Hallowe'en :: Documented

Whatever your views on Hallowe'en, there's just no escaping it. And if Pinterest is to be believed, it is to be photographed to within an inch of its life. Every costume, pumpkin and sparkler must be the best ever and you must take 25 shots of each! But I don't think this needs to be how you spend this weekend or half term holiday, so I've compiled my own little guide to help you get the best photos you can without using up every memory card or your entire phone memory!Let's start with the pumpkin. My Facebook memories for this week over the past 3 or 4 years include the phrase, "I love carving pumpkins, said no mum ever!" Or something similar. But they have been a prerequisite of our half term holidays for many years now, and there are 3 sitting in the kitchen right now, awaiting this year's designs. But what's the best way to photograph them? I have a couple of suggestions for you.1 :: The tools of the trade. Let's face it, no one ever carved an entire pumpkin with just one of those £2 kits from Tesco! Last year I laid out all the knives, skewers and scoops I thought we'd need and took a photo of them altogether. It's an odd photo on its own, but as part of our pumpkin traditions it will serve as a reminder of the effort required for this particular activity!halloween-tips_00112 :: For me, the lasting impression of every pumpkin carving session has been the mess! So much mucky flesh and pumpkin seeds for days! And how come the kids suddenly disappear for this part? But it's impossible to do it without the mess, so why not include it in your photos, if only to serve as a reminder to your kids in 25 years time when they're up to their eyes in the same activity with their own kids, that what goes around comes around!halloween-tips_00013 :: Of course, it's the finished product that you're ultimately aiming for, and as any good parent, you'll need the customary shot for Facebook or Instagram so you can all compare notes and then wonder at how yours still looks like a 4 year old did it. Or is that just me?! My top tip for the pumpkin shot is simple - don't wait until it's completely dark to capture it, and most importantly, turn your flash off. The contrast between the bright design and the dark makes it tricky to capture perfectly or without blur. Instead, photograph it at dusk. You will still see the glow perfectly, but all those lovingly carved (by you, obviously!) details will be much clearer. If you're an Instagram user, a filter can add extra definition and a cool twist like in the photos below.halloween-tips_0004So now you've got all the required pumpkin photos in a mere 5 shots, you should have plenty of room to start thinking about Trick or Treating. I sort of hate that we've lost the tradition of Hallowe'en rhyming that we did as kids, so being the harsh parent I am, I make mine do the rhyme anyway! None of this "Trick or Treat!" nonsense at someone's door! And if you happen to come to my door, you can surely have the treat once I hear the rhyme!I digress! There's something I love about the whole traipsing around the neighbourhood business with a crowd of friends. Maybe it's a sign that community isn't dead and that we can all be generous, even to people we don't know. Or maybe it's just the excitement of watching our kids get excited as they wait for the all important treats to be thrown their way. Either way, it's worth a photo or two. But how can you get a decent shot in the dark with street lights dotted around, I hear you ask. Well, you can't really. And especially not if you have your flash popping off for every photo! My tip is basically this...4 :: Turn your flash off, follow the kids and wait for the door of the house to open. With any luck, there'll be light from inside that will highlight your kids a little. You may not get perfect shots and you may have a little blur, but you'll capture the mood much better without the harsh light of the flash.halloween-tips_0006halloween-tips_0007Which leads me nicely on to the costumes. I wish I had a greater variety to show you, but we've pretty much specialised in zombies from day one around here! Every year an old pair of jeans and a few school shirts bite the dust and are slashed and covered in much fake blood. I can't help it. I have boys. So there was never much hope of a Disney costume for us. And on the plus side, I could probably get a job as a make up artist for a second rate stage production of The Walking Dead if push came to shove! So costume advice.5 :: If it's a scary kind of costume, I'd suggest the good old dusk shot again, with no flash. Are you getting that no flash is key here a lot?! Really, I can't stress enough how big a difference it will make to your photos! The light at that time of night has an eerie bluish tinge that is perfect for the sort of atmosphere you want in your photos. However, without flash, you can still get a great shot of the costumes inside. Maybe think about getting your kids to stand side on to a lamp for a softer light than spot lights or downlights. And I'm sorry, but even as a zombie or covered in a shocking amount of fake blood, he's still quite the looker in my books!halloween-tips_0005Sometimes though, your opportunities are limited, especially with a toddler, and your best bet is to just shoot and see what you get. Because sometimes you get a gem like this...halloween-tips_0013Now many of you will be braving the 'Hallowe'en Party' at some point this weekend. And I send you all my best wishes for that!! I have been there and done it and while I nearly had a nervous breakdown, the kids had a blast. But beware the temptation to just photograph the kids and the costumes. Because what was the point of all that preparation if you don't remember to document the details? For me, the details are what marks a particular event. And as you will have spent hours on Pinterest stocking up on ideas, you should definitely capture your hard work.6:: So look for the details. What did you make for the party? Do you have decorations you and/or the kids made that you don't want to forget? A photo is much easier to keep than the actual decoration and you are much more likely to look at the photo than get the 10 year old decoration out of the memory box you put it in. It's a win win! Again, you need to shut that flash off! Some of these I took with my Canon but the bottom two I took with my iPhone 4 about 5 years ago. Go Instagram and the amazing filters! Also, thank you Pinterest for the best Hallowe'en craft ever with those lanterns!halloween-tips_0009halloween-tips_00127 :: And if you want to get photos of the kids, get one big group at the start of the party - before the sugar has kicked in - and that will surely do in place of tens of photos so you can concentrate on picking up the bowl of crisps that just fell off the table before you mop up 5 half spilt cups of juice! This is one of my favourite photos of my son and his friends from early primary school, and believe me when I say I have hundreds! All it took was telling them to pull their scariest face!halloween-tips_0008The final thing you may want to document is the good old sparkler. An essential in the half term break, who doesn't love a sparkler? Well, apart from parents with small children, some small children themselves and possibly your canine friend! But most of us do. I think! What advice can I offer you here? Well to be honest, I've only one tip.8 :: Turn the flash off (*snore*), point and shoot! That's it. I'm sure there are lots of technical YouTube videos you can watch with much more accurate advice, but when there is a white hot naked flame in the hand of your kids - and possibly those who aren't yours but are in your safe hands for the evening - you just want to get a shot and keep them from harm! Ideally, you would have someone ensuring the safety of the kids while you take the photos just to be sure, but you already knew that! Aside from pointing and shooting, you could try and focus on the kids' faces, which will be lit by the sparkler - you might just get a wee look of utter amazement as they wave this spark-shooting stick around in the air. And that will be much more fun to look back on in years to come than any amazing shape they managed to create in the night.halloween-tips_0003So there you have it - a brief guide to documenting all things half term and Hallowe'en-ish without the stress of capturing it all. Because it's so much more important that you be there and enjoy it. Get messy with the pumpkins, wave a sparkler in the air and actually make a few of those crafts you pinned. That's what the kids will remember, and you'll want to be part of those memories. But maybe just have your camera handy, because you never know what you might just capture in the spur of the moment.halloween-tips_0010Now off you go and have a wonderful weekend and half term! And if you capture anything wonderful, I'd love you to share your images with me on my Facebook page.  

Easter photo tips and ideas

I feel very bold even writing that title! This is by no means a professional 'how to' post. It's just a few ideas that might help you document your Easter business of egg hunts and days out in a slightly different way than usual. And they can all be taken with whatever camera you happen to be using, whether it's a fancy DSLR, a point and shoot or your phone. It's a true saying that the best camera for the job is the one you have with you! Get up closeAll too often we try to squeeze as much as possible into the frame of our camera, but the result is that there is no real focal point. The eye skips all over the image and doesn't really have anywhere to land. But when you start to zoom in, you create a real point of focus. So think about what it is you want to capture and then get in close! With phones  (iPhones in particular, in my experience) it helps to move physically close to keep your picture sharp. Get the actionI bet you've spent a lot of time and had a lot of arguments with kids over getting them to stand still for the camera - I know I certainly have. So I eventually gave up! And I'm so glad I did. To be honest, I'd rather have a slightly blurry shot of the kids having a great time running around than a perfectly sharp one of them glaring at me with red eyes from all the crying over smiling for the camera! So forget perfect and go for action. You really won't be disappointed!   Record the craftIf it didn't already come home from school, it's bound to be in progress on your kitchen table! Or maybe you have somehow escaped the Pinterest inspired glue-fest that happens most holidays in our house! When I was sourcing photos for this post, I came across these from a few years ago and they really made me smile. So even though the mess at the time had me running for the hills, I am glad I stopped to take these photos. Again I went in close and didn't even have the boys in the photos (Patrick was actually scowling in one of them and it has the potential to ruin our fragile pre-teen relationship!). I miss the days when they asked to do things like this.  Get up close with the animals If you have small kids, there's every chance you're going to encounter some animals this Easter! We are big fans of Castle Espie WWT and when the boys were smaller, The Ark Open Farm. The temptation when you're there, however, is to take the same photos you took the last time of your kids feeding the ducks or looking at the cows and pigs. For a change of perspective, why not let the animals take centre stage? These photos were all taken on my iPhone and edited using Instagram.  Don't forget the flowersThis is such a great time of the year to capture the beauty of spring around us. (Ok, I know it tried snowing on the first day of the holidays, but work with me!) Even in my driveway I'm met with the buds and blossoms of forsythia in my neighbour's garden, and I find it hard not to take a photo of cherry blossom trees anytime I pass them! Even the humble daffodil looks stunning when the light hits the petals just right. So go on, be brave and look foolish standing under a blossom tree to get the blue sky coming through the branches. If I can do it, so can you! The proof is right here - tree photos again taken with iPhone and a few odd looks!  Think about the lightI have a complete obsession with light, but that's a whole other blog post! What I will suggest for now is that you look at where the light is. Is it shining on your kids' faces? If so, they're going to squint and you'll have shadows everywhere in your photos. Early morning and late afternoon light is perfect for good photos, and I almost want to dare you to try shooting into the sun! If you get the subject of your photo in front of the light, you can get stunning silhouette photos. Honestly, it's worth a try and practice does make perfect.  Get in the shot!I know, you hate having your photo taken! It's the one comment I am guaranteed to hear on any family or wedding shoot. And I hear you! I hate it too. But you need to be in the shot. Even just one or two. Your kids will thank you for it in the future, and they won't think you look awful. They'll just be glad to have photos of them with their mum or dad. So stretch out your arm or grab a selfie stick, put the camera on the timer or give it to someone else, and then push the button. Be present and be documented. You won't regret it!  I hope these ideas are helpful to you and that you have a wonderful time over the Easter holiday whatever you're up to!  Feel free to share your photos taken using these tips over on my Facebook page, and if you've any suggestions for other tips you'd like to see in future blog posts, give me a shout!