I’ll keep this short and sweet (the three girls and I are packing up today to head East tonight – no easy feat to accomplish without any help!) but hopefully give you enough information to take your mediocre Christmas Lights and Kids pictures to the next level. Because we all love them, right?! Here are a few of my first attempts from when Gracie was just a baby! It’s technically #tbt today so these are totally relevant. 😉
I do need to preface this post with the advice of using a DSLR camera. Doesn’t have to be top of the line or fancy in any way (up until very recently I used an ancient entry level dslr with a kit lens and built my business on that alone!) but you do need to have control of the settings which you can’t often do with a point and shoot.
1. Pay attention to your camera settings and set your shooting mode to “manual”. This is super important. If you don’t/can’t do this, your camera will automatically keep focusing and refocusing on the lights and you have no control over what your image looks like. Plus your camera will probably kick in it’s automatic flash which is definitely a big NO NO for these. If you are able to get your hands on a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 Lens
(my favorite lens by far) this will help you get beautiful, creamy bokeh- which is the fancy photog term for round and blurry lights or lights that are out of focus. I don’t own this lens but want it desperately. I’ve borrowed it from friends before and just love every photo I take with it. My second choice lens would be one that I do own – the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 Lens. At about a third of the cost of it’s first choice cousin, it’s worth EVERY single penny, especially if you are an amateur photographer just interested in getting better photos of your family without spending a fortune or investing in lots of gear. Now, the most important part: you need to set your f-stop to as LOW a number as possible. For example, if you were using the 50mm f/1.8 lens, your f-stop should be set at 1.8. If you were using the 50mm f/1.4 your f-stop should be set at 1.4. Make sense? Now the other numbers you need to pay attention to are your ISO which I set at 2000 for these (a higher number allows for more light to reach your camera sensor), and your shutter speed which I had set to 1/30 (this gets tricky as the lower the bottom number of this setting gets the harder it gets to get a sharp clear image) but do the best you can and play with it.
I tried to keep the tech talk simple… camera settings are tricky at first but I recommend you just keep playing with it and fudging the settings around until you understand how they affect your image. Use the camera instructions that camera with your specific camera to find out how to change these settings.
2. Set up your composition for the best possible bokeh. Position your subject (so, your kids most likely) as far away from the tree as you can. There were all kinds of boxes and Christmas junk behind me for these images so Sally is really close to the tree. But the farther away your subject can be, the better! Try to get at least 5 feet of space in between your subject and the tree or wherever you have the lights set up. Then, prepare to shoot your photos as close to your subject as you can get while keeping them in focus. Use your cameras settings to ensure you are focusing on the SUBJECT and NOT on the lights. Also, turn your subjects face so they are facing the best light source (most likely a big window or glass door).
Numbers 1 and 2 are most important here. The camera settings, and the place of your subject in relation to the lights.
3. Play with the effects of the light in your background. Here is where you can get creative. Try these pictures in daylight and at night. Try them with room lights on and room lights off. Try colored and white lights. Drape a cloth or sheet over the lights for a beautiful effect. PRACTICE makes perfect so plan to take lots and lots of pictures of your kids in front of the tree. Give them a few books to read while you shoot away, or let them eat their dessert in front of the tree. This will allow you to practice shooting without making it painful for your kids. Alternatively, just prop a stuffed animal or two in front of your tree to practice during nap time if your kids get too antsy. Then you’ll have a better feel for how to achieve a great photo BEFORE you bribe your kids to sit still 😉
Rodi and Elf On The Shelf were my practice “subjects” once upon a time. That Michael Elf just oozes mischief, doesn’t he?!
But anyway, below was my setup with Gracie. Her face is pointed toward our big sliding glass doors in the kitchen. She’s laying on top of a big floor pillow that I have nestled in her bouncy seat, with blankets draped on top. *Remember, if you are shooting a newborn, keep the room super warm and consider using a heating pad underneath the blankets baby will be laying on! Makes a huge difference.
That’s it! Not too scary, right? I’m no expert at teaching photography concepts so hopefully this wasn’t too confusing. If you have questions please let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!
And just because I’m crying over how big she is….
My goodness, how she’s grown! <3