Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Back to School Portrait Tips

Contributor Verte Photography has more great tips for you! Read these great suggestions for taking those special back to school photos.

While I typically promote myself as the product, small business photographer, I do in fact have a TON of experience in family portraits. So when a very dear client asked me how to take her daughters back to school photos.. I was excited to share some tips to help her out!  That first day of school photo, is a right of passage photo that everyone seems to do! However, it can be a stressful morning for kids and parents alike. Many families struggle with the new schedule, early alarm clock, and stress and anxiety of the child... which we ALL remember about our first days.

Taking a child's portrait when they are stressed out - or when the parent is stressed out is NEVER a good idea. So here are some cheats, tips and suggestions on getting "back to school" stress-free.

Stressed, sun in my eyes, cranky, upset child... does it show?

 First, Fake it if you can!
I know... CHEATER you all say... "smart planning" I say! We are doing a "dress rehearsal" for our first day of Kindergarten this year. A few days prior to the "real deal" we are setting the alarm, and doing our full run all the way to the school in the morning so my daughter will know what to expect. I find she does extremely well with a little preparation and planning, so were going to include a few photos at the same time! Then, if things are out of control for the first day... we have some that we took just days prior... and really who is going to know the difference! Plus, doing it ahead of time gives you a chance to be less concerned with time and more creative!

Second, Plan Ahead
Charge batteries, empty memory cards, and put the camera with all the parts you might need on the kitchen table or next to the door just like your kids backpack! Then it's as easy as grab, shoot, and go. Easy peasy. If your going to use props like chalkboards, posters or old photos from previous years then make sure you have them painted, written, clean... whatever! Even I have been known to grab a memory card and not test it... only to find it corrupt and I left without a backup. Be sure to have a spare on hand!

Third, Put some Thought into it
Clean off the same rocking chair or couch that you have baby photos on, or shoot next to your growth chart thats been there since they could stand, holding there old lovie, or first teddy bear... do something meaningful! Think about the background, is it a blank wall... a door, your house... is the table in the background going to be clean? Maybe think of something unconventional like using chalk in the driveway to draw out a scene and take a photo of them laying down on it!  Use other props such as a chalkboard or poster for your child to hold with the grade, and what they want to be when they grow up... or what they are most looking forward to that day. If your not shooting on the "big day" you can go to the park, in front of the school, or someplace that represents your child at that time... the baseball field, an arcade... be creative!

Camera Tips
If your not super familiar with your camera, the best tip I can give you is "get out of green" that typical green square that is your go to "let the camera do the thinking for you", that mode is NOT your friend! YOU are smarter then your camera! All most all  cameras regardless of type have a green square or a "auto" camera symbol which when selected does everything for you... its commonly referred to as the PHD mode (push here dummy), what most people don't know is that there is also  a "P" program mode. A common misconception is that this is the same thing. In truth the "P" mode, lets the camera pick the best aperture, and shutter speed for you... but allows you some basic over-rides. Like commanding your flash!

Your Flash is your Friend
In most cases shooting kids, inside or out adding a flash to portraits helps. Command your flash on (check your camera manual for details) and stand roughly 5-7 feet away from your child. A flash outdoors will fill in shadows, and warm the image if your shooting in the morning light. To avoid a harsh flash shadow keep your camera horizontal, and crop vertically to frame your subject after. When your in your "P" mode you can command your flash to fire. On some camera's that means pulling the flash up, or pushing a button with what looks like a lightning bolt with an arrow on the bottom of it. On other cameras it will be found in a menu option of some kind, refer to your manual if you need to! If you find your catching a shadow on your background... here is a great tip!

Basic Posing
While the classic back to school image has the child backed up next to the door, I am all about giving you the opportunity to create a special moment. We have already talked about giving your child a prop, or shooting at a unique location and this will by default set you apart. However, here are a couple of posing tips to help you even more. Do something with your kids hands, tuck one in a pocket, set them on their hips, have them hold something or lean on something, any of these are good options to hanging hand at the side. Place their feet. Rather then just standing straight on, have them place one foot straight and the other turned out! In fact, having them turn slightly so their shoulders are not square to the camera will improve your image drastically!

Straight shot.

leaning on column, arms crossed.

 Adjust your perspective.
Ever notice your family photography kneeling or crawling or using a ladder to change their height? By doing these common tricks the photographer is changing their perspective! By doing this you change the overall feel of the image :) Try several, since you have time and see what you like the best!

Last - RELAX
I have been known to send parents out of the studio because they are stressing out there kids. If your stressed out - so will your child be - the bigger deal you make out of this the less interested your child will be in doing it! Making it fun, and creating a memory with your child is MUCH more important then capturing the perfectly posed, and exposed  image. RELAX and create a memory not a photo!

Don't get upset if it's not the perfect smile, it's your kid! Your memories, and sometimes that smirk is a lot more showing of their personality then the "say cheese" smile. 

Read more of Verte Photography's great posts on their blog, and view the beautiful portfolio here.

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