Practicing A New Technique

On the camera, that is. I've really been delving into my photography lately. I love it! Last month, I shot a maternity session for my niece and her boyfriend and I was really pleased with the results of that. Well, she had her baby Friday night (I'm a great aunt!!), and sometime soon I'll be doing my great nephew's newborn session. I'm excited about that one, since I've never done a newborn session before. Actually, all of these sessions I've been doing lately have been new for me!
When C was born, I didn't have my fancy Nikon camera. I had a point-and-shoot that looked like a fancy camera, and it took great pictures, but it was pretty old and just not the best quality. But I loved taking pictures, so I was constantly doing just that. We brought C home from the hospital on Christmas Eve, and the day after Christmas we had a blizzard (which is pretty rare for eastern NC). She was almost a week old by that point (she had to stay in the hospital an extra couple of days due to jaundice), and I felt like her newborn period was slipping by. With all the snow outside, I was worried that we wouldn't ever make it to a photographer before she started changing too much. So, I decided to have a little photo shoot with her at home. I had no idea what I was doing, but I had studied tons of newborn pictures that I loved, and tried my best to recreate those images.
I set our Boppy up by the Christmas tree and draped a silky white blanket over it. Thankfully, C slept the whole time, and I was able to move her around and "pose" her with no trouble. I think I did pretty well, and I know if I had had my Nikon back then, I would have gotten some awesome shots.

But that's the extent of my newborn photography experience. I mean, I took photos of C basically every day for months and months, but most of those were quick snapshots using Auto. After I got my Nikon, every once in a while I'd do a "shoot" and actually try to get good quality pictures of her. But most of the time she's not cooperative, and I am always alone trying to do this, so I don't get many good shots. Which is why I still take her to a professional photographer at least once a year!

Anyway, since I've had quite a few people asking for sessions with me lately, I've been really getting into it. I only shoot in manual mode (unless I'm just snapping a quick shot of C or something), and I've really been trying to get out of my comfort zone and get some artistic shots. I can tell I'm getting better, though I definitely wouldn't call myself a pro! I really love taking pictures, though. And for the first time in my life, I'm starting to think maybe this hobby could turn into a source of income for me. In time. I would love that!

But back to the point of this post. I've been studying professional newborn photos and getting ideas for my great nephew's session. Last week, I came across a technique that I thought was awesome - bokeh. Now, bokeh basically just means that something is out of focus, so that it creates a pleasing blurry effect in the picture. Normally, the background is bokeh, but I've seen shots where some of the foreground is blurred. I achieve this effect all the time in my shots. I love for the subject to be crisp and completely in focus, but the background to be nice and blurred. I had no idea the term was "bokeh," though.

I kept seeing bokeh shots with pretty Christmas lights in the background, blurred. Well, its actually pretty simple to achieve that effect, but it does take some practice. I studied up on it last week and then went to the dollar store to get my supplies - Christmas lights (with white strands) and a white sheet for a backdrop. Saturday morning, I set up my "studio" spot and got to work. After a few tries, I got it!
Can you tell that's actually a white shower curtain? The store I went to had plenty of sheets, but none plain white like I wanted. I was about to give up and head to WalMart when I noticed the shower curtains. For the baby's session, obviously we'll have a basket or something with soft blankets to lay him on, but the shower curtain will give a nice white background. I actually bought two, so I can use one on the floor if needed. Plus, it helps bounce light back onto my subject.

I tried to get C to sit still for a few test shots, but that was easier said than done! She was snackin on Cheetos and just wouldn't be still, haha.
I wouldn't say I've "mastered" this technique just yet, but I feel confident that I can get some good shots with this backdrop. My niece loves the idea, so she'll be game to try it, at least. Of course, we'll do some "normal" backgrounds, too.
Nemo had to get in on the bokeh action, too! His shots didn't turn out quite like I wanted, but by that point C was getting antsy with me ignoring her. ( ;

So here's a wide shot of my setup. I took this to help myself remember what I did.
Nice, huh? Haha. Clearly, I need to get more lights. That's on my agenda for today. I want to have a wider area with lights. When I bought these, I had no idea how this would all work, so I wasn't sure how many to buy. And I bought mini strands. I think I'll try to find regular length strands today. DH even suggested icicle lights. We actually have a bunch of those, but I'm hoping he'll put those on the house in the next few weeks, so I want to have a special set just for this purpose.

I've been brainstorming ideas of how to hang the backdrop for indoor sessions like this. Here, I just draped the shower curtain over our china hutch, and then taped the light strands to it. But at other people's houses, I might not have that option. Plus, I need a way to drape the lights so that they are higher. And maybe put a table in front so the subject is elevated...hmmm, now there's an idea! (I had the tractor and Nemo on a stool, and C was in a chair, but obviously I can't do either with a newborn.) Either way, I definitely need more lights to make it wider.

I'm really having fun learning more about photography. I thought it might be hard to admit that I'm not as good as I think I am, and that I have more to learn, but honestly, its not been hard at all, and I've been enjoying the process. I like seeing my photos improve over time. Photography has been something that's interested me for a long time, and for as long as I can remember I've wanted to take a class. So in a way, I'm kinda living my dream by pursuing this. I hope to take a real class next year. And get more equipment (like an external flash!). And gain some actual paying clients. I did have someone contact me last week about doing a (paid!) session, so hopefully that will happen soon.

I'm in the process of creating a facebook page for my photography "business," and seeing where it takes me. Eventually, if things go well, I'll do a separate blog and website, too. Who knows? Maybe this will make me some money one day. Wouldn't that be nice? My sister is always telling me about a woman she knows who started out just like me and learned as she went. Now she has a successful photography business and that's her full-time job. That would be awesome, cause then I could be with my child more. I tend to get really caught up in my dreams, so I'm trying really hard not to let myself get my hopes too high with this one!

Last weekend, I shot a session for my friend's 2 year old son. I was happy with that session, too.
This was in the field behind my house. I was pretty nervous about this session, since I know from experience how 2 year olds can be! But he did really well and let me get some super cute shots of his adorable smile.

My aunt is getting married in January, and she's asked me to be the official photographer. That makes me nervous, even though I've done two weddings before (two of my cousins couldn't afford a photographer, so I shot their weddings, and was actually pretty proud of my work, even though that was pre-Nikon for me). It makes me nervous because this time I'll expect much more of myself, since I have a fancier camera and I know more now than I did. Plus, it'll be indoor, and indoor shots always make me nervous. I'll be studying up a lot between now and then!

After my niece had the baby on Friday, my sister told me that I better be preparing myself to be the photographer at her wedding, as well. So I guess that's two weddings I'll shoot next year. Yikes. Unfortunately, I won't make money at either of those events, but hopefully they'll help me build my portfolio and get some paying clients one day.

Next up, I gotta figure out how to put a "watermark" with my logo on my photos! I did it once, but it took forever. There's gotta be a simple way to add a watermark to multiple photos, right? I mean, if I'm gonna start advertising on facebook, I need my name on my shots so people will know its my work! Whether this venture actually works out or not remains to be seen, but even if it doesn't I'm gonna have fun learning, and if nothing else, I'll get some cool shots of my family along the way! ( :


  1. The lower the f-stop is on your camera, the more bokeh you will get as well. Those look really good to me!

  2. Okay I commented and its gone...strange. Anyways, I said thanks! And that I figured out that about the f-stop, but unfortunately my lenses won't get very low. :/


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