Monday, February 15, 2010

Getting in Front of the Camera

Most photographers, pro and amateur, will say they prefer to be behind the camera. I know I do. And it often shows in our personal work. I could almost count on one hand the number of shots I've been in over the past number of months. The same may be true of you as well. I think it might also be that we don't want to hand the camera over and stop shooting. Why? Maybe we don't think someone else could get the shot that we could get. Or maybe we just enjoy shooting and observing. Perhaps they're both true. But years from now, our children will look back on these photos and see themselves playing with your spouse/significant other and not you. If the purpose of family photojournalism/documentary is to record your family's day-to-day life in the way it really happened, you should be in there, too. Otherwise, the story is not fully told.

What I'm proposing in this post is that you begin to teach your spouse/significant other how to use your camera. Just the basics. My wife doesn't really know that much about aperture or shutter speed. She's familiar with the rule of thirds but she couldn't explain it. But she and I talk photography a lot and she's able to apply some of what we talk about. She's also looked at thousands of photos that I've taken and that cumulative knowledge has helped her to develop a sense for taking a good picture. Here are some samples that my wife has taken of me with the boys. These shots carry a lot of meaning for me.

In this shot, Isaac had been crying and fussy and wouldn't sleep. We were both pretty tired. Katie (my wife) grabbed my camera and shot a few as I bounced Isaac and tried to keep him calm. It's a really great composition, using the doorway to frame us.

As with any other time she uses my camera, I preset aperture/shutter speed/iso before she started using it. I have taught her how to change the AF points and that's about all she needs to know. The composition, she came up with. In the shot below, my son and I are playing horsie and he's "holding on tightly."

My wife clicked the shutter at the perfect moment. Timing is key and something that can be developed.

This is a variant of the earlier horsie shot.

Knowing that my wife can handle the camera (even the 1ds2, which is impressive), means I can be in shots occasionally and our family documentary work will be more complete. Some of you may have spouses/significant others who already know how to use the camera. That's awesome. For those of you who do not, teach them in little bits, be patient, and don't critique whatever they shoot. Let them learn from your mistakes and you'll be pleasantly surprised to see yourself in a photograph every now and then.

Thanks for stopping by.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Panning: How I Roll!

Panning: How I Roll

I don’t know about your children, but mine seem to be in a constant state of motion! They are either running somewhere or riding some sort of ‘vehicle’ (bikes, scooters, carnival rides, wagons, etc.). One of the beautiful things about photography is that we can literally freeze these moments so we can see their smiles and feel their excitement.

Part of family photojournalism is capturing the moment as it happened. We capture the scene how WE see it most of the time. But often times we should attempt to photograph the scene as our subject experiences it. With this said, we have the ability to capture the motion so we can feel the energy of the moment as our children experience those moments.

To do so, we will focus on a photographic technique called ‘panning’. Panning is a technique where your subject is ‘frozen’ but appears as if it were moving. For example:

This is a shot for a client. This was particularly challenging because of the path of the motion. Shutter speed was 1/20th.

How to ‘Pan’:

1. Select a shutter speed around 1/20th. The amount of ‘blur’ in a scene depends on how fast/slow your shutter is. Slower shutter speeds will create more motion blur, but will be more difficult to maintain a sharp subject. Faster shutter speeds will make getting a sharp subject easier, but will have less blur. Also keep in mind that if you are panning a race car doing 200mph a shutter speed of 1/100th will suffice. Conversely, if you are panning someone walking, ½ might not be enough!

2. Select AI Servo focus mode on your camera. This is one of the few times when I am shooting that I use AI SERVO. It allows me to track my subject before I take the shot.

3. Select a subject that is moving. Subjects that are moving in a predictable path (child riding a bike down a hill) make panning easier. Also, straight paths make it a bit easier yet.

4. Stand perpendicular to where your subject will pass you. For example, if you are photographing a child on a scooter in the street, you should be on the sidewalk. You want to photograph the ‘broad side’ of your subject as they pass you.

5. Practice good camera holding techniques. Left hand under the lens for support. Left elbow firmly against your body. Right hand on grip. Right elbow firmly against body. Feet shoulder width apart. Bend knees. Jeez, I sound like my old football coach!

6. IT’S ALL IN THE HIPS! Begin to focus on your subject as it appoaches. Keep focus. ROTATE YOUR HIPS as the subject passes. Do not try to follow with your head/camera. LET YOUR HIPS CONTROL THE DIRECTION OF THE CAMERA. Did I mention HIPS?

7. Press the shutter. Wait for your subject to pass by and GENTLY press the shutter. Do not ‘stab’ at it.

8. FOLLOW THROUGH. Even after you press the shutter, continue to track the subject by ROTATING YOUR HIPS.


Remember, you are dealing with slow shutter speeds AND you are moving your body. So if you didn’t track your subject perfectly, the subject will not be sharp.

This technique takes PRACTICE. So just allow your children to play as they were and be a silent observer as you continue to hone your panning skills!

Here are a few of my favorite panning shots:

As always, thank you all for checking in!

Best Regards!