Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Okay, here goes the first round! I've decided to start blogging tips to those of you who have a camera, but don't know what to even do with it:) You know who you're the mom that got that amazing new camera for Christmas... 2 years ago...and you still haven't really even used it because you just don't know quite what to do with it. Maybe you've never taken it out of auto? Or maybe you have no clue what all the buttons do, despite reading the manual. Well, let me just tell you... everyone has a starting point. It was not long ago that I was in your shoes and had NO CLUE about natural light photography, or better yet... how to make a photo look good in natural light. I had no clue what an ISO does or why I should even bother with looking at a histogram (you know, the thingy on your LCD that looks like a graph of some sort.) Yeah, have I lost you yet? Well, hang tight.

If you already understand the terminology above really well, then this blog post isn't for you. If you have a basic understanding (like you've read about it in your manual and tried it out a few times), then you're in luck! This post is for you!

So many people have helped me along my way as I have learned photography. I feel so grateful for even the smallest of tips that friends and associates have happened to mention to me. They've helped me to refine my photography, my knowledge and skills. I feel that it is time that I give back in some way. Now, I do NOT proclaim myself as a know-it-all photographer. In fact, I'll admit that I still have much to learn. And (side note), my way isn't necessarily the right way, because there are different ways to photograph the same subject, different ways to obtain a good exposure, and different ways to evoke emotion in a photo.

So, with all this said. Shall we start? I would love any and all comments. And, if you have a new question, please email me and I just might be able to answer it in the next tip post.

The first question comes from Laurie. She asked me: "How do I get good lighting indoors? And how do I "set the stage" for my photos"

For this question, I am assuming that you are shooting with an SLR camera, with NO FLASH... So turn your flash off and get ready to take your camera out of auto.

Laurie, I hope I can give you good advice in this category. Lighting indoors, especially natural lighting is definitely tricky. It has been the toughest thing for me, until I upgraded to my Nikon D700. BUT, I know that not every mom out there is going to rush in to the camera shop to buy a camera for thousands of dollars just so they can take some great shots of their kids indoors.

Sooooo, my best recommendation with lighting indoors is to:

1) find the BEST spot in your house with the most light. Instead of looking for the "cutest" room or the biggest space, look for the most well light room. It may even be a bathroom or a spare bedroom, etc. The background is not so important as the lighting. And if you are shooting wide open (meaning a really wide aperture... like 2.8 or lower, the background is going to fade out nicely into a lovely soft haze. So your background will not be distracting). So set your camera in either manual mode or A-priority and set your aperture for something wide open (a low number). Next, pay attention to the light in your house during the day. Does it fill up with light in the early morning or later in the evening? Notice how the light in the room is considerably cooler in the morning hours verses the evening. You know your own house well, so you should be able to find a great spot without too much trouble, just think outside the box. One thing you want to make sure is that you are shooting in nice even light (no direct light coming through the window and falling onto your subjects face). If you have nice "soft" light, it will give a smooth appearance to the your kids' faces, making their skin look much softer and creamier.

2) Shoot CLOSE to your light source. I.e. your window, sliding door, etc. The closer you can get to your light source, the easier it is to get a nice exposure without having to play with your ISO too much. (If you're not sure what an ISO is, then let's talk about that in the next discussion). Just remember, the farther away from your light source, the trickier it gets to expose properly. Besides, window light is GORGEOUS on people. So think close... light a few feet away.

3) Once you've found the "good" light in your home, now you have to figure out the best way for it to flatter your subject. You obviously want your subject's face towards the window (whether on an angle or directly facing it). Have your subject move their face back and forth in front of the window and watch the light change their features. (obviously try this with a willing subject, like an older child or your husband...ha! If he is willing!). You will notice that the light will either flatten out their features or make them more prominent depending on the way the light falls on their face.

4) Use a reflector. You do not have to go out and buy a reflector. Find a big white sheet or white poster board... Anything light that will reflect well. Try it out and it may be just the key to properly lighting your subject's face.

Now, I know what you're thinking... but my children will never sit still long enough by the window for me to take pictures. I COMPLETELY understand this dilemma. You have to get creative. Example, if you have a nice soft bed near window light, then tell your child that you are going to play "popping popcorn" while you are jumping on the creative. Be crazy fun so that they feel like it's play time, not "sit and smile" time. Even if you want more "posed" pictures of your kids, and maybe you don't want them jumping crazy up and down for all of them, think quickly on your toes and make sure to snap some shots when they sit still for a minute, laughing with a NATURAL smile on their face. It only takes a fraction of a second to capture that image, so let them be crazy... and just wait patiently for that moment. If you don't have a bed to keep them contained upon, then think of a silly game or have them read books (anything that will get them to sit long enough for you to shoot). The point is, to capture them in their environment, and to capture their real expressions. Sometimes (and my husband will attest that I do this), we think we HAVE to get the "perfect" picture of our child. We can try so hard to get them to pose a certain way... and they will do everything BUT pose the way you want them to:) So, relax a little and let the child take the lead. They may be in a more silly mood that day... so let them be! Let go and have fun with them and you may just find that you just got the COOLEST shot of them, something that you would not have thought up if you were "in charge". If all else fails, take a break and come back to it another time.

Okay, and you asked about setting up a shot, or how to "set the stage". The answer to this question varies as much as the styles that you see with each photographer. My style is fairly clean. I want my backgrounds to be simple so they don't distract from my subject. I will look through my lens and see what I'm getting before I even have my child come into the shot. If I notice that my background is too distracting, then I change angles. Example: Say I don't like the recliner chair in my background, I may ask the child to sit on the ground and look up towards me. From this angle, all I see is the floor, usually a nice even background. (The shots of my son, a few posts back are angled downward to get the wood floor as the background. I didn't want my sofa and t.v. as part of the shot). I try to find soft even backgrounds for head shots. When I do a more environmental shot (like in a chair or playing on a bed, etc.), I sweep my eye around the area for any distracting objects. I remove clutter on night stands, straighten curtains, and take out any unwanted distracting items. Pretend that you are shooting for Better Homes and Gardens and that you want that section of your home to look impeccable.

I hope this helps! Please leave a comment, share some love or additional tips if you want. I'm off to bed...


  1. YAY! Good good, and great tips. I am going to investigate the light and then hopefully have Brandon sit still for his glamour shots! (we will see). Thanks for the great post. I'm sure I will have questions and comments after I try.

  2. I LOVE that you're doing this cause it's so hard to get people to share their secrets and know-how! Thanks! :>

  3. Good advice! Your work is beautiful! I have a degree in Art and LOVED Photograohy, but am only just now getting into it more. Any bit helps, and being that it is winter... I was wondering the same thing about indoor shooting. Thanks so much. - Katie