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If you’re anything like me, you made the investment in a DSLR camera to take beautiful professional quality photos of your kids. You want to document their childhood so the moments they may not remember on their own, they’ll have at their fingertips down the road.
Your camera has opened up a world of possibility in how to go about documenting your days as a family. But, if you’re new to photography, you may have quickly realized that your camera has a lot of buttons, settings, and dials that you have no clue how to use. On top of it all, the advice you’ve been given or articles you read have had conflicting information as well.
When I began my learning journey with the wonderful world of technical photography I was bombarded with information overload. There was no shortage of advice, opinions, and tutorials for what I needed to do to take beautiful pictures. I was told I needed to learn flash, and that I needed special filers, or software, or more lenses, or even a different camera.
During my years of ‘going pro‘ I’ve learned it’s that photography is all about intention and purpose. The rules a nature photographer follows, are going to be much different than the rules that apply to a mom trying to take better photos of her kids.
These days, I’m breaking some of the most common photography rules that were shared with me on my own photography learning journey. Why not become a ‘rule breaker‘ with me? If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my kid, it’s that rules are always meant to be broken. Life (and your photography) will be so much more fun that way.
Once you get your camera other DSLR owners will be lining up to tell you all the other gadgets and gizmos you should have to go along with it. If you’re a mom who is just starting out, you don’t need to run out and invest in big bulky external flashes, studio light set ups, lots of lenses and filters, etc. The few affordable accessories I DO think a mom can benefit from are: a 1.8 prime lens (a 35mm works well on an APS-C or cropped sensor) for low light indoor photos, a 70-300mm zoom lens for sports photos, a sturdy tripod, and a wireless remote so you can trigger the shutter away from the camera and actually be in photos with your kids every now and then.
The next piece of advice that I constantly read over and over again was that I needed to learn how to put my camera in ‘M’ (Manual mode) to take good photos. Although there is definitely a better level of control and confidence that comes from mastering Manual mode and knowing how Shutter Speed, ISO, and Aperture all work together to expose photos, it’s not the be-all, end-all, to shooting amazing images. I’d argue that finding decent light is definitely a better starting place for moms. There are still times when I’m running after my preschooler taking snapshots in tricky, constantly changing light, and I won’t shoot in full Manual mode. In these moments I typically opt to use A/Av mode instead and get a bit of help from my camera in choosing shutter speed for me.
I will admit, as I learned more and more about my photography, I got a bit of camera envy. I knew that the pros shot with some really fancy top of the line cameras, and I thought that I needed the same gear, in order to achieve the same results. The truth is, entry level SLRs are improving by leaps and bounds and are rivalling the bigger cameras in their low light, high ISO capabilities. If your camera is over four or five years old you might want to consider a slight upgrade. Because as it is with technology, newer models will have additional power to them (especially in the area of ISO limits), but you don’t need to immediately jump to a top of line model that costs thousands of dollars in order to take beautiful shots.
This was another rule that was stated to me over and over and over again, especially as I made the transition to professional photography. Even though the light tends to be awesome during these times (sunset isn’t called the ‘golden hour‘ for no reason), a shoot during these times can go south rather quickly when your child hasn’t had a nap and it’s nearing their dinner time. I want to challenge you to take photos of your kids when they are in the best mood. Good photography is all about finding the right light. The middle of a bright sunny day might be more tricky to seek out even lighting, but if that’s when your kids are the most awake, and alert and willing to play for the lens, then that’s when you should shoot. At the end of the day, it’s all about their beautiful smile and not the beautiful sunset behind them.
One misconception I had when I bought my first DSLR camera was that my photos would come straight out of the camera looking professionally retouched. I learned very quickly that wasn’t always the case, and that editing software would allow me to transform my drab photos into fabulous works of art. Photoshop and Lightroom are two of the most frequently talked about and discussed programs out there for professional photographers, but they are complicated and in some cases expensive, pieces of software that can take a great deal of time and effort to learn. For a mom who is on the go and wants something a bit more user friendly and lower cost, I absolutely love the website PicMonkey. From basic editing features, to filters, collages, and more this website makes it super easy for the mom on the go to still make her DSLR photos look incredible.
Are there any other photography ‘rules’ you’ve heard before that you have a difficult time following? I’d love to hear about them in the comments. Happy snapping!
If you want some inspiration, or more reading and tips for photographing kids, check out these articles: