I’m drenched in sweat, heart racing, hands shaking in anticipation. My body is unnaturally bent at the oddest angle and I’m holding myself up with one arm, grasping the ledge of the counter for support. I’m in agony but almost finished, and know that if I keep at it I’ll be very pleased with the results, and so happy when it’s finally over.
No, I’m not describing my first postpartum bathroom experience after delivering baby (sorry if that’s TMI but new moms, am I right?!). I’m doing a photo shoot with my 19 month old toddler and brand new baby boy, trying to quickly capture a loving moment between brothers that happens rarely but is so wonderful, if you can catch it on camera.
As a family photographer, when shooting multiple children and parents I’ve found that “getting the shot” is kind of like winning the lottery – extremely rare (without a couple head swaps in Photoshop of course). But sometimes when you’re scrolling through your camera roll or editing pictures, amidst all the hilariously bad ones, you see it: a perfect shot where nobody is moving, lighting is mint; hair is out of faces, all the kids are looking at the camera and everyone is smiling! Seems impossible, and usually is. However, if you prepare all aspects of the picture that you can control beforehand, you make it a lot easier to capture than you’d think. Hmm… easy probably isn’t the right word to use. But a higher possibility, yes.
To start I’m going to to through the simple steps you can follow to make your pictures better, just using your cellphone or a basic point and shoot camera. These are little things that you may or may not have thought of but makes a lot of sense, and really makes your pictures look more put together. Remember that I’m giving tips for if you want to take “nice pictures”. Trust me, I love to take every day shots of my kids being kids too, and those are super important moments to have as well. But when you want those extra “nice pictures” (where it looks like you have your shit together), try going through this checklist to make them look that little bit more special.
Wipe off your kids face. Seems like a simple thing to do, but I’ve literally had clients come with their kids face covered in Oreo crumbs, and it looks like they just face planted in the garden. Trust me – my child is filthy little snack savage too, but if you’re trying to take a “nice picture,” the food smeared on their cheeks and clothing has got to go. Clean them up, get the hair out of their face, and brush/style it as much as possible. Honestly, sometimes I take a pump of hand lotion and quickly brush it through Noah’s hair, just to sweep it back and get it in place for a quick shot. Clean and decently groomed are must haves.
Clean up their mess. Again, and my friends can testify to this, my house can look like a Cheerios and Toys R’ Us factory have exploded simultaneously – almost all of us with kids live like this at some point. But when you’re trying to take a “nice photo” that looks professional, the best thing in the background is minimalism. Clear out the toys and laundry sitting around, throw aside the half eaten cereal bar on the coffee table. It’s not that we’re trying to make it look like an unnatural setting (even though it is, but that’s not the point). We are putting the focus on our subject – your beautiful children. Clutter and mess distracts the eye and takes attention away from the adorable little monkeys we’re trying to look at. So scan the area, and make sure your shit looks put together, just in the area of the photo, even just momentarily. I often use a bare wall as a backdrop because it looks clean and simple, and again puts the focus on my monsters and not the chaos going on around them.
Dress them up. My 21 month old is shirtless a lot – he’s going through a stage where he equates nakedness with liberation, and he hates to be clothed. And that’s cool, but when I’m trying to take a “nice photo” of him and his brother I like them dressed well and their pieces to compliment each other, both in style and color. If you feel like you don’t have an eye for fashion just search through Pinterest and or even google “matching kids clothes”. Some of my clients ask me for suggestions on how to dress themselves or their kids based on a theme or location of a shoot, so you literally can DM me – I LOVE to talk style and clothing. Even take a look at my @RaisingKhalils IG ; I have all sorts of cute stuff with my boys on there (I’ll be doing a post soon about all the amazing small shop finds and kid fashion in general I’ve come across since becoming a mom, and how Noah got into brand repping for shops as well). Anyway – put them in something cute. Don’t save the nice clothes for special occasions – every day is a day to celebrate when you’ve kept a bunch of tiny knife wielding humans alive this long (your kid doesn’t play with butter knives? Oops…mine either. JK!).
TURN OFF YOUR FLASH. This is so important. First of all because we don’t need a bunch of blinded kids who are confused and scared, running around all pissed off. But mainly because basic flash on your point and click camera or phone just looks terrible. It ruins the composition of a picture, the colors look yucky, and makes everything look flat and harsh.
Find good light. This is SO important – when indoors, using as much natural light as possible is best. If you can get some pictures near a window, with lots of light coming in, these make the best photos. When taking pictures outdoors keep away from the direct sunlight; besides making them squint is also casts harsh shadows on faces. A nice shaded area without direct sunlight is good. And surprisingly an overcast dreary day is actually amazing for outdoor pictures. Time of day is important as well – avoid noon if you can, when the sun is directly overhead; aim for when the sun is down the most, either morning or very late afternoon is best, depending on the time of year.
Move in closer. Unless there is an object in the background that needs to be included like a landmark or something, always get closer to the subject so we can see the cutie that you are trying to display. That way your babe is the focus on the picture, and the background is just an afterthought.
Edit away. Again, if using your camera phone – get an app! There are a ton of good ones – Airbrush or Snapseed is great for basic editing of a picture. With a cell phone picture I almost always lift up the shadows, sharpen the picture, lower saturation, add some contrast, or take down the warmth and add some coolness. There are filters available to make the lighting and colors look cool too, and even the ability to smooth away a cut on their forehead! However, other than minor fixes I would strongly recommend leaving your babes face alone – a child’s youth and innocence is absolutely gorgeous and breathtaking on it’s own. Unless you are a professional photographer with editing experience or they are applying for a beauty pageant, leave the over edited skin smoothing stuff for glamour shots. But if your photo is dark, shaky or needs something fixed in the background, these are an awesome way to touch them up! I posted a 30 second before and after I did below. Raised up the shadows, added some coolness, sharpened it slightly, lowered the contrast and saturation, and remember that I used natural light, not flash, to get a look with more depth. Not a perfect photo, but a lot easier to see the adorable subject after playing with the settings a bit.
Why go through all this, you may ask? Refer to my previous post where I introduced how and why photography is so important for me as a mother, and why becoming a Mamarazzi will probably be for you, too. Upcoming photog posts will include my jump from cell phone pics to my first DLSR camera (and what the hell that means); how I learned to shoot in manual as opposed to automatic and how this changed the game for me and my love of photography, and if this interests you – a simple explanation of how you can, too!
Listen, of course nobody has a house that’s always meticulous, and our children aren’t always dressed beautifully. And yes, siblings aren’t typically cuddling nicely while and staring into each others eyes with adoration – my son is usually trying to “tickle tickle” the babies toes with hard yanks and the occasional nibble. However, when these very rare and quick moments do occur it is an amazing bonus to not only enjoy them at the time, but also have them encapsulated in a picture. Who doesn’t want photographic proof and reminders that these moments actually do exist? Especially when you’re caught in the usual everyday hurricane of trying to soothe your screaming newborn and yelling for the toddler to “stop touching kitties bum-bum”? Amidst the chaos, right before I go to pack my bags and book a one way ticket to the Cayman Islands I look down at my screensaver and see that it’s not always a tornado…. just 99% of the time. But oh, how I live for that 1%.