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Monday, February 28, 2011

Cawfee Tawk Tuesday: Ditch The Cheese!

Happy Tuesday friends! How's that coffee this morning? Well, if it's anything like mine it's pretty light, which is perfect for this week's topic! After 2 weeks of a pretty complex topic like aperature, I thought I'd take it back to something a little easier and maybe a little more fun- getting great expressions from your subjects (aka those adorable kids)!

Now if you're like me, you've got that one kid who just hates your camera. Sure there's one who will ham it up for you any time you want to shoot, but there's that one who just despises having his photo taken. Every time you pull out the camera, you get either the dirty looks or the fake smiles.

Take a quick look at this shot- can you tell who I'm talking about in my family?

Seriously, I love this kid, and he's one of the cutest kids I've ever seen in my life (yes, I know I'm not 100% objective, but I love my mommy goggles)! But I cannot get this kid to look at my camera and give me a real genuine smile. This is the best I get. Mouth close, semi-happy look, more closely resembling the old "you've got 10 seconds mom and I'm out of here" expression.

Now I know I'm not the only one with a subject like this! But what can we do with these faces? How can we get real genuine smiles, honest expressions of the beauty we see everyday?

Well, I can tell you one thing- it sure isn't going to be with the old "SAY CHEESE!!!" so don't do it! Seriously, right now, throw that phrase out of your basket of tricks and never ever go there again! Seriously, you know the face you're going to get with it. I can't even give you an example from my own photos of "that look" because I NEVER EVER say those words! And I am telling you never ever to say them again! You don't want that face.

Why not? Well, simply because it's not real. Life is not cheese (well, maybe soap opera life, but not real life- and that's cheesY, not cheese!). Life is about real emotions and real expressions and for me, I'd rather have a grimace than a "say cheese" smile.

Some of you might not like what I'm saying here, like my own mother, who would much prefer seeing her beautiful grandchildren adorning their best grins! But I think I prefer real life. And sometimes those more serious expressions, those sad faces are almost more beautiful.

However, we all love the smiles sometimes. So if you want some real ones, engage with those kids, talk to them, get their minds away from your camera and back to YOU. Start playing with them and you'll find those smiles. Here I started challenging Brady to make as many silly faces as she possibly could. Not only did I get some great OTHER expressions, but eventually I got what I was really going for- that genuine smile that she could not contain! She was having way too much fun!

And look at this! Mr. "Don't you dare put that camera in front of me!" with a genuine expression of joy! How is this possible? Easy! I tickled him and started teasing him. We were playing and he forgot about the camera. Sure he isn't looking AT ME, but he's genuinely happy and this is one of my favorite shots of him.

Again, I say let them play. Play with them, or get them playing with each other, then shoot the moment. I know nothing makes Mikey boy happier than playing with his brother and sister, so that's how I got this smile. You know your kids and what makes them happy- shoot them doing those things!

Mikey is not the only one in our family who LOVES playing with his siblings. I am starting to figure out that the only thing I need to get my kids truly smiling is another one of my kids playing with them. I'd take this over "CHEESE" any day, and I'm sure you would agree.

Of course, like I said, life is not always joyful and giggly, but even the sad and grumpy moments can be beautiful so I shoot those too! And I'd encourage you to as well! Am I terrible for shooting through this tantrum? Perhaps, but I think not (after all, it's not like he was hurt- he just wanted to hold my camera himself)! Somedays I look at this photo and laugh. Other days I look at it and think "well, it could be worse- Mikey could be screaming like THIS right now!" But I know I will always love this image.

And I encourage you to keep shooting through the tantrums and through the emotions. You may get lucky and get something like this- laughter through the tears. A more beautiful expression I have yet to see.

And if you throw away that CHEESE, keep shooting, and enjoy every expression your loved ones give you, you know you're bound to get the real deal sooner or later- right there, genuine smiles, lookin' right at ya! And there's nothing more beautiful than that!

Get to it! Ditch the cheese, grab the camera, and shoot the emotion. Have an awesome week and send me some examples. There's nothing I love more than real emotion in photography!
Happy shooting!

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cawfee Tawk Tuesday: Aperature Part II

Happy Tuesday everyone! Got your coffee? I've got mine- nice and hot with my favorite hazelnut creamer in it! YUM!

Anyway, let's get to it! Last week, we started on an important lesson in depth of field and aperature. I saw some great images throughout the week from some of you. Thanks for taking the time to humor me and do the homework. Gold stars all around!

So now that you're a little more familiar with depth of field and aperature, let's figure out how we can use it in our images. For me, adjusting my aperature is the best way to create my images and "tell my stories".

Let's talk first about the obvious. By setting your aperature to a higher f/stop number like f/22, you create tremendous depth of field where everything is in focus. This is perfect for those landscape shots where you want everything to be seen in great detail. Here is one of my favorite landscape shots, taken in one of our favorite places ever- Estes Park, CO.


However, using a higher f/stop number is not just for those landscape photos. Sometimes when shooting portraits, the environment adds to the image and it's better to keep everything in great detail. When I shot this image, the gorgeous setting only added to the gorgeous family so it made sense to me to keep it all in sharp focus. The setting helped me better tell this family's story.

Of course, it makes sense to keep everything in focus. Seems obvious. But there are times when it's better to "open up". Bring down that f/stop and open up that lens and focus ONLY on the subject you are trying to single out. Create that "single themed image" where there is no question as to what your viewer should be fixed on. Here it is the simple yet heart-melting smile of my little sweetheart.

And let's take this a step further! Seems obvious to focus on the face right? You've got a portrait, so you focus on your subjects. But let's take our story telling to the next level by using a shallow depth of field and an unusual focus. Here, rather than focusing on the bride and groom, I chose to focus on the flowers in my foreground. A much more interesting shot, the bride, groom, and minister are out of focus in the background and the viewer is made to feel almost like she's getting a sneak peek. It's a much more romantic take on an otherwise common shot.

Here's another great way to tell a great story without focusing on the people in the image. By using a lower f/stop and a more shallow depth of field, I focused on the flowers rather than the bride and groom and let the viewer get a sneak peek into the private moments of the newlyweds. So romantic!

Playing with your aperature is a great way to change the stories you are trying to tell with your images. It helps take your photos from snapshots to portraits or stories. After all, every great image tells a story! So spend this week experimenting. Look around you and decide before hand what images should be in full focus for great stories, and what images would work better as single-themed subjects. Take some shots using a shallow depth of field, and then try the opposite. After a while (and I mean after a long while, not just one week) you will start to notice that you tend to shoot either shallow or deep. You will start to realize that you like telling your stories using great detail or focusing on one element. And you'll start to develop a style!

As for me, I love to shoot more wide open, using a more shallow depth of field. And when it comes down to it, as much as I love a romantic shot, I still cannot resist setting my focus on those captivating and beautiful faces I find in front of my camera!

Go play and develop that style- and don't forget to shoot me an example or two! I love to hear from you! Happy shooting and see you next week!

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

February Special- The Senior Package!

This month I had this poster created and put up in some of the local high schools and YMCAs.


Some of you may be wondering what this Senior Package is all about, so here it is!
Don't wait! Sessions are limited, so visit Jen Lebo Photography to book your session today!
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cawfee Tawk Tuesday: Aperature Part I

Happy Tuesday! Grab your "cawfee" and let's get down to business!

A lot of people have asked me how to get that cool blurry background in their photos. The answer lies in understanding "depth of field" and "aperature".

Depth of field is the zone of sharp focus in your images. If your image has sharp focus throughout, from the foreground to the background, you have a greater depth of field. If your image has one small area in focus, with the background and/or foreground blurry, it is said to have a "shallow depth of field". So how do you alter your depth of field?

This is where aperature comes is.

Aperature is simply a hole in your lens. It's the size of the opening of your lens when a photo is taken. Changing your aperature changes how big that opening is so that you can have a tiny opening or a large opening.

Huh?

When you press the shutter on your camera, you need to consider two things- how fast the lens opens and closes (shutter speed- we'll discuss it some other day) and how wide the lens opens and closes (aperature). By changing your aperature, you change how wide the lens opens- how much light you let in.

So how do you alter the aperature? Let me try to show you. Go get your camera. I'll wait here. OK, now check out your settings. Chances are you've got a dial or some button that lets you change your settings and chances are you've got some letters in those settings- M, P, S, and A maybe? Put your camera into A mode- that's Aperature mode.


Now that your camera is in the aperature setting, you can adjust the size of that hole in the lens either by turning a dial or pressing a button (sorry, but you need to check your manual to know which- each camera is a little different).

Aperature is measured by f/stops. The lower the number the f/stop is, the wider the opening of the lens is, and the higher the f/stop number is, the smaller that opening will be. Higher f/stop and smaller opening means greater depth of field (everything is in focus). Lower f/stop and wider opening means shallow depth of field (blurry background). You can see by my example below (btw... pardon the subjects I chose, but could you imagine me trying to get my 3 kids to sit still for this? Seriously, come on!) Can you see how the smaller f/stop makes just the Zoo box in focus, while with the higher f/stop everything is pretty much in focus?


So why is this important? What's the purpose of selecting a low f/stop or a high f/stop, and what's the big deal if my depth of field is shallow or not?

Well, that's a story for another Tuesday! Next week, we'll get into how to use aperature for story telling and portraiture. In the meantime I have a THREE part homework assignment for you! (no groaning and no back talking the teacher!)

1. Go back and reread this post- like I said it's a little hard to understand but so crucial to taking your photography to the next level- I base 95% of my portrait work on aperature!
2. Go read your camera manual and learn how to adjust the aperature (f/stops) on your camera. Ugh, annoying, yes. But so worth it!
3. Go shoot some objects around your home or neighborhood like I did above. Take 3 shots of the same object- shoot at a low f/stop (wider open lens), a mid-range f/stop, and then a higher f/stop (small opening)- depending on your camera, this could be f/4, f/8, and f/12 or it could be f/2, f/5, and f/22! Just experiment and download your images- see if you can see the difference.


And of course, share with me! I love hearing from you and want to know if you can see it too!


Happy shooting!

Jen



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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Beautiful Hannah

Last week we travelled to Florida to visit my parents, my brother and his family. Despite whatever circumstances we may face as a family, it is always great to head down to Florida to spend some time together for so many reasons. First there's my mother's cooking. It's AMAZING and just gets better and better with every visit. Then there's the chaos of 6 grandkids getting together for lots of fun, laughter, and mischief. There are afternoons of watching my nephew, Joe, play baseball (what an athlete!) or my niece, Hannah, run hurdles. There's the warm weather, there's watching my father play the drums, and there's quality time with my brother (and especially his wife who is more like my sister!).

And then there's my special treat. Every time we head down to visit, my niece Hannah and I head out for a special date. We steal away for a morning of shooting and then we head out for breakfast together. And every time we do this I am amazed at this young lady. She gets more and more beautiful by the second, and her outer beauty is matched only by her inner beauty. She is kind, honest, sensitive, and most of all, genuine and totally real. I have loved this girl for 13 years! She is one of the greatest joys of my life!

Here are a few of my favorites from our special day!




Of course, there are TONS of photos of the rest of the crew from our short visit together. They're coming, but I had to post these first!

Hannah, thanks for an awesome morning! It was so fun and you make shooting so easy! I am counting the days until our next photo date!

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cameras and Cawfee Tawk Tuesday: Top Ten Tips

OK, who hates lectures? ME ME ME!!!
I'm a former high school English teacher. Ions ago, I was a high school, then college student. And I'm a mom of 3 kids under the age of seven! So I know the value of short and to the point!

That said, here is the first of what I'm guessing will be many "Cawfee Tawk Lists".
Today's list: Top Ten Quick Tips to Better People Pictures!


1. Lose the cheese! Stop telling your kids, or friends, or whoever, to say cheese- it just makes their smiles look unnatural and forced. Instead, talk to your subject, and engage with them. Shoot all of their emotions! And if you want them to smile and laugh- then just LAUGH! It's contagious!

2. Take a few minutes to declutter your space. Throw the toys in another room, pick up the dirty clothes, and toss the sippy cups aside. A decluttered space creates a much better background! Here, Nora's mom even took the time to toss the pillows off the bed, which means the viewer sees nothing but that adorable face!

3. Get her away from dead center! The natural tendency is for us to get our subject and stick her right in the middle of the frame. Don't do it! It get the viewer's eyes stuck- should I look to the left, or the right? Where should my eyes go? Instead, pull your subject off to one side, and even better, have her then look into the center of the frame. Then the viewer's eyes know where to look.

4. Play with different angles. Don't always shoot your kids standing up or straight on. Experiment. Different angles suggest different characteristics. For example, shooting down on a child (like with Scotty, left) gives the image a feeling of innocence. Shooting at eye level, like with Camryn (center) suggests a feeling of being right there with your subject, a real connection. And shooting from below (like with Steve, right) gives your subject a feeling of strength and power- a great way to shoot high school boys!

5. Move in closer to your subject- and then move closer still! I am a big fan of getting in tight to my subjects. It leaves no room for doubt as to what we're focusing on here. A tiny bit of head chop if fine (just don't chop the chin!) and the closer you get, the more dynamic those eyes are. And hey, it takes care of the clutter problem too!

6. After you get close to them, get them close to each other! And by close, I mean CLOSE! Anyone who has sat for a session with me knows I love this rule, and I'm always saying "move closer together- closer- closer! Get UNCOMFORTABLY close!" It really does make them uncomfortable sometimes, but then it turns out to be their favorite shot! All the time! So get them close. Leave no spaces between those kiddies. You'll love the results!

7. Save the line up for the criminals! Think TRIANGLES! You've seen it before- you want to get the whole family together for a shot, but they all naturally just line up. WHY? Don't do it! Get people seated, get heads on different planes, and get arms connected and around each other. Try to get everyone touching and try to make sure no two sets of eyes are on the same plane. With one straight line up, the viewer looks from one face to the next to the next, right out the side of the picture! With triangles, the viewer goes around and around, from gorgeous face to gorgeous face, traveling back and forth through your image over and over, which is exactly what you want!

8. Turn off the lights in the house and just move to the window. We talked a little about this in my last Cawfee Tawk post, but I cannot stress enough how gorgeous natural window light is. But you gotta turn off those overhead lights. And your flash too! Just move your subject closer to the window, and then experiment with where you place that window. Natural light is gorgeous light if you just play with it.

9. Focus on those eyes! OK, so you're nice and tight on that subject of yours, but the photos keep coming out blurry! Ugh, what's wrong? My guess is that you aren't focusing in the right spot. Your viewfinder should have a little square that lights up when you are focusing right? Well, put that little box right on the inside corner of your subject's eye and shoot. Yes, his chin might turn out a little soft, but that's ok. If the eyes are tack sharp, the image will be gorgeous. I mean, really, how can you look away from those eyes?
10. Keep shooting! Do not get discouraged, do not get bored, and do not give up! My kids are so sick of my camera it's not even funny, but they know that they must deal and so they do! And so yeah, I don't always get great smiles from them but who cares! (see rule #1)

Oh and after you get these rules down pat... go ahead and break them! Have some fun!

Your homework for this week is to spend some time with these rules. Then send me a comment and let me know which rules you love and which you hate- and maybe throw me a photo too! I always love to hear from you!

See you next week when we'll learn about the first of the sacred triangle of photography- aperature (and how to get those fun blurry backgrounds). BEWARE THOUGH... I feel a lecture coming on!

Happy shooting!
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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Tribute to my Ballerina

I love having a daughter. I always knew I would. But having Brady is like nothing I ever dreamed of. This girl is something else, and anyone who knows her knows EXACTLY what I am talking about. She is all heart, all fun, and no holding back. She's a drama queen, a tom boy, a mush mush, and a toughie, all rolled into the most beautiful little girl I have ever seen. (I know these are my mommy goggles, but I don't care!)

One of the greatest things about having a daughter, especially one like Brady girl, is getting to experience life as a little girl all over again. Brady wants to do things I never dreamed of doing as a little girl. Brady loves to run around and play Star Wars, and yet she also loves to do ballet and dress in tutus. And while, as a child, I would have never had the guts to get dolled up in my black bodysuit and ballet slippers, this little lady does it with gusto!

From the very first class I knew we had found something very special for her, and I knew I'd have to capture this on film- for both of us. And so this past week, I asked her teacher if I could sneak in and shoot a little during class. Miss Jane (of Jane Baron's Academy of Dance) was wonderful and let me go crazy! Here are some of my favorites.





Brady, you are one of the greatest blessings of my entire life. I pray that you always live life with the unabashed confidence you have today. I pray that you never change. And I pray that you never forget how much I adore you.

Love you, Brady girl.

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