Tuesday, January 14, 2014

2013 Family Photo Book from Shutterfly

Photo books are the perfect gift for any occasion.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Baby Photography: 8 Simple Tips for DIY Shoots

Baby photography is an art, a craft, a skill and one of the hardest types of photography to do--in my opinion.  My hat is off to every baby/infant/newborn photographer that is out there.  They must possess a certain amount of patience that I could never muster in all of my years taking family pictures.  

I enjoyed taking family pictures but my passion and artistry is better served in the food community and so I became a food photographer.  I love it!  It is the perfect fit for me.  My subjects hold their pose very well, they always look into the camera lens, they wear the same expression and they don't spit up, scream or need a bottle.   

So why do I put myself through these photo shoots with my own little darlings?  

That's easy.  

1.  I want all of the proofs.  I want every out take because I am looking for the emotion the image evokes and the familiar little looks that only a Mom knows.  I want pictures of their personality.

2.  I am cheap.  I know that in order for me to be completely happy with my expectations I am going to have to pay big bucks.  I have no issue doing this, I did it with my older kids but now I am skilled as a photographer and paying someone money for something I think I can do is just a hard pill for me to swallow, especially with the amount of images I want.

3.  I enjoy the editing.  I love using photoshop, actions, textures and my creative nature to play with the images.  When I am taking the pictures, I usually have a "feel" in mind for when the final print is published.  I love high contrast, dreamy, artsy and creative images.  I also enjoy black and whites.

4.  I am able to work with my daughter.  My daughter has been helping me with photoshoots since she was about 10 years old, she is now 19.  Through this time she has carried equipment, held props, held reflectors and tasted her fair share of untested recipes.  She has learned along the way how to use natural light, how to focus subjects, rule of thirds  and how to use aperture and shutter speeds. She has been a great student.  This year she has shot some of the most amazing pictures of Finnley for me.  I must say that together we work well as a team.

So there you have it.  For these four reasons I usually take all of my own baby, kid and family pictures.

I know that I am not the only Mom out there trying to take baby or newborn pictures.  I thought I would share a few of my thoughts about how I do it and what works for me.  While also giving you some examples of my latest shoot with Finnley, she just turned two months.

My Basics

1.  Use natural light.  I don't have a studio but I have great light in my home and an understanding of how light works.  In my living room I have a huge bay window,  that at just the right time of day, creates the most beautiful light, especially on a cloudy day.  Diffused light is your friend. When it comes to shooting the soft, rosy skin of your baby you don't want harsh or flash photography.  Here are two great locations with more tips that can help you visualize this better.  MCP ACTIONS or Iheartfaces.

Here are some examples of Finnley with the window to my left.  Look into her eyes and you will see those windows reflected.  This type of light will literally "light up" your babies eyes.

I was trying to sooth her and she was looking out the window.  Rye captured this image and I love her expression.

2.  Read your camera manual.  I don't have a super fancy camera but I have one that works and one that I know very well.  I bought my dslr about 10 years ago and it still works fabulous for my needs. What I have purchased and spent my money on, are the lenses.  I shoot with a Nikon D300 camera body. The lens I use the most is a 50 mm with an f-stop of 1.4.  This lens will run you about $350.00.  

Know your equipment before you decide to take pictures of your newborn or infant.  I shoot on manual so that I can manipulate the focus and light.  There are lots of blogs and youtube videos that will show you how to use the manual option on your camera if you find your manual to be too confusing.  

Practice...Practice...Practice  { You can always delete everything and start over--the beauty of digital }

Snap...Snap...Snap  {Take a lot of images. This will ensure that you get at least a few that are perfect.}

Blur is always a possibility with babies and kids.

Babies don't always look at the camera and hold still.
3.  Own some type of editing software.   I have an older version of photoshop but it works just fine for my needs.  Adobe is a great place to start because they offer reasonable editing software for beginners all the way up to the pros.  I started with photoshop so that is what I use but many of the new photographers are purchasing Lightroom.  Your camera and computer/laptops will also have some editing software included.  You will need this to crop your image, sharpen your image and add an action to your image.  (Actions are editing layers that improve or change your image with one click).

My favorite actions are from :  Florabella, Paint the Moon and The Coffee Shop Blog.

The saturation of the image has been lightened to give it a pale look.
I was able to lighten and crop the image on the left and create a better balanced image on the right.

4.  Props.  Props are great but I only plan for a few to be used during each shoot.  Do your homework first and have everything pulled together before you start putting "baby" into the shot.  An example of what I usually use are hats, hair bows, baskets, blankets and the occasional toy.  Large pillows work really well for using under your baby while shooting.  Decide on your background or back drops.  I don't usually use a back drop because I can eliminate a lot of back ground noise with editing.

It is also okay to not use any props and just capture your baby.

I fell in love with this hat and had to have it for a photoshoot.  She hated the hat and fussed the whole time it was on.

5.   Assistance.  If I can, I always have a helper to assist (my daughter or husband).  You need to decide if you are the one taking the pictures or assisting with the baby.  The baby will need constant attention whether it is just being there to make sure she is safe, holding her up under the blanket or in your arms, binky/bottle patrol, diaper changer, etc.  Extra hands are necessary!  I am always okay with bottles, hands, binkies and such in my images.  They tell the story of the photoshoot.

6.  Time/Age of Baby.  Babies change a lot in the first 6 weeks.  They transition from a newborn into an infant before you know it.  Most newborn photographers want to get you in before they turn 2 weeks old.  Being a new Mom this can be overwhelming but it is possible to accomplish at home.  Give yourself plenty of time.  Babies get hungry, need diapers changed and get tired and sleepy.  You are on their schedule so work with what you know.  When do they eat and nap?  Do you want them alert or asleep?  With clothes or without (for this one, you will want to warm your home)?  

I find myself setting aside about an hour and a half. It really depends on your baby.  In that time period you will snap all types of reactions, smiles, blank stares, sleeping positions, etc...

 7. Know when to stop.  On several occasions, I have had to stop and reshoot the next day or settle for what I have already snapped.  It happens.  Life happens.  I love my baby and I get caught up in all of her cuteness and forget that I don't really need 500 pictures.   I have to remind myself that for every image I take, I will also have to edit and crop.  It all adds up in the end so be aware of how many shots you have.

8.  Think outside the box.  I am a huge fan of the images that capture my baby doing regular things like hugging, resting on my shoulder, laying on her back, interacting with siblings, crazy hair, etc... The posed shots are wonderful and serve there purpose but I also want to remember those warm embraces, crazy baby hair images and the emotional connection my baby has with her surroundings.

We took her hat off and "kaboom", her hair exploded into the cutest mess. I love this image.

The background is blurred enough that it does not bother me in this image.

A few images using natural light and unposed opportunities to capture Finnley's first few weeks of life.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Finding Home

I remember hearing as a child that a house by itself does not make a home.  Our families and memories make our homes. What we put into the house makes it a home.  We, as a family,  choose what we fill our homes with.  Cory and I decided early on that our home would be filled with kids,  adventure, love, communication, affection, understanding and a long list of expectations (some so unrealistic that they are laughable now).

Here we sit, 25 years later and for the most part,  our list was easy to fulfill;  but we also learned along the way that our home would be filled with tears, sadness, loneliness and hardships. Trying to figure out how to endure this part of our home has been made easier by our attitude.  With a good attitude we learned that most things were easily handled and sorted out.

From the time I was very little, up until a few years ago, my life was a constant stream of boxes moving in and boxes moving out of houses.  Trunks and back seats full of clothes, books and favorite possessions.  Once I married and our family grew the back seat turned into renting moving trucks; eventually for our last move it included a long haul travel company to transport the last few remaining things we still owned.

We settled on a home in Utah towards the end of 2005.  A place that we thought we would live out our lives into our last days.  Due to several circumstances (job loss and change of values in our faith) we felt compelled to leave Utah and explore our options. What those options were we had no idea.  It was so liberating leaving that final day from our driveway with a few possessions, no plans in sight and the free road before us.  We enjoyed every minute rediscovering each other, learning to live in small places and trying to simplify our lives.  We needed to clean the slate and start fresh.

I have lived near and far from family, met new friends and said goodbye too many times.  Each time with the thrill and excitement that a new adventure arouses deep within my inner sanctuary.  When the chance to move to the east coast was presented as a job opportunity for Cory we felt that this would be a good time to settle back down and let Drake and Rye finish up school, get jobs and prepare to leave our home to find their futures.

We have never had a shortage of friends to welcome us into our new homes,  our new jobs or communities.  What made each new move so easy was having an instant bond with those that we went to church with.  It gave us a common bond, common beliefs and an instant family.

That all changed with this move.

When we landed in Maryland we were still living in our travel trailer with three kids, one cat and a dog. (So much has changed: we have 4 kids, no dog and three cats).   Cory's job was established but we were worried about the high school that our son, Drake would attend so we took our time finding a neighborhood and city to reestablish our home.

We took the next three months to research the area.  My heart kept leading our family to Annapolis.  I would spread the map out on the bed and look at the surrounding communities and google lots of stats.  I was also interested in crime, housing prices and distances to certain areas.  My finger was like the piece on a ouija board--it kept coming back to Annapolis with each question I asked.

Cory and I have discussed for many years that we would like to be near the water.   I love the wind, the sound of the waves and the warm sand in my toes.  It was a pleasant surprise to venture into downtown Annapolis and discover so much history and a feeling of peace.

I can honestly say that a day does not go by that I do not mention to Cory how much I love Maryland. In the beginning (two years ago) we would chat about where we would go next.  Which state would we find ourselves moving to?  Where would the wind take us?

Our decision to not return to church directly affected our social life. The last two years have been filled with some boredom, some anxiety, a few questioning moments asking ourselves if we did the right thing in leaving the only foundation that we knew.   Each time we asked the question, the answer was always yes.  We did not know how hard it was to integrate into a new city without the instant bond and common lifestyle of a church family.

We both finally found the peace in our souls that we were searching for along this long road that we traveled the past 3 years. It has taken us two years to meet some wonderful friends that we think of as our family.  Our nearest relative is 3 hours away and then after that they all live on the west coast.  We were truly alone in this huge DelMarVa area and had to rediscover how to play "on the playground" again.

It took finding these friends and letting them into our family that has helped me realize that we were home. We found a house and filled it with love, memories, friends and family.  We are settling in and finding our way.  Feeling cemented to a place has made me feel like we found our way home.  Is it the peace, love, friendship and strength that has made me feel this way?  I don't know.  I just know that for the past two years I have kept the windows of my heart closed, afraid to let anyone into my inner circle, outside of family.   I was afraid that we would suddenly find ourselves moving again. Saying our goodbyes and packing boxes.

I want to stay.

We are home.

We have found a reason to stay rooted in a place that brings us joy and happiness.

We love living in Annapolis and don't regret taking the plunge to move somewhere new.

Our most recent family picture.  November 2013

Written by Sherron Watson

Saturday, July 2, 2011

LIVING...Beach, Kids and Our Little Princess

Our family has really enjoyed living by the beach.  We have made it a habit of going every day, usually in the evening.  This time is spent swimming, walking and searching.  Drake, Rye and I have taken up the hobby of finding sea glass.  It is quite addicting.  For me, it has a thrill of finding the "one" piece to add to your collection.  We find at least a baggie full everyday.  We find lots of clear and brown, so the "ones" are pink, purple, blue, green and yellow.  We got lucky on this trip and found some pastels.  You really can't tell what you have while walking on the beach.  It almost all looks brown or white. When we get home we spread out our find and start sorting.  It's a fun thing to do.  I recently learned that our town has a Sea Glass Association and lots of clubs, meetings and go-to spots.  It's a bigger deal here than we new.  Cory just laughs...sea glass? Really?  YES!

This is what one day looks like.

I love the triangle that we found, it would make a cool charm.

Our browns, from the day.
The pink, blue, green and yellow.  YAHOO!

Can you see his Irish, English and Scottish heritage?  I sure can...LOL

Isabella's desire to be a butterfly almost came true!

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Nothing like using you sister to dodge a ball that your older sister is trying to ping you with..LOL

I love their looks...so intent on watching Rye and trying to guess her next move.

ME, yes...I do let them take a picture of me once in a while.

This is funny.  We were at the beach, trying to take a picture and then all of a sudden this huge wave came and you can see Rye's face and Drake got soaked.

Look at Cory's reaction...nobody was expecting it.

Thanks for enjoying my family blog, check out my Simply Gourmet Photography blog for recipes, picture tips and ideas.  Have a great 4th of July everyone. ENJOY!