YOU GUYS. I am beyond thrilled to have a guest post today from my fabulous photographer friend, Bonnie of Two Creative Birds Photography. Remember when she took all those gorgeous shots of me and Rob? She has graciously created two amazing posts for my blog on using manual settings for photography, specifically keeping in mind photographing your little ones. Recently when I posted some tips for food photography, Nikki asked in the comments if I had thoughts for taking photos of kids. Nope. Enter Bonnie to my rescue! I’ll have a post this week and next from her to help you (and me!!!) get started with our cameras. Ready to dive in?
[If you like this, check out Part 2 from Bonnie: Setting up the Shot!]
Chances are if you’ve got kids, they’re cute. Or at least you think they are. Chances are if your cute kids do cute things, you probably bought a cute camera with cute bells and whistles. Chances are also pretty high that you keep your cute camera on auto and often end up using your phone because the pictures come out better since you don’t know how to use the manual settings for photography on your cute camera. Am I right? Even a little bit?
Put your cute camera insecurities to rest because I’m here to help with some easy tips on how to not only work your cute camera but how to get the best shots of your cute kids with ANY camera.
Let’s start with that fancy DSLR you bought. If you want to leave it on auto with that pop up flash putting red eyes and shiny spot lights on foreheads then you might as well leave it at home and stick with your camera phone.
Camera settings can take some getting used to, but if you have a basic understanding of the 3 major settings you’ll do just fine in most situations: Iso, Shutter Speed, and Aperture.
Let’s start with your ISO. Imagine your ISO as the number of worker ants you have available to help collect light and bring it into your camera.
On a bright sunny day, your camera doesn’t need much help bringing in the light. 100-200 ants will do the job. 100-200 ants = 100-200 ISO.
BUT WAIT! It’s evening time or a cloudy day and 100-200 ants just can’t collect enough light on their own. They call in reinforcements. 400, 800 and depending on your camera, sometimes even 1000 ants are needed to get enough light inside your lens.
The only thing to keep in mind is that the higher ISO you have, the more chance you’ll have a bit of graininess in your images. This also depends on your camera type. Some cameras, like the Canon Mark III or Nikon D3S can handle quite a bit of ISO before they look grainy. (So can others, but those are the cameras I have experience with.)
However, ISO can save you if everything is dark and you absolutely HAVE to capture little Jenny’s cute face dancing in her recital and you don’t care about printing quality as LONG AS YOU GET THAT SHOT so grandma can see it!
The shutter speed is the amount of time your camera spends taking the picture. Think of all the movement that can occur in 1 full second. A lot. So if your shutter speed is slow, chances are your pictures will be blurry. If your kids are moving around, you want the absolute fastest click you can get in order to keep it sharp and focused. I try to never go below 1/200th of a second. But the rule of thumb is that you shoot double your focal length or at the very least that your shutter speed is greater than your focal length to avoid shake. If you are shooting on a 50 mm lens, don’t take your shutter below 1/100th. (But truly, I usually try to avoid below 1/200th ever because I am a shaky shooter.)
If you’re shooting moving kiddos, you really want to get it as absolutely fast as possible. I’ll give you some examples shortly.
Lastly we have aperture. Aperture controls what is in focus and what is blurred in the background. It’s your depth of field, your Fstop. We all love the shots of kids where their eyes are crystal clear and the background is so blurred you can’t even tell that ugly station wagon is back there in the driveway.
Why does a 50 mm 1.2 cost $1600 and the 1.4 cost $300 and the 1.8 cost $100? That huge price difference is in the F stop capability and if you’re pretty sure you’re going to be serious about your photography one day, it’s worth the price difference.
IF you’re shooting 1 kid, a really low F stop will do the best job on focusing what’s closest to you and blurring the rest. I like to stick around 2.8 or less in those situations, but many lenses only go down to 4.5 as the lowest. IF you have more than one person in the shot, it is important to keep them on the same plane, or the same distance away from you. At a low aperture, if one kid is behind the other at all, only one will be in focus.
To fix that problem, pump up your F to F.5, F8, F11, F16….The higher you go, the deeper your field of focus becomes. But at F16, your subject AND the station wagon and busy, cluttered background will be crisp.
The trick is learning these three things and how they work together.
Here are some examples of combinations I like to use.
Sunny Day, 1 kid-
ISO 100, F Stop 2.8, Shutter Speed 1/1000th.
What happens when I shoot this shot, look at my image and its too dark? Here’s where my thought process starts. I know I want a sharp subject and a blurry background because the park I’m shooting in is crowded with faces I don’t want to see. So I’m not changing my F stop.
Secondly, my little wiggle worm is not sitting still so I really need to keep my shutter speed fast.
I have an idea! I’ll grab more worker ants to bring me some light. So I start bumping my ISO up. If I can get the right exposure before I hit ISO 1000, I’m happy.
But wait! I’m at ISO 1000 now and it’s STILL dark!
So now I think, what is more important to me in this situation? The wiggly kid or keeping my background blurred? At the fast speed of 1/1000th, I have some room to play. Remember, I don’t want to go slower than 1/200th but I’m not close to that yet. So I start bringing that down to 1/800th, 1/640th, 1/500th, etc.
But wait! I’m all the way at 1/200th and my little nut of a child is losing patience with me and is moving so much he’s definitely blurry!
No problem! I take that shutter speed back up a bit and it’s time to sacrifice depth of field. My shutter is back up to 1/500th and I start playing with the Fstop. How’s F4.5? How’s F8? Sure I can see the trashcans in the background now, but I’d rather just move around to a cleaner spot and keep my kid in focus. Plus, his friend wandered up and I want some pictures of them playing together so I likely need more of an area in focus to work with.
Summary in Numbers
My process looked like this:
ISO-100, Shutter 1000, Fstop 2.8 But = Too dark.
ISO-800/1000, Shutter 1000, Fstop 2.8 But= Still too dark
ISO 1000, Shutter 500, Fstop 2.8 But= Still too dark
ISO 1000, Shutter 250, Fstop 2.8 But = Blurry!
ISO 1000, shutter 320, Fstop 2.8 and up BINGO!
It’s all great in theory but the only way to make it work for you without having to come back to this post over and over is PRACTICE! Practice when it’s not important so that you’ll nail it when it IS important! I teach group and private lessons on working your camera’s manual settings so feel free to give me a call for lessons. Sometimes you just need someone there to help while you’re learning! Contact me here: firstname.lastname@example.org