Photographing Children: Tips for Parents and Professionals

Photographing children may be more challenging than you at first realise! When photographing younger children you must be aware of ensuring that they feel comfortable and safe. If they are your children then of course this is not a problem but it can cause some difficulty if you are photographing a friends child.

A child will pick up on our discomfort much easier than another adult so if you do not enjoy children’s company then you may want to think again before you embark on this area of digital photography.

Top 5 tips for photographing children:

1. Just because you are ready to take the child’s photograph does not mean they are ready and willing! You may have to ‘trick’ them into thinking it is a fun game for them to play. Have some props to hand such as bubble blowing or soft toys. Often toys with some sort of movement or noise are the most useful as they will emote a reaction from the child which you can capture if you are quick enough!

2. Ensure you are comfortable with the settings on your camera. This may seem obvious but if you suddenly stop when the child is happy to play to sort out a setting on your camera you will lose the moment, perhaps for ever. So make sure you have set your camera up for the session and are happy to adapt if and when necessary. Initially you may just use the environment you are in to photograph children but as you become more advanced you may wish to provide a lighting setup. This could consist of three light setup – consisting of a main light fill light and a background light. If you are using a backdrop keep the child at least four feet from the backdrop if possible as this eliminates shadows and prevents the backdrop from competing with your subject.

3. if you are photographing a friends or clients child ask the parent what sort of things their child will respond to. You may only have a short period in which to photograph the child so all information will be vital to the success of the session. Provide some props for the child to explore, such as a box or some dressing up clothes

4. Remember children have a short attention span so you may have to break off for short periods for the child to be re positioned or placated with a favourite toy or cuddle from a parent. At all times you must remain relaxed or the child and the parent will begin to feel uncomfortable. This will not provide the best atmosphere for successful photography!

5. Try to use your camera as an extension of yourself rather than placing it formally onto a tripod. If you are willing to roll around on the floor making stupid noises and giggling your subjects may be more relaxed and provide you with fantastic shots. You could move outdoors to photograph the child such as the beach or play park. There is no other field of photography where you will witness so many moods, facial expressions and movement than when photographing young children.

The most important things to remember when photographing children is to be relaxed at all times, don’t be phased by their capricious nature, allow them time, space and even toys to play with and always most importantly be comfortable with your camera because if you are not the whole session will be very stressful for you and the child.

How to Find Your Unique Voice As a Photographer

It’s not just enough to be good – you’ve got to find your own unique voice. The question is – how?

This article will take you though several things that you can to do help you discover and carve out your own one-of-a-kind path as a photographer.

1. Take pictures of what interests you.

This may seem obvious, but there are still a lot of people who go about this all the wrong way. They ask themselves, “What field of photography has the most demand right now? What area will be the most lucrative?” And then they go out and try to fit themselves into that picture.

But you will never be as successful doing this as you could be taking pictures of what interests you.

Why? Because when you are interested in something, you will enjoy it more. You will go out of your way to portray it in a good light. You will be more creative and want to try new things. This is so important and yet most people don’t even think twice about it.

If you love food, take pictures of food. If you are an animal whisperer, maybe you would adore being a pet photographer. If there’s nothing in the world that feeds your soul like going for a hike, you would probably make an excellent nature or landscape photographer.

When you are passionate about what you do, it is a simple fact that your joy will propel you forward. You will not be dragging yourself out of bed, you will be leaping from the mattress full of excitement and enthusiasm, and that in turn will carry over into your work.

2. Ask Yourself Every Day: “How Could I Do This In Another Way?”

This powerful question will get your mind working on new possibilities. Though you may not have an epiphany each time you ask yourself this, you are always encouraging your brain to make new pathways and connections. And every once in a while, you will have an “ah-HA!” that makes it all worthwhile.

If you are serious about photography, you should always be taking pictures of what you are most passionate about. But it’s also just as beneficial to try new things and take pictures of different subjects, too. This doesn’t necessarily mean forcing yourself to take pictures of things that you aren’t interested in, but finding ways of taking pictures of anything in such a way that you find it interesting. It pushes you to always stay fresh and always continue learning and growing. Reading books and taking classes is fine, but I believe that the best teacher is firsthand experience. If you are continually searching for new subjects and new ways of photographing them then you are keeping yourself on your toes, and you work will never become stale.

Passion and excitement are the fires that fuel brilliance, and in order to keep that flame stoked you will need to look for ways to keep your own interest pulsing within you. I know from firsthand experience that when I go out and do something I’ve never done before with my photography I take a giant creative leap and everything that I learn carries over into each project I take on next.

3. Avoid the #1 Creativity Killer

Contrary to popular belief, reading more books and taking more classes does not always make you a better photographer. Don’t get me wrong; they can be incredibly helpful tools that help you learn and grow – to an extent. However, there is a point that most photographers reach where studying and learning stops being helpful and becomes counterproductive. How do you know that you’ve reached that point?

When you find yourself critiquing and criticizing your work more than you are simply enjoying it.

You might be thinking, “Now wait a minute. Hold on. Critiquing helps me to get better! That’s how I learn. I see what worked, what didn’t, and I can correct and improve.”

Yes, in an ideal world. And usually this works in moderation. However, I’ve seen more photographers shut themselves down long before they ever truly delved into their potential because of this #1 creativity-killer: perfectionism. They overanalyze all of the details of their photos, attempting to make everything in each one of them just right.

Photography is not supposed to be perfect. There are technical tools that we can use to improve our photographs, but they are only that: tools – not rules. Just like people, photos are technically imperfect – and yet that’s what makes them so beautiful. Each photo is an impression of a moment in time that will never again be recaptured. And only you, from your unique viewpoint, have the ability to take that picture.

Some of the most famous photos, considered by many to be the best of the best, have imperfections! In fact, most of them do! Not only that, everyone has different tastes. Something that one person might call a “problem area” might be the reason that someone else LOVES that exact same photo. Are you going to deprive dozens of people the enjoyment of your art simply because one person said “this part isn’t in perfect focus.” Screw focus! Seriously!

If you take the picture and you like it, then what anyone else says doesn’t matter. The “rules” are great to a certain extent, and then after that they start to hinder you. You may discover that you like those blurry abstract photos more than the ones in crisp, clear focus. And you might just find that there are a lot of other people out there who love this type of photography and would even hang it on their wall. But if you stop after that first blurry photo because some teacher or even just random person said that it makes it a bad photo, you may have just shut down the possibility of an incredible photography career because you limited yourself to the same box that everyone else lives in.

Stop trying to make your photos adhere to everyone else’s rules, and they will stop looking like everyone else’s photos.

The true “greats” in any field not only break the rules, but reinvent them.

4. Take photos every single day.

Most photographers believe that searching for the problems and imperfections is not just the best way to improve, but the only way to improve. I disagree. Although this can be helpful to an extent, it is way more beneficial to just go out and take photos.

In fact, this is the best way to get good at anything: do it. Over and over and over and over and over again. By doing it, you train yourself to see the beauty in things and intuitively find the best angles. You get to the point where you don’t even have to think about it any more because it comes so naturally.

Take hundreds of photos. Don’t limit yourself. Yes, you can ask yourself as you are taking the picture, “How can I make this better? How can I frame this in order to enhance the features that I want?” But in this day and age, there’s no excuse not to take a photo if something catches your eye. With a digital camera, there are no negative consequences for filling up your memory card (unless you don’t have another one and still need to take more photos.) The more you take, the more selection you have to choose from.

Some of my very favorite photos that I’ve taken were simply on a whim. I saw something and thought, “hmm, I like that. I don’t know if it’ll make a very good photo, but there’s only one way to find out.” Click, click, click, click…. click. I’ll take the same picture from a few different angles. I’ll zoom out, zoom in, try different things. And often the one that I took as an extra is the very best one.

Try different things! Take the “technically correct” photo. Then break ALL off the rules! That’s how you step outside of the box and do new things.

Oh, and avoid those stupid forums where photographers sit around critique each others’ work. Well, you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but I’ve learned to stay away from them. People spend more time critiquing photos than they do taking them, and they’ve gotten so good at looking for problems that they see them everywhere. I’ve uploaded pieces of my best work to those sites, pieces are well loved by my agent, the design industry, my followers, and gotten critiques like, “Sorry, but there are parts of this that aren’t in focus. It’s just confusing and the photo doesn’t work.” Then other people rave over it and hang it on their wall and treasure it.

Just because one person says it doesn’t mean it’s true. Don’t let yourself get discouraged. Photography should be first and foremost, fun!

5. Don’t worry if you “miss” opportunities.

Every photographer experiences those moments when we miss that perfect shot. That rare species of eagle (so to speak) flies over our head and we weren’t ready, or the exposure wasn’t right, or we got the shot, but it was blurry, and so on. I’ve seen a lot of people spend hours, and even occasionally days, agonizing over what they missed.

Photography isn’t how many shots you get or miss, it’s about how many you take – and keep taking. I have missed thousands of great shots – and screwed up thousands more. I take more “bad” photos than good, and though I do feel disappointed sometimes when I really wanted to get something and it didn’t work out, I always shrug my shoulders and say, “hey, it wasn’t meant to be.” Then I get out my camera, and go take some more pictures.

I can’t even tell you how many times I tried to get pictures of a bird of prey feasting on it’s dinner, and the shots didn’t turn out. I had so many “missed” opportunities. And then one day I looked out my grandmother’s kitchen window and just two yards away was this hawk eating a mouse. Because of the window between us, I was able to get as close as I wanted without scaring the bird away. There are always more opportunities.

When you have the attitude of not worrying about whether you get a shot or not and just enjoy the process, you invite more opportunities in. Life becomes magical.

6. Take photos because you love to – and for no other reason.

The #1 most important thing you can do to improve your photos and find your unique voice is to HAVE FUN!

Is it really that simple? Yes, yes, and yes!

When you are having fun and trying new things and exploring and enjoying yourself, you are naturally more creative. Ideas will occur to you that you never thought of before. Things will naturally fall into place. Having fun is the key to being good. Seriously.

Taking beautiful photographs is something that comes from the heart, not the mind. So many photographers spend all their energy researching the perfect equipment and collecting fancy lenses and filters. They strive for the technically perfect photo, and if they don’t achieve it they criticize their own work and hide it away.

Before I started photography, I don’t think I ever truly saw what was around me. In a sense, I was walking blind through my world, never noticing how pretty the cracks in the sidewalk were, or just how many colors there are in a single flower. To me, that’s the gift of photography; not the end result, but the ability to see the beauty of the world around me in a new way, and have the chance to capture it and share it with others. I do it for the joy of it, and if other people can share in that joy then it is wonderful. Still, even if others don’t, photography has been one of the greatest gifts of my life.

Photography is a journey. If you are trying to create work in order to sell it, you are probably over-thinking it. If you do it because you love it, you are creating what comes from your heart and soul. Do it because taking photos makes you feel good, and people will see it and like it because it resonates with them, and makes them feel good.

7. Get inspired!

Being truly unique is about getting all of the other voices out of your head about what you could do and what you should do and how things are supposed to be done. It’s about quieting all your thoughts and then listening to the stillness and the silence where all of the new ideas are and getting in touch with your spirit. This is where you will hear the inspiration that will cause you to make uncommon connections and spawn new and great creations.

Do those things that feed your soul – eat delicious foods, read inspiring books, spend time with creative people, listen to music that transports you to a whole new world. It is often in those moments when you are simply enjoying life that the best ideas occur or you have the most wonderful photo opportunities.

Those very things that inspire you are often hints and nudges in the direction that you could take your photography to move it to the next level.

20 Tips on How to Choose a Wedding Photographer

How to choose a wedding photographer

With so many wedding photographers, so many prices, and styles choosing the right wedding photographer can become quite a big and unwieldy task for the modern couple

To begin with, the internet makes things easier, because you can see lots of work side by side, but this does not immediately let you know the most important bits of information, which will in the end determine the best choice for you

20 top tips for choosing a photographer

#1 Who ever you choose, you must click with them

A website will only go part of the way of finding out about attitude and the person.

You will be with your wedding photographer, on your special day from dawn to dusk in some cases, inviting them into your dressing room, while you are getting ready. The photographer will then work with you and your family through the day. You need to find someone you trust, and get on with

#2 Who ever you choose, you must click with them

Yes that’s point one! But it is point 2 as well. Anyone shooting your wedding needs to get the best out of you, and this ultimately is a mix of communication, and camera craft. You need to be confident your wedding photographer can guide and instruct you and your family during the poses and group shots. If they make you smile, put you at your ease, the job is half done

#3 Know that wedding photography is both a business and a vocation

Wedding photography is a business, and professional wedding photography is one of the hardest and stressful disciplines in the photography game. You need to choose a photographer, who is a good in business and photography. I am not talking about profits here; I am talking about the way they run the business. You need to look at the business and think – will they be here in 5 -10 years time, when I have lost my disk, and I want a re-print.

#4 Can you communicate with them easily

Like all wedding suppliers, you need to know – can you communicate with them easily. A hotmail account and a mobile phone number are a giveaway. Look for a landline number, open in office hours. Ask yourself – how quickly do they reply to e-mails, and at what time of the day. However, remember we don’t work 7 days a week, and we don’t answer the phone if we are shooting a wedding. It is not uncommon for busy wedding photographers to take off a day in the week

With a wedding photographer, you need to be clear on this issue, because unlike nearly all of the other vendors, you will be communicating a lot with the photographer a long time after the wedding

#5 Choose what style you like

There are a number of different styles of wedding photography ranging between stiff and formal, through to totally documentary (nothing at all set up). There are also photographers that pull in aspects of other photographic disciplines such as fashion, fine art, avant-garde etc.. On top of that, there are a number of ways the photographs are processed, ranging from standard colour, black and white to totally gimmicky processing.

Before you seriously look at choosing a photographer, choose the style you want first

#6 Matching a photographer to the style you want

This is obvious, but more often than not, the photographer is chosen for another reason, and their style is foisted on the couple. You need to know that good professional photographers can change the style they shoot a little from shoot to shoot. However you do not want to choose a formal photographer to shoot a reportage style etc. Most of us are in the middle, and lean one way or the other.

Look at the photographers work, try and look at whole weddings if they are available, and if many weddings are available to view, look to see that the photographer does shoot in the way you want.

#7 Portfolio shots are different to general wedding photographs

Photographers choose images for their portfolios because they are either the best of the best, or they fit a certain format, or both. They tend to be dramatic, show stopping images. The 99.9% of the images the wedding photographer shoots are the ones you need to be interested in..

#8 Recommendations

Nothing is better than a recommendation, but nothing is worse than an unqualified recommendation. If someone recommends any wedding supplier or wedding photographer to you, then you need to know: have they actually shot the wedding yet? What is the relationship between the photographer and the person doing the recommending? I am often approached by venues, wanting a 10% cut, so that they can recommend me. I always say no. This goes on a lot

If you get a recommendation from a happy couple, who have had the album, and enjoyed the service provided from start to finish, then go with it, but still ensure you like the person and style.

#9 Deliverables

Getting the wedding photographs shot is the most important thing. If you have little money, invest in getting the day covered before investing in products.

All other products – albums, canvases, prints – need to be considered separately. What is the photographer’s attitude to longevity, and quality in the products? Your wedding album should last generations if it is made properly, and will last a few years if poor quality materials are used. Consider this to be an investment.

Do a little research first – find out about acid free materials and pigments, and why using them is important.

On the subject of deliverables, find out how reprints, albums and products are delivered, and if online galleries are provided, and if reprints can be purchased online.

#10 Get a short list and have a meeting

If you can get a very short list of photographers, and go and meet them at their studio. At the meeting you need to cover a few key things. Look at complete wedding albums. Are there any surprises, or inconsistencies? Look at the quality of the work, does it match the website? Do you click with the photographer? Does the studio and business look efficient and organised?

If the photographer is coming to you, ask them to bring a few complete albums, but remember they take up a lot of space and are bulky.

With sample albums, expect to see fingerprints, dings and the like, they tend to get carted from pillar to post, and lots of people thumb through them.

#11 Make sure the photographer shooting your wedding is the photographer you are booking

There are a number of industry practices you need to be aware of: Firstly there are networks of photographers, run from a head office. You may look at the website and see stunning images, but that doesn’t mean the local chap they send is any good.

Secondly, A small number of unscrupulous photographers actually use stock images or copy images from other photographers sites. This is done to defeat the chicken and egg problem that photographers have when they are starting out and have no portfolio.

Thirdly, a number of the better photographers actually run their businesses like hairdressing salons – i.e. the name on the door is the award winning hairdresser, you can pay so much for the junior, and a little more for the executive, and the full rate for the owner – however the style book contains only the best work from whoever.

#12 Award winning photographers

There are 1000’s of awards, and nowadays all photographers seem to be award winning. If they are saying this – find out what award, what photograph, and when. Don’t be too swayed by awards, look at results – real wedding photographs in albums, and use your own eyes and judgment.

#13 Professional qualifications / letters after names

Be very clear to find out exactly what the letters mean. In most instances, the photographer sends in 12 mediocre images with a “joining” fee, and all of a sudden they have flashy letters after the name. If you see this, go to the website, and find out how the photographer joins, and find out if it is merely a commercial organisation that promotes photographers, or a genuinely educative organisation promoting excellent photography.

#14 Contracts, deposits, copyright, pricing

Good professional photographers have this sorted, and have an immediate view. No contract – alarm bells. Discuss releasing the wedding photographs on disk, and what the copyright issues are. Discuss the pricing, and pricing for things that are sold afterward like re-prints, and copies of disks.

#15 Attitudes to backups

Film used to last for ages, decades. Digital has issues, disks degenerate, hard drives crash. A photographer’s attitude to backup is vitally important. As a minimum, the images shot at the wedding, and the photographs produced after editing need to be properly backed up, on and off site. If the wedding photographer can’t immediately tell you his or her process for backing up then an alarm bell should be ringing.

#16 Do not be swayed by today’s fashions

Do look at your mums wedding photographs – some things done 20-30 years ago, look cheesy now – faces in champagne glasses, spot colouring etc. We can all do these tricks, but do not let the fizz and polish sway you between one photographer and another. The most important thing they can do is shoot the wedding photographs properly in the first place.

#17 You do have to pay for quality

If the price is stupidly lower than al of the others, corners will be cut. This will be in equipment, processing time, quality of materials. Often people who have full time jobs doing something else, view shooting weddings not as a full time job, but a s a way of earning cash on the weekend, so the price is set low to attract anyone who wants to pay. While this works for a few weddings a year, you need more commitment than this, because as they get busier, something needs to give, and it isn’t normally the day job.

#18 Ask what backup kit / contingency plans they have

Any professional wedding photographer worth hiring will be able to immediately tell you this. You need to cover – what if a camera breaks or stops working? What happens if the photographer gets ill on the day? What happens if the weather is bad?

The correct answers are – I have a full duplicate kit (and some), I have a network of professionals I can call on at the drop of a hat to cover for me, I know the venue, I have a plan, I will do XYZ.

#19 What to look for in the photographs

When you look at wedding photographs, and you are comparing photographers ask: Has the photographer got the attention of the subject? (Ignore if the photograph is purposefully a candid). Are the eyes, and face sharp? Is the background distracting? Are the poses natural or awkward looking? Do the photographs work well as a set in terms of colour, skin tones and lighting? Are there annoying traits like every background blurred, or every image heavily tilted? On the straight images – are the key parts of the shot straight and parallel to the edges of the photograph?

#20 Get the balance right

The relationship, meeting and conversation you have with your wedding photographer needs to be two way. In other words the best place to be is where you bounce off of each other creatively. If it feels like your potential wedding photographer is telling you what he will do and need to the point where you feel you are changing what you want, or if you feel you have to spoon-feed the photographer with ideas – then you have the wrong photographer.

Again this is just like the hairdresser. You won’t go in the hairdresser and be bullied into having a perm and a colour, but on the other hand you expect your hairdresser to react to what you say constructively, and come up with ideas. In the hairdresser, when you find the right one, you know it – there is a balance between what you want, and the creative input the hairdresser brings to the table. Dealing with wedding photographers is the same; you don’t want a mouse or a prima-donna.