Take Pro Shots at Home

When your kids are little it's really important to take a lot of photos of them. They're changing so fast it feels like if you blink you'll miss something amazing. It's not always practical to come to a professional photographer. But don't fret, I'll give you some quick tips how to take some impressive, professional looking shots at home.

Here's what you'll need:

  • A camera, anything will do, an iPhone, a portable camera etc.
  • A large, thin, white sheet (must be white or it will affect skin color).
  • An optional large piece of white cardboard, foam core board or even a piece of cardboard covered with aluminum foil.

Find a window in your house where direct sunlight comes through. When the sun is really blazing through the window, hang the white sheet so it's completely covering the window.

Look through the viewfinder of the camera and place your model as close to the sheet as possible without being able to see the sheet in the shot you're setting up. He will stand sideways to the window so one eye is close to the sheet (You'll probably want to stand by the wall next to the window where no sun is coming through).

Take a few shots and then look at the results. The camera tends to see less shadow detail than your eye. If the side of the face furthest from the window looks too dark/shadowy then have someone hold up the white cardboard sheet very close to the dark side of the face. This will fill in the shadows for a more evenly lit shot.

Have fun, play with different angles and proximities from the window to find out what you like!

Emotion vs. Intellect

Each of my photography sessions at Roclord Studio is followed up a few days later by a presentation session where I show the images to my clients on a large-screen TV monitor. After 10+ years of going through this process with thousands of people I've made some observations and drawn some conclusions. It's almost always better to choose art using your emotions and not your intellect. Theory of any artform is always formulated after the fact. To take food (my favorite subject) as an analogy, when you taste something, you generally get a sense right away as to whether you find it tasty or not. You don't refer to a Harold McGee theory book about food science to determine if you like it (let's see, the balance of acid to sugar is approx a 3/1 ratio so....I guess I like it). Photographs are no different from burritos. When you look at an image of your daughter for the first time you either feel something or you don't. So often I observe people struggling with this inner conflict of having a strong emotional reaction to an image only to have the instinct overpowered by her mother's voice in the back of of brain calling out all reasons for not liking the photograph, "He's not looking at the camera...She's not smiling...Her hair is so messy...Bobby and Janey are looking in two different directions!” You're really better off trusting your own emotions. It's okay to analyze what you did or didn't like after the fact, The peanut butter sandwich was nasty. I think it had too much salt...yukk!

The Stones Got It Wrong

This morning while driving into Pasadena I was listening to the 1968 Rolling Stones' classic Jumpin' Jack Flash. It suddenly dawned on me that when Mick Jagger shouts out “One Two!” in the end of the intro, he's actually off by a beat. He really should have been shouting “Two Three” (or to be precise, “and four”, but I guess that's really nerdy).

Terrible Threes

Whoever came up with that phrase The Terrible Twos, must never have had any kids of his own. I've found that two-year-old kids are a delight. Sweet, cooperative, adorable! I have two boys so I know this from first hand experience. Now three-year-olds on the other hand...yowch! Holy terrors. Especially three-year-old girls! In fact, when I know there's a girl coming to my photography studio who happens to be 3-5 years old I have to have a Special Consultation with her mother. I'm no Freud but there's something in the emotional development of a little girl that kicks in at about three where she takes a special pride in rejecting anything her mother tries to get her to do.

It goes something like this:

Mom (in a sweet, baby-like tone): Mary, don't you want to put on this nice dress we picked out for you?

Mary: no!

Mom: But we talked about it yesterday and you said you liked it.

Mary: No!

Mom (her tone getting a little beggy): But you promised you'd wear it.

Mary: no, No NO. I HATE IT!! (breaks into tears-lasting a full 10 minutes)

SOLUTION (if your daughter falls into this category):

We pick out all her possible clothing choices ahead of time. You only bring things to the session that we like then let her pick. Whatever she chooses is great. Don't argue with her. She knows this day is important to you. She will win! Don't suggest anything at all for her to do or wear. Let me do all the suggesting.