Saturday, February 23, 2008

The First Photography Friday

I love all things old.

Well, almost all things old, some old people do suck. In the comments some of you mentioned The Villages in Florida...I've been there!! It is freaky. A bunch of old people pretty much built their own little town in the middle of nowhere, with a town square, a cathedral, movie theater, boutiques and restaurants, antique car shows in the square every Saturday, a golf is like Old People Heaven. I cannot IMAGINE being under 65 and having to work there or be there on a regular basis, that many old people would surely drive me crazy (like I'm not crazy already.) All right, that was off topic big time, but I've been meaning to comment on that.

As I was saying, I like old things. I love things with a history. Mr. Ashley hates going to an antique store with me because I like to look at everything, talk about everything, think about everything, and smell everything (which is a whole nother weird issue). I love getting an idea of people's past lives through this stuff. And then I have to buy the stuff, but yet again, that is another topic entirely.

I am fascinated with antique portraits and pictures and they always make me feel kind of sad. How did they end up in some dusty old booth? They are magnificent, sometimes on tin, often hand colored, people who are interestingly dressed, someone who had a real life, who sat there solemnly or shyly smiling for a camera, nervous or curious about how they'll look, like we all are. I'm always sad that they are dispossessed and wonder how they made that leap from a family heirloom to stacked up in a dark corner with a price tag on them, but I also always think it is neat that here I am all these years later, getting a little peek of their life. That here is an example of one of the footprints this person left on history.

I also love looking at old family albums, the ones that were my grandparents, and seeing parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and anonymous family friends and cousins posing in front of old motorcycles, first cars, in prom gowns and leisure suits, holding babies or basketballs, swimming in lakes, eating wedding cake, wearing totally ridiculous outfits and sporting haircuts that should make them want to kill themselves.

You get a glimpse of who people were and how life was and get a glimpse into the important moments that make up a family history.

Pictures are a BIG DEAL. What better way to capture time? You are literally capturing a moment, a memory. I have some pictures, especially of my newborns, that I can smell and feel them and remember exactly how I felt that moment--that exhausted, proud, satisfaction that comes with a new baby.

I have snapshots I took of Big Kid's nursery and whenever I look at them, I remember taking them, 8.5 months pregnant, and lying on that new carpet in that perfect, sage green Classic Pooh room that already smelled like baby powder because of the itsy bitsy diapers neatly stacked in the diaper stacker and feeling excited and anxious and ready and terrified. Would I have that memory without those photos? Maybe. But would I be as likely to remember it? Probably not.

In 20 years, would I remember how teeny tiny little kid's sweet toes were before they became encrusted with dirt, funky toenails, ant bites and splinters without this:

Not as easily. Especially if he ends up in the penitentiary. I'm just saying.

(I'm getting ahead of myself but note the lighting in the baby toes picture...backlighting is beautiful on baby parts. The soles of his feet are facing the window and my camera flash is off)

So by taking photographs of our kids we are preserving their life histories and leaving them an amazing legacy.

IF we print the photos out, that is, but that is another post entirely. Frankly, it is another one of those toxic clouds on my to do list, so we're not even going there today.

So, I'm going to give you some tips on getting pictures you will be proud of. We're going to start off super basic because I don't know where else to start.

1. This seems obvious...but you have to bring your camera. Sometimes it is a pain in the ass and you're afraid that you'll lose it or it will get broken, but if you don't bring it, you are definitely not going to get any pictures at all. Duh.

You don't need a fancy camera to start with. Your point and shoot will work for now. I have a Nikon D50. The Nikon D40 is a great entry level DSLR.

2. Once again, it seems like a no-brainer...but what you see in the viewfinder is what you are going to get. If The Laundry Couch is in the background or the Fisher Price Ghetto is filling the frame, it will be like that in the photograph itself as well. This is always a huDge bummer. Also, boogers/food/dirt, will show up too. And it is not cute, no matter how cute you think your kid is.

So take one moment and really think about what you're about to get, if you need to, move yourself, or better yet (and if you don't learn anything else, please learn this) ZOOM IN. Fill your frame with your subject. Also, take more vertical close up shots. So many pictures are better suited for them.

3. There is truly no excuse not to do this in today's digital age...but TAKE MORE PICTURES. Take an obscene amount. Take too many of every occasion and in every cute outfit. It is so easy to delete, but so hard to get one cute face out of these children sometimes.

Every once in a while, take a minute to put them in something cute and take them outside and take some photos of them. If they start acting like little miniature jackasses, like they will almost always do, just let them run around and play and get some close ups of them. Candids are usually the stuff that ends up taking your breath away later down the road. Plus, at some point you get the "cheese face phase":

That was Big Kid's version of a smile for about 4 months or so...we're slowly coming out of it now. Needless to say, we have 4 months of a lot of candids. That's a face that a mother can barely even love.

4. Look for the light!! This is a huDge one. Just start to notice how light hits things. This is when things start to get artistic (and what I'm learning more about all the time). Light gives things dimension and shadow gives things drama. Just start to pay attention and you will see examples of this.

Turn off your flash, drag someone over to a window and experiment with catching the light how it falls.

Think of Rembrandt and his art:

Once again, probably getting a little ahead of myself, but for the non-beginners:

For the beginners, just put your subject sideways to a window, turn your flash off and forget about the reflector for now, zoom in, focus on the eyes and experiment some.

Once you get this, it will change the way you see the world.

And then you'll need a fancy new camera and you'll have to learn to use your camera's light meter and shoot on manual mode, but that's all for another day.

For beginners, I recommend Nick Kelsh's Photograph Your Baby. For people moving on up in the photography world, I recommend Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson.

In the meantime, get your camera out and use it! Your kids will thank you one day.

Okay, maybe not, but your feeble memory will.


Anonymous said...

I truly love you (and your blog). This is just what I need.

Your photos are awesome-btw.

I've been scoping the D-40 or Canon Rebel. Can't make up my mind.

Anonymous said...

I am going to love Photography Friday! I am looking at a Nikon D70 since my basic digital bit the dust.

I love the picture of lk's baby toes!

Thanks for doing this.


amyblue said...

thank you for the great post. i can tell you worked hard on it, and it has a lot of useful information. i will definitely use it the next time i try my own photos.

Anonymous said...

I really like that picture of the baby feet with the rings. It is very creative!

jenn said...

Excellent! LOVED this! Please do share how to use the camera's light meter...I just got a digital SLR & that's something I haven't figured out yet.

Gorgeous photographs, Ashley!

RubiaLala said...

Wow, that is really incredible. I love big kid's phase of scrunching up his face for a "smile."

Thanks for the info. I LOVE those cameras.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post, thanks!! I would love to take better pics of my daughter, I'm going to by that book!

Anonymous said...

This is awesome, thanks a bunch Ashley. I am a picture freak - and wonder how to get that cute/perfect shot of my kiddos. For someone who doesn't have a lot of photos of myself as a child, I appreciate and adore photos. :)
The photos of your children are so beautiful!

Unknown said...

Thank you. Now when are you coming to my house for a personal lesson?

Anonymous said...

Wow, thank you for putting in so much time, and wrestling with your space bar, to make that incredible, informative post. You really do have such a way with words, even with a teaching post!!! You are very talented.
The pic of the toes killed me. So sweet.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic tips... off to take some pics. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Dear teacher,
Thank you for that first lesson. You made this lesson very easy for my feeble mind to understand (seriously!). I can't wait to try this out today at my son's basketball game.

Your student,

P.S. But did you have to post those ADORABLE!!! photos of baby LK? I have purposely been avoiding seeing my kids' baby pics (i.e. no scrapbooking for me) because I'm getting the urge for another one baby. Seeing those little baby feet and pudgy arms DOES NOT HELP!

Liz said...

LOVED this post!
I have a Nikon D50 as well (bought it when our Aug 06 baby was born) but I have NO idea how to use it - other than point and shoot. When are you teaching lessons??

Anonymous said...

Thank you for these helpful tricks. I am going to experiment this week with light source. I live close to the beach (another floridian) and always get crappy pictures because of the location of the sun. It is hard to get a great candid when the sun is behind them. I look forward to more photography tips.

Tater Mama said...

I agree pictures are soo important! Thanks for all the photography info. Now if I can just figure out how to shut my damn flash off I will be good to go!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the tips. These are great. I definitely want to try one of the feet/rings pictures with my little guy. You've got great models. They're adorable. Hope LK is feeling better soon.

Multislacking Mama said...

Very good photo lesson! I really identify with the FP Ghetto- this sometimes happens to me. I'm going to learn how to turn off the flash of my digital and play using your tricks. You are da bomb and you rock my face right off!


Amy said...

Oh my gosh - cute pictures!!

My in-laws have large old oil paintings of ancestors. We will inherit the one of the man currently hanging over MIL's sideboard in the dining room cause my husband is named for him (and my oldest also has this name).

I love the idea of this, and I'll hang him somewhere someday. But he's a mean looking sucker.

Tracey said...

I've gotta give this post some love. Your pictures are gorgeous, and I will take any photography hints that you are handing out. I hope the lesson #1 is indicative of more lessons to follow.

Tina said...

Great post...that pic with the rings on the baby toes is gorgeous, too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the lesson. Wonderfully written, as always.

Anonymous said...

Wondering what type of camera you would suggest for close ups and for sports action shots? I thought about buying the D40 as my current camera can't get fast enough shutter speed to take pics at my son's baseball games. Your recommendations would be apprecitated. Your photos are great.

yoinkit said...

I am in LOVE with the picture of the baby toes with rings! Like, I can't stop staring!! Basically the cutest thing ever!!

Anonymous said...

Have you been to Mamarazzi ( I don't think you need the instruction, but you could win some contests... and you like winning contests, right??

Anonymous said...

I just have to say I heart the Villages. We were visiting the inlaws on our way to Disney and I loved it because I was the youngest chick there.

Oh and your photography pointers are great!

Foster Mom to Many said...

I actually tried some of the tips and tricks that you blogged about and ended up with a half decent picture of my little ones teensy feet with our wedding rings on his toes. The picture is one of the best I've taken with a point and shoot camera. The shadows are not perfect and the backlighting is a little off but I love this picture. Thanks SO much for the tips. I added the picture to my blog if you want to check it out. Thanks again!