How to Take Great Birthday Party Photos

We just had Henleigh’s 4th Birthday!!  Not sure where the time has gone but she is already FOUR!!  When we asked her what she wanted for her birthday she said she wanted pictures. I was actually surprised when she said this, but it got me thinking about some things I could do to make sure that I got photos that captured the day.  And how I would give her the pictures when the day was over. Here are some actionable tips for taking great birthday party photos.  And if you want to see what we did with all of the Photos from Henleigh’s Birthday check out how I create Birthday Chatbooks.

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Why You Should Take a Picture Everyday

There’s one thing that I love about photographing my everyday and it is the satisfaction of seeing our everyday and adventures in a book at the end of the years. It’s a way for me to preserve our memories and leave a legacy for my kids.

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 I cherish the photos I take and the photos taken by my friends and family. Because I cherish them so much I love to share them. I love posting our family adventures on social media so that friends and family can see in real-time the adventures that we are taking but my favorite part is to create a photo book for each kid at the end of the year that has pictures from every adventure we have taken that year.

Starting a photography project is a big undertaking but I can guarantee you that it will pay off in the end. Here are 4 reasons why you should shoot every day!

You never know what your day will bring 

We don’t wake up each morning knowing how our day will unfold so taking your camera with you to capture your day is a great way to document the ups and downs. Even the ordinary needs to be remembered! If we can’t tell what a day will bring there’s no way for us to predict how a year will unfold, therefore taking a photo a day is a great way to remember how you began the year and how the year ended. And pictures are a great way to remember what we have to be thankful for.

Why You Should Shoot Everyday - Monarch Butterfly

You children will thank you

This became so true for me when my mom passed, I was extremely thankful that she had taken pictures of us as a family and pictures of us with her, they are a great way to look back and remember all of the good times. And now that she’s gone pictures of her are what sparks the memories I want to remember forever.  

If you have children your photos will most likely include your day to day adventures with them which will be so very exciting for them to look back on in the years to come. If you don’t have children it is just as important to photograph your daily life. There’s nothing more fun for your children than seeing what your life was like before you had them. Children love to see what you look like what you did and what you were passionate about.

Why You Should Shoot Everyday - Shoot for Your Kids

Your Photography Skills will Improve

There is something to be said about what an impact picking up your camera every single day can do for your photography. I was amazed at how much my photography style and camera skills drastically improved by taking a photo a day. By the end of the year, I could visually see an evolution in my photography skills as the days and months went by because I learned so much about photography and my camera every single day. 

Feeling of accomplishment 

It’s a really great feeling when you take your final picture of the year. You will feel it every time you see your images. This is why it is even more important to celebrate the completion of your 365 photography project with your family and friends by making a Blurb Book of all of your pictures.  A photo book is also a great way to see how far your photography has come, you’ll get to see the picture that you took at the beginning of the project and the picture at the end and I can guarantee there will be a huge difference in those two pictures.

So what is stopping you? Of every photographer who has completed a 365 project, not one has had any regrets. Whether it is to photograph memories for your family or to help improve your photography one day at a time there are too many wonderful reasons for you to pick up your camera and take a picture every day!

We would love to see your pictures be sure to tag us on social media with the #captureyouradventures365. 

Blurb

Memorable Vacation Photos

Vacations are special to us because they are the time we get to slow down, spend time with our families, and do something we love. These vacations/adventures are something that we all want to capture and share but have you ever picked up your camera on vacation taken the shot and then been disappointed with the result?  I know I have, but with some practice, I have found a system that works for me and I get the memorable vacation photos I want. 

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A Variety of Shots

My goal when it comes to taking vacation pictures is to create a photo book when we get home. So with that goal in mind I think about the layout of the book and the type of shots I want to capture. I know that for a spread (two pages) I need 3 to 8 pictures, so when I pick up my camera I try to take at least 8 pictures before putting it back down.  

This might sound crazy at first but hear me out. I will start by taking a pullback image so the viewer can see the entire scene. From there I will step closer to my subjects. I will move around them to get different pictures at different angles.  I will also focus on different things to show the details and what they are doing. Here are some angles to think about when taking pictures- straight on, from the side, from above, from behind, etc. 

Whether you’re on vacation or even just at home your pictures will be so much more interesting if you get low.  Get on eye level with your kids so that you can see the scene the same as they do. It is amazing how just changing your height can improve a picture.

More often than not when people take pictures they stand too far away. Don’t be afraid to have your subject fill the frame; it will be a much more interesting picture.

I like to get a mix of individual shots and group shots to mix things up. It is also a great way to show who we were on vacation with.

Memorable Vacation Photos

The Details

Most of the time the place we visit is just as important as the people who are there, so I want to make sure I am taking pictures of our surroundings (big landscape shots and tiny details). I will often start taking our vacation photos when I start packing our bags. When the kids were younger we had so much gear that we had to take with us I always thought it was just crazy!! Now that they are older we don’t take as much gear but I don’t want to forget that season of our life where each kid had 2-3 bags just for a weekend trip. Lol 

Pictures of signs and buildings are a great way to document your location.  These pictures pair really nicely next to pictures of your kids in a photo book and they bring back memories from the trip.  Don’t forget the epic landscape shots that will give an overall feeling of where you were. 

Take Candid Photos

When you take pictures of your kids engrossed in an activity you end up with gorgeous photos. These moment show them in the most natural way- investigating an ant hill, gazing at a painting in a museum, or climbing the monkey bars and isn’t that how we want to remember them? 

Besides, candid photos of your children mean they won’t have a chance to stick out their tongue or turn away from the camera. 

I’m pretty sure you would agree that family vacations should also be about the kids not just getting the perfect smiling group photo. So let your kids explore and immerse themselves on vacation just have your camera ready to snap a photo.

Always take a Group Photo.

If you’re wanting to take better photos on vacation don’t wait until the end of an outing or an adventure to take a picture by that time your kids will be impatient, tired and hungry. That is not exactly the best ingredients for a memorable photo of your kids.

That being said trying to get a good picture at the beginning of an activity or an adventure is easy either because all your kids want to do is explore they don’t wanna sit still to take a picture. Instead I wait to take a group picture somewhere in the middle of your adventure and if you don’t get it the first time move onto a different location and try again. We aren’t against bribery either. 🙂

Memorable Vacation Photos

Make them Part of Documenting the Vacation

Just like if you were home and your kids get tired of having the camera in their face all the time so to keep them engaged in taking pictures and willing subjects I always try to get them involved. Hunter is the easiest he loves to be in the picture and then if you let him hold the camera and take a picture he’s so much happier. This takes all of maybe 30 seconds and he is a much more willing subject later on. 

You can also involve your kids by doing photo scavenger hunt where you have them look for different things on your adventure and have them take pictures of the items or you can take a picture of it just gonna keep everyone engaged in the activity.

Use the Rule of Thirds

I think using the rule of thirds is my number one piece of advice I give anyone when they ask about taking better pictures so I’m going to give it again use the rule of thirds. If you want to know more information about the rule of thirds you can visit Using the Rule of Thirds blog post. The biggest thing to know is you can turn on the grid on your phone and on your camera to help you along the way.

Get in the Frame

Don’t forget to get in the picture as well.  You are on the vacation too so you need to be captured enjoying your adventures. Hand the camera to your significant other or even to your kids.  Just get in the picture, you will thank me later!!

Memorable Vacation Photos

Taking the photos is just the beginning 

Once you get home you’re going to want to edit the pictures and put them in a photo book so that you can remember the vacation.

When we get home I will upload all of our pictures into Adobe Lightroom based on the month and the date and maybe a little bit about what adventure we were on. From there I will go through and cull the pictures and pick out the ones that I like the best and tag them. Each kid has their own tag and each vacation has it own tag.  This year we didn’t get to go on spring break because of Covid-19 but I knew I wanted to document our “vacation” at home.  So I tagged the pictures from our vacation week “corona-cation”.

I have created our vacation books in both blurb and chatbooks.  I tend to like Blurb Books for the longer vacations that I have taken more pictures.  For the shorter vacations, I will do a chatbook

I have also shot an entire vacation with my iPhone. I put all of those pictures into a chatbook because it was easier. 

On your next vacation don’t forget your camera. Enjoy your vacation but be ready to pull out your camera and capture those unforgettable moments.  You will love looking back at your memorable vacation photos and remember the amazing vacation.  Share your pictures with us on social media @living_our_adventures or #capture-your-adventures, we can’t wait to see them!

Blurb

7 Photography Projects that will have you Practicing Everyday!

If you’d like to better document your everyday story and brush up on your photography skills while you’re at it, here’s a list of photography projects to inspire you and motivate you to keep clicking!

365 CHALLENGE

Our life is full of joyful moments that pass too quickly and if we don’t take a moment we will miss them.  This challenge is all about slowing down, taking notice, and documenting the little things. The goal is to take one picture a day for 365 days.  The first year I did a 365 project I used prompts to give me inspiration each day.  This year I have decided to just take a picture, no prompt. 

Want to see what others in the Capture Your Adventures community are capturing join the CaptureYourAdventures365 group, use the hashtag #CaptureYourAdventures365 when posting your pictures on social media. 

A Day in the Life

This is a fun project idea and really is an easy way to capture the essence of your everyday life without having to commit to something for an entire year. The concept is this – set aside one day a month, circle it on your calendar. Set an alarm on your phone. On that specific day each month take your camera with you everywhere you go.

Take a photo every hour or just photograph as many daily activities as you can. Imagine these photos all put together into “A Day in the Life” collage or chatbook. .

I did this during COVID-19 to document how our life had changed in such a short time frame.  Our days during COVID-19 looked so much different than our normal routine.  I wanted to make sure that I captured it. 

You can either take photos throughout the day or just on the hour. Either way it is a fun way to capture the everyday moments and routines that we often forget to capture.

Self-portraits

Challenge yourself to get in more photos this year. I believe that the photos we take are a reflection of what’s most important to us, and for a lot of us, those photos involve our loved ones. Choose either to do a self portrait, daily, weekly, or monthly. What is important is that you are getting in the photo. 

When I did my first Project 365 I did a “Monday Me” where each Monday I took a self-portrait. It’s a good idea to have a specific day in mind. If you are going to do it monthly, choose the date of your birthday and each month take a photo on that date.

33 photos to take with your kids

30 Day Project

Take on a shorter commitment by doing a project that lasts only 30 days. There are many different ways you can do this. In my ebook, Capturing Everyday Adventures, there are 2 different 30 days photo challenges with prompts for you to capture your adventures and learn new skills. You can’t help but improve your photography all while taking timeless photos of your children.

Pick a Skill

A project is a great way to perfect a skill you are working on.  Pick a skill you want to learn more about and practice that skill every day. 

 Ideas:

  • Light
  • Composition
  • Street photography
  • Macro

Grateful photography project idea

Choose to photograph things, people or places you are grateful for. Not only will you never run out of ideas of things to photograph but it helps you focus on what is really important and how blessed you are.

1 Second Everyday

1 Second Everyday: Video Diary is an app that allows you to compile short snippets of video footage into a video montage. You shoot one second of video every day. At the end of the year, you have a really fun family film that will be a keepsake forever.

I downloaded this app last January after watching someone else’s year end video brought me to tears. I’m hooked you guys! I wasn’t perfect at it – I missed a lot of days – but the compilation of 1 second video clips from our entire year is precious to me. I’ll put together a post soon outlining all of my tips and hacks for taking memorable videos and how to create your video when you’ve completed the project.

Capturing the Moment is Just the First Step

As you work through one or more of these projects don’t forget that taking the photos is only the first step! I’m a huge advocate of not only taking photos – but doing something WITH them. 

Don’t let them sit on your phone or collect dust on a hard drive somewhere. Print them. Hang them in your home. Compile them into photo books. Share them with friends and family on Instagram.

If you love the idea of putting together a beautiful photo book but would like to start with a bitesize project you need to check out Chatbooks

I turn all of my iPhone pictures into Chatbooks. This is such a quick and easy way to get those photos off your phone and printed out for your loved ones to enjoy!

Chatbooks

Which one of these photography projects will you start today?

Whichever one of these photography projects you decide to tackle is your choice what is important is that you DO SOMETHING!!! The key to growing and improving as a photographer is practice, practice, practice. And when you think you have it experiment and practice some more!


6 Steps to Better Photos of Your Kids

In our digital world pictures are being taken more and more but did you know that your camera can LIE to you??  Yup you heard me, your camera can lie to you!!  Which when you think about it makes sense… it is just a machine and doesn’t always see things the way we do, therefore it can’t always produce the picture that we want.  But we can help it out and create that AMAZING picture we see and want to preserve.  

Here are 6 simple things that you can do today to help you and your camera take better pictures of your kids, your adventures, and your everyday life. 

Find the light

Photography means “painting with light” so there is nothing more important than light when it comes to taking a picture. Learning how to use light is an important part of photography, but one that many tend to not pay attention to and then get frustrated when their pictures don’t turn out how they envisioned them in their head.

When first starting out light can seem very overwhelming because you just want it to work with the shot you want to take but in reality light needs to be the first thing you consider when setting up a picture

To make it easy when you are first starting out, put the sun behind you, whether you are indoors taking a picture of your kiddo or outside. This will ensure that the light is hitting your subject from the front. 

It makes sense that this light is called front or flat lighting. Even though it can be dramatic to use, it is also the safest and most predictable. 

If the front light is soft, then it will be flattering on your subject, smoothing out imperfections in the skin, and giving great catchlights in the eyes. 

Front Light Diagram
Using front light

I could write a whole post on catchlights and what they do for a picture but for now know that catchlights fill your subjects eyes with light and sparkle!

What to do now-

Find a window and start using front light. Set yourself up so that your subject is facing the window and your back is to the window.  Make sure you aren’t casting any shadows on your subject. And snap away. 

Turn off your Flash!!

Now that you know how to find the light you don’t need the flash.  Turn it OFF!!! And never look back. 

Flash does absolutely nothing for your subjects- the light that a flash produces is hard and unforgiving. Think red-eye and very very bright in an unflattering way. Instead of using flash, move your subject closer to the light sources (ie a window). Light changes throughout the day making each room in your house have different light. In my post Finding the Light I talk about how to observe the light in your home to determine the best spots to take pictures in. 

What to do now-

It is very simple, TURN OFF YOUR FLASH!! Whether you are using a fancy DSLR or just your phone turn it off and don’t think about it again. 

Clear the Clutter

Once you have figured out the light take a minute to look in your viewfinder and see the scene. What is there? What is in your frame?  Clear away anything in the background or the foreground that doesn’t help tell the story.

If you can’t move the distracting object from the background consider moving your position. Can you shoot from a different angle to crop out the distracting element in the background. Try to shoot from 3 different angles, you can decide later when you are editing which one you like best. 

You can also change your focal length.  If you are using a zoom lens just zoom in closer or if you have a prime lens or your phone walk closer to your subject. Getting your subject to “fill the frame” will remove the distractions from the background and will make it so that you have a clear subject for your picture. 

Fill the Frame Example

What to do now-

When you take your next picture think before you click! Take 3-4 seconds to check out the scene. Is there anything that is distracting in the background or foreground and taking away from your focal point? If I am afraid I am going to miss the shot (remember I mainly take pictures of my very active kids) I will take the shot and then remove the distractions or change my angle. That way I know I have the picture and now I can just focus on making it better. 

Watch Where You Crop

As you begin to eliminate distracting elements in the background and zoom in closer to your subjects make sure that you aren’t cutting off your subjects arms or legs in unflattering ways. 

Generally speaking you don’t want to crop an image at a joint– so fingers, wrists, toes, ankles, elbows, shoulders, and so on. This will make your subject look like they are missing that part of their body.

What to do now-

After you have checked your frame of distractions, check the edges of the frame and make sure there isn’t a missing finger or foot. If you are, move just a little so that it is included in your frame. I have to admit this is a hard one for me. 

Use the Rule of Thirds

Composition can make or break a picture. If the viewer’s eye isn’t drawn into the picture by lead lines or strong focal points our brain will deem the picture too cluttered and we will just move on. 

When first starting out I suggest using the Rule of Thirds to draw your reader into the picture

The rule of thirds is one of the most basic “rules” of composition. To use the rule of thirds, imagine that the frame is divided into nine equal sections- three sections horizontally and three sections vertically.  You should aim to have your subject fall generally along those lines.  If you are photographing a person try and have their eye be where 2 of the lines intersect. 

My post on Using the Rule of Thirds goes into this rule in more detail and gives some examples on how to use it. 

What to do now-

If you are just beginning I suggest you turn on the grid feature on your camera or phone.  Every camera is different in how you can turn this feature on, check out your manual to figure it out for your camera. 

Then when you go to take your next shot try and place your subject along one of the lines, making sure your main focal point (maybe the eyes) are positioned where the lines intersect. 

Watch Your Shutter Speed

As humans we are always moving and kids are moving even faster.  Shutter Speed on your camera is what can freeze that motion.  If you are still using auto the camera is choosing the shutter speed for your picture and more often than not will choose one that is too slow causing blur in your pictures. 

To fix this learn how to take control of your camera in manual mode. Using manual mode will give you complete control over your settings, and therefore the final image that you take. 

I am not going to lie, it is hard to learn manual mode but stick with it.  Switching to Aperture Priority Mode is a great first step when considering a switch. My Aperture Priority Guide is a great place to start. 

Aperture Priority Mode Guide_ad image

What to do now-

Taking your camera off AUTO is really the only way of solving this problem, I don’t want you to feel discouraged if you aren’t ready to make the switch.

If you are on AUTO and you notice that your shutter speed is below 1/100, try to get more light into your scene- more light will allow you to use a faster shutter speed and in turn freeze motion. 

If you are in AV mode (aperture priority) and you see that your shutter speed has dropped, you can either raise your ISO or lower your F-number. Both of these options will let MORE light into your camera and allow you to have a faster shutter speed. 


Now that we know how to handle light, block out distractions, avoid cutting off fingers and toes, AND how to get in focus pictures you are READY to get out there and practice!! 

Grab a willing subject and get them to sit in front of a window. Make sure your flash is turned off, check out the frame (look for distracting items in the background and missing fingers/toes), and check your shutter speed.  Then start CLICKING!!! Don’t just stand in one spot, move around to get different angles, see what angles you prefer. Make sure to watch the light and how it falls on your subject. 

That’s it! Of course, you will want to expand your knowledge and learn everything you can to help you take great photos.  If you are ready to take some control of your camera Aperture Priority Mode is a great place to start and my Aperture Priority Guide will HELP

~Click with Love~

Deeanne

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