August Meeting Wrap-up and September photo assignment!

Posted by on Aug 30, 2009 in Assignments, Meeting Notes | Comments Off on August Meeting Wrap-up and September photo assignment!

It was another great evening with Me Ra packing the house with over 40 mamas! It is really exciting to see so many people in one room with such passion and enthusiasm for photographing their kids!

As usual, I’m going to attempt to post a wrap-up for people who may have missed some of the tips from this session, but I have to say for this meeting it is hard to evoke the more intangible quality of Me Ra’s talk. She opened up so authentically about the struggles that she has been through in her life, how she stumbled upon photography as an outlet for her grief, and how by holding the philosophy of “dive in as deep as I can, and swim to the top as fast as I can” that she came to be so successful as a photographer. As far as photographing her kids, her favorite subject, she doesn’t only want to get those images where they are saying ‘cheese’ for the camera- she wants her photographs to show her children who they were as people at the different stages of growing up, the challenges that they faced and overcame, so that they will be able to look back and know themselves and how they were as children.

She had an open and disarming manner, and approached the camera in such a demystifying way, that I think we all felt more empowered as photographers by the end of the evening! Anyway, what follows is some of my notes as far as her tips:

-Lens recommendations. She recommends buying a camera body without the kit lens (“it’s crap” I think is how she put it…) and then getting a replacement lens.

for portraits=  50mm/1.4 ,

if you need one multi-purpose lens= 24-70mm/2.8

Her husband Brian’s favorite lens is 70-200mm because he likes to zoom in from a distance.

-Tip on white balance. Here in the NW, turn your white balance setting (WB) to “Cloudy”- as the light temperature is generally cooler in the NW.

We went through the exercise that Me Ra had posted prior to the meeting about shutter speed and shooting in the Manual (M) mode, and she also scrolled through several recent photos that she had taken and explained to us how she managed to get the light effect by shooting in manual and adjusting for the shutter speed.

In manual, Me Ra always tries to shoot in the lowest ISO setting (100 in canon, 200 in Nikon) in order to achieve the best color saturation. If the light is too low, you can choose to crank up the ISO, or slow down the shutter speed, or both.  In aperture priority mode (Av) Me Ra says that you hit a ‘glass ceiling’ as far as the light, because in the lowest aperture (F) settings the camera won’t allow you to let in enough light. In manual mode you can take more control over the available light by manipulating the shutter speed. [If you’d like to read a brief overview on technical aspects of shutter speed, there is a good summary here.] Typically you will see the shutter speed as being measured in fractions of seconds (1/3000 of a second for a sunny day at the beach, for example). If you are seeing quotation marks next to the shutter speed number (eg. 4″) then that is four full seconds. For anything over  1/60 you’ll need a tripod to keep the image from blurring.

She adjusts the shutter speed to control how much light is in the frame to capture beautiful silhouettes, or her favorite light -when her subjects are backlit.

So the question then is- how do you know which shutter speed to be on for the light you’re in? THIS is the tip that I’m using continually now after Me Ra mentioned it in the workshop-when you’re in manual and you have all of your other settings covered (you’ve chosen the lowest ISO possible for the light, you’ve adjusted for white balance, and you’ve set your aperture nice and low to get that ‘buttery’ background), leave the box around the shutter speed and look at the numbers underneath the frame in your viewfinder. As you press the autofocus halfway down and roll the dial for your shutter speed, you’ll notice those numbers -2..1..0..1..+2  . These numbers indicate whether your image is over-exposed (+2) or underexposed (-2). When you get the indicator to blink in the middle at zero that is when you have about the right shutter speed. On my camera (canon), you have to roll the dial to the left to get the indicator to move to the right and vice versa.

Other tips:

-AI Servo (in your AF mode)- a good setting to be in to catch a baby in a swing, or other ‘moving target’.

-Me Ra shoots in continuous mode so as not to miss a good moment!

-She also always leaves the autofocus sensor (the red light that flashes when you autofocus) in the center, focuses on her subject, and then keeps her finger halfway down while reframing her subject to the left or right. She says this is the fastest way!

-Composition: ask yourself if the background heightens the story, use the subjects and the background together to tell that story.

-Editing: she made a decision not to do a lot of post-processing of her images, both for time and because she feels like the image would ‘never be done’, so she does only minimal post-processing and makes her cropping decisions as she is shooting the images as opposed to afterwards.

Me Ra talked about her weekend-long workshops that she offers for women, where she your goes more in-depth about demystifying the camera settings and unlocking your creativity as a photographer. She is having her next one in Seattle from November 13-14 this year, and is doing a special early opening to our group ONLY early next week, so Mamas With Cameras members will have about two days to sign up before everyone else does! Watch this blog to see the details next week since this is the only way you’ll hear about it!

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And now for details on the SEPTEMBER MEETING and the ASSIGNMENT-

Our next meeting resumes on our regular 3rd monday, September 21st, with photographer Sandra Coan!

September Assignment:

MILESTONES- capture your child working on his/her most recent development ‘milestone’. Use the image to tell the story of what he/she is working on right now!

Practice shooting in MANUAL MODE and practice manipulating light with the shutter speed!