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Family Photography

Meg C.
MEG C.
Professional Photographer
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Join professional photographer and lifestyle blogger, Meg Calton, for a Q&A focused on taking better pictures of your family. Meg is here to help you feel more confident capturing memories of your family, and to answer questions about how to use your big fancy camera, or just how to take better pictures with your smartphone.

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MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
How to capture my super active toddler
MARIA, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD, 6 MONTH OLD

Hi Meg,
Help! All my photos are blurry. I use my camera phone and it's a pretty good one, but I just can't get my daughter to stay still. Any suggestions?

Meg
MEG

There's a couple of reasons your photos could be blurry.

First is focus related blur. You said you were using a smartphone- are you tapping the image of your subject on the screen and letting it lock focus before your shoot? If you don't, the camera will be trying to find focus continually instead of locking on the subject. This is an easy fix!

Next is motion related blur. I suspect you are right that your daughter is moving and your camera can't freeze the motion.

Some thoughts to combat this:

- Your phone might have a delay between the time you press the button and the time it actually shoots. If so? you're going to have to anticipate the smiles, or trying using burst mode to capture fleeting expressions.

- Be creative for how you get your daughter to stay still. I suggest being all ready before you bring her over to the shoot: don't waste what little patience she has fiddling with your camera! For toddlers, the best thing to do is engage them constantly. Give them a job- something to hold, a place to stand, a book to sit on. Talk with them and interact- play games, make sounds, etc. You'll have to act quickly when you're shooting, but you can do it!

-Lastly, all smartphones struggle in low light situations. They need A LOT of light to function well. Are you consistent shooting in a dim situation? I'd try to find more light: turn on the lights indoors, or go outside and shoot in the open shade. A brighter place will help your camera get a sharper picture.

Hope that helps!

MARIA

It does! Thanks for the tips!

MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
iPhone 7 camera
ASHLEY, PARENT OF 5 YEAR OLD

So you have any suggestions about home to make the most out of my iPhone camera? When ever I zoom the image is super grainy, so I don't use it much.

Meg
MEG

You have to have the right expectations for camera phones and zooming. Think about a big zoom lens on a DSLR - it has physical moving parts that allow it to zoom. A camera phone dos not - it's using digital zoom. The reason it gets grainy is because that's literally all it's doing - it's enlarging the pixels that are already there to make it seem "closer." It really is grainy because that's all the information the camera phone has at that distance. A DSLR zoom lens actually changes the focal length to make the subject appear closer, which is why you can zoom in without losing quality.

I always recommend "zooming with your feet." I think we get lazy sometimes and try to zoom when we could think the shot through a bit more and move our feet instead. Obviously, this doesn't apply to situations like concerts and sports when we can't get any closer - but many other situations are in our control, and could be improved by physically "zooming" with your feet.

Other camera phone tips:

-Use portrait mode on the 7 to get that beautiful blurry background and properly set off your subject.

- Always tap to focus. Many pictures could be sharper if you simply tapped the screen to focus on what you want to focus on - otherwise, the camera is constantly changing focus, trying to figure out what you want to be sharp. The way you tell your phone to lock focus is to tap the screen on the subject.

- Once you've tapped the screen, scroll up/down with the sun icon to change the exposure. I use this ALL the time to make my pictures brighter! It's my favorite part of iPhone photography.

- Use burst mode when applicable. If you're taking a sports shot or jumping shot, you can hold down the shutter button to take multiple frames per second. You'll have to choose your favorite one of the burst after, but this a great way to get the perfect action shot.

- Light is hugely important for all photography. If you can find good light (even, indirect, and soft) then all your photos will be better. Smartphones perform best with adequate light.

Hope that helps Ashley!

ASHLEY

Thank you so much!

MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Lens recommendation
BECKY, PARENT OF 7 YEAR OLD, 4 YEAR OLD, 2 YEAR OLD, 2 YEAR OLD

Hi! I have a Canon EOS DSLR camera. I have never really learned how to use it properly and always use it in automatic mode. I have thought about getting a second lens but I am not sure it is worth it if I am always shooting in auto mode. What do you think? And if I do get a second one, any recommendations?

Meg
MEG

I personally think that a fast prime lens can revolutionize your photos. I see what you're saying - but I think the lens I have in mind will a) provide sharper/brighter photos even in automatic mode, and b) inspire/enable you to move forward in your photography skills.

The lens I suggest is less than $200: a 50mm f/1.8 lens. It's a prime lens, meaning it doesn't zoom at all. However, it has an aperture of f/1.8, which means it lets in 4x the amount of light as your kit lens. This gives you way more opportunities to shoot indoors, in addition to providing a lot more leeway to understand how aperture is related to exposure and manual mode. I find that this lens helps moms understand their camera controls because they can actually see the difference between settings.

So, I do recommend you get another lens. At ~$110, it's the cheapest lens you can get and a relatively small investment, but it could seriously spark your creativity and interest in photography. That's how it happened for me!

Direct links to the lens can be found in the widgets at this post: https://snaphappymom.com/dslr-camera-guide-for-moms/

BECKY

Thanks! I am going to buy it :)

MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Photo Storage
SAMATA, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Could you suggest photo storage options with easy access and also could you recommend DIY to have creative timeline of photo prints/album etc. Thank you!

Meg
MEG

For photo storage, I recommend putting everything in the cloud AND backing it up on a separate hard drive every month or so. You can decide how to get this done, but I really think you need a backup to your backup. I'm seen too many people not realize what they were deleting, and regreting it!

There are plenty of cloud options out there: I use Dropbox is for sending pictures across devices and sharing with multiple users. That's probably your easiest access option. I don't use it for permanent storage personally, but I know many who do. You can also check out Amazon Prime Photos!

If you're looking for something that does an auto backup then I like Crashplan or Carbonite. This is less accessible but more secure for the long term, since they are copying everything over to their server, in case your computer is damage or stolen.

Then, I recommend doing a manual backup. External hard drives are cheap for 4 Tb of storage (about $100-120) and provide additional peace of mind for those who are wary of the cloud (I know sometimes I am!). I just duplicate my photos over to it at the beginning of every month.

Can you ask your other question in a different thread? And explain yourself more- I'm not sure I understand.

MARIA

We use Tinybeans and love it

MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
for hire?
SUSIE, PARENT OF 31 YEAR OLD

Are you avail in the next week to take a few photos of a house in Towson we are selling? Do you do that type of work? My iphone 5c photos I do not think are showing off the house 103 Charlesbrooke Rd 21212 The bedrooms need extra lighting to capture them.

Meg
MEG

I'm sorry, I'm not available for hire for your project.

However, I just wrote a couple posts about doing your own real-estate photography. You're right, an iPhone isn't going to cut it! But there's still lots of things you can do to take great pictures yourself.

Here's a post about staging the house: https://snaphappymom.com/real-estate-photography-staging-tips/

And here's a post about taking interior pictures of your home: https://snaphappymom.com/real-estate-photography-home-interior-tips/

SUSIE

Thanks so much!

MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Lens(es) for DSLR
BECKY, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hi Meg! We have a Canon DSLR and I'd like to invest in a higher quality lens (maybe 2) than what came with it. Are there lenses that you would recommend from both a focal point standpoint and also quality? Thanks so much!

Meg
MEG

What kind of camera do you have? I'm assuming it's a crop sensor, but that would make a difference in my answer.

BECKY

It's one of the Rebels, I don't remember the exact model, but I do know that it is a crop sensor.

Meg
MEG

The lens I recommend for moms first is the 50mm f/1.8 prime. If you're shooting Canon they have one for about $100. If you're shooting crop sensor Nikon, I recommend the 35mm instead for about $200.

Links to these lenses (and why I recommend them) here: https://snaphappymom.com/dslr-camera-guide-for-moms/

If you have more money to play with, then if depends on what you want to shoot. If you want to shoot lifestyle stuff inside your home, you'll probably want a wide angle to normal lens. If you want to shoot portraits and headshots, look at the 85 mm prime lens. The best "do it all" lens is hands-down the 24-70 mm zoom - but it's expensive (several times what you paid for your camera body). There are other options as well - it just depends what you want to shoot most of the time. If you give me more information about what you want to shoot I can provide more advice.

In general, here's what you're looking for in a quality lens: The f/number needs to go lower that 3.5, and it should not be a range - You want it to be a single number like f/2.8 or f/1.8 or even lower. This means it can handle low light situations, even while zooming, and allow you to get a faster shutter speed, sharper photos, and better bokeh.

Some fast lenses are primes, meaning they don't zoom at all. These are often a cheaper option for moms.

I would definitely stick to the name brand lens from Nikon/Canon, or the well-known third party sellers like Tamron and Sigma.

MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Photo editing and more
LORI, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD

Hi,
Is there a free or inexpensive photo editing program like Photoshop that you could recommend?

Also, what is the best way you've found to carry around a DSLR? Do you recommend draping it across your chest or using a wrist strap? I can't tote a diaper bag and a camera bag.

Meg
MEG

Yes there are some free editing programs out there.

1) Pic Monkey is a free online photo editor, and then they have some features in the paid pro version. They have tons of tools, effects, and filters you can use to enhance your photos. It's great for one-offs that you want to edit before sharing/printing, but you can't save images to come back to in the free version.

2) Canva is another free online photo editor. You can edit one phone, but where it really shine is when you want to make a collage or put words on a photo to make an invitation or something. I like that it saves your projects to come back to later.

3) Gimp is a free open source photo editor, similar to Photoshop. You can do a lot more in Gimp, but it has the same learning curve as Photoshop - you'll have to put some effort into understanding the tools. They are powerful but not necessarily user-friendly.

That said, Photoshop is now a subscription model, and not that expensive. Adobe has a $10/month plan to get Photoshop and Lightroom together. These programs are the industry standard, and simply the best there is. I recommend Photoshop to people who are shooting in manual mode, who shoot in RAW format instead of JPEG, who want to batch edit many pictures with the same settings, or who want to do heavy editing like head swapping or combining photos. No other program or brand comes close to Adobe for these situations.

Meg
MEG

I recommended a cross body strap- I like the sling strap style, which you can find on Amazon. I don't recommend a wrist strap for a DSLR.

If you're talking about how to transport your camera, I recommend getting a bag that can do double duty when you want to bring your camera and motherhood necessities. Ther are cute purse style handbags that have padding inside for a lens, or backpack style ones that have a camera compartment as well as other pockets for snacks and diapers. You can also get a slim sleeve to protect your DSLR inside of a different bag. I would definitely protect it in a bag though when you're not using it.

MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Printing options
KATRINA, PARENT OF 6 YEAR OLD, 4 YEAR OLD

I currently use grovebook bc it is cheap but are there any others that are reasonably priced?

Meg
MEG

Groovebook is not really a true photo printer - you'd get a lot better quality by using a professional printer that has the matte/glossy photo paper.

For everyday photos, I like Costco for the convenience factor, and you can't beat the price! I think it's 17 cent each, or 14 cents if you order more than 100 at a time. Costco is definitely better quality than the 1-hour photo shops at the drugstore or grocery store.

I've also used online photo services like Mpix and Shutterfly. I do have an insider hack for you: If you order your pictures through the Shutterfly App, you can get FREE 4x6 and 4x4 prints! You pay economy shipping, which is dependent on weight. My shipping cost was about $8 for 100 prints, which is indeed cheaper than getting them from Costco.

I wrote about this secret deal in the Shutterfly App here: https://snaphappymom.com/download-the-shutterfly-app-get-free-unlimited-prints/

MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Smaller camera
MADELINE, PARENT OF 8 YEAR OLD, 4 YEAR OLD

We have a big Nikon camera thats been great (although we only use it in automatic mode), but it is too big and bulky to take with us many places. Can you recommend a smaller, more compact camera that works well for a novice? Thank you!

Meg
MEG

Compact cameras are tricky. There is no perfect trifecta of sensor quality, compact size, and low price - you have to give up something. Usually, camera makers sacrifice the sensor quality to be able to compete on price - but I find that cheap point and shoot cameras just don't work for parents. Moms need something that will perform well indoors, and be able to take sharp pictures of action - and the cheap point and shoots often don't have nice enough sensors to be able to do that. So be prepared to spend 300+ on a compact camera that you can actually use with less than ideal light!

My favorite compact camera is the Sony RX 100. It's a solid camera with a fantastic lens, and still small enough to fit in your pocket. It has the ability to shoot in manual mode and raw, which is a really big deal as you start to learn more about photography. Of course, you can still use it on scene modes, burst mode, and for video. (If money isn't an issue, Sony's RX100 V is even better, but it's $$$$)

If you need something a little cheaper, than Sony's HX80 is probably my next favorite. It doesn't have as nice of a lens as the RX100, but it depends on what matters to you (the RX is a f/1.8 lens, while the HX80 starts at f/3.5). Good zoom though!

And... I know this isn't what you were expecting, but an iPhone 7 is actually a decent camera. It's compact and you'll likely have it on you, even if you can't bring a DSLR somewhere. In general, camera phones have come a long way in that last two years, so if you're using an older phone you might find what you need just be getting a new model. An iPhone is a valid option for a compact camera, especially if learn how to play to its strengths. You won't be printing huge images, but it doesn't get more compact that this.

Links to these and other options at this gear guide:
https://snaphappymom.com/compact-camera-guide-for-moms/

Our Q&A starts now!
TINYHOOD, PARENT OF 5 YEAR OLD

Welcome, Meg! Meg is a Professional Photographer and blogger from Snap Happy Mom. She is joining us today to answer all of your questions about taking photos of your kids, photography gear, photo storage, and more!