Picnic in the Park
Spring demands picnics. It throws itself on the floor and beats the ground with clenched fists and kicking legs and screams -
COME OUTSIDE…EAT PORTABLE FOOD!
And I hope that you hear me waving my arms frantically in the background yelling “and bring your camera!”…
Recently we went on such an adventure…and I thought I would share it with you. Our picnic in the park. And while we are sharing the massive number of photos (which undoubtably only my mother in law and a few smatterings of kin are going to enjoy), I thought that we should talk a little photography.
But first – our picnic excursion…we packed a little cooler, grabbed a blanket and headed for one of the county parks.
This particular park is simply lovely.
I go there often for photoshoots but this was the first time for Jeremy. I think he liked it. I know we both got a kick outta feeding the ‘ducks’…yes, those are geese…but when you have a baby, those are ducks and they say quack. It’s just how it is.
Okay – onto the photography stuff. For the sake of this conversation, let’s assume that you have a camera that has a manual mode and you know how to adjust your ISO, your f-stop, your shutterspeed and your white balance. If you don’t know how to do all these adjustments, read your manual. I read my manual countless times with my first DSLR…and it really will teach you a lot about your camera.
This little session is for the beginner…the mom who just wants one good portrait of her kids. Go outside in the last couple hours of sunlight. Turn your flash off. Turn your camera to manual mode. Now the first thing you want to do is adjust your white balance. If you already have it on auto…it’ll probably just work fine. If you want to get picky, then choose the white balance that suits your condition (cloudy, sunlight, etc.)
Now, set your ISO. Usually 400 is just peachy for that end of the day type lighting. If it is an especially bright day, you can notch it up to 200.
Next you need to set up your position. There are three main lighting positions…your back to the sun or light source (like the one below),
the sun to the side of your subject…causing one half of your itty bitty baby face to be light up and the other to be in shadow….
and backlighting…where the light source is behind the subject. Try each one situation…they will teach you something new about adjusting your camera each time.
Now it’s time to find a little magic. It’s a magic combo of shutterspeed and f-stop. The shutterspeed should never be less than 1/200 when you are attempting to photograph kiddos. They will just end up blurring by as they run to their next destination. The f-stop (it’s what creates those lovely blurry backgrounds) is what makes stuff in or out of focus. If you set it too low (like at 3.5) then you might not get the whole kid crisp and clear. If you set it too high, then you loose lighting…and you might be sacrificing that bokeh in the backgrounds. I usually have mine around 4.0 for kids…not really less than that unless it’s a kid that is very still.
It’s good to practice on inanimate objects first. Kids are hard because they are moving targets. And setting up your position can be hard because the bullseye is running from here to there and then behind you and then up the tree. Flowers, trees, even full scenery shots can be a great way to hone your skills with adjusting the f-stop quickly with the shutterspeed. Adjust one slightly and then adjust the corresponding thing (like notch the fstop up and then see how you have to slow down your shutterspeed to get the same exposure)….
Now…IF and that is one big if, IF your shutterspeed is 1/200 and your f-stop is so low that you aren’t getting your subject in focus entirely, then it might be time to boost that ISO. Beware. The higher the ISO, the grainier the photo could turn out…so you don’t want to go too high.
Now that you are ready to shoot your kids (and I mean that in the most non-violent way possible), remember this one big tip…make sure you focus on their eyes. Portraits are wonderful if you get those big ole baby blues (or greens, grays, or browns) in crisp focus…so make that little red dot blink over the eyes each time.
Remember that on most cameras you can focus the camera on whatever you want and then keep your finger held halfway down on the trigger and ‘reframe’ the picture. So even if your kiddos eyes are in focus, you may want to have them at the bottom or the left hand side of the photo (or whatever)…so get the pic in focus and then move while still holding.
One of the questions I get alot is who can you get pictures of a toddler or a child who is constantly on the move. One way is to use the hold or blockade method. Will is all over the place…but we can generally get a good shot of him if someone is holding him or we are blocking him somewhere….like this bench…
And don’t forget that if parents are gonna be in the shot, they need to do one of two things…look at the camera and smile or look at the kiddo and smile.
And mom’s and dad’s – switch off. Both of you should learn how to use the camera. You don’t have to be pros at it…but just think about how special these pictures are…not only to you but to your child. If something godforbid happened to you, these moments captured would be priceless. So get a switching. If your hubby isn’t into learning then set everything up and tell them to just push the button. Then call him Desmond (that’s for all you Lost fans out there!).
Another really good tip for momarazzi’s is to shoot everything. Take a million photos. You can always delete. You can’t ever recreate a moment that is gone.
and there is nothing wrong with getting the most imperfect photo…or the babe’s crying face or whining face or concerned face. Sometimes those are what we want to show the kid later….what things were really like. And get the scene photos…where you’ve been or in this case, where you picnic-ed.
Even if the photo isn’t spot on with the pros out there…(like this one is totally framed incorrectly) the point is…I love it, I think one day Will will love it…and that is what matters. Some of my favorite photos are blurry and a hot mess…but they touch me and whisper sweet nothings in my ear…and when I am old and gray one day, I will look at those pictures more than all the rest.
Last but certainly not least…remember to capture things the little things from all different angles. Get low, get high, get behind and in front, get fingers and toes and toys and everything in between and from all the variations you can imagine.
So that is it my fine photo friends…a beginners crash course in photography. I hope I didn’t miss anything too vital…and I hope that you have a wonderfully warm weekend to break out the picnic basket and the camera and get snappin!