Instructions on shooting your own subject(s)
After you have chosen your background I will send you specific instructions and tips on how to achieve the poses needed to create a believable image. However, these are some overall tips to help you capture shots that will allow me to create the best quality image possible.
LIGHTING: Natural light is best. Please do not shoot your image using lamps, florescent, or overhead lighting, unless it is ambient and plentiful. It’s best to avoid it all together though. Ideally your subject should be photographed outdoors on a cloudy day or in the shade. Avoid harsh shadows and bright highlights cast by the sun. If you cannot go outdoors you can shoot you subject in front of a window. Make sure they are facing the window and try not to block too much light or cast a shadow with your own body. If you notice that parts of your child, especially their face, is particularly darker or brighter than other parts it’s probably not the best image to use.
BACKGROUND: Try to shoot in front of as plain a background as possible. You don’t have to go so far as to hang a backdrop (although if you have the means and time go for it!), but shooting in front of a plain wall, fence, building or anything with a mostly solid color is very helpful when it comes to cutting the subject out to place into the new background. Try to avoid things like woods, plants, cars, etc. Also be careful of wind blowing around clothing or hair.
POSITIONING: Most images require the full body. Even if yours doesn’t its good if I can start with a full body shot to allow for more manipulation if needed. You’ll want to shoot from the same eye level as your child. That will require crouching down to their height. Do not shoot them from above as the perspective will be off in the final image and it will not be believable. Also try to have them standing on a surface that is flat and level. Grass can cut off portions of their feet or shoes and can make it harder to blend them into certain backgrounds. It’s not always a problem as often their feet are not in the shot, but something to keep in mind. Also make sure you’re not cutting off any limbs, especially fingers or tops of heads. Remember not to worry about anything else in the shot except your subject. If your partner, dog, sibling, toy etc is in it don’t worry. Pretend you’re going to be cutting them out of a photograph with scissors. As long as you have their whole body, we’re in good shape! But keep in mind that anything attached to them will also be in it, so try to get that sippy cup or pacifier out of there when the snapping is happening.
POSING: It’s best to have your partner or a friend assist you in helping achieve the desired pose. There are a number of ways to achieve poses without your child knowing that they’re posing at all, which usually works out better than trying to force them into a position, especially for younger children. This technique results in the most natural looks and expressions. For instance, if you want your young child to point to the subject you could have your partner ask them a question such as, “where is daddy’s eye.” Or if they’ll be reaching for an item, have your partner hand them something they want to take. Be ready to snap away as this happens and don’t worry if mommy/daddy is in the shot, as long as they’re not blocking the subject. It’s better to have too many images than miss the moment. And remember, it doesn’t have to take much work and can happen fast. You could be all done in 5 minutes! Don’t stress too much about posing. There are usually lots of variations that I can make work! The most important thing to keep in mind is to make it as fun as you can for your child to avoid resistance. Once you start to put pressure on them it can backfire, and all cooperation can easily end. TIP 1: With my kids, I like to have them playing already (in whatever clothing I plan to shoot in and in the vicinity of where we’ll shoot) and then casually start to suggest positioning etc. If I ask them if they want to do a photo shoot they tend to fall apart or shut down. I try to keep things light and make suggestions like “what if your brother sat on the chair with you? Maybe he could even stand? Wouldn’t that be funny?” If your child is slightly older it can help to show them the sample image so they can see what that model is doing. This obviously wouldn’t work if you’re trying to keep it a surprise though. TIP 2: It can be easy to get fixated on a pose that you have in your head. Try to remain open-minded. If you’re picturing your little one wearing a Santa hat with an adorable expression, don’t skip the shot where they pull the hat to the side and glance up in the air. I’d say 70% of my final poses are not what I’d originally planned, but that’s what makes each image unique. When in doubt, just keep shooting and send over everything. MUTIPLE CHILDREN: If there will be more than one child in the final image it is important to note that in many cases they do NOT have to be photographed together. You can follow all of the same guidelines, but shoot them separately. The exception to this is if you want them physically connected in the image, such as an arm over a shoulder or hugging
PROPS: Depending on the image you choose some props may be necessary to achieve the proper posing. They are generally as simple as a chair, step stool, table or even another person. I will let you know the best props to use to help with your specific image. Props may also help add to the image. Holding a simple item like a stuffed animal, cookie, ornament, letter etc can help tie the subject together with the background.
WARDROBE: I will send specific suggestions based on the image you have selected, however there are a few things to keep in mind to make it believable. Take into account the colors and tones in the image you chose. Are there deep dark colors? A vintage style theme? Lots of textures? Fun and playful? You don’t have to go all out and get a costume for your child, but a simple hat or coat, cute jammies etc can be all you need to make them fit in. Keep in mind I can change color tones so if you can’t find something that matches exactly don’t worry. Please avoid clothing with logos, large characters and text as they can detract from the overall image.
EQUIPMENT: Using a digital camera is best and if you are familiar with how to use yours that’s fantastic! But that’s not to say using your phone is not an option. Phones are just as advanced as many cameras these days, and as long as you send me the large file size (via dropbox) there should be no reason we can’t use it.
UPLOADING: I will send you a link to a Dropbox folder that you can upload your photos to when you are done. Aim for anywhere between 5 and 20 images for me to look through, but if you have, say, 50 and can’t decide, just send them all!
Don’t let this experience stress you out! It can be done quickly and simply if the conditions are right. And if it doesn’t go well the first time, try again tomorrow. Leave enough time that you aren’t worried about a deadline and try to remain positive. This should be fun for everyone!
If you are local to the Boston area and would like me to capture your shots for you I’m happy to come to your back yard. The fee is $50/child.