5 Tips for Photographers to Get In Photos with Their Families

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In the span of time between the first moment I picked up a camera and today, I have taken hundreds of thousands of photographs. When I was little, I took photos of my cousins at family gatherings. As I grew older, I took snapshots of my friends in school, my boyfriend (now husband) playing in a rock band, and my beloved dog, Brady. Once my two boys came along, the number of photographs in my collection shot off the charts, and when I started my photography business, I added thousands of photos of my clients.

Do you know what was missing from my collection? Me.

A little over two years ago, a friend of mine was killed while out for a morning jog. As I sat at her funeral and watched a slideshow of her life, I was hit with the realization that the photos she left behind were suddenly priceless artifacts that her children, family, and friends would treasure forever.

Then, in October 2013, Jodi Friedman, MCP’s owner, wrote a very personal post about being photographed. To this day, that post still stands as my favorite from this blog, and it had a very powerful influence on both how I viewed myself and how I felt about being in photos.

I had been thinking about my friend’s death and the photos she left behind for her children, and I realized that I needed to stop letting my own insecurities keep me behind the camera and out of photos, for the sake of my loved ones—especially my children. However, my attempts at getting in photos using the timer on my camera were completely exhausting me.

During our trip to Jekyll Island, Georgia last summer, I decided I would take our own family photos on the beach using that method.

Instead of the fabulous photos I envisioned, this was the best I could do:

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And although this photo represents the memory of that one time when I wore myself out completely and sweated through my dress while running back and forth between my camera and three incredibly frustrated guys, it wasn’t the beautiful photo I wanted to hang on my wall.

Fast forward to this year…

This year, when we planned our vacation to Jekyll Island, I planned a photo session with a local photographer while there. For the first time since launching my own photography business, I was a photography client.  In addition to photos of my kiddos playing on the beach that I took myself, this year I got incredible photos of my entire family.

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As a result of my fabulous experience being in front of the camera for a change, there are a few lessons I learned that I would love to share. Here are some tips to help you get in photos and fall in love with them.

1. Hire a Photographer

  • My experience of trying to take my own family beach photos last summer was exhausting and frustrating.  I’m glad that I have plenty of great photos of my husband and children to pass on to my boys one day, but I also want them to remember how frizzy the ocean air makes my hair and the way my nose scrunches up a little when I laugh.  Most importantly, I want them to have photographic evidence of my love for them to remind them long after I’m gone. I want my grandchildren to see the love I have for their parents and their grandfather.
  • Always being behind the camera keeps that from happening. Although there are tons of photographers who have mastered the art of the self-timer or the remote shutter release, I am not one of those photographers. If you are not either, save yourself the stress and exhaustion and hire a photographer to capture those things for you.

2. Do Your Research

  • When I first started trying to find a photographer in the Jekyll Island area, I knew I wanted a lifestyle photographer; however, no amount of searching turned up the “right” one. I found a ton of wedding photographers, several formal portrait photographers, and a few others family photographers, but none of their photos were exactly what I was personally looking for. So, I didn’t hire anyone. In fact, I decided not to have photos taken on vacation at all and started researching local photographers instead. Then, on a whim one day, I did a search for lifestyle photographers in the Jekyll Island area again. This time, the very first result of my search was a photographer named Jennifer Tacbas. I took one look at her website and fell in love.
  • This piggy-backs off “Hire a Photographer.” Don’t hire just any photographer. Do your research and hire the photographer whose work you connect with the most. If you make the decision to hire a professional to do photos for you, don’t hire anyone until you find the photographer who fits the style you want for your photos. I didn’t want formal portraits. I wanted a lifestyle photographer. Instead of hiring someone from the options available, I waited until I found the best of who was available for me, personally.

3. Communicate

  • During my very first e-mail to Jennifer, I let her know that my youngest son, Finley, is autistic. I wanted her to know that getting his attention and any sort of eye contact is next to impossible, especially in a fairly new environment like I knew any location while on vacation would be. Throughout our following conversations, I reinforced the idea that “perfect” photos with everyone smiling at the camera were important to me. I wanted authentic photos that showed our interactions as a family, which I already knew Jennifer would capture after viewing her work. I also wanted her stress level minimized. I wanted her to enjoy our session as well, and I didn’t want her to fear I would be disappointed if a “perfect” photo didn’t happen. The photos that resulted were still perfect, in every way—just a different definition of the word.
  • Be sure to make your photographer aware of any issues that might be important to you. Do you have a child who is nervous around strangers? How about a personal insecurity, such as hating your nose or smile? Or do you have an issue such as mine? Let your photographer know up front. By doing so, you can ensure that your photographer has the knowledge needed to make your session the best it can possibly be.

4. Have Fun!

  • Instead of ending our session exhausted and sweaty from running back and forth to my camera, I ended our session exhausted and sweaty from having an incredible amount of fun with my family. We played in the sand, twirled around in circles, and had tickle fights. We explored Driftwood Beach and the grounds of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, gave nose kisses, and chased crabs. In short, we had a blast.
  • If you choose to hire a photographer, a big reason for doing so is to save yourself from feeling stressed out. What does that mean? Don’t stress. Have fun. Not only will doing so produce photos that show genuine interactions, but it can also help any members of your family who might not be as excited about having family photos taken as you.

5. Love Your Photos

  • Those who love me know that I can be incredibly critical of my own appearance, which is one of the reasons I am usually happy to be behind the lens instead of in front of it. However, Jodi Friedman’s post about her experience having her own photos taken was a true eye-opener for me, so before viewing the photos from our session, I made the mental decision to love the way I looked in them. And I did. Because ultimately, my kids don’t care about my love handles. They will never notice if I have a double chin or goofy look on my face in a photo.  I shouldn’t either. I didn’t have photos taken for friends on social media (or readers of this post) who might criticize my appearance. Ultimately, I had photos taken for my sons, Gavin and Finley. So ultimately, Gavin’s and Finley’s opinions are the only ones that matter to me.
  • Whether you love or hate your appearance, make the decision to love the photos that preserve who you are. Read Jodi’s post, if you need the same inspiration that enabled me to do so.

My experience in front of the camera as a photography client provided me with precious memories, gorgeous photos that now hang on my wall, and a new perspective as a photographer. Our photographer treated us with kindness, patience, and professionalism and I can only hope I make my own clients feel the way she made us feel, both during the session and every time we look at her beautiful work.

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Get out from behind the camera for a change. If doing so means hiring someone else, hire someone whose work you love. Communicate your expectations, have fun during your session, and love yourself and the photos you are in.

Your loved ones will be glad you did.

Photos by Jennifer Tacbas included with permission from the photographer.

Lindsay Williams lives in south central Kentucky with her husband, David, and their two sons, Gavin and Finley. When she isn’t teaching high school English or spending time with her family, she owns and operates Lindsay Williams Photography, which specializes in lifestyle photography. You can check out her work on her website. You can view more work by Jennifer Tacbas on Jennifer’s website.

Oil and Water: An Abstract Photography Experiment

Do you ever get in a photography rut? While there are many ways to break out of one, I find photographing objects around the house particularly helpful.  It’s easy to do, and you can get fun results. We’ve shown you how to use plastic wrap and even a crystal ball in your photography.  Now it’s time for oil and water.

The Oil and Water Experiment

Many years back we had a challenge called Project 52.  It has since been replaced with MCP Photo a Day. One of the themes was “something in your house.”  As I walked around my house looking for the perfect object, I got an idea…  Water.  To make this idea more interested and to give it an abstract look, I grabbed some food coloring from the kitchen and baby oil from the bathroom. BINGO!

 

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Do you see where this going?

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I filled my sink with water … And then…

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Ingredients

I added a few drops of food coloring into the water and splashed in a few drops of baby oil.

The photography

Once the sink was full, I took my camera, at the time a Canon 5D MKII with 100mm macro lens attached, and went to work.

I shot in manual mode with an aperture of 2.8 on this lens. My ISO was 800 as the bathroom was not super well lit. Since there wasn’t a lot of contrast, I used manual focusing for sharp focus directly on the oil spots I wanted to emphasize. I did not use flash, though I am sure that would have made things even more interesting.  Since this water was still, versus trying to capture a moving droplet, flash wasn’t essential.

You can see the lights from my bathroom reflect in the oil droplets. To get new looks, I would also stir the oil.  To mix things up even more, I’d mix in other colors of food coloring.  Warning: a little goes a long way. Here are some of the abstract photos I took.

 

This one reminds me of lemons and limes, or maybe Sprite, 7-Up or Sierra Mist:

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This one reminds me of one of my favorite TV shows, Dexter… Could be LOVE red or blood red… Oh and does anyone see what appears to be a “pig face” smiling at me on the bottom right large droplet? Hmmm…

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And this next one, it’s all about color. Look how rich and almost metallic this one appears:

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This one reminds me of the water color of the ocean in the Caribbean. Anyone else ready for a vacation?

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Want some liquid gold? I just love this color of yellow.  By the way, the non circular shape is hard to get. You have to mess with the oil droplet and quickly snap the shot. If you are not fast, it goes back into a circular shape before you take the picture. I assume a science major could explain this better.

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Editing:

If you lack the patience of have a favorite image that you wish were a different color, there is an easy fix in Photoshop and Elements.  Just use the Color Changer action in Inspire OR use Hue/Saturation and play around with various hues.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures of my science experiment/cooking lesson/photography tutorial. If you are looking to “mix up” your photography, make sure to think outside the box and join us for our Photo a Day challenges.

 

I originally wrote a similar post for Pioneer Woman, many years ago. Since she no longer has an active photography area on her site, I wanted to make sure you had access to this post.

How to Soften Wildlife Images with Photoshop Actions

Before and After Step-by-Step Edit: How to Soften Wildlife Images with Photoshop Actions

The MCP Show and Tell Site is a place for you to share your images edited with MCP products (our Photoshop actions, Lightroom presets, textures and more).  We’ve always shared before and after Blueprints on our main blog, but now, we will sometimes share some favorites from Show and Tell to give these photographers even more exposure.  If you haven’t checked out Show and Tell yet, what are you waiting for?  You’ll learn how other photographers are using our products and see what they can do for your work.  And once you are ready, you can show off your own editing skills using MCP goodies.  You might even make new friends or gain a customer…. since you get to add your website address right on the page. Bonus!

 

Today’s Featured Image:

By: Cindy Gillespie

Studio: Impromptu Photography

Settings: ISO 2000, f/3.5, SS 1/3200

Software: Lightroom, Elements

MCP sets used: Inspire Photoshop Actions, Eye Doctor and Dentist Photoshop Actions

  • Lightroom – Culling and Basic Edits.  Double-checked the white balance and moved over to Photoshop Elements
  • Photoshop Elements – Wanted a little more focus on the Doves so added a little contrast to just the Doves then moved on to a Gradient in “normal mode” - has a touch of pink and cream set at 25% and another lighter set to “screen mode” at 50%, which took the greens down on the tree behind and brought the Dove to the foreground and helped soften the image.
  • Finished with Inspire - Custom Ball of Sun set to 25% opacity and masked off the Doves, along with the Vogue action

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Edit Faster With My 15 Seconds Per Image Lightroom Workflow

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you may know that I was just traveling and photographing wildlife and nature in Alaska.  Wildlife photography is a passion of mine (though it’s definitely just a hobby).  I am not seasoned in photographing birds or animals, but I hope to grow in that arena. When I come back from a trip with thousands of photos, it can be daunting.  I imagine weddings would be much the same way. If you want to edit faster, try this simple process.

My 15 seconds per image Lightroom workflow:

I cull my way through 1000s of nature, wildlife and personal snapshot photos from my trip, using my “15 second per image editing technique.”  Using Lightroom with my cap locks pressed, I hit P (for Pick) or X (for Exclude). The cap locks advances you to the next photo once P or X are pressed. If I know it is one I want to keep, I edit quickly using the Enlighten Lightroom presets before hitting the P key. Once I have the look I want, if there are other similar images, I save the combination temporarily as a “save a fav” preset within the set.  Then I apply it (or even just sync) with all similar images.

While I may spend 20-30 seconds on a few photos, the average time is about 15 seconds since I average in rejects and photos I synced (as those then usually just need a possible crop).

** for most vacation photos, I don’t enter Photoshop.  But for portraits, if I want to, I will star those with a number too (so maybe 3 stars or 5 stars = portrait).  Then once I am done in Lightroom, I can export and edit the starred images with Photoshop actions or hand retouching as needed.

 

Help, in exchange for the tip?

Remember how I mentioned I am not seasoned at wildlife photography???  Well, I need your help.  I loved photographing bald eagles and really want to print one for my home.  But technically speaking – and visually – I am having a hard time deciding on the strongest image.  Which of these do you feel is the strongest?  Feel free to add any thoughts or helpful CC for me in the comments too.  Thank you!

** All images below were edited with Enlighten Lightroom presets. Only the resize and copyright were added using batch processing.

All eagles in flight were taken with the Canon 5D MKIII and Canon 70-200 2.8 IS II with a 1.4x extender. Settings: ISO 800, Aperture 4.0, Speed between 1/1000 and 1/1600

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All bald eagles in the tree and nest were taken with the Canon 5D MKIII and Tamron 150-600mm at the full 600mm. Settings: ISO 1000, Aperture 6.3, Speed between 1/500 and 1/1000

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Overwhelmed yet?  Again, helpful critique is welcome.  I did not have a flash, though with a better beamer that may have helped, and I know on a few the wings are clipped, so there’s that too.  But I was happy overall with these.  And I think practicing at home with the birds in my backyard actually helped me a bit. So tell me, what is your favorite of the ones above? Thanks again.

 

Avoid Over-Editing In Photoshop With This Quick Tip

One danger when you are new to photography is over-editing.  It’s easy to get super excited when post-processing.

Opacity is certainly your friend. When using actions in Photoshop or Elements, make sure to adjust the opacity of each layer if needed. But what if you are doing manual edits like the patch tool or cloning?  If you work on duplicate layers you can adjust the opacity of the entire layer.  Another great way to control things is to “fade” them. Go under EDIT – FADE (and look for what you did as your last step). Take full control of your editing.

 

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