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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Photography: Backgrounds

Alright, I'm gonna start letting you in on some of my photo secrets!  Now I'm no pro but for other amateur mamas trying to do this photo gig yourself, these tips are for you!  

First secret is about backgrounds.  Let me just say, I do prefer taking in-the-moment photos.  That's where you get the most genuine smiles.  And personality shines through.  And making the photo more personal by adding glimpses of someone's home.  I especially love taking pictures outdoors.  BUT.  When it's 0.0 degrees outside and the ground is covered in snow, sometimes being inside is the best choice.  SO here's what I use for backgrounds...

1.  Queen-size bed sheets.  We happen to have a wall-mounted TV that I love to use to drape the fitted sheet over.  Sometimes it hangs all the way to the floor, and sometimes, for whatever reason, it doesn't.  SO when it doesn't, I find a pole of some sorts.  I dug in the basement and came up with an old pole that is supposed to be used for hanging clothes in your car--it even extends to whatever length you want.  Within its limit of course.  But it stretches the sheet flat and holds it to the floor.  Then for the floor, I lay the flat bed sheet out.  Or when I was taking Paul and Holly's newborn/family pics at their house, we just taped the flat sheet to the wall!  Seriously.  =) I just use what I have.  I've used navy blue if I know I want it to be a black n white photo.  I've used white.  And I've used light blue.  Just because that's what we have.  Today I draped a thin(ish) blanket from our guest bed over the TV and used a similar-color couch blanket for the floor.  Note: The TV is kind of narrow, making my background pretty narrow, so that's a little tricky.  But until I figure out something else, this works fine! (for one or two people portraits at a time.  Three is pushing it.)

(by the way, I don't usually use the tripod but this day for trying to get Carter to smile and stand I tried the tripod and remote--worked wonderfully!)

You'll see in this series of pictures how I went from the SOOC (straight out of camera) picture to the final.  In Photoshop I cropped and colored, then used the paint tool to select a color from the background and then paint all over to smooth it out.  I thought it made Carter look displaced so I used a big paint brush to add the dots.
(click to view larger)

I followed the same exact steps (minus the dots) for Maya's pictures...

 2. Fuzzy blankets.  I can't even TELL you how many times I used the cream-colored fuzzy blanket Kevin's sister made for us in all Carter's baby pictures throughout the months!! Check it out...
and now for my niece Claire too!

3. Fabric.  Particularly for newborn photos, get yourself just 2 yds of plain black fabric.  It looks sooo beautiful and is so easy! Any wrinkles can be smoothed out in editing.  White satin would also be gorgeous (for baby girls), especially if you don't lay it flat.  There was actually very little editing in these two pictures, and that's what I love most about them--is that they're so natural looking....

 And now for my newest background trick...

4. Wrapping paper.  Taped to the wall.  Oh yes.  I got the idea from here, for super fun Christmas pictures! (Sarah is a friend of a friend and is an AWESOME photographer!!)  I dug out this great wrapping paper from basement, but there was only a square of it left on the roll.  I liked it enough I thought I'd give it a try anyway!

 While Carter was napping I sampled it and didn't think it was going to work, but after I was done with all his other pictures I tried again and came up with some keepers! (see all of them here)

Straight-on picture = too shiny!
Picture taken from above and off to the side a little bit = pretty good!
Original photo:
After (cropped and colored) Very cool!

So there ya have it, just a few background ideas for you!  See, so very basic--YOU can do it too.  Just get creative!


S Club Mama said...

For real. Talented.

And that last picture is the cutest dang thing EVER.

Rae Lynne said...

I LOVE your post today! :) I've admired your photography for a long time. It will be fun to try some of these techniques for taking pictures of Xander. :)

How do you get such great lighting? Does that room just have exceptional lighting? My house has poor lighting and so I have a hard time getting photos w/out using the flash. But natural light is so beautiful!

I especially like your tip about the black fabric for newborns! :)

Thanks, Sarah!
Rae Lynne

In Light of the Truth... said...

Thanks Rae Lynne! This is our living room (west side of the house with a big window)--it does have great lighting, especially in the early to mid-afternoon and especially with all this snow on the ground reflecting the light even more. So far I never use flash, but I'm just starting to think about using an external or add-on flash just so I can have more freedom in where I can take pictures. Instead of HAVING to go where the light is. I have no idea how much that costs though?? And it would be a whole new thing to learn how to work! Here's a good post about finding the best natural light: http://www.mcpactions.com/blog/2011/01/17/the-4-best-types-of-natural-light-for-your-photography/

Is there anything else photography-related you'd like me to post about??

Rae Lynne said...

Thanks for the link. :) The backgrounds post itself was pretty great - I've been wondering how you've done that.

Do you use a picture editing program? I'm sure as time goes on and I see more of your pictures I'll think of things I'd like to learn about! :)

Rae Lynne said...

Oops, forgot to mention - I linked back to your blog today on my blog. :) I thought others would benefit from your knowledge! :)


In Light of the Truth... said...

Thanks Rae Lynne! I think I'm going to do a post sometime about my camera and favorite "gear". And more about Photoshop, though I know a lot of my readers don't have it. And even show more before and afters. Cuz I bet a lot of my "befores" look a lot like the pictures you guys take!

Emily said...

Sarah! Great post - thank you! :) :) :) :) You are a creative, clever, wonderful gal!