Sunday, March 28, 2010

Email Us!

We have an email address! We hope to continue to provide top notch information as The Family Photojournalist grows, so do not hesitate to shoot us an email with your questions, criticisms, and suggestions!

thefamilyphotojournalist at (instead of the 'at' use the @ symbol). I wrote it this way to avoid spammers.

Daniel and I would love to hear from you!


Keepin' the Mood!


I read statements like the ones above when I first started shooting and felt like I was failing at photography because it seemed that no matter how hard I tried, I was often blowing highlights and/or losing detail in my shadows. Many of my images would often look good to my eye, but it seemed that everything I read told me that what I was doing was wrong.

The easiest way to see if your highlights are blown or your shadows are lost is to check your levels (in photoshop, image > adjustments > levels). If the chart spills past the right, your highlights are blown. If it spills of the left, you lost detail in your shadows.

While the histogram is a great tool to use, sometimes I do not want all tones to represented a scene. Sometimes, if we expose for all tones in a scene, it will absolutely destroy the mood and we will end up with an image that does not look like the scene we shot!

So I encourage you trust your eye and disregard the histogram (sometimes)! Keep the mood!

The images below have severely flawed histograms but I feel have a mood to them and represent what the scene actually looked like:

My youngest minutes before he fell asleep. The only light was from a hallway light coming through a crack in the door:

My nephew's 7th birthday. Candles were the only light in the room. If I shot for a balanced histogram, it would appear that the lights were on in the room!

Halloween. It was DARK (1/20th, f/1.4, ISO3200).

Birth of my youngest child. The dramatic lighting was caused by the spotlight that the surgeon was using. If I used a flash to balance out the background, this image would not be as dramatic.

Ditch the histogram and trust your eyes!

Thanks for checking in!


Monday, March 15, 2010

f/1.4 & Family Photojournalism

Again, a special thanks to Sam Hassas for stepping in last week! Great post, Sam!

One of the principles of family photojournalism is including context/surroundings for your subject. So using the widest aperture settings for your lenses is not always best. In fact, sometimes, using a very wide aperture can lessen the impact of a shot. However, there are times when shooting 'wide open' (at the maximum aperture of a lens) is necessary to get the shot. Other times, you might just want to isolate your subject in order to highlight they way they looked that day.

I shoot almost exclusively with lenses that have a maximum aperture of f/1.4 (Canon 24L/35L/85L). I generally use f/1.4 for two reasons: 1. In low light when I do not want to use flash. 2. To isolate my subject from a distracting background.

f/1.4 IN LOW LIGHT: I shoot in low light A MOST OF THE TIME (my house is small and dark)! So for me, lenses with an f/1.4 opening is almost necessary. Shooting available light allows me I to capture the mood of a situation by shooting with the existing light of the scene. Often times, the result is how the scene actually looked.

There was very little light in this fact, it was just a small sliver of light that was peering through the curtains. I metered for that light and exposed at 1/50th, f/1.4, ISO1600. 35L.

Lit by one single overhead bulb. My youngest 'reading' before bedtime. Exposure was 1/40th, f/1.4, ISO 1600. 35L

Only light in the room was the TV. I wanted a slower shutter speed on this one to capture the motion of the Wii play. Exposure was 1/40th, f/2, ISO3200. 24L

Early morning light coming through my front window. Exposure was 1/125th, f/1.4, ISO1600. 35L

Only light source was the overhead light in the bunk bed. VERY dark. Exposure was 1/80th, f/1.6, ISO3200. 24L

f/1.4 TO ISOLATE: Sometimes the background is UGLY! Using a lens that opens to f/1.4 can help!

I wasnt a fan of all of the trees in the background of this one, so I opened my aperture in order to isolate the subjects. Exposure was 1/500th, f/2, ISO800. 35L

Loved the halloween outfit, so I wanted to show it off a bit! Exposure was 1/100th, f/1.4, ISO800. 35L

Busy background :( Exposure was 1/4000th, f/2, ISO200. 35L

Lenses with a maximum aperture can be expensive, BUT they do not have to be! Most camera manufacturers make 50mm options with a f/1.4 opening that are affordable. Also, check out the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens.

Thanks all for checking in!


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Working A Composition

Sometimes, I'm guilty of hastily composing a shot, snapping, and putting the camera away. After all, I work and want to spend time with my family. But when I look back on the shots, I'm sometimes disappointed. I see subtle changes that could've made the shot work better (a change in composition, poor timing, something i want to change with exposure, etc). This is easily remedied by taking your time and being deliberate about how you capture an image. I want to encourage anyone who shoots family documentary or FPJ to be patient. Find a composition that works and "sit on it." Wait for the moment to develop and unfold before you. I always encourage other photographers to find new and interesting angles. Please, do that too. But sometimes, you find a composition you like. Work that, don't let it go until you come away with something you value. You won't always have time to do this, but if you wait for the moment to come, you won't be disappointed that you waited.

Quick side note: This tip may not be easy to apply on day trips such as the zoo, museums, etc. But there may be times where your child/children interact with a specific toy/animal/exhibit long enough for you to work the composition.

It's not about machine gunning your way to a moment--taking 30 or 40 shots at once, hoping to get just one that's decent. Once you're in position, observe your children and the action taking place. Try to anticipate when someone might laugh or smile or do something interesting. Be ready and then get the shot. It takes discipline not to click the shutter 50 times hoping for that moment. Try to trust yourself and you will begin to develop greater discipline and intuition (anticipate moments). Here is a series of seemingly similar shots. I found a composition of my son playing in his room which I liked. I wanted to capture his interactions with the toy. Here is a sample of what I chose to shoot and the type of moments I was looking for. They were taken over a period of around 10 minutes (1ds2, 35L, iso 3200, 1/60, f/2.2)

I enjoy these shots for different reasons, in part because there's a subtle range of expressions and action and they're all genuinely Isaac.

Here's a second, shorter series of my older son just messing around while watching tv (1ds2, 35L, iso 1600, 1/80, f/2.8).

Thanks for stopping by.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Broken Arm, by Sam Hassas

We are very grateful to have the ridiculously talented image maker/story teller, Sam Hassas, guest blog this week on The Family Photojournalist. As we have mentioned before, effective family photojournalism documents moments (even the ones that hurt) as they happen. Sam's entry below is one of the best examples I have seen in this category.

I strongly urge you to check out his website...but be sure carve out an hour of time before you do so....yes, his photographs are that good! Sam Hassas Website


While on a shoot during the summer last year, I get the call all parents fear. "Your son's been hurt, he's broken his arm."

I've never had to cancel a shoot while in mid action but that day I did. I bag all my gear, toss it in the trunk and head down to the emergency ward at Good Samaritan in San Jose. It's about a 30-minute drive and these are my thoughts. I've never been the type of photographer to carry my gear with me everywhere I go. Vacations, Holidays and work is about all. Today was different. Against my natural feelings of leaving my camera in the bag, I brought it with me. Now, looking back over these images 2 dozen times the past 8 months, I have never doubted in my choice to document since.

I arrive to a worried mother and an ambulant son. Up till now, he has been given no meditation. He's scared. In pain? I'm not sure. Perhaps the adrenaline rush is coving the pain. Ex-rays are taken...we sit and wait.

Greeted by a doctor, he informs us that Ethan has a compound fracture. The bone was completely broken and was protruding through the flesh. He speaks in high valuating doctor gibberish for about 5 minutes. We understand the procedures needed only slightly. My son understands nothing. The doctor walks out and begins preparations.

Ethan has a nervous look on his face and feels the inevitable.

"daddy, what happen to my arm?"

"you broke it bubba"

broken voice "can you fix it?"

I wiped lots of tears while looking through the lens, almost to the point of setting the camera down. Here’s Ethan's story:

This is the scene I walked in on.

my mommy, my lizard

boy socks.

protected. resilient.


the break

the parent

the inevitable

the relief

Post surgery. He see’s light at the end of the tunnel and his first smile appears.

the return

This shot is very special to my wife and I. 4 years ago she was wheeled out of this same hospital door with a brand new Ethan to introduce to the world.

the endurance

the next day while we are at home. The fan fair is over and the trail towards healing is paved…..not without it’s pain however

the “good” arm


The only shot I chose to show in color. It seemed fitting.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a guest blogger!

I apologize for not posting last week! I sustained an unforeseen injury that prevented me from entering a post.

On the VERY VERY VERY bright side, The Family Photojournalist is ridiculously pleased to announce that we will have our first guest blogger in the next few days! We hope to continue with this feature as the blog grows in order to provide different perspectives on family photojournalism.

Wedding photographer extraordinaire Sam Hassas ( will be posting an amazing series of photographs that chronicle a trying time in his little guy's life. In addition to being a world class photographer, Sam is a world class person! Somehow we know that you will all enjoy how Sam does family photojournalism!

Stay Tuned!