5 Tips for Taking Great Candids of Childhood

Great, candid photos of childhood are priceless. They're little heirlooms, little visual memories of an important time of life for them and for us. 

I probably spend an hour every week looking back at the little stories I have captured through the first three years of my son's life. How can all this time have passed?! 

Digital photography makes it easier than ever to take lots of photos but getting great shots takes a little bit of practice. Are you hoping to improve your technique this summer?  

I've put together a little list of 5 tips to help you take great shots that you'll be proud to print. 

Ready to start? OK! 

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#5 Don't ask them to say "CHEESE!"

Since what seems like the beginning of time, we've been teaching people to stare right at the camera and say CHEESE! But I promise you, going the other way - and not teaching your kids to do anything at all for the camera - pays off. 

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Real, genuine moments - the ones that come naturally - they're a lot easier to catch when your kid doesn't become an actor when the camera comes out. And the little vignettes that unfold? They will tell you so much more about your child later on than CHEESE! ever could. 

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PRO TIP: There will always be a time and place for "look right at the camera" photos. Instead of teaching your child to cheese, use funny noises and faces to get their attention. It will not only surprise them and get them to look your way, but it will often get a REAL, GENUINE smile or laugh, too. 


#4 Get on their level. 

If one single thing from this list sticks with you, please let it be this: the best place to be when photographing your child is down on her level. 

Adults are a lot taller than kids and babies. That means you need to get comfortable with squatting, bending and kneeling to be on eye level. (I spend a lot of time on my belly when I'm working with babies!) 

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Standing above something and shooting downward makes it look smaller and less important. When you get on your child's eye level, you will get a more intimate and connected photograph, a better background and more interesting story. I was kneeling on the ground for the image above. Can you imagine if I stood above him instead? Imagine what would be missed. That face.  His little hands clenched in the cold, clutching the toy of the moment. The adorable little flannel shirt peeking out the bottom of the jacket. Snowflakes falling around him as he walks down the street in front of his Grandma and Grandpa's house in Minneapolis. 

 Getting lots of love from puppies! 

Getting lots of love from puppies! 

PRO TIP: It can be harder to keep the camera steady when you're leaning, kneeling or laying. Make sure to take a deep breath and let it out to stabilize your core if you're worried you might shake a little too much. 


#3 Learn your camera and keep it close (your phone, too)

  A beautiful summer rain started falling during sunset, and I had mere seconds to race in to the house, get my camera (which is almost always on my desk in the living room with lens attached) and capture this. It is one of my favorite images ever taken of my son. 

A beautiful summer rain started falling during sunset, and I had mere seconds to race in to the house, get my camera (which is almost always on my desk in the living room with lens attached) and capture this. It is one of my favorite images ever taken of my son. 

The moments that you are hoping to catch of childhood and life happen in split seconds and you can miss them if you're digging around for your camera because it's put away somewhere.   And by camera, I mean, whatever camera you have - whether it's a DSLR, your iPhone, or a combination. 

I know, I know - cameras are expensive and they are safer in the bag or the case away from little hands. But if you've got a DSLR or other dedicated camera that you want to be using, you're going to have to stop putting it away. Find a place it can be somewhat safe and grabbed quick when the moment comes. 

On that same note, you're going to miss shots if you are fumbling around with camera settings. Take the time to learn the camera you're using. You don't have to become a pro, but you should be able to grab it and get yourself a shot quickly. If you can't do that now, it's time to study up. If you aren't going to learn to use your DSLR or mirrorless manual camera, then why have it in the first place? 
 

  In a hotel in St. Cloud, MN. Shot and edited on iPhone 6s.

In a hotel in St. Cloud, MN. Shot and edited on iPhone 6s.

Cell phones have incredible cameras these days. If it's what you have with you, use it - and use it well. Learn its limitations and its strengths so that when it's the camera in your hand, you can make a great photograph. 

The above image was taken with my iPhone 6s a couple of years ago while we visited Minnesota for a family wedding. I walked in to the hotel room my family was staying at and saw this happening. I had no time to go grab my DSLR - I just stopped right in my tracks and captured it, because the light and the moment was pure magic.  What if I had stopped to dig around for my DSLR or chose to skip it because all I had was my phone?! 

Learn your camera(s) and keep them close. You can't take photos if you aren't prepared to take them. No excuses. 

PRO TIP: Keep an all-purpose zoom lens connected to your camera at all times so that you can grab it and adjust quickly. 


#2 Tell the Story and Fill the Frame

The key to a great candid photo is a great story. 

 My son playing the drums at age 1. Standing to the right of the camera is his Papa, and my son's face tells you everything you need to know about how he feels right in that second. 

My son playing the drums at age 1. Standing to the right of the camera is his Papa, and my son's face tells you everything you need to know about how he feels right in that second. 

Watch your kids. 
See the way they experience life and interact with the world around them. 

Capture the action.
Jumping in puddles. Running through the grass. Holding someone they love. Sharing a toy.

Be patient and wait for the genuine moment. 
Human connection requires patience. Wait for it. It will come. 

  Capturing connection takes patience. Get in position and wait for it. It will come. 

Capturing connection takes patience. Get in position and wait for it. It will come. 

While you're at it, chasing the action and being patient, too - I want to remind you that a great photograph is well-composed and to the point. Don't leave a lot of extra space that doesn't contribute to the story. Zoom or move closer if needed to get rid of stuff that is distracting or unnecessary to the photo. Fill the frame. 

  About to jump in to the puddle! 

About to jump in to the puddle! 


#1 Follow the light. 

Photography is and always will be about light. 

 Early morning sun at Stinson Beach. 

Early morning sun at Stinson Beach. 

Sometimes even the slightest adjustment - like turning left or right or moving one direction or another - will put your subject in better light and therefore, a better photograph will be the result. 

Even the most accomplished professionals spend their entire career learning to read, respect, and harness light. It is an incredible thing that changes in infinite ways based on infinite different conditions. 

But the more that you follow it, see it and respect it, the more you will learn. 

The sun is just one gigantic constant light being moved around the sky through the day completely out of your control.  Be mindful of how it's path affects what you see. How do the windows in your home throw sun in to the room? Do you see weird shadows sometimes, or super hot patches that look bad when they fall on your subject? What does the sunlight look like in your backyard, at different places, at different times of the day? 

Don't settle for a subpar photograph if you can help it. Gently move your subjects, or your own self to get in a better position with more pleasing light. This is a skill that pays off immediately and can change your photos from meh to magic, fast. 

  Orange-filtered sun created by terrible wildfires just north of us created an incredible, dramatic spotlight that fell directly on to my son. While playing on the floor it happened and I had to capture it - room a mess and all. We had been inside for several days due to bad air quality and the story this image tells will remind me of the time and place. 

Orange-filtered sun created by terrible wildfires just north of us created an incredible, dramatic spotlight that fell directly on to my son. While playing on the floor it happened and I had to capture it - room a mess and all. We had been inside for several days due to bad air quality and the story this image tells will remind me of the time and place. 


Enjoy these tips?
Next week I'll discuss printing your candids - how, where, and what. 

 

I wish I Could Go Back In Time

My son is two and a half, and today, he drove me nuts. 

He stands three-foot-four, wearing a size ten and a half shoe (in boys!) and spent the whole day telling me I was wrong. Literally. And what's worse, I was right.  ("It's NOT A COFFEE CUP, Mama. It's NOT"  - it was. Etc, Etc, Etc. )  I'm lucky because I get to spend three days a week with him. And oh my goodness do I love him. I'm thankful for the privilege. But it's just not always easy. 

After his papa put him to bed tonight, I sat on the couch, exhausted, texting with a friend about how frustrating it is some days to parent little humans. 

And then it struck me - the memory of how when he was just born I used to sit in that very spot in the living room. For HOURS. Nursing that tiny human who seemed like he would never get enough milk. I ate meals there, I ordered too much from Amazon, I cried there, I fell asleep there, I desperately texted friends about how frustrating it is some days to mother a newborn. 

And then I started to weep. 

Because even though I remembered it, those oh-how-did-I-survive-it days I realized that the details had begun to fade. 

He's two-and-a-half now. 

And I wanted so badly to pull out the photo album, you know, like the beautiful, big 10x10 leather one most of my Newborn Sessions clients take home, filled with photographs of me and Jack and the couch and what newborn babies and mamas do. 

But I don't have one. Because I didn't have a photographer come. 

I didn't get it. I had no idea. It wasn't until well after Jack was born that I figured it out. Though I hadn't ever focused on photographing babies - just families and weddings - my very close friend asked me to come and photograph her brand-new son when he was born about nine months after Jack.  We got some lovely images of the little guy but what struck me was how much I wanted to photograph the two of them together. I felt something - some energy - and even though she wast wasn't planning on being in any photos and didn't prepare, she agreed. 

And the photos we took that day set me forth on a new path in my photography career I never intended to find. 
I learned something. 
 


Having a baby isn't just about the baby.  

Having a baby is the beginning of a brand-new chapter of the story of you. 


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I would give anything to go back in time and bring a photographer to our home - our tiny apartment, which at the time felt disappointing and embarrassing. I would give anything to have photographs of me, on my couch, in my home, wrapped in a boppy pillow, positioned exactly how I had to be in the beginning to nurse. I would give anything to have hired someone to see me, to see what was happening to me - the shedding of the old skin, the brand new world ahead. 


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If I would have known then that the hours I spent crying while trying to get my baby to nurse, while exhausted and feeling broken would bring me some of the best friends and colleagues and my calling in life through my breastfeeding and parenting support group, I would have wanted photographs of me in the middle of it. 


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If I had known that knowing nothing was par for the course; that waking up and feeding the baby and maybe eating was actually all that I could have or needed to expect from myself at the beginning I would have wanted to be photographed while I was figuring it out. Because ohmygoodness was it important. I wouldn't have cared so much that I felt like exhausted, unkept flopping skin who would do anything to get the baby to sleep. Because one day I'd have a two and a half year old over twice my height who sleeps at night. 


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I wish I had let go more of the unrealistic expectations for women postpartum; I wish I would have invited a photographer to document what me becoming a mother looked like. Because I know now that it is literally the most beautiful, complex and profound thing I have ever photographed. 


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I wish I could go back in time and tell myself how important and how incredible and how complex it was all going to be.  How nothing was ever going to be the same. 

Because then I'd have known how important it was that I be photographed. 


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Every time I do a consultation with an expecting family who is considering me to photograph their lifestyle newborn session,  I close my eyes and remember what it was like to be at the beginning of something I couldn't ever imagine. 

And on the other side of it now, I beg you - please, please be photographed. Please. 

Document your story.  

It's important. It's important at the beginning and it's important when you've moved through and want to look back at the journey you've taken. You are important, now, and later, when your baby has grown up. 

I wish I could go back in time and capture the most life-changing thing I have ever done. 

Don't be me. 




{my newborn sessions take place where you're comfortable - in your home - with a relaxed and family - centric approach. I would love to document this transition of life for you. Message me to start the conversation <3) 
 

Putting your Money where your Heart is (On the Holidays, Giving, and Two Year Olds)

Ahh, the Holiday Season.

Halloween has passed, Thanksgiving is a few weeks away, and we’re all gearing up for a couple of months of family, friends, food, and spending our money on gifts for the people we love. 

I have a two year old now, and I’ll be honest when I say I have spent a lot of time thinking about Christmas - which is the December holiday we celebrate in our home. In previous years, he was too young to understand what was happening. This year, he understands presents. For several weeks after his birthday in late May, he would exclaim “Presents?!” Anytime USPS brought a package to the door. 

 Jack's First Christmas in Minneapolis, 6 months old.&nbsp;

Jack's First Christmas in Minneapolis, 6 months old. 

My little family lives 2,000 miles away from grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins - so we travel back to Wisconsin and Minnesota in late December for a couple of whirlwind weeks of love and memories with family we don’t see the rest of the year. My husband and I have come to understand this as our holiday tradition - getting on a plane, and spending the 25th living out of suitcases. We love it - and have jettisoned the sort of “Usual” tree-decorating home stuff in exchange. 

But that doesn’t mean we don’t shop for gifts! It just means that many of them come wrapped up with our clothing and toiletries on our Southwest flight, or arrive at my dad’s office in Amazon boxes, ready to be hastily wrapped before placing them under someone else’s tree. Every year we struggle with what to bring, what to buy, and how to make it all work. How to get everything covered and inside our budget. 

And I don't like it. I don't want to pass that to my son.  I am trying to change it. 

 Snow falling at my parent's house in Elroy, Wisconsin&nbsp;

Snow falling at my parent's house in Elroy, Wisconsin 

Since Jack was born, we have been lucky and VERY privileged to be able to land in Minneapolis BEFORE Christmas, leaving a few days to do our last-minute shopping downtown at the myriad local businesses that line the streets of my in-law‘s neighborhood. Last year, I purchased my difficult to-buy-for Dad a pound of coffee from a small local roaster. I bought my stepmom a shirt from a tiny boutique near our favorite Minneapolis breakfast cafe, Moose and Sadie’s. We found a book and small toy for our friend’s new baby at Pacifier, the neighborhood baby store and a really cute handmade necklace for my sister from my favorite place in all of MSP, I like you, which sells products from artists all over the city. 

There’s something I feel is ugly about our society, and it becomes oh-so-much-more visible in December, when we stress and buy and stress and buy more. And every year with my son has illuminated it. Why have we decided to prioritize MORE for CHEAP? Why do we believe that a tree piled to the brim with large packages is better? Why do we rush out of our homes on Thanksgiving to load up carts with cheap stuff made in dubious fashion from companies who pay their employees very little to be away from their own families? Why do we equate inexpensive with value? 

All of the things I bought for my family and friends at small shops in Minneapolis last year cost me more than similar things would have cost at say, Target or Toys r Us.  And I presented my family with less presents than in the past. But when I spent the money I had budgeted on these things I was putting money directly into the pockets of these entrepreneurs and their families during the most important time of year.  Businesses whose blood, sweat and tears have been poured in to their inventory, their merchandising, and their customer service. Our spending in November and December helps small business survive the “lean” winter months of January, February and March. 

My money is hard-earned. Putting it in the hands of another mom running a business? Or a family who has supported a few generations through their local storefront? It makes every dollar I spend on the gifts seem all the more valuable. 

The necklace I bought my sister cost me $25 and the box I put it in was tiny and on its own. When I gave it to her, I told her that I’d purchased it on an adventure in Minneapolis from a local artisan who had moved there from our home state. It was a little silver Wisconsin charm, with a little heart punched in the middle. I don’t get to see her often because we live thousands of miles apart. I want to give her something that matters. Something with value. 

I felt better about that tiny box than anything I've ever given her. 

 My sister and my son enjoying autumn in Wisconsin.

My sister and my son enjoying autumn in Wisconsin.

Small businesses support families.
Small businesses support careers. 
Small businesses support neighborhoods.
Small businesses support our cities and make them stronger. 
Spending your money with a small business puts that money immediately back in to your community. 

And you know, I'm here for this. I'm publishing these words, on my website, as a small business myself. I support my family by photographing yours. And I am grateful for every single one of you. 

This is my busy season, too.  My calendar is buzzing, with family sessions many days of the week and late-nights of editing and submitting orders for products I spent endless hours curating and perfecting just for you to treasure  and present to your loved ones this holiday season. And, together with a large community of other talented colleagues running their own small businesses, I'm creating beautiful images of you and yours for the greeting cards you'll send off to all corners to bring happiness to those you love. 

Every photograph that you purchase, that you gift, that you send off on a greeting card crafted by a small business like mine is so much more than just a file, or a piece of paper.  

The value is enormous. For you and for me. 

So as we launch full-force in to this season of buying and sending I want to take this moment to consider how we're spending our energy and our money with each other and for each other. Because it matters. 

It's one of the ways we can make small and meaningful changes to our society and ourselves. What better time to start than during the most wonderful time of the year? 
 

 Black + white textured art print, matted and ready to be framed!&nbsp;

Black + white textured art print, matted and ready to be framed! 

This year, my last portrait session will be photographed on December 9th. Once every last print order is framed, wrapped and delivered to you,  I'll be packing my family up to head back "home" for the holidays - back to the Midwest where we were born and raised, to soak up all the valuable love and connection we miss the rest of the year. 

Once I close the books on 2017,  I look forward to spending my money with the individuals and families running businesses in our community here in the San Francisco Bay area and back home in Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

And we'll focus on buying and giving with intent, with mindfulness, with purpose.

Want to join me? 
(Two year olds welcome. We'll need all the help we can get) 

{IF YOU HAVE A SHOP or a SMALL BUSINESS, please leave a comment on where we can find you online or in person here in the comments!} 

Story Frames - a Stylish Solution for Small Spaces

Here in the SF Bay Area, many of us are living in small spaces, regardless of whether we're renting or owning. I know from experience - as someone who is raising a two year old in two bedrooms and 900 sq ft - that it's not always possible to frame and display a large number of photos from your session. Sometimes, there just ISN'T the wall real estate, regardless of how much you love your images. 

I've thought a lot about how to best take care of those of you in small spaces. That's why I've added Story Frames to my product menu this Fall. These multi-photo collection frames are available two sizes and with the choice of 7 different framing options, you'll be able to put together the perfect look for your home or for the perfect gift for Grandparents! 

 

10"x 20" STORY FRAME

 10" x 20" STORY FRAME in LAURELHURST BARNWOOD

10" x 20" STORY FRAME in LAURELHURST BARNWOOD

The 10"x20" Story Frame includes three 5"x7" mounted, textured, archival prints prepared specifically for the medium and matted together professionally in the frame of your choice. Digital copies of the printed image are included with your purchase. 


20" x 20" STORY FRAME

 20" x 20" STORY FRAME IN PLATINUM HAWTHORNE

20" x 20" STORY FRAME IN PLATINUM HAWTHORNE

The 20" x 20" Story Frame includes nine 5" x 5" mounted, textured, archival prints prepared specifically for the medium and matted together professionally in the frame of your choice. It is a gorgeous statement piece and the perfect way to display a large number of images in a stylish yet classic way.  Digital copies of the images printed are included in your purchase. 


FRAMING STYLES AVAILABLE

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These brand-new additions are available for all sessions this Fall and will be delivered in time for the Holidays. Limited Sessions clients will have the opportunity to apply their $200 product credit toward the purchase of a Story Frame or any of the other custom products available. 

Past clients: want one for yourself? Send me a message! Let's make it happen.