STOP! Don’t Shoot! (Until after you’ve read this….)

YIPPIEEEE!!! It’s time for our first featured guest!!! Today we have words of wisdom from my favorite photographer, Jen Gentry of Mesmerizing Moments. She is sharing some tips and tricks for taking great pics of your kids… JUST in time for 4th of July! Read on, then break out those cameras and capture some fun summer memories!

Hi blog readers!

I was thrilled when Tara was asked to do a blog post with photo tips for moms, so thank you so much for having me!

I’m going to run through a few boring things first, only one or two, but I promise the rest will be fun, so if you can bare with me through the necessity, you’ll be rewarded in the end!  Not only with new knowledge on that fabulous camera you have forked up so much dough for, but with great photos that will grace the walls of your hallway (and fb page) thanks to the few minutes you gave me for the boring lecture. 🙂

I want to talk for a few minutes about focus, auto focus, but focus points as well.  We all know what focus is, and it’s pretty obvious and upsetting when we miss it, so I want to tell you a little bit about how it works, and ways to nail it every time!  It might sound simple to some readers, you might be past that problem, but believe it or not, there is more to it than one would think, and something as simple as getting your focus can be difficult.  I recommend using auto focus with your camera.  The technology in your camera and lenses is amazing, and with kids your camera will get that focus a lot faster than you think, so enjoy that technology and don’t worry about twisting that focus ring!

Now most people think that’s it, awesome, next!  Right?  Well, there’s a little more to it, and that is what I wanted to talk about.  Focus points.  All SLR’s have them and more and more now days, Point & Shoot cameras even have them.  Being able to change them is another beauty of an SLR, so if you own a Point & Shoot camera you’ll need to look through your manual to find out if you can change them, and if you can, perfect!  Every camera is different, but you should have at least 5 points to choose from.  If you do not know how to change through these, please read through your manual to find out how, you’ll need to know!  This is something so simple and small, but having your camera set to “all points” can ruin a photo quicker than any other camera setting.  If you’re not sure what I mean when I say focus points, I am talking about those little boxes that you see light up when you are looking through the viewfinder and focusing, they look something like this …

Now, here is how they can easily mess up a photo when you have it set to all.  The camera will choose for you, whichever point it wants to focus on, and while cameras are smart, the camera cannot read your mind, so telling it where you want the focus is the only way around it messing up.  So, excuse my sloppy made focus points here, but what if you wanted your baby off to the side, but your camera chose a focus point that was off to the other side, on the background?  Say it chose this red one here because there was a bright leaf on the ground or something –


That would have ruined my photo, right?  That leaf would have been the focus point, and the baby here would have been blurry.  I recommend learning how to change your focus points from your particular camera’s manual, and then choosing one focus point, like the center one, and then change it as you see fit for different composition.  But as long as you get your camera off “all focus points” you’ll be good to go!  Placing the focus point you are using is entirely up to you.  If you are taking a photo with a person, I recommend placing that point on their eye closest to the camera, but like I said, that is entirely an artistic option, so play around with it, and enjoy the awesomeness that is digital, you’re not wasting a thing by practicing!

Now the fun stuff right?  haha  I did promise, and if you’re still here, you’ve stuck by me, and earned it!  You’ve got the focusing down, now play around, and have fun!  The best part of capturing your kids, is capturing it all, the little things, the day to day, the things that make your kids who they are, and telling your story with a photo.  So, enjoy it, and keep these simple tips in mind as you play.

– Get down on their level!  If you’re reading this, you are most likely shooting kids 90% of the time, if not more, so this is a big one, and please please remember it!  Get down on their level!  I have shot many many times, more than I can count, from my belly on the ground, but it truly makes a huge difference, so I know it is worth getting my shirt dirty. It can be washed, the shot however cannot always be re-done!  Getting the camera down to their height should be your #1 priority. So get down there with the kiddos, laugh, and have a great time!

– Get in closer … CLOSER!  This is a great way to make your subject pop, and create a great portrait, when the shot before it was just a snapshot, due to background clutter.  When you are super close you catch every little feature of your cutie too, which is always nice to have!  I love close up shots, they are always different and fun, so don’t be afraid to cut off the top of a head here and there 🙂

– Try new angles, every chance you get!  Squat down, lean over, look down at your subject, etc…  Once you have the shot you want, take an extra 5 minutes to try and get different photos, sometimes doing this will give you an even better shot, and these also make great photos for storyboards and scrapbook pages, because they tell a story.  Here is an example of 2 photos that were taken only seconds apart from each other, and nothing changed with the baby.  I didn’t even move him an inch!  I just stood up and shot him from above after I had gotten the first shot, which is the one mom had asked for.

You can see by simply moving the camera, the photos are completely different.  I really want you to work on this, once again, the beauty of digital!  Get your shot then take some extra time to try something you have never done before, you’ll love it, I promise!

– Simplify!  Clothing, hair, location, clutter, props, the whole works!  Having a lot of things in your photos can be so distracting, the fan favorites are always the simple images.  These are the ones people remember the longest, comment on the most, and the ones grandparents want copies of.  So if you want to create one of those images for the wall, just remember to simplify!  Choose a location that is monochromatic, some place with little to no contrast, somewhere where your subject will pop!  These places tend to look boring on their own, but that makes sense right?  Then your child will be the wow factor!  They are all over your home.  When you want to take some special photos of little man in the bath, just clear away all the candles.  Of you want photos of your daughter playing the playroom with a special toy, just take a few minutes to clear clutter behind where she will be.  It’s a very small step for an end result you will love!

If you take away anything from reading through this I want it to be “have fun”  Remember not to ask your kids to smile, let them be themselves, and persuade them to smile naturally the best you can.  With my little man, when he was learning to count I would count with him from behind the camera, 1 would be spoken with a silly accent, 2 with a loud bing noise, 3 in a quiet stutter, and so on, it would crack him up every time!  Every family has little fun silly things they do, so know what yours are, and use them to your advantage when you want to capture that cute little grin 🙂  You can always find me laughing behind the camera, and that is why I am so passionate about what I do, and truly enjoy it.  I hope you’ve learned something new, and are excited to pull out your camera again … Happy Shooting!



Tara’s Note: Jen is the owner of Mesmerizing Moments Photography. Check out her “Simply Us” sessions here. Her pictures are gorgeous!! She also offers awesome online “Momtog photo classes” where you can learn how to take pictures like a pro! Check it out here! Thank you so much Jen for sharing this wisdom with us! I think of you every time I am laying on the floor snapping pics of the baby! 🙂


Tara is a stay at home mom to two sons. She is a lover of family, friends, food and laughter. Her life is a roller coaster ride full of hilarity, diapers, exercise and fun.

You may also like...

3 Responses

  1. Kelly says:

    loved the tips Jen! You inspired me for MY guest post 🙂

  2. Amy says:

    Great photo tips! Thanks so you and Jen for sharing.

  1. July 5, 2011

    […] reading Jen’s post about taking pictures I was totally inspired!  If you haven’t read it yet, go here, but come back because I have a techie tip to go along with all those awesome photographs you are […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *