks for posting this! I am going to try some of these techniques next time I take pictures of my kids.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I am learning so much from these blogs. I love the way you explained the concepts and demonstrated them with the different photos. What a difference. With Inspired Spaces for decorating and yours for photography, I am just loving life. Waiting for more.
Gee Gee

Anonymous said...

What good and simple tips! Thanks, Corey.

And in reply to your comment. I noticed the "sleep theme" too after I finished my list. I was really into resting those last few vacation days before going back to work today!

MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

Great tip! One of my biggest problems is that my dog ALWAYS steps right into the frame when my shutter goes off (kinda like those oh so cute pink PJs). :)

The Egel Nest said...

Excellent guide...but my photos will never be like yours :)

The Egel Nest

Michele said...

Wonderful tips... it's always great to get some helpful hints from such a great photographer!!

Just Jinny said...

Wonderful post! Loved it. And I do see the difference. It makes perfect sense to me. I've been slobbering over a fancy digital camera..maybe some day. Right now I work with what I got..a point and shoot Kodak EasyShare. It works ok. I don't have kids right now but I have animals and I love trying to get down on their level...if they would just sit still! lol.

Lori said...

Thanks for the tips. It helps to know what you do, bc I love your pics!

CamiKaos said...

Hooray for you top momma.. i just clicked. I may go click again.

yes, i think i will.

And I do so love the power of cropping a photo.

Melissa said...

Awesome pointers I know I am guilty of doing the standard snapshot. I am going to have to try some new techniques. Thanks for posting them!!

Jessica said...

Corey, it's funny but that's also the instructions on how to have a meaningful conversation with a child. LOL I've taken quiete a few child development classes, it shows huh?
Thanks for reinforcing what I've been trying to do :D

Deb said...

These are wonderful reminders, Corey! It's so easy to just pick up the camera and click - and so much better to take the time to really tell a story with the photographs. You explain so well, just like you are right there in front of us explaining... Thank you! :)

♥.Trish.♥ Drumboys said...

thanks for sharing this - a great lesson in photography for me.

Jo Beaufoix said...

How did I miss this Cor? That was fantastic. I can't wait to try it. :D

Carolyn said...

GREAT post. You captured the ideas of this lesson perfectly. One thing to add (if I may?) - something I've learned from countless scrapbooking magazines - we should be sure not to zoom in and crop so much that we loose the context of the photo. Yes, get rid of distracting clutter, but don't zoom so tight that any reference as to what your child is actually doing is lost. You demonstrated this idea perfectly with the last set of shots where the glue and the paintbrush and everything was still there - especially when you moved around Sugar and looked over her shoulder. You have a nice tight crop without losing context. (And with the sleeping photos, no real context is necessary, so zoom away... as you did.)

Perfect! Excellent tutorial!!

Carolyn said...

oooops. I guess it's paint, not glue. What have I been sniffing? Either way. Great photos as usual. Can't wait to read the rest of your tutorials. Your explanations with the photos makes everything so clear.

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