Baby Portrait Photography

Newborns

Babies at this age are not active (other than being a little squirmy), so it is a good idea to focus on close ups. Don’t limit yourself to just the face, but make sure to get shots of the feet, hands, ears, etc. These make a great collage and are beautiful as stand-alone pictures, too. Also, use the baby’s mom and/or dad as a prop! A newborn resting in the arms of a parent makes for a beautiful portrait, even if the face of the parent isn’t showing.

Older babies

Once babies get more active, you have the opportunity to capture some great expressions and smiles. Usually, mom or dad knows exactly what will make the baby smile. Let them stand behind you to make that special funny face or noise. Another idea is to let mom or dad be close enough to tickle baby, then quickly move their hand out of the frame for you to take the shot. You will have to be quick and ready at all times! For this reason I never use a tripod when photographing children. I get down on the floor with them and hand-hold my camera.

Toddlers

Toddlers can be the trickiest of all to photograph, but also the most photogenic! Toddlers have the most angelic faces and beautiful, genuine expressions. Have some child-sized furniture on hand. Toddlers love little tables and chairs that are “just their size.” Other props such as rocking horses are good (just make sure they are safe and sturdy) because they allow the child to play while staying in one spot. Using games such as peek-a-boo or telling the child to blow a feather off of your head are good ways to get smiles (just be ready to quickly press the shutter!). If possible, get the toddler outside and capture some natural shots of them at play. After all, that’s what they do best!

Make sure to be patient and allow enough time when photographing babies and toddlers. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • The room should be comfortably on the warm side, especially if you are doing any shots of the baby without clothes or just a diaper.
  • Allow for frequent breaks for the baby to rest, eat, or just play
  • Clothing changes are okay, but limit them to just 2 or 3… most babies get fussy if their clothes are changed
  • Don’t force it. If the baby is crying, just let mom or dad cuddle them and take a break from shooting
  • Leave the baby on the floor. Tables are dangerous…don’t take any chances on the baby falling. If the floor is too hard, place some padding underneath your background (such as a carpet pad or soft blanket)
  • An infant car seat makes a great place for baby to sit/lay for their portrait. Purchase some nice fabric (I like the silky, gauzy or tulle type fabric for a dreamy effect – a fuzzy blanket is good, too) to cover the car seat so that it won’t show
  • Keep toys on hand for babies of all ages. Things that light up and make noise are best (and don’t forget the power of bubbles!)
  • Don’t pick up any baby or child without the consent of the parents!!! It is better to instruct the parents on how you want the baby placed and let them do it
  • Always get a model release. You never know when you’ll want to use one of the images in your advertising!
  • Don’t be afraid to engage the baby by playing and being silly!

Pinhole Photography

At its simplest, a pinhole camera is just a light tight cardboard box with a piece of aluminium pie dish containing a pinhole to expose the film or photographic paper.

Of course you need to design a shutter, (your thumb will do), some way to hold the film in place and a system to seal up the opening where you put the film in the pinhole camera.

There is no viewfinder; you just point the pinhole camera in the right direction. You can draw some lines on top of the camera to indicate the field of view.

Exposure times for pinhole photography are usually measured in minutes.

Work out your exposure by the hit and miss method, also known as exposure determination by experimentation. This is where you say “Ooooh. I reckon about two minutes.” Then if it turns out ok, well and good. But if it’s not right, you either double it or halve it for the next exposure, depending on your assessment. Nothing wrong with that method for pinhole photography.

Let’s say you’re using 4″x5″ photographic paper. The diagonal of your paper is about 160mm. If you make the distance from the pinhole to the paper about 50mm to 80mm this will be ok. Length of about half the diagonal of the film. You could make the length 20mm to 50mm giving quite a wide angle. There’s nothing to stop you building your pinhole camera around a four foot length of drainpipe giving you a 1200mm telephoto pinhole camera, except that the exposure time might be in the order of several hours or all day.

My best pinhole cameras have used 8″x10″ film and have a length of 50mm to 70mm. Everything is in focus from 250mm to infinity. Angle of view is around 135 degrees.The light runs off at the edges of the image.

Note: 100mm = about 4″

There is much more technical stuff that can be studied but that’s all you really need to know to get started. So empty the breakfast cerial packet and build a pinhole camera.

You can use pretty much anything light tight to make a pinhole camera: biscuit tin, breakfast cerial packet, 20 litre oil drum, golden syrup tin, jam tin, match box, black ice cream container etc. etc. Would you believe you can even use your mouth?

Yes, in the darkroom put a short piece of 35mm film in your mouth and close it. Go outside and press the aluminium with the pinhole firmly against your lips, then open your lips for about 10 seconds keeping your head still. Reverse the procedure. You can work out the rest for yourself.

Consider whether it will be better/easier to use the end or side of your tin/box.

If you use a jam tin you can use alfoil and a rubber band for a lid.

Use black paint inside a shiny tin if you have some handy.

Invent a shutter. Black plastic and masking tape will do.

If you decide on a jam tin or golden syrup tin with the pinhole in the side, consider using a baffle that springs tight against the sides of the tin to fasten your film too. A piece of plastic milk bottle will do.

Handy items to have around are: breakfast cerial packet, masking tape, blue tack, plastic milk bottles, rubber bands, alfoil, scissors, knife, glue.

Your pinhole camera will give a negative image on your photographic paper. In this modern, computer age it will be possible to scan, change to a positive and computer print.

An SLR camera can be used for a pinhole camera simply by removing the lens and attaching a pinhole with black sticky tape.

If you are making a pinhole, look for the smallest needle in the set.

It’s important to have a smooth, burr free pinhole for the sharpest possible image. Ideally, push the tapered section of the needle through in several stages, gently removing the burr with fine wet and dry paper between actions. Rest the foil on cardboard as you push the needle through so you don’t stretch the foil.

Retake Photo

You could retake the photo. Find the same location and similar subject and add something more to it – the particulars of what you add is up to your own inspirational abilities, of course. But, you might want to add a variation on the viewpoint. Or perhaps, compose the subject a bit differently. Or even use warm up filters, different lenses or different lighting.

You could change the background to reduce clutter or unsightly objects. Or maybe add something that wasn’t there previously – like another person or part of the landscape. The choices are endless.

Having taken the first photo, it can sometimes give you inspiration. When you look at your final image, you may feel disappointed that it didn’t turn out as you had intended. Returning to retake the image can pay dividends. And it’s a great learning experience as well. There is hardly nothing more satisfying in photography than producing the perfect image.

And this is where keeping all those poor images can reap rewards. If you don’t trash anything then you can return to the subject at a later date for an even better image.

So, if you are a bit disappointed with some of your images – don’t despair. Plan to retake.

Enhancing Photos in Photoshop

Photoshop is the same photo editing software program being used by professionals in the entertainment industry to make movie stars look younger, slimmer and better. They have been doing it for years and now you can achieve the same results with a little training and practice using Photoshop for some of these same photo enhancements.

You can learn to make amazing enhancements to any photograph using the tools and functions available in Photoshop. The following are just a few of the improvements you can make to people pictures.

  • Whiten stained teeth
  • Remove unsightly scars
  • Smooth age wrinkles
  • Clear up acne
  • Remove blemishes
  • Double chin removal
  • Fill in bald spots by adding hair
  • Open closed eyes
  • Remove tattoos
  • Hide body piercings
  • Change eye color

With Photoshop you can easily make yourself or anyone look better. You can even change the colors of the clothing people are wearing. You will be amazed by the results you can achieve with Photoshop. You will not only be able to improve the appearance of people but you will be able to completely remove people from the photograph, add people from other photos or change the background.

Master these Photoshop techniques and you will be in demand for photo editing and graphic design projects. People with these types of skills are in needed for photo retouching, web design work, logo design, advertising, and more. Not only can you have fun touching up your own photos but you could start a business doing photo enhancements.

Creating Portraits

A somber, serious mood is enhanced by dark background tones, contemplative expressions, loose low-toned clothing, and deep, but open shadows. A happy, carefree atmosphere is set more convincingly with light, airy background tones, piquant expressions, pastel casual clothing and soft, ubiquitous lighting.

Props should be kept to a minimum. Allowable is anything which will support the mood and which will not detract from the main subject. A high key portrait can be enhanced with a white wicker chair, a loose white flower arrangement out of focus in the background or a high-keyed landscape judiciously placed off center, blending with the other background tones. A large, dark sculptured bowl of red apples, a black poodle, or a dark-toned piece of furniture in the background would contrast too sharply with the generally light toned subject and background. Attention diverted to these items due to their strong intrusion in the composition is lost to the main subject and detracts from the ambiance.

Attention should be paid to the lines created by the subject and other components in the composition. Lines leading strongly out of the picture should be avoided. Rather use curves to bring the eye back to the main subject. Moveable items in the composition can be place to complete gap in a leading line so as to facilitate the eye in its movement around the work. Invisible paths of light can be created with the use of similar colors, a repeated pattern or item, or the play of light and shadow along an edge. Where possible choose components with care, preferring meaningful items which play a part in the life of the subject, rather than an object chosen solely for its shape and color. For instance, if the subject is a potter, choose an attractive urn instead of, say, an antique doll which has no place in the subject’s interests.

The light that falls on the subject can be used to support the mood. Natural window light suggests an old master genre and the sharp golden rays of a small source of light created the highlights necessary for a mood with a positive spin. Any available light can create a beautiful portrait if the direction and ration of light to dark is controlled. Reflectors add light to a dark, shadowed area, scrims or shades can tone down a too-strong source. The direction or the main source of light should enhance the features by sending light into the eyes, outlining the jaw and cheek, and finding the proper areas to highlight. Additional highlights are supplied with back or side-back rays of light, as long as their effect does not invent unwanted facial highlights or block up needed detail. Pure rim lighting is fairly safe if used with care.

Blunders of the Photographic Industry

Seeing the mistakes of the disc camera, plans were made to introduce a new format. The original idea was to combine the convenience of cartridge loading and the quality of 35mm. This time, the entire photographic industry was involved in creating the standard. Perhaps this is where it went wrong. A case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. Great new features were promised. The choice of multiple formats in one camera and being able to switch a roll of film mid-roll for another film with a different speed and then return, sounded like a dream come true. These are things a true enthusiast would have use for.

While the original plan sounded like they were planning for 35mm size negative, and in fact, APS is the same width as 35mm, the final formats chosen were closer to 110 in negative size. Had the APS formats decided on, been larger and been able to match 35mm in quality, I think things would have been much different. As it was, APS, like the disc camera before, was competing with the 110 camera. With an image size nearly the same as the 110 no advanced amateur to be satisfied with the quality. While APS allowed a slightly smaller camera, APS cameras were still nearly as large as a 35mm point-and-shoot. All the great features we had been promised, were the type of things and advanced amateur would have use for. Cameras with those features were comparable in price to quality 35mm cameras, which had a better image quality. Also the difficulty in working with the APS cartridge required film labs to install special equipment to handle it. Many labs decided that it wasn’t worth the cost. That meant people who bought APS cameras had a hard time getting their film processed.

First of all, there’s no such thing as self adjusting film. There was a groan from the audience at the trade show I was at, when the Kodak representative introduced this film as self adjusting. This 800 ISO film, like other high-speed films, has a wide latitude. This means that it can withstand under and over exposure better than many slower films. This is a trait that many high-speed films have. However, the film does not self adjust to low light levels or bright light levels. That is something handled by the camera. Perhaps it was Kodak’s attempt to counter Polaroid’s One Film.

Well under some circumstances an 800 ISO film does have some advantages, under others it is a terrible choice. 800 ISO film will expand the flash range, and it will increase shutter speed enabling sharper pictures. This will also allow for smaller apertures and more depth of field which will mean more of the picture will be in focus. But under bright conditions many cameras simply cannot adjust to keep the picture within exposure range. Pictures taken in bright snow or at the beach simply overexpose leading to extremely dark negatives. This goes beyond the latitude of the film and makes negatives that are difficult if not impossible to get a good print from. Also, high-speed films, including this 800 ISO film are also far grainier than low-speed films. I can’t think of a worse film to use for taking close-up picture of a newborn baby. Yet, it has been the unfortunate choice of many a proud father.

Not that digital photography is a blunder. There is no doubt that digital photography is the future of photography. In fact, I feel that you are unwise to purchase a film camera at this point for almost any purpose. The blunder came in claiming digital cameras had film quality long before they really did.

The first digital cameras were of extremely low resolution, and still the manufacturers claimed they were photo-quality. Unfortunately, what looks nice on a computer screen sometimes looks terrible in a print. Early consumer digital point-and-shoot cameras took pictures that were really no better than the disc camera. Even now, many digital cameras available have no better resolution than the APS camera. Also, early digital cameras had a sluggish response, which frustrated those who bought them. Many people who spent large amounts of money on early digital cameras were so dissatisfied, that they have yet to replace those digital cameras with newer, higher quality than models, and it kept using their film cameras.

Digital Artist On A Budget

Icon Constructor

Icon Constructor converts BMP, JPEG, GIF, PNG, PSD, TGA and TIFF formats into Windows icons. You can find many images on the Internet and convert them to icons for use on your Windows desktop, in applications and much more. The program supports Windows XP icons in 32-bit color depth with an alpha channel; now you can create semi-transparent XP icons easily. With just a few clicks, any image you find on the Internet or create in a paint program can be turned into an icon. Plus, proprietary FriendlyLINK technology allows creating icons using pictures of your friends and family.

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Pics Print

Pics Print has a built-in photo editor that lets you crop, resize, rotate, and color-correct images. Users who enjoy adding artistic effects to their photos can blur, emboss, and sharpen the images, add borders, and produce an unlimited variety of creative touches. There is even a red-eye remover that takes out the red circles that the camera’s flash often adds to portraits.

You can create instant greeting cards with Pics Print’s card wizard. Simply select an image, add text, and print. Using the built-in templates, or templates which you create yourself, you can create family album pages, sales sheets, and any kind of printed pages in just a few minutes. In addition to that, Pics Print lets you create huge posters that are up to 20 sheets tall and 20 sheets wide.

Free Download: http://www.deprice.com/picsprint.htm

Acoustica CD/DVD Label Maker

Why let the record studio artists have all the fun? Create your own CD/DVD labels and jewel cases with the ultimate in ease and flexibility. If you have CDs or DVDs with no cover and are sick of guessing what songs are on what CD, get the label maker that automatically puts your track list on your CD/DVD label.

Acoustica CD/DVD Label Maker comes with a chock full of custom art for holidays and special occasions like Christmas, Valentines, birthdays, vacations, weddings and more. You don’t need to be a real artist or designer to user the software.

The software automatically imports your track information from Acoustica MP3 CD Burner, iTunes, WinAmp, Easy CD Creator or any other popular play list or previously burnt CD. Print the cover on standard paper or stock sticker labels and jewel case templates for more professinal-looking results.

Free Download: http://www.deprice.com/acousticacddvdlabelmaker.htm

Stock Photography Lesson

RAW files are the camera’s data from the three sensors RGB (Red, Green, Blue) recorded as independently editable data. As the three color channels are not combined you have much easier editing capabilities over exposure, contrast, saturation and white balance, than if you had shot in JPEG. Shooting in RAW will also allow you to interpolate your images in Camera RAW allowing you to escape the tedious process of having to upsize using Genuine Fractals. (See appendix: Genuine Fractals). All professional photographers shooting with digital cameras shoot in RAW.

JPEG is a file format used by most point and shoot cameras that combines the three color channels and compresses the image using a mathematical algorithm. Most point and shoot camera only allow JPEG files. There is a certain loss of image quality with JPEG compression and it becomes more noticeable the higher the compression ratio. Loss of image quality is a bad thing, which is why we always shoot in RAW.

TIFF files are the same as JPEG except that they do not compress the image and therefore have much larger file sizes. There is no loss of image quality with TIFF files. Images are usually sent into the agency in TIFF format.

Beware of getting dust in your camera. Today’s DSLR cameras have one problem that the manufacturers are working to eliminate. Dust getting onto the sensor. When this happens you get blemishes or spots on your photos that show up especially in the areas of same color like the sky or someones face. They are very unsightly and must be removed in an image editing program like Photoshop, before you submit to the Stock agency. If you are still shooting film and want to scan your negatives, make sure you scan them at double the resolution you want to save them as. If you want a 50MB file you will have to scan the slide at 100MB to achieve a desirable resolution. Drum scans from a professional output lab are best, but some fine desktop scanners are also available. The Nikon DS4000 is a good choice, the Minolta Dimage 5400 is a better one. These scanners come quipped with DIGITAL ICE a software program that uses the data from the sensors to see where the dust and scratches are and to then correct the image, or in other words, it does all the photoshopping for you.

When scanning slides make sure you have DIGITAL ICE or you will have to spend hours touching up. Digital noise is the effect of color patterns and texture that show up in images that are underexposed or shot on a high ISO (film speed). Basically these unsightly patterns and textures, that show up in the darker areas of images not badly affected or in all areas of more severe images, are caused by the over sensitivity of the sensor. On long exposures the light enters the camera, hits the sensor then small amounts of it are bounced back onto the back end of the lens to then be reflected back onto the sensor, creating color and noise patterns and textures. With high ISO settings the same principle applies except it is magnified into a shorter time by the high sensitivity of the sensor. On a slow ISO of 100 with a proper exposure the sensor only picks up the direct light from the subject. Underexposed images can be brought up to the proper exposure but with very severe noise effect.

Each agency will have its own specific requirements, as you may chose to submit your images to more than one agency you will want to have the highest possible image quality as some agencies demand higher quality than others. Always aim to achieve the highest image quality with your digital camera or scans, file sizes of 50-70mb are standard for most agencies.

Selling stock photography on-line requires that you have a high resolution camera that has at least 6 megapixels. Cameras with lower resolution create images that when blown up to a large size turn to Jaggies (INSERT JAGGIES IMAGE). DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras are very popular with photography enthusiasts as they allow you to control the many camera functions such as shutter speed and lens aperture as well as the use of different lenses and accessories. They also allow you to shoot in RAW a very important feature for the serious amateur.

Two popular manufacturers of DSLR cameras are Canon and Nikon (chose one or the other, stay away from anything else). One of the best places to buy a DSLR is at Amazon.com. The Canon 400D is a very popular camera having won the prestigious TIPA award for 2005. Retailing at Amazon for $828 this camera is a steal compared to what was available just a few years ago. The 400D uses Canon’s acclaimed CMOS technology, for outstanding image quality and 10 Megapixels resolution. This camera has all the image capture power you will need for any stock agency online. It is light weight, easy to use and is full of all the features you will need to take great photographs. It can shoot in RAW or JPEG mode, we always recommend shooting in RAW. More on RAW later.

The most important part of your camera is the lens. It is the lens that gathers and focuses the light from the subject on to the sensor (film). The quality of the material the lens is made out of determines the quality of the image captured. Expensive lenses refract the light in a cleaner manner, rendering the detail in an image with the highest possible clarity. Cheep lenses tend to make images look blurred or flat. If you are starting out and want to get a great kit, buy a cheeper body such as the 400D and spend more on a decent lens. Today you can find great lenses from third party vendors such as Sigma and Vivitar that cost a fraction of what the Canon lenses cost.

As you may have gathered by now we favor Canon, not saying that Nikon is a poor choice, just that we have been using Canon forever and love them. It used to be said that Nikon was the choice of the top professional, but when they failed to switch to a digital lens mount backing the 80’s they fell behind when the advent of digital hit the market. Nikon make great cameras, Canon make slightly better ones. For entry level the 400D kicks the D40.

Shooting Stock

The business of buying and selling stock photographs online can certainly be a tricky one, as it is not always the ‘pretty picture’ that gets selected for a sale, as one learns with a bit of experience. Any beginning photographer learns from his ‘guru’ or from experience, to show the client the final image created for them , not the five or so he rejected before he was satisfied he’d captured the right effect, but this doesn’t apply to stock photography , as there is no one particular client in question. The saying goes “one man’s meat is another’s poison” and it is just as true that what one stock photography client wants will be nothing like what another is looking for, sometimes a photo YOU would have rejected is just the one someone else loves!

The beginner needs to understand the terms ‘royalty free’ and ‘royalty paid’. Just as implies, the term ‘royalty paid’ means that whenever an image sells, the photographer gets a percentage. For example, if it is sold for the use of a book or magazine publishing, the photographer gets paid a ‘royalty’ every time a book is sold. On the other hand, the term ‘royalty free’ implies that the photographer has given total rights to the publisher, for the specified usage, and gets no commission on every sale of the publishing. It is wrong to generalise that one kind of agreement is ‘better’ than the other. A royalty paid agreement may or may NOT give long term returns, whereas a royalty free image will give a high initial income. There really is no rule of thumb about this , and it is only by experience and preference that you will find out what works for you.

As a side note, it’s always a good idea to check the reputation of the publishing house when making a royalty paid agreement.

Now, some more on the nature of images suitable for stock photography. When shooting for stock sales, remember to get every possible angle and every possible lighting effect, all permutations and combinations. When offering a set of images, offer every one that you shot. Try and look from the publishers’ point of view, and understand that something as seemingly trivial as a pen or a glass of water may be required by an advertising company across the globe, who would really hate their time wasted on setting up a photoshoot specially for that. Also, remember that we live in a globalized world today, and the more diverse the people are in your photographs, the better the chances of one of them being sold.

Micro payment agencies have sprung up of late, which allow the buyer to download and use an image for several dollars, royalty free! Shocking as this may sound, photographers who market their work this way CAN make a steady income – where they lose on higher payments , they make up in number of sales. But some leading stock agencies refuse to market photographers who cater to micro payment agencies, and understandably so.

The beauty of mastering the shooting and sales of stock photography is, that they allows the photographer to live life more or less according to his or her terms, up to a point. Some pioneering stock photographers travel as they please, uploading their images to stock agencies, and getting paid online!

Photo Microstocks

Stock agencies have three major features:

  • The same picture – we are talking about a good picture or a high demand picture – could be bought thousand of times and therefore keeps paying you. Each payment may be too small to consider separately but multiplied in numerous sales they could amount to a significant income.
  • Photos might be sold worldwide. It means you could be living in Asia for example but your photo was bought by a Web-designer in Canada. Are you proud?
  • Microstocks are on-line and therefore working 24/7 – no weekends and no holidays. The effort applied only once to take a photo and to specify good keywords (there are a lot of software and Web-sites, like ArtHelpDesk.com that can help with that) will be constantly working for you.

All photos in stocks and microstocks are categorized and could be found by keywords. For example, the good way to describe a girl reading a book in a park may be – “blonde, girl, beautiful, long, legs, book, study, park, outdoor, reading, learning, student, library, pretty”. Some microstocks insist you specify at least a dozen keywords. Usually, the number of keywords is about 20 to 50. Some microstocks can help you by the list of related keywords where you can select the most relevant. Ask questions about singular and plural forms of the same keywords, as search mechanisms may differ from stock to stock.

The best way is to specify keywords in a picture itself (for example, in PhotoShop you can do it through menu File -> File Info -> Document Title, Description, Keyword). This will save you a lot of time in the case of multiple uploads.

If you are hesitating which keyword better describes your picture, try to search for similar photos and find out what others are using as keywords. You might be surprised! Again, keywords and sometimes the sequence of keywords are very important and will allow you to find your photo among thousands of others.

The most interesting question – what is the income? Well, based on my own and others’ experiences, it is possible to say that an average amateur photographer with about 100-200 photos online and about 10-20 photos added every month is able to achieve sales level between 50-300 bucks per month. More skilled photographers with a simple home studio, with about 200-300 photos online and 50-100 new photos every month can earn up to $1000. Not bad for the residual income at all! So keep going!