Mama (with a camera) Monday, part I | huntsville children’s photographer

Last month I had a fantastic opportunity to share with a group of moms about how to take better photographs of their children. I had a ball. I got to talk about photography and show off pictures of my own kiddos. Who wouldn’t love that?!

It was so much fun and got such positive feedback that I thought I’d share the same info as a series here on this blog. I plan to post every Monday(ish) for the next 13(ish) weeks with the end goal of helping you, my readers, take better photographs of your own kiddos. This information is not geared toward professional photographers or budding professionals. If that’s where you find yourself then you’ll find this info to be old hat. But if you’re a mom (or dad) with a nice (or not so nice) camera, wondering how in the heck to make it work for you then this might help.  So stick around. =)

This week’s lesson is simply titled, Fill the Frame.

But first, let’s establish a foundation for our lesson, and for all the lessons that will follow.

The first question you should always ask yourself when taking a photograph is “What is the story I want to tell?”

Truly, that’s what photography is about. Telling stories. And just like any good storyteller, you need to know who your audience is. When I’m taking photographs of my kiddos I have two audiences in mind. The first audience is made up of two people: my husband and me in 30+ years. I want to take photographs that bring my children back to life in my mind’s eye once they have children and careers and hobbies of their own. You know, when they’re too busy to call me everyday or wipe peanut butter on my white pants. I know I’ll miss them. And the easiest way I know to bring them back is through the photographs that I take today.

The second audience that I have in mind when I’m telling stories with my camera is also made up of two people: Sarah and Ephraim. Those are my children, my munchkins, my peanut butter-wiping loves. I am fully conscious that as babies and toddlers and even kiddos they won’t remember a very large part of our time together. The mind just doesn’t work that way. They may remember a dozen or so things from their preschool years and that will be it. But that’s not enough. I want them to know their story. I want them to understand who they are and where they come from and the love that is contained in this little house where we live. I even want them to know that sometimes they’re feisty and naughty and silly…but that we love them anyway. I just want them to know.

So back to the story that I want to tell. Today’s lesson is Fill the Frame. It’s one of the most basic photography principles (particularly when photographing people) and it simply means, move up. Get closer. Put the emphasis on your subjects — not the superfluous details around them. Yes, that may mean that you have to get off the couch and actually walk toward your subject. You may even have to become part of the action. But that’s okay.

Filling the frame is the best way I know to capture a beautiful relationship between to people. Don’t be afraid to tell your subjects to snuggle or press their cheeks together. I’m often heard shouting to my kiddos “snuggle him up! closer! closer!” until they’re squeezing each other’s cheeks so hard that they end up in a fight. But the picture will be worth it. 😉

This is my daughter with our dear sweet neighbor. I want Sarah to know the adults in her life that loved her, even as a young child.

This next shot is of my nephew Brody, trying out an old-school pencil sharpener for the first time. He was pretty proud of his mad sharpening skills. And his big ol’ cowboy hat. And that’s all I cared about. The chair in the background and the clutter of my house meant nothing to the story I wanted to tell. And the fastest way I know to get rid of it is to move in and fill the frame with sweet Brody’s sweet face. (I certainly wasn’t going to clean for the picture, that’s for sure!)

Moving closer and filling the frame also puts emphasis on all the little details of your subject that are worth remembering. Like, um…this…

(sorry bud.)

This next story would have been completely lost if I’d stayed where I was standing when I noticed my daughter sucking snow off of our bushes last winter. If I had snapped this from 15 feet away you would have seen what she was doing but you wouldn’t have felt what she was doing. Moving closer and filling the frame now puts the viewer into the action. Can you feel the prickly leaf and the cool cheeks and the bite of snow? I can. And in 30 years, she can too.

Even without showing their full bodies this next image relays a tight embrace, doesn’t it? The expressions say it all and the painted fingernails and ballerina bun are just a bonus. All details I wouldn’t have captured from my spot on the couch.

So grab your camera and practice this week. Get all up in your kiddos’ grill and become part of the story. Capture the details. Celebrate the relationships.

Do it for the you in 30 years.

cathy Thank you for taking time out of your busy life to help us moms (& dads) get better pics of our kids. I really appreciate that I can’t wait to pick up my camera this week to fill my frame!

Sally C. Erin, I am so excited about this series! I have a fairly nice camera, but absolutely no skills. I’m a full-auto shooter all the way. Thanks so much for sharing your teaching points. You’ve made Mondays something to look forward to!

Jacki What a sweet post. I love your way of saying things. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

Mandy Moore Thank you Erin. What a very basic and obvious tip that I have never thought of. I just always crop the crap out of my pics in Picasa. I can’t wait to see what next week has in store. Now to get all up in my kiddos grill, as you said. Love your “real-ness”!

Marci Great post. Thank you for always be so generous and sharing with everyone.

Lorena Mora Ditto to what Mandy said I also crop the pics it seems if I get close enough the kids stop what I was trying to capture even if I’m real quiet as I’m sneaking up, I end up with the kids staring at me or saying a corny cheese. I will continue trying to get close and fill the frame.

Catherine Kraft What a great post! It brought a tear to my eye thinking of my own two girls (3 and 16 months) and thinking about how in 30 years they will have lives of their own. Thanks for the reminder of how important it is to capture memories!

Marla I love that you’re doing these! You’re such a great storyteller with both your words and your images. These are all such fantastic examples. I predict this series is going to be a HUGE hit with your readers!!

becky stanley Thank you, thank you, thank you! Looking forward to the next installment!

Kelly Ryan Erin, do you ever take the picture further back so you can crop it at the angle that you would like?

admin Hi guys! I’m SO excited that YOU’RE excited! Trust me, it’s way more fun to write for a captive audience. =)

Kelly, yes, I do occasionally end up a cropping an image for a more pleasing look…or even for a better angle. But really I never plan that ahead of time. I try to always take the picture the way I want it to end up (leaving room for cropping adjustments that come with enlargements). I try really hard to see the finished product before I click the shutter. But cropping is always an option which is awesome!

Janie Awesome post! I will be loving the next 13ish Mondays!

Jennifer Thanks so much Erin! I also crop a lot too but I like this tip! I just got a Rebel a few weeks ago and it’s my first “nice” camera so I can use all the help I can get! Can’t wait to try out this should-be-obvious-but-wasn’t-to-me tip!!!

Karen in Brookville Erin – so wonderful that you are doing this series. Will you touch on any of your gear, specifically what lenses you are using? That would be helpful for me! I am anxiously waiting next week’s post!

staci I have been waiting for these!!! Thank you! :-) I love the one of the cowboy….and B-Ro had me laughing out loud!!! All of these are great along with your awesome commentary!!! Just another confirmation why this and Pig Bear are a couple of my FAVORITE Blogs!!! You Rock!!! xo

admin I better get cracking on next week’s post…looks like you guys aren’t going to let me forget! 😉

Karen, this series will be fairly light on the technical details since it’s geared toward parents BUT the last few weeks will cover the components of the photographic triangle (aperture, shutter speed, iso). I won’t specifically talk about my gear (not because it’s a secret, only b/c I won’t get that technical) so let me go ahead and tell you that my kit includes a Canon 5d Mark II, Canon 5d original (backup camera), 100mm/2.8 macro, 135mm/2.0L, 85mm/1.2L, 50mm/1.2L. Hope that helps!

ten on tuesday. » The PigBear […] is I’m doing it over here. And it’s really geared toward amateur mamas (and daddies!). First installment is hot off the presses […]

Mama (with a camera) Monday: Part II | huntsville children’s photographer » Erin Cobb Photography […] and readers take better photographs of their own children. You can find the first installment here. If you’re already familiar with lesson one I ask that you take a minute to recalibrate and […]

Mama (with a camera) Monday: Part III | huntsville children’s photographer » Erin Cobb Photography […] capture everyday moments with their kiddos. You may want to brush up on the first two entries here and here where we talked about “Filling the Frame” and “Showing the […]

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