A Mum's Guide To Taking Better Photos: Capturing The Moment
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A Mum’s Guide To Taking Better Photos: Capturing The Moment

Taking photos: us mum’s are always at it – snapping away at every little thing our babies do in the hope of preserving each precious moment forever. How frustrating is it to look at them and realising they’re blurry or too bright or just not how you imagined? It’s disappointing to say the least (we’ve all been there).

Improving your photography is easier than you think and over the next few months I’ll be putting together a series of blog posts with some tips and inside info which will improve quickly giving you the confidence to control your camera (whether it’s your phone or a snazzy DSLR) instead of it controlling you! x

1. The Camera Doesn’t Maketh The Photographer

So many of my customers come to me and ask “so which camera do you use” and of course I tell them the make and model of my DSLR but in most cases I’d say it’s not what you use it’s how you use it. You simply cannot improve your photography by spending thousands on professional equipment before you understand the fundamentals of photography.

Even though I own an all signing all dancing camera, on a day to day basis I end up taking most of the photos of my daughter on my mobile phone. Now I did choose my phone based on its camera BUT I really do believe that the best camera is the one that’s at arm’s length. If you’re running upstairs to get your “posh” camera out chances are you’ve missed the moment you were so desperate to capture. I’m not saying that having a high quality camera isn’t worth the investment I’m just saying that you have the potential to take an awesome photograph on ANY camera.

2. Use Fast Shutter Speed To Stop Blurring

Us mums know children don’t stay still, in fact even when they’re staying still they’re wriggling! To avoid getting blurry action shots I would recommend using a shutter speed no slower than 1/400 – if you can go faster without the ISO causing too much “noise” (the grainy look to the image) then do it!

What’s Shutter Speed?

A digital photographic image is formed by light entering the camera through the lens. The amount of light is controlled by two factors: Aperture and Shutter Speed. Shutter speed is the length of time the shutter opens to let light in (measured in fractions of a second). The Aperture is the size of the hole in the lens (measured in f numbers).

Both shutter speed and aperture are dependent on each other to get the correct exposure. In low light you need to let more light into the camera and in bright light you need less. A slower shutter speed or a larger aperture will allow more light into the camera whereas a faster shutter speed or smaller aperture will allow less light in. It’s important to note that large apertures have smaller numbers and vice versa (confusing I know!). Wider apertures make the subject you’re shooting look sharp and the background softer.

If you adjust your aperture letting more light into the camera you’ll need to use a faster shutter speed to compensate. Most digital cameras (including mobile phone cameras) will have settings that allow you to change the shutter speed either manually or as part of set “modes”. Look in the settings or mode menus. Automatic modes like Portrait will use a wider aperture like f2.8 (allowing more light in). Sports modes will favour a faster shutter speed to freeze the moment. Landscape modes will favour a smaller aperture like f11 (to make the image pin sharp from foreground to background) and will likely need a tripod to avoid camera shake (the blurriness!).

What’s ISO?

So the shutter and aperture are controlling how much light enters the camera and the ISO or Film Speed is the camera’s sensitivity to the light. A slow ISO (ie 100) needs far less light for an image to be formed than a fast one (ie 3400). Making it so you can still keep your shutter speed faster but your images will look grainier.

Although digital cameras don’t use film, the same principle applies. In very basic terms: film is a piece of thin plastic with thousands of tiny light reactive crystals on it. When they are exposed to light they react and burn into the film creating a negative image.

The slower the ISO, the smaller in size and greater the number of tiny light reactive crystals present on the film. The faster the ISO, the bigger the crystals and the smaller the number. In some old fashioned black and white photographs you’ll notice they look grainy, that’s because the photographer used a film with a fast ISO.

I will go more in depth about shutter speed, aperture and ISO as well as other fundamental camera settings throughout the rest of this series of blogs.

Where To Find ISO:

On most cameras this will be set to automatic. You will notice by choosing a mode with a faster shutter speed the ISO will go up to compensate. Wherever possible try to manually control your ISO keeping it on as low number as possible to get the least grainiest images possible. You’ll find in in your settings on the back of your camera or in the settings of your camera app.

3. Use “Burst” Mode To Catch The Action

Rapid fire/ continuous shooting / burst – there’s lots of names for it but it’s a feature that most phones and cameras will have. It means the camera takes several images in quick succession so you can be surer of capturing that special moment instead of just taking one at a time a few seconds apart. Press the shutter just before the action happens to avoid the delay in shooting that some cameras have.

Where To Find “Burst” Mode:

iPhone – Burst mode can be accessed by holding your finger on the shutter button

Samsung phone – use the “mode” button to select continuous shot

Nikon – Choose CH (multiple shots at high speed) or CL (multiple shots at low speed) on the main dial on the top of your camera

Canon – usually found in the same menu as the self-timer

Other camera’s – look for the symbol or try using “Sports” mode. It may be listed as “Burst” “Continuous” “Rapid Fire”

If you still can’t find it on your device, try googling “continuous shooting” followed by the name of your device.

4. Get The Kids Talking

Avoid the awkward “I don’t want a pic” face by asking them a question and raising the camera when they start to respond. Saying cheese is something that photographers hear and cringe, it doesn’t result in pretty smiles more like silly faces with overstretched grins. You can talk to them about their favourite things, what they did today, something they’re excited about or playing boo behind the camera works well for toddlers, babies and pre-schoolers.

5. Seize The Authentic Moment

You don’t have to have smiles for the perfect picture – try discreetly taking pics while your child is consumed in play. This will also give you some time to think about how you’d like to compose your photo and which settings will be best for the situation.

Don’t miss the next installment of “A Mum’s Guide To Better Photos” will be about improving your composition and how to make the most out of what’s in front of you.

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