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March 21, 2007

Sharing good pictures

I'm not a professional photographer and probably will never be one because I don't have the patience to learn about all the technical stuff that goes along with that job.  But I love taking good pictures and I've had moderate success doing it.  People always ask what camera we use, what software, etc.  So here I am -- sharing all of our secrets.  Enjoy!

Our Stuff:

  • CameraCanon Rebel XT 8MP  (update:  We now have the Canon 5D)
    This camera is big.  Much bigger than its little 8 MP counterpart (which we also own but never use) but totally worth every extra ounce and inch.  When you think about how much extra stuff you get to haul around with a new baby, this camera is nuthin'.  Besides, there's almost always a stroller nearby if you get tired of carrying it.  Best yet, it takes GREAT pictures!  When you have kids, you figure out pretty quickly that their perfect smile won't wait for a slow camera shutter.  You need the speed otherwise you'll just end up with pictures of the back their precious little heads as they turn and run away from you! 

    A few more things about this camera:  It's fully automatic so you just point and shoot.  If you enjoy challenges, there are other settings that allow you to have more say in what the camera does.    I always use the Automatic mode but sometimes use the closeup mode (like I did for this picture of the tulip).  Someday, I might learn what the other modes do!

    Why do you need 8 (or more) megapixels?  You need this for printing photos.  Even if you don't print 8x10's, you probably need to crop images and print them as 4x6's.    You don't get a really crisp result if you don't have the image resolution to print whatever size you're printing.   

    When we got our first digital camera, I routinely reduced the image size so they wouldn't take up as much space on my hard drive.  WHAT A MISTAKE THAT WAS!  Yes, the photos look good on my computer but I can't print any of them (all our wedding and honeymoon photos).  I learned from that mistake and , now, I NEVER mess with the original of any of my photos.  I always make a copy before making permanent changes.
  • LensCanon EF-S 17-85mm (our new lens for the 5D is this one)
    The camera came with a lens but I don't remember ever using it.  We always use this one.  It's got great zoomability and it's not too big and clumsey. 
  • FlashCanon speedlite 430EX
    The flash that is built into the camera is usually sufficient but we have this one too.  It makes a big difference indoors!
  • Camera BagDomke F-5XB
    We searched high and low for the perfect bag -- and found it.  It's been with us to China twice.  It holds all our gear (and even our passports) but it's about half the size and weight of our diaper bag.  Best of all, Daddy will happily carry it! 
  • Collage softwareFotoFusion by LumaPix
    I love this program! It makes it so easy to work with large numbers of high resolution images and backgrounds, etc.   You can even drag and drop images onto the canvas.  One of my favorite tricks is to use a background that is the same color as the background on my blog and have the text or other graphics "flow over" onto it.  It's a really cool effect.  Check out this picture to see what I mean.   I use this for almost all of my collages -- even if I'm only adding a drop-shadow.
  • Photo editingPaintshop Pro Photo X2
    I paid $100 for this program several years ago and consider it some of the best money I've ever spent. Some of the great things I can do with PSP is straighten images, fix perspective, fix color and light problems, remove unwanted objects (and people!), crop, and reduce image size.  There are 500 other things too.  This is probably the most important piece of software on my computer!

Some photo taking tips:

  1. Have good light in front of your subject (avoid intense backlighting).  Outside photos are almost always twice as good as inside photos.
  2. Take 200+ picutures and hope that 5% turn out "okay".  1% might be "awesome"!
  3. Encourage kids to smile by engaging them in play.  Be goofy.  Have one parent engage the kids while the other takes lots of pictures.  One of my favorite pictures of Andrew and the girls is this one.  We did it by having Andrew spin while holding them and stop in front of the camera just long enough for me to take the picture.  They LOVED this game and I got one of the best pictures ever!
  4. If you're taking pictures alone, experiment with taking pictures while NOT looking through the view-finder.  Just play peekaboo with your child and pretend to ignore the camera (while pointing and snapping away!)  Hope that something ends up in the picture!  After time, you'll get better at taking pictures "in the blind".  The pictures for the Elmo FFFF Challenge were taken this way.
  5. If you have a very young child, try using some earthquake putty to adhere a tiny toy to the top of the camera.  They'll smile ear to ear when they see it!  (at least for the first 20 seconds)
  6. When all else fails. Just ask your child to smile.  You might be surprised that they can do this (fairly well) on command!


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