21st Century Dad
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Take Better Photos of Your Children – Use Window Light

August 4th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

You can take great photos today, with the camera you own right now.

twilli piePhotography literally means, “writing with light.” The quality of the light dictates the quality of your photograph more than the camera you are using. Finding great light will improve the quality of your photographs more than buying a new camera.

Finding the Light

One of the best locations for a photograph is next to a window, preferably one facing the north. Professional photographers spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on specialized lighting equipment to duplicate this quality of light in the studio. You can have it for free.

I am a big fan of using flash creatively, but knowing how to find great light is just as important as knowing how to create it. Besides, if you know how to find good light, you can use any camera.

What Settings Do I Use?

The best part about using window light is, you can fire away in PhD Mode, or “Push Here Dummy.” Just be sure to turn off the flash. You’re trying to avoid the harsh, unflattering look of direct flash here. There may be enough ambient light for the camera to decide flash isn’t necessary. Consult your camera’s manual to find out how to turn it off.

Twilli by the window.During the day, the light outside your house is several times brighter than the light inside. Don’t put your subject between the window and the camera, unless of course, you want a silhouette. Your camera may also have a “backlight” setting that helps you out in a situation like this.

I used my point-and-shoot camera in auto mode to take the photos you see here. I did a little tweaking in Photoshop, but with a little practice, you can get great images right out of the camera. You don’t have to plant your child right in front of the window. Open up those drapes or blinds and let the light come in. You’ll end up with a large and directional source of light that gives shape and definition.

twilli by the window

A Few More Tips

Your toddler is a fast little bugger. How many times have you missed the shot due to that darn shutter lag that point-and-shoot cameras still have? It’s gotten better, but there’s still a little lag time. It feels even longer if you’ve ever had the pleasure of using a DSLR.

  • A tried-and-true method is to do a half-press of the shutter to let the camera’s auto-focus lock on. This will take a half a second or so. When your little one is in the frame, press the shutter all the way down. This should increase the number of keepers you get. Don’t worry about perfect focus. Your point-and-shoot camera has some fudge factor here.
  • You can Google “the rule of thirds,” for the long explanation. The short version goes like this: don’t put your subject dead-center in the frame. A slightly off-center composition makes for a more compelling photograph.
  • Get down on the floor! People and children look their best when the film plane (or sensor plane) is perpendicular to the floor. This works for pet pictures too. Standing up and shooting down distors perspective and makes heads loom large. Full body length portraits are actually taken with the camera at waist level.
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Dad’s Adventures in Babywearing

March 20th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

Babywearing DaddyRenee and I became babywearing enthusiasts out of our quest to maintain the highest level of productivity possible. What I didn’t anticipate was how much extra closeness that it fosters.

We do things very counter-intuitively in the U.S. Babies are weaned off the breast by 6 months and potty training doesn’t start until age 2. Attachment parenting practitioners start potty training by 6 months and continue breastfeeding for 2 years.

Most of the baby carriers available have a feminine design aesthetic. Some can be made masculine with a different choice of fabric print, such as soft structured carriers and mei tais. The ring slings, moby wraps, and pouches are more feminine to me.

Baby carriers come in a variety of designs. You will have to try them on for yourself to see which ones work best for you. Try meetup.com or Yahoo! Groups to find a babywearing meeting in your area. At such meetings, you’ll be able to try on a wide variety of carriers and get expert instruction on how to properly wear them.

It wasn’t long before I discovered that the Ergo Baby is my favorite. It’s a soft structured carrier. Renee’s DIY Scandi-style Mei Tai is challenging for the top spot. That’s what I’m using in the picture above.

The fun doesn’t have to end when your infant becomes a toddler. I’ve seen children as old as 4 being worn in a carrier.

There are many benefits of babywearing. Even if you don’t believe in attachment parenting, there are pragmatic considerations.

  • You have two hands free.
  • No need to navigate a bulky stroller in crowded areas.
  • It’s much safer than putting the infant car seat in the shopping cart.
  • Managing multiple children becomes easier.

Give babywearing a chance. If your wife has been the sole baby wearer, she may have one or more carriers with a feminine design. Get over your machismo. At least try it in the safety of your own home. You may end up liking it enough to get a carrier of your own.

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