Try It: Do it Every Year

1/320: f4.5: 20mm

My mom did not carry a camera wherever she went.  But she did bring it to the bus stop on our first day of school every year.  We love those photos.  We remark on the outfits, the big yellow station wagon, and is that my baby sister strapped into the front seat?  

First day of school photos are commonplace.  If you peek at Facebook this week, you’ll see many kids with backpacks and giddy smiles.  Does that mean you shouldn’t bother?  I don’t think so.  They are a perfect opportunity to make a series that you can look back on in 2032.  (Your kids may ask why you let them go out of the house in those clothes.)

1/80: f5.6: 20mm1/80: f3.5: 100mm1/250: f3.5: 100mm1/320: f3.2: 100mm

Try It is back! The kids are back to school and there’s a little room to breathe around here. I’ll be posting something to try every Wednesday.  If you Try It, share your photo in the Flickr group.  It’s fine if you are trying something from a previous week.  There’s no late around here.

Try It: Record a Routine

Canon 7D: 50mm f/1.4: ISO 200: 1/250 sec: f/3.2 +flashRoutines get us through the day – especially the end of the day when everyone is tired.  Everyone knows what to expect, because we do it the same way every night.  Routines are so commonplace, we hardly notice them.  We’ve done them so many times that it’s hard to believe we could forget any part of them.  But they slowly fade away, just like a baby’s chubby cheeks. Take a few minutes to get some pictures of one of these ordinary times.  Try it: record a routine.

Canon 7D: 50mm f1.4: ISO 200: 1/250 sec: f3.2 +flashAtticus and I read the same book at bedtime every night and have for a few months now.  I can recite the text.  So can he.  With the words and images so etched in my mind I don’t feel like I’ll forget any of it.  But, he’s my third child, and I’ve watched these seemingly unchanging routines change with my older children without my noticing.  What books and songs did my oldest love when she was three?  

As parents we’re good at bringing out the camera at birthdays, holidays and the first time our child walks or rides a bike.  But there are so many ordinary and beautiful moments between those big events.  Look for one of those less noticed times of your day and try it: record a routine.  Let me know how it goes.

Extra Credit: Get yourself in the picture!

Canon 7D: 50mm f1.4: ISO 200: 1/250 sec: f3.2 +flash, tripod and remote

Try It: Choose Your Focus

Canon 7D: 50 mm 1.4: ISO 200: 1/2000 sec: f/1.8

When you put your subject in a frame, you are saying, “Look at this.”  The focus you choose for a photograph is the same.  You are directing the viewer’s eyes to your subject.  But what if what you want to focus on isn’t what your camera sees as the subject?

Canon 7D: 50 mm 1.4: ISO 200: 1/2000 sec: f/1.8In the photo above, I used the camera’s automatic focus mode.  The camera looked for the closest thing to the lens with detail and focused on it.  In the top photo, I manually chose the focus point for the camera … to zero in on the child’s face, instead of the arrow on the sign that the camera liked.

Focus is very important for capturing those catchlights that you’ve been noticing too.  

Canon 7D: 50mm 1.4: ISO 400: 1/125 sec: f/2.0Here, I put Sophia in a place where her beautiful eyes would be lit up by the window light, but the camera’s automatic focus chose her hair as the subject.  

Canon 7D: 50mm 1.4: ISO 400: 1/125 sec: f/2.0 

In the photo above, I changed focusing modes to manual selection and used a focus point on her left eye.

If you don’t know how to change focusing modes on your camera, look up a tutorial online.  For my camera, I searched, “canon 7D focus modes.”  When I did this, I found my camera had several other focus modes I didn’t know about.  I’m excited to try them.  (About the tutorials: I found this one and this one useful.)

I’m also excited to see your photos in the Familiar Light: Try It Flickr group.  I’d love to see how it goes for you when you try it: choose your focus.

Try It: Look for Catchlights

The reflections in my niece’s eyes are called catchlights.  These little reflections give life to your child’s eyes in a portrait.  In studios, the lights are set up to create catchlights.  What do you do if you want to get these reflections in your own photos of your family?

Start by noticing.  Look for times in your home or outside that your child’s eyes are sparkling.  Maybe it is in the shade of your garage or near the windows in your bedroom.  The photo above was taken on the porch of the beach house we stayed in this summer.  Porches are a great place to find enough light for a photo, but not so much that your child squints or there are harsh shadows on their face.  The bright area outside the porch creates nice catchlights.

Even in a place where the light is good, just a slight change in where your child is looking or where you are standing can create or eliminate catchlights.

Once you start noticing catchlights, you’ll see them more and more.  I’ve been watching Downton Abbey.  In nearly every shot, the actors’ eyes are sparkling.  

Capturing them takes some practice, but noticing them is a good place to start.

Try it: look for catchlights. Let me know how it goes.

Try It: Find a Frame

Somtimes I have more ideas than I know what to do with.  Sometimes it’s nice if someone just tells me what to do.  Maybe your creative juices are already flowing, but if not, try it.  Find a frame. 

Last week we went to the museum when the girls had a day off. When we arrived, I said, “We need to go to the big room first.  I want to get a photo of Augusta crawling in there.”  They groaned a little, but understood.  I always want to go there.  I’ve shared this photo below before.  It’s the first one I took in the big museum room.

Finding a frame directs the attention of your eyes to the subject, just like putting something in a frame on the wall says, “Look at this.” 

The shape of the frame doesn’t have to be a square or rectangle. 

It could be people.  

This is something you can do with any camera.

Try it.  Find a frame.  Let me know how it goes.

Try It: Show Some Emotion

You don’t have to be around kids very long to realize how much of the day is not spent smiling.

But listen to us, “Hey honey! Smile!”  It doesn’t take long before they anticipate your prompt, look up at you “smiling,” and hope then you leave them to their business.  

What if we didn’t ask for smiles?

What if we even tried to capture a moment filled with sadness? 

This particular moment of sadness was short lived.  Most of them are with small children.  Tears are frequent but pass like a summer storm.  The time on the photo above is 11:47 AM.  At 11:49, he was all better.

This week, look for moments that are full of emotion. If you are around children, there will be many.  If they need you to talk to them and give them a hug, put down your camera.  But if it can wait a second, take a picture.

Try It: Show Some Emotion.

Share your photos here.

This is the song that plays in my head when I think about this… (You have to have Spotify to hear this. It’s super cool and free.)