A Photographer, Her Camera and Her Kids

DSLR photos bike helmet

professional photographer DSLR photosLast week I talked about how to decide when it’s worth taking out your DLSR instead of your iPhone. Today I thought it would be fun to take you behind the scenes of an afternoon with me, my DSLR, and my kids.

A few weeks ago, on the last day of spring break, I decided, as I often do, to grab my DSLR and head to a local park/sculpture garden with my kids. It’s actually the campus of the college where I went to school (Pratt Institute) only renovated and even more beautiful than when I was there. Even without a camera, it’s the perfect spot to go with young kids, but the trees, grass, and art mean that I have taken many many photos of them there, and have also had photo sessions with clients there. It’s relatively uncrowded and quiet with a lot of different backdrops available within the equivalent of two or three city blocks.

The weather was also perfect, warm but a little overcast, making the light hazy and soft.

First, we stopped at one of our favorite cafes for lunch, which we enjoyed on the benches outside. The sheer beauty of the light made it worth taking out my DSLR during this stop. Good light helps with iPhone photos too, but you need the detail and shallow depth of field of the DSLR to truly take advantage of it.

DSLR photo how to

blue green jacket

Shallow depth of field not only means that the background can be blurred out and
therefore less distracting (and more true to how we actually see things), but you can also layer different elements to tell a story, such as in this photo with Liam a little blurred out in front of Jack:

DSLR sibling photos

In this photo, shallow depth of field gives us a quintessential Brooklyn moment with big brother in front talking to Jack, and a mom, stroller, dog, bicycle and taxi behind setting the scene without dominating it.

DSLR photos Brooklyn kids

When we got to Pratt, we settled in front of the library where Liam wanted to, uh, jump off a rather high ledge. Action photos! This is another time where having the control over the shutter (i.e., when the photo takes) that the DSLR gives you is essential to capturing the precise moment you want (and even then it may take a few tries). This is much harder on an iPhone and pretty much impossible on a point-and-shoot without using burst mode and hoping for the best.

action photo tips DSLR

A note about outfits: my kids pretty much wear jeans or denim shorts with graphic or plain tees, so any given top will “match” any given bottom. I buy some matching tops but I also buy tops that can mix and match with each other so that I have lots of choices where they don’t clash in photos. I am still mostly the one picking or guiding their outfits, so when I know they will be with me, and particularly when I think I might take photos, I select accordingly.

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This is Liam’s “did I just get bitten by a snake?” face! The detail and texture captured by my DSLR means I will always remember this moment and feel like I could just reach out and touch Liam.

(Why did he think he had been bitten by a snake? He had just reached out and pulled a string that was attached to the building and it made a hissing noise. I asked him a) did the string have eyes and b) did he feel anything biting him. The answer was no and no, thus we determined that no, he had not been bitten by a snake!)

When I’m out with my DLSR and my kids, I’m very rarely posing them. I let them play and do their thing, and I make my camera “invisible” by interacting with them as though I didn’t have it. Sometimes it amazes me how much they don’t seem to notice it!

I love getting low and finding elements to “frame” my kids visually, to create intimacy through that sense of peeking through into a moment. You can do that with your iPhone too, but the shallow depth of field really helps keep the focus on the subject so the background is supporting but not distracting. I like the blue of Liam in the foreground too.

DSLR photo tips shallow depth of field

One of the great things about Pratt is that there are different levels, such as the terrace in front of the library, that provide opportunities for interesting photographic angles. Again, shallow depth of field allows for multi-layering.

DSLR photo tips

I kept my camera out even as we were leaving. Compare the iPhone version to the DSLR version of the boys scootering down a ramp.

scooter photo tips


scooter photo tips

The iPhone version was the one I shared on my personal Facebook page shortly after but my DSLR captures the moment at a different level.

And for portraits that capture your kids as they are now for a lifetime of memories, I’ll go to my DSLR every time.

DSLR photos bike helmet

helmet photo DSLR photos

Session stats: I took 118 photos and we were out for a couple of hours. About an hour of that was at Pratt. I edited 35 of those photos and shared 10 of them here. Remember, you can “improve” your photography simply by being selective and only showing the very best of your photos!

For more DSLR tips, including an entire lesson on getting the most out of your DSLR and shooting in aperture priority or manual to achieve shallow depth of field, check out The Photosanity Workshop.