Capturing Birthday Memories

ribbons_raydavisWe celebrated a 6th birthday here recently and, of course, one of the aims of the day was to get some nice photographs. But how does one go about getting good birthday photos? Well, here free of charge, are ten tips for you:

1. Have a designated photographer (or two). Get someone who is not in charge of putting the candles on the cake, keeping the dog away from the kids, paying the magician, and keeping track of which present came from which child, to keep a camera in their hands and use it often during the party. If you can get two people even better. If there are specific moments you know you want shots of let your designated photographers know what they are before the party starts.

2. Start early. The party preparation can make for some great photos too, especially if the kids are helping set up or if a family member is baking the cake.

3. Get the light right. If you're having the party indoors try and arrange key moments like blowing out the candles and opening presents to be in an area with good lighting. Forward planning is the key here, set up the table and chair for the birthday child's shining cake moment before the party in area where you know there is good light.

4. Practice. If you're having the party in your own home practice taking shots inside before the party and get the settings on your camera the way you want them. Then either leave the settings as they are or write them down so you'll remember them when the time comes.

5. Shoot continuously.  Kids move fast. And pretty much constantly. This is even more true when sugar and the excitement of a party are involved. Your best bet is to put your camera in continuous shooting mode and let the memory card fill up!

6. Don't just photograph the people. The cake is an obvious feature you may also want to photograph. The set up of the party area before the kids get at it, the pile of presents, the balloons, and all sorts of other little festive details make for a great addition to the birthday photo album. Especially if it's a themed birthday party.

7. Photograph the birthday child looking their best.
That is, before the cake is smeared on their party clothes and the face paint has gotten smudged. A little while before the party starts get the child all dressed up in their party clothes and then take a photo, preferably outside, before they have a chance to get dirty and too hyper. A crown or birthday hat are also a nice touch to these kind of shots. You may also consider starting a tradition of photographing the child in the same spot each year on their birthday.

8. Get on your hands and knees
. Kids tend to be short so get down on their level to get photos of the action that include more than the tops of their heads.

9. Photograph the friends. Try and get a group shot of everyone together, let them make silly faces or wave streamers to keep it fun. These photos make good thank-you cards to send out to everyone later.

10. Let the kids have a shot. Buy some disposable cameras and let the kids have at them. You'll get some really interesting photos from a totally different perspective!

The Big Three Basics

Recently we've explained some basic equipment terms so today I thought I'd continue with the beginner's guides and introduce a few basic technical terms, starting with the Big Three:

Shutter Speed. Put in 4-year-old language this is the amount of time the shutter on your camera stays open. It is therefore the length of time the image sensor (in a digital camera) or film (in an old skool camera) is exposed to light.

Photographs are, generally, captured very quickly and so shutter speeds are measured in fractions of a second. The larger the number underneath the 1 (the denominator) the faster the shutter speed.

Moving from one shutter speed to the next halves or doubles the amount of light getting in. Slow shutter speeds can be used to introduce some blurring into a photo (e.g. a blurred background) or used with a tripod to get good night time photos.

Aperture. Again, in 4-year-old language, this is the size of the opening in the lens when you take a photograph. The larger the opening the more light that gets through the lens and "hits" the image sensor or film. Aperture is measured in f-stops .

Moving one f-stop up to the next halves the amount of light getting to the lens (this is confusing as moving up f-stops gives you a larger f number, e.g. f/2.8 to f/4, but the larger numbers correspond to a smaller aperture so therefore less light gets in at higher f-stop numbers). Moving the opposite way halves the amount of light getting through.

Amateur photographers often come across aperture first in relation to depth of field. Higher f-stops create larger depth of field.

ISO. If you're an old skool film photographer you have to buy your film with different ISO ratings on it, ranging from 100 to 1600 (many digital cameras offer 3200 as well). The rating refers to the sensitivity of the film to light. Lower ISOs produce higher quality (less noisy) images so as a general rule it's best to use the lowest ISO you can get away with. High ISOs can be used for indoor shots without a flash or to deliberately introduce noise into a photo.

So, that's it in a nutshell. The best advice for beginners is simple; take some time to play around with the different ISO, aperture, and shutter speed settings on your camera. Don't be afraid of messing up just try them out and see what happens. Get comfortable with which buttons you need to press & wheels you need to twirl to change them. Aperture, ISO, & shutter speed all work together so you need to be aware that when you change one you'll need to change the others too. Now, go play & learn!

Cameras Ready for Some Summer Splashin’

splashNow that summer is well and truly underway you may well be doing what we're doing over here; spending a lot of time at the lake, the outdoor swimming pools, and the water playgrounds. And while we're doing that my camera is getting a good, regular splashing. It's survived pretty well but a waterproof camera is really the way to go. The question is which one? Well, here's a round-up of some waterproof digital camera reviews.

Cameras for Going Off the Deep End at NYTimes.com reviews 5 waterproof cameras and ranks them from worst to best.

Waterproof Camera Group Test at Digital Photography Review looks at 7 waterproof cameras and has a handy little table to compare features.

Waterproof Camera Comparison Review at Digital Camera HQ compares 4 waterproof cameras and has full reviews for 3 of them.

Fun in the Sun with Digital: Waterproof/Tough Camera Round-up at Imaging Resource has in-depth reviews for 7 digital cameras.

If you have a waterproof digital camera let us know in the comments what you think of it!

Stop Motion Photography to Inspire

I have to admit that I am not someone blessed with much patience. I will spend an average of 8.3 seconds trying to get something to work and then get distracted and/or frustrated and move onto something else. So stop motion photography isn't exactly my strong suit but man, I wish it was! Especially after watching these two stop-motion photography videos. Keep in mind as you watch these they weren't shot as video rather they are made of thousands of still photographs.

Bathtub V from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.

Page 1 of 212
Google+