Photographing kids made easy (well, at least easier!)
My eldest son has a toddler and he sent me a photograph of his offspring.
Unfortunately the shot looked as if the little chap had short legs and a
large head. Having seen previous photos of the young fellow, I knew this
was not the case. What was amiss was the wrong choice of lens and the wrong
position to shoot from.
This photo was the result of using an
18 mm wide angle lens, which always makes close objects seem larger than
those further away, and the photograph being taken from adult eye level.
Both of these conditions are easily
understood. Capturing children with a camera is not an easy task. Children
have a nano-second attention span and if you miss that nano-second, be
prepared to wait hours for the next available one!
The music hall comedians always worked
on the principle that they should never get on stage with children or
animals. There were many good reasons for that, one of which was the fact
that neither took stage direction very well.
The biggest problem is that children
have the attention span of three point four nano-seconds (if you’re lucky)
and to expect kiddy co-operation while you spend time setting up the shot,
focussing and finding the best lighting is to fly in the face of reality.
No, to get a good kid pic means that you have to be totally set up and
ready. That means you must begin with an idea of how you want the end
result to look.
Let’s look at the equipment needed
first. In general, the further away you get, the more natural the
photograph you will get. So, a small zoom lens (35-70) works very well in
this situation as you can get far enough away from the child without
invading the child’s ‘personal space’ and producing shyness or forced
Focussing is important, as it is for
all photography, and I generally use the “pre-focus” technique in this type
of situation. When you have found the position you want to shoot from, then
focus on where the child is and “lock” that focus into the camera. When
suddenly see the shot you want, you won’t have to waste time trying to
The most important item with child
photography is to get down to their level, otherwise by shooting from above
you get distortions and the “strange” view of the child I mentioned at the
beginning of this article. Since children are fairly mobile creatures, you
do need to get a reasonable depth of field to keep the subject in focus.
There are a couple of ways to ensure that this happens. The first is to
select an ISO of 200. This means you can use a smaller aperture (or your
camera can select it, on “auto” settings). This increases the depth of
field, keeping your subject in a deeper area of sharp focus. The second is
to photograph in good light, which again means the camera can select small
Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty
of taking the shot of your terrible two year old. Put little Johnny in a
well lit area of the house, patio or garden with some favorite toys. Sit
down on the floor a little way from him and pre-focus the camera. Now just
sit there, not joining in to his play world, looking quietly through the
viewfinder. Remember that you do have a limited time before Mr. Two gets
bored and wants to wander off.
When everything is right, call out the
child’s name and catch the child’s first response to you. The inquiring
look, or the big smile, will be there to be caught forever on film. You can
repeat that exercise perhaps three times before the child will not respond
any more, no matter what you do! As I said at the beginning, these little
creatures have a very short attention span. Be prepared, be ready and be
watchful and you too can get that ‘magic’ shot. But be ready to shoot quite
a few frames before you will get the one you want.
How to sell over the internet
seems to be filled with entrepreneurs. Every second person, and especially
the ladies, has a scheme to export Thai artifacts to the thirsting throngs
back in their home countries. After all, such things as Thai silk, locally
produced cutlery, incense holders and costume jewelry are plentiful and much
cheaper than “back home” and why not make a little money on the side as a
And in addition, and in fact probably surpassing those numbers, are the
people selling items on eBay. One of my friends was incredible at e-selling,
and said that one reason he was so successful at it, was the fact that he
took good photos of any items that were for sale.
Without wishing to get into the intricacies of exporting, the one area where
many of these small ventures fall down is in the production of a
‘catalogue’. And you do need one, or otherwise the person at the other end
of your mouse has no idea what the item actually looks like! Try describing
Burmese embroidered wall hangings, and see what I mean!
Realizing this, many have picked up the trusty family Kodafujinikonolta
camera, placed the items on the table, and belted off endless shots. The end
result is endless snaps of unexciting goods, lying on a table top. Is this
enough to interest a would be purchaser. Unhappily not.
You see, you have to inject “visual appeal” into these snaps. You have to
show the importer what these things actually look like. You have to indicate
form, size and colour. Those blurry, almost monochromatic shots just don’t
cut it, I’m afraid. Catalogue shots have to be good. This is why pro
photographers command a minimum of $1,000 a day doing catalogue photography!
Here is how to get some passable images by yourself. The first thing to buy
is a large sheet of white thick paper or thin card, which you gently bend
into a right angled curve. Stick the top to a wall and move a table
underneath and stick the bottom to that. You now have a seamless “nothing”
background on which to place your stock items. No distractions in the shot -
just your individual items for sale. Place the first item on your seamless
Next is the lighting. Flash is good, especially if you have an “off camera”
flash head, but even if you have not, all is not lost. Shooting downwards at
an angle of about 45 degrees, you want to bounce the flash burst towards the
back wall of the white curved background. If you have a flash head that can
be angled, then it is simple, but otherwise, place a piece of card under the
camera’s flash head to stop the “spray” of light going directly on the
product which then directs the main burst towards the back wall. What you
are doing is to produce a small shadow line along the bottom of your items,
all of which gives them shape and form.
The “looking downwards” at 45 degrees is actually very important too. This
duplicates the angle you naturally use when looking at most small items, so
you see a cutlery item, for example, how you expect to see it. No strange
perspectives. If it looks like a fork, then you’ll attract more people to
buy the fork.
If needs be, you can show the size of items by incorporating known smaller
items in the shot. Coins, reading glasses, a set of keys, an egg cup can all
show comparative size. Just remember to make the item for sale the “hero”
and not the egg cup! In other words, make the size reference item the
secondary item in the shot!
In general, try to use secondary items that have some relationship to the
feature item. A knife and spoon would naturally go with an egg cup, for
example, and to make a really good shot, you would soft boil an egg, place
it in the egg cup, slice the top off and place that slightly to the side of
the cutlery items. See how a little thought can take a boring catalogue shot
and make it so much better.
Now do your own!
Simple rules for better pictures
There is an unfortunate idea amongst weekend photographers that the more
expensive camera you use will return better photographs. Sorry, but this is
not the case. There are people who can produce photographs out of a Box
Brownie better than others with the latest all-singing, all-dancing SLR.
Now, of course, we have the DSLR revolution. You can now buy an expensive
digital camera with multiple mega-pixels oozing out of every plug hole.
Unfortunately, all those mega-pixels do not guarantee great shots.
The principal advantage of digital photography is the ability to review a
photo, immediately after you have taken it. This does not mean that all
photographs taken digitally are going to be top pictures. However, here are
some tips to give you better results.
The first tip is one that I give to everyone at least once a year, even to
those keen amateur photographers in camera clubs. It is merely “Walk several
meters closer”! More good shots are ruined by having the subject as small
dots in some huge background. Make the subject the hero. Getting in close
and personal always produces a better shot. Remember that one rule and you
will immediately get better photos!
If the subject(s) are people, then use the telephoto setting and still walk
in closer. Fill the frame with the subject and you do not need to worry
about the backgrounds. Ever again! And remember when taking pictures of a
group, get them to really cuddle up together, and don’t be afraid to get
them to angle their heads in towards the center. The happy giggling faces
will make a good photo, as opposed to the rigid ‘soldiers on parade’ that
happens so often. Do not shoot “soldiers” (they might shoot back)!
Next simple rule for better pix - when taking portraits outdoors, turn the
flash on as well. The camera will have set itself to expose the brightest
part of the scene, so the flash then brightens up the foreground subject.
Another trick to outdoors portraiture is to take some shots with the sun
behind the subject to ‘rim light’ the hair with the halo effect. With the
sun behind the subject, you also stop the screwed up eyes from the sun’s
glare, which is never very visually appealing. This is called ‘back
lighting’ or ‘contre jour’.
Another very simple tip, but one that seems to be forgotten is the placement
of the horizon line, which should be one third down from the top of the LCD
screen, or one third up from the bottom of the screen. This is called the
Rule of Thirds. The horizon line (as the name suggests) should also be
horizontal! Some cameras will give you a grid template in the viewfinder. If
your new camera has this capability, use it. Drunken horizons are no more.
Another tip is to buy another memory card. The one you will get with the
camera is too small. You will then try and put the camera in a mode which
lets you take more shots, but this is done at the expense of sharpness. Buy
a 2 MB card as a back-up for your 4 MB main card (or even larger capacity)
and use the highest resolution you can. This way, if you do have a great
shot, you can have it enlarged, and still be sharp. Another advantage of
having two cards is you never end up with a full card and another great shot
to be taken.
It should be remembered that when you bought this new camera just because it
had plenty of megapixels, unless you run the camera at its highest
resolution, all the expense of the additional megapixel capability has been
wasted. You end up with the equivalent of a 4 megapixel camera, rather than
the expensive 12 megapixel you selected.
Finally, look very carefully through the viewfinder and note what you have
got, not what in your mind you think you are going to get! I know the review
LCD screen is not large, but you will soon see whether the subject fills the
screen or otherwise.
The messages this week are ‘closer’, ‘flash on portraits’, focusing ‘grid’
and use your megapixels.