Whether you used our {Choosing A Camera} article, or already had a usable camera lying around, now is the time where we can chat about how to make your camera work for you.

Did I mention that reading the manual is uber important?  If you missed that previous recommendation, please hear me now – go dig it out and read the whole darned thing.  You’ll thank me later.  Go on – I’ll wait.

Back already?

Great!  Let’s dig in!

Pick a Subject

The first thing to do when experimenting with your camera is to pick a victim subject for your photos.  Since I typically photograph humans (newborns, children and boudoir), my practice shots almost always include some form of  homosapien.  However, if a fruit bowl is more your style, go for it!  The point is, practice on something similar to what you’ll be capturing frequently.  The tips I reference will primarily pertain to faces, but the rules apply to pretty much anything you choose to shoot.

Take a Peek

Now is the moment you’ve been waiting for … peek through your viewfinder and take a good look at your chosen subject and the surroundings. You may have heard the rule of thirds.  If not, here’s the quick run down: When you divide a picture into thirds both horizontally and vertically, where does your subject fall?  You should try to keep the focus of your composition to one-third of the image.  This doesn’t mean the center third – in fact some of my favorite photos have people off center – but this does mean you need to realize the focus of your composition should only take up about one-third of your shot.

Now that you have a better understanding on how to frame a subject, it’s important to think about how to capture emotion.  Capturing emotion will take your photos from documentation to wall art, with a few simple tricks:

Move It, Mama!

I personally don’t like my camera guessing what the image should look like if I were closer (which is what zoom does), so I actually move closer to my subject.  This may disrupt the moment for your little ones initially, but trust me, over time they’ll ignore the mommyrazzi altogether, and you’ll be able to sneak in and capture heartfelt moments without being a distraction.

Light Up Your Lives

Pay attention to the lighting in the room.  Where is the light coming from? Do you see any shadowing on the little faces (or pieces of fruit) you are trying to capture?  If so, either remove the light source creating the shadow, or add opposing light to help balance it out.  Many times I turn off overhead lighting to help avoid having to do a bunch of {Oops! Now What?} balance and color corrections.  Remember, just like in life, if you do it right the first time, you won’t have to re-do it later, so be patient and pay attention.

Keep in mind if you are shooting in full-auto mode and the camera is insisting on using the flash, either add light to avoid the harsh strobe, or turn the flash completely off in a partial manual mode.  (See why you need to read the manual!?) The downside to turning the flash off is the camera may leave the shutter open a touch longer, and unless you can hold really still, you will get blur.

Practice Makes Perfect

One of the best things about digital photography is you can literally take thousands of pictures, at almost no cost.  When I first started photographing children, I would take about 1,500 pictures in a 2 hour session.  My camera was cranking!  But, out of those 1,500 pictures, I would provide the client with about a small fraction of those images – all of which I loved and would hang on my own walls if they were my kids!  Don’t be afraid to let’er’rip!  High volume significantly increases the odds that you will capture something you love, and guarantees you’ll have some great out takes for your scrapbook or blog!

Change Your Perspective

Not only is it important to get close, but a large part of capturing the feel of a day is capturing the details.   With my little ones, I literally have thousands of photos of fingers, toes, eyebrows, profiles, etc.  Move around your subject, capturing every little detail.  Oftentimes, only mama who gets to see that look baby gives when he’s frustrated, or when a light bulb goes off in her little head. The best way to ensure you are not hogging those memories, is to share them through your photos.

Don’t forget – if you want to capture your kid, being … well YOUR kid, you must get down on their level.  I cannot stress this enough – for once during the day, mama, sit down!  Make sure the camera is eye level with them, or for even more interest, use the camera to look up at them.  If you have an LCD screen on your camera, use it to hold the camera away from you and your body and see what you can capture that way.  During my sessions, I am always crawling around on the ground, laying on my tummy, and even putting my subjects up on the countertop to change things up a bit.  This is the one time where it’s okay to let your kids crawl all over your furniture!

Another quick tip is to ask your kids to look into your lens and tell you what they see.  This tends to get them to get a little serious, focusing right on you (even if it’s for just a second). Now you can quickly click away, capturing the thinking and learning process.  Also, since they are (hopefully) holding unusually still, even in full auto mode, your camera should move pretty fast since it’s not necessary to refocus over and over.  This is one of my favorite things to do, because when they really start looking into the lens, their pupils get large and beautiful, making my job that much easier.

Changing your perspective not only applies during the capturing process, but it also applies to you!  Many times, the women I serve in our MOPS group ask me how I capture such great pictures of their little ones for our annual slideshow.  Honestly, the camera has very little to do with it – after all, people were taking breathtaking pictures 100 years ago!  The difference is, when I sit down with a kiddo, I explore with them.  I don’t rush our time together, and I listen to, and laugh at their silly stories.  It is my time to be a kiddo right along with them, and I soak in every minute.

So, the next time you pull out your camera, and you aren’t getting what you want, consider changing your perspective, both physically and mentally.  Perhaps the mom in you wants to capture your kids clean, smiling faces.  When you get down on the floor and focus on the joy they are experiencing in that minute, you will find yourself Going From Mom, To Moment Master.

Now that you have literally thousands of pictures, how do you plan to preserve them?  Stay Tuned for our next article in the Going From Mom, To Moment Master series, titled {Perfect Preservation}