Thursday, April 30, 2015

Beginning Lessons on Photographing Children

After over two years of taking blurry iPhone pictures of our munchkins,  I finally bit the bullet, purchased a camera and started taking a photography class from Lesley Colvin (check out her Instagram feed!), targeted for other mums like me (here's one of them).

I have obviously just begun, but from what I have learned, good basics include the following:

1) Purchase a Nikon 35mm 1.8 lens.  Although this isn't a zoom lens, it allows a busy mom to pic up her camera in a hurry and capture almost everything in her field of vision.  It also has a great focal length for children and families.  (Canon's doesn't offer the same style, which means you won't capture all you are looking at - you have to back up...)

2) Then buy a DSLR camera for your lens.  Lesley recommended a Nikon D90, as it did the job at a reasonable price.  (She also recommended buying it from reputable U.S. based second-hand site, Adorama.) Seemed backwards, but it now makes sense.

3) Turn off the "auto" function.  Learn from your manual (I did this the other night in the A&E/ER - don't worry, my toe wasn't broken...) where your light meter is, and how to adjust your focal length or aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.  Set the ISO to 100/200 (as low as it will go without getting funky) and try to balance the view finder's light meter in the centre of the diagram by playing with your aperture and shutter speed.  If you get down to 1.8 aperture and 60 shutter speed (the lowest you can go without a tripod), then you have to up the ISO, or film speed.  Shallow depth of field with good blur in the background for portraits requires a smaller f-stop, or larger aperture (the two measure the same thing, but confusingly in inverse terminology). For white balance, you can essentially set the function on Auto and run with it.  If you want to take a picture of kids in motion, use a high shutter speed.

4) Learn the basics of lighting sources and how to use them.  A good, short tutorial can be found here.

5) Shoot away!  The best way to learn is to just try (in manual mode).  I was really hesitant to use my expensive camera, but now I'm getting faster at getting the exposure (or light reading meter) correct and I'm understanding more how pros like Lesley can make everything look amazing so quickly.

What are your tips for getting good baby shots?

This shot was technically difficult, because we live in a basement flat.  To get a correct exposure, I had to  open my aperture, decrease shutter speed to 60 (anything lower and I'd need a tripod), and I think I had to up my ISO.

Side lighting with fill

Back lighting
Front lighting

unpacking daddy's wallet, a favourite game, with the ever-present car

This may not look tough, but G is actually running, and I caught him without blur!


  1. These look so amazing! Well done. Particularly given your low light. Impressive!

  2. Thanks, Lesley! All because of you!