What is chimping? (And why it's the best thing you can do to improve your photography!)

 

What if every time you made a mistake you could fix it right away???  That would be AMAZING, right??

Guess what...in photography it is possible!

We can use "chimping" to fix our mistakes.  

What is chimping?  It simply means looking at the photo you just took on the back of your camera.  

Chimping was impossible before digital photography.  In order to see our photos, we had to take and develop an entire roll of film.  That meant if we screwed up a photo, there's no way we could go back and redo it  Did you get exposure wrong on your beach vacation??  Too bad.  Did the bride blink as you took her wedding portrait?  Oh well.  

But today, that doesn't have to happen.  As I take photos, I'm constantly checking the back of my camera to make sure I got the shot I wanted.  If my photo is overexposed or underexposed, I can fix it.  If there's a big distracting thing in the background, I can move and retake the photo.  If there's a tree growing out of my son's head, I can change my angle a bit and fix it.  

 
 

Among professional photographers, chimping is used in a negative way.  We truly don't want a professional to NEED to check for mistakes all day long.  The hope is that he or she is good enough to just do it right.  

But guess what?!  I'm not a professional.  And I make mistakes all the time.  

So, as you take your photos this week, be sure to chimp.  Critically look at that photo on the back of your camera and think, "Is that the photo I want to take?  Is there anything I can improve?"  And improve it right then and there.  

Sure, there are lots of times I get to my computer and realize I missed something.  But with chimping, I'm much more likely to get it right the first time around. 

 

Quick reminder....My beginner's photography workshop starts MONDAY!!!  If you want to learn HOW to fix all those mistakes, join us.  You can find all the information you need and sign up here.

 

 

Getting Kids (and Grown-Ups) to Cooperate for Photos

 
CooperateForPhotos

Hello, friends!
 
I’m coming to you from sunny California, where my crew and I just completed our cross country move.  I’d love to say I took lots of photos of our journey but, alas, only my phone camera made its appearance.  Sometimes the craziness of life keeps us from focusing on photos, and that’s OK.
 
Now that we’re getting settled, I’m back to give you some ideas for making your photos better. (Whether you use a DSLR or camera phone!)
 
It's summer, and I'm sure you’d love to get some amazing photos of your time.  But, maybe the young people in your life couldn't care less about getting photos.  And even worse, they are bothered and uncooperative when you grab the camera.

I wish I could say this never happens to me.  I wish I could say my kids are completely cooperative and happy when I grab my camera.  But it's just not true.  See above for just a small sample of what I experience.

But fortunately, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve to share with you.  Hopefully, they can help you to capture some great moments with your crew this summer.

1.  First, DON’T get them to cooperate.  Let’s take a few steps in their sweet little shoes.  How would you feel if you were engaged in your favorite activity (maybe building a Lego castle) and someone interrupted you, told you to stop everything you were doing and look at the camera????  I bet you'd be annoyed. That’s how our kids feel, too.
So for my first tip, rather than ask them to smile for a photo, just take the photo. Don't interrupt.  Capture the moment as it is, trying not to attract any attention from the kid if you can help it.
 
Some of my favorite photos are of my kids engaged in their activities.  I'm able to capture them and life as is, not posed for the camera. Sometimes that might involve some creative positioning on your part.  You might have to lay on your belly or stand on a chair to get the correct perspective.  But that can add to the interest of the shot, too.
 

 
CooperateForPhotos
 

2.  Remember to keep being the mom (or dad).  With your camera in hand, act the same as if you didn’t have it.  Keep talking, listen to stories, and pour the milk if they need it.  I totally understand that it takes concentration to think through everything you know about photography to get a great shot.  But, if your kids know you’ll ignore them once a photo session starts, they won’t like the camera.
 
3.  Hold the cheese.  You know your “say cheese” smile isn’t your best smile, right?  The same holds true for our offspring.  Telling them to “say cheese” produces, well, cheesy smiles. 

True, in tip one, I suggested you DON'T make your kids look at the camera and smile.  But there are times we want the shot with great eye contact and a genuine smile.  In these moments, I get the genuine smile through the genuine laugh.
 
So make them laugh.  This is the time to pull out all the stops.  Feel free to use potty humor or ask about stinky feet.  I’ll often have my husband help me out on this one.  He’ll make a super silly face with his head right next to mine.  My kids will crack up, and I’ll get some great expressions in my photos. 

The photo on the left was taken while my kids were looking at the face on the right.  

CooperateForPhotos
 
CooperateForPhotos

4.  Be ready.  If you want to take some photos and get some cooperation, have everything ready before your subjects show up.  Remember, patience won’t last long.  Get your settings ready ahead of time.  Sometimes you can find a cooperative “helper” who might be willing to pose while you get the settings correct.  (And if so, praise that person profusely!)  You DON’T want to have to “redo” the shoot or ask your kids to wait around while you adjust aperture. 

Do you have any other tips?  How do you get kids (and grown-ups) to cooperate when you take the photo???

Why I Shot in Auto and (Gasp!) Used a Flash

 

Yesterday, my girls and I took a little trip to the great capital of Washington, D.C.  We've lived an hour away for the past three years, but never spent much time there.  I wanted them to experience it before our big move to the other side of the country.  (Plus, Dennis proposed to me in front of the Washington Monument...I wanted to see that spot again.)

While we were there, I took a few shots in auto and actually used my flash.  (For real!)

One of the benefits of learning your camera is taking control of it!  In auto mode, the camera makes all the decisions like the exposure settings, whether or not the flash should fire, and what should be most in focus. Once you understand more about your camera, you can tell your camera "you're not the boss of me!" and make all these decisions on your own.  It usually results in a better photo, or at least a photo that looks like you want it to look.

So, I normally shoot in manual mode (where I make all the decisions) or at least in aperture priority mode (where I select the aperture and the camera determines the shutter speed).

But yesterday, lots of things were working against me.  And I was getting photos like this one:

It's not terrible.  Those are still adorable girls.  But, I knew there were problems when I glanced at the back of my camera.

In this situation, I had a lot working against me:

  • I was the only adult in a very public place with two excited kids.  I needed to pay attention to them, not quietly think about my exposure settings.
  • It was super bright.  That made it really hard for me to see the photos I just took on the back of my camera.  Normally, I like to take a photo, look at it, and then make adjustments.  I couldn't do that.
  • The dynamic range between the light on the girls' faces and the sky was huge.  That means there was a big difference between the brightness of the sky and the brightness of their faces.  If I exposed for the sky, their faces would be super dark.  If I exposed for their faces, the sky (and possibly the Washington Monument) would be completely white.
  • They kept moving around so I had a hard time getting them in focus.
  • This was a one-time shot.  I knew I wouldn't be able to come back and try this one again. 

And so, I switched to Auto.  The flash came on.  Normally, I don't like the flash because it creates harsh, directional light.  But, in this situation, it helped lessen the dynamic range, brightening their faces so the sky and the girls could both look properly exposed.

And I have to say, I'm happy with the result.  A professional photographer being paid big bucks wouldn't want to put this photo in her portfolio.  But I'm not a professional photographer.  I'm a mom.  This photo captures my girls in a super special place.  And it's emotionally perfect to me.

You might be at the point where you understand your camera and shoot in manual mode.  But just remember, it's not something you have to do all the time.

IF you want to learn more about your camera, and be able to shoot in manual mode when you want, check out my beginner's workshop.  The next session starts in September.