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Expert Tips From Captured Moments Photography

How should you prepare for a family portrait session?

Christmas is the perfect time of year to think about having a beautiful family portrait taken.

It’s important that Christmas portraits be images that you can enjoy all year round, so Captured Moments Photography encourages clients not to dress in holiday attire, but clothing that would complement their home décor. These images make beautiful Christmas cards and more importantly wonderful gifts for family and friends.

They have over a dozen NEW backgrounds in the studio! Their goal is to always have something fresh and new available. New backgrounds mean more clothing options. No matter what clothes you bring to your session, they will be able to find a background to showcase .

Captured Moments believes in simple, understated, and timeless, but they also give you the option to add some personality to your images with splashes of color and contemporary designs. They love using items normally used for just senior portraits and using them with kids as well. The new backgrounds are also more age appropriate for tweens who want something totally different than pastels and simple white shirts or sundresses. They wanna be “little rockstars!”

When to have your baby’s portraits taken?

1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 1 year points. Since they grow so much that first year, it is fun to have the collection of the different milestones to look back on. Chances are good that you won’t get the baby to smile (or sit on his/her own) for the 1 month picture, but some babies are up to the task by 3 months.

Whatever the age of the baby, the best time to get their picture taken professionally is after a good nap and when their belly is full enough that they’re alert. Hungry/tired babies tend to be cranky. Guess that’s true of kids of just about any age, though…

Some of it has to do with the photographer, too. Make sure you pick one that’s had plenty of experience with the age group your child falls into. Photographers that are not necessarily kid-friendly tend to make the photo shoot more stressful and frustrating for parents and children resulting in smile-less pictures. When the photographer can stay relaxed and focus on the baby (instead of the phone or waiting area) and takes the time to interract with them, the pictures tend to turn out MUCH better!

When is the best time of year for outside sessions?

Summer provides really beautiful weather & locations. After that, fall is the best time of year. If you love environmental images you just can’t beat the great fall colors in October, BEAUTIFUL!

How to choose your photographer:

One very important thing to keep in mind, these things should not be taken individually and used to dismiss a photographer. Take them as a group of things to look for and avoid. Some fabulous photographers use tilts or love funky color processing. There is REALLY something to be said for artistic freedom and processing. If the basic underlying work is amazing then the “rules” that are listed below are being intentionally broken and the photographers know exactly what they are doing. But if you are looking at a photographer who has a bunch of these issues in his or her portfolio, you are probably better off avoiding this photographer.

  • Do they have a valid business license? What about a sales tax permit?
  • In an ideal world, is your photographer a member of any national organizations such as Professional Photographers of America? They should be a dues-paying member of AT LEAST one national/international organization. In a perfect world they will also have that information stated on their website but you can ask!
  • Do they have a tax id?
  • Is their website professional and easy to navigate? Are there spelling errors, grammatical errors, etc? Anyone can buy a fancy website, but is it put together with thought and time and effort? Can you read all of the text? Does it look like they just typed it up and never looked at it again? Is it updated with current work?
  • Do they pay federal and state taxes?
  • Is the music they are using on their site legal and licensed? Licensing popular music can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. (Example – the Hawaiian version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow costs upwards of $50,000 to license!) Now some photographers have paid good money for their music, but a lot of them, no. And that is what we call illegal, stealing and copyright infringement. If you’re not sure, ask them if they licensed their music.

1. Lighting — Light and knowing how to use it.

Learn how to work with all kinds of lighting situations (shoot morning, evening, midday and turn out beautiful images). There should be color and depth to their images, not blown out images or super dark images.

  • Overexposure – Blown highlights, splotchy parts of photographs, when there is a loss of detail in the light parts. These are not “artistic” things. This is overexposing a photograph. Now granted, there are photos where this happens in order to properly expose the main subject but those should be few and far between.
  • Underexposure – When a photograph is dark. There is a loss of detail and colors are flat.
  • Flatness – When there is no depth to the colors, they are flat. The picture loses vitality and shows the photographer’s lack of ability to use the light. There should be a wide range in the tones of greens, reds, colors.
  • Too much contrast/saturation – the opposite of flatness. You’ve seen the photos where the colors almost glow. Instances would be where it hurts your eyes (as a clue, if you are looking and the colors make you squint, move on) or where the colors are just SO intense especially in skin tones. A good photographer knows how to properly work with colors and work with both the light and the editing software afterward.
  • Color Casts/White Balance – There is a style of editing out there called Lily Blue. It is a beautiful action that a lot of people use when editing photos. It gives the photo a soft hazy tint of color, almost a retro effect. There is gorgeous artistic photography that uses colors and color washes perfectly.

HOWEVER, there is also photography that shows that the photographer just does not know how to use light. You might have seen photographs where babies are gray, where people look like oompa loompas (think old school Willy Wonka with the orange men). Where photos as a whole just look yellow or red or blue. These are a result of not knowing how to get a proper white balance with your lighting. If you see gray babies or blue skin or orange skin or yellow-yellow hair, run far and fast the other way.

2. Composition — how a photograph is set up in camera

There is good composition and there is bad composition. There are also compositions that break the rules intentionally. Look for good and strong compositions.

  • Soft, Out of Focus photos – Photos should not be soft or out of focus. They should be crisp and clear. Like you are looking through a polished window. In a close-up portrait, the eyes should always be sharp (unless they are intentionally focusing on something else).
  • Tilts – Have you ever looked at a photo that either made you turn your head, fear that the subject was going to fall over or get dizzy? Yeah. That’s too much tilting. If your photographer is constantly tilting every photo, that’s not good. Usually it’s a sign that they didn’t compose the photo well in camera and made do with a funky tilt. Now, there is also good tilt. Tilting can really enhance the photo –a bit of a tilt to show the massive size of the door the girls were sitting on or to bring her eyes into the part of the frame to give the impression that she was coming towards the viewer.
  • Centering – There is something to be said for a good quality centered photo. But a photographer should not be centering Every. Single. Photo. There are (surprisingly to some) rules to centering a photo. There should be leading lines, meaning something the eye follows to the middle, or a frame within a frame, meaning the subject is framed by something else in the photo. Make sure they aren’t just centering everything for the sake of centering. There should be a variety of compositions and placements of subjects in their portfolio
  • Not Visually Interesting – How many photos just aren’t interesting? Not all photos need eye contact with the lens but they need to draw you in. Photos should make you smile, make you cry, make you think, or at least interest you in some way.

3. Conversions — how a photograph is converted from color to black and white. Selective color is when most of the photo is in black and white except for a certain part. It is an outdated technique and should be reserved for fine art use and an occasional wedding shot.

  • Black and Whites – Black and white photographs should have a wide tonal range. Meaning from lights to darks with many shades in between. It should have shadows, it should have highlights and it should have all sorts of tones in between as well. It should have visual depth to it. It should not be flat. It should not be “muddy” – with clusters of grainy looking black shadows. It should not have splotches. Quality black and whites are a huge consideration for me. It shows that not only did the photographer know how to get a good color photograph originally, but that they also know how to work with editing software and that they can recognize good and bad conversions. There are what are called high-key conversions where it is a super light and airy image. And there are low-key moody conversions where it is a darker image, but well done dark, not blotchy grainy yucky dark.

When to have senior portraits taken?

The summer before your senior year. Once school starts it can become very difficult for you to get scheduled.

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