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Tips for Dad's on picture day!

Tips for Dad's on picture day!

Last week we flipped the script and put our ugly mugs in FRONT of the camera for once! It was such a fun experience, the kids had a blast, and we know we got some great shots of our family (mostly because our photog was so awesome...yes we're looking at you Lauren)!

But we have a confession to wasn't always such an enjoyable experience getting our photos done. Shocking, we know. We don't know what it is about picture day that makes all those wacky personality traits come out, but they always seem to make an appearance when we get in front of a camera. Trust us when we say, we've been there done that. We've had past photo experiences involving serious wardrobe malfunctions, bloody noses, and busted lips after full-on faceplants into gravel. (True stories...all of them...we swear.)

Successful photoshoots are a team effort. I've been a dad for almost a decade now, and been a part of a lot of family photo shoots in front of and behind the camera. I know most dad's don't particularly enjoy getting their pictures done. Truth be told, neither do I. But deep down I want my wife to be happy and if my beautiful bride wants pretty pictures, then, gosh darn it, that's what she's gonna get! So here are a few tips for dads to make your photo shoot way less miserable! 

Dad rule #1: Be supportive! This seriously can't be overstated! If this is the only rule you remember, you'll win at every photo session till the end of time. All my other tips are just icing on the cake. Your ATTITUDE on picture day can make or break the entire session. So do yourself (and everyone else) a favor and leave Mr. Grumpy Pants at home! We understand that you look forward to family photo day about as much as you look forward to your annual colonoscopy appointment, but please, for the love of everything holy, wives and moms look forward to this day for months, and when they look back at the photos from that day, they don't want to remember what a bad man-itude you had. Forget about what you'd "rather be doing," live in the moment, and enjoy the beautiful family God has blessed you with. Trust us when we say, you'll be glad you did...and so will your beautiful wife and adorable children.

Dad rule #2: Don't stress! Dad stress kills the vibe of a fun family session about as quick as the police rolling up on a frat party. What I'm about to say might sound a bit harsh, but we're all guys here and this is how guys talk. Deal with it ladies! Typically dad stress shows itself in one of three ways: pro-dad, helicopter-dad, or drill sergeant dad. (Confession time again...I've been all three of these at one point or another!)

Pro-dad is typically the dad who dabbled in photography back in high school or college and because he knew who Ansel Adams was once upon a time, he's now a "professional." We aren't doubting your knowledge or abiliites...seriously, we aren't. But, NEWSFLASH, you aren't here to take the pictures. You're here to be in them and follow Rule #1! So do that, and we'll take care of the rest!

Helicopter-dad is the one who is constantly fretting and fussing over the kids' hair bows, dirt on the shoes, or little smudges on faces. Typically, Helicopter-dad gave the whole family a 90 minute PowerPoint presentation in the car on the way over about "appropriate behavior." A better idea is to save the car-speech and allow a little "real life" into your photos. We want to showcase your family the way they really are, not the way The Helicopter-Dad PR Firm thought they should look.

Drill sergeant dad is the dad who thinks the louder he yells the more likely the kids are gonna listen. Except what usually happens when dad starts yelling is that the kids start crying, and then we get a bunch of pictures of snotty noses, red eyes, and frowny faces. No one wants that. So take a deep breath and let the kids be kids for about an hour. They don't bother us...REALLY. We have three ourselves and nothing your kids do is going to shock us. 

Dad Rule #3: Be attentive and flexible! Sometimes you're gonna have to wear a shirt you don't like. Sometimes you'll have to take a kid or two and go explore for a few minutes so we can get pictures of mom and baby. Sometimes you'll need to stand behind us and make ridiculous noises or goofy faces. Sometimes it's better to leave the goofy faces and silly dances to us! All that to say, you know your family the best and you know what will work best to bring out their personalities. Be mentally present at your session and be willing to jump in when we need a little extra dad help.

There you have it. We know that, as a dad, you'd WAY rather being doing a hundred other things on a Saturday evening. But if you can leave the Grump Train at the station, you might be surprised how much fun family photos can be. 


How to take better pictures with your iPhone!

How to take better pictures with your iPhone!

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last decade or so, you are probably well aware that cellphone photography is here to stay. The battle for the best "cellphone camera" heats up with each successive device release, as Google's recent Pixel phone and Apple's iPhone 7 both illustrate. Recent estimates put the number of cellphone photos taken per year at 1 TRILLION. I mean, that's a LOT of photos. Everyone owns a smartphone with a camera and sharing those photos to the web has never been easier. No wonder we take so many photos these days!

So why are there so many mediocre pictures being shared on the internet?! We take WAY more pictures than we ever used to, and yet it seems, instead of our photos getting better, we just keep posting the same dog/cat/kid/sunset/selfie photo over and over again. Can we just take a minute to be honest here...most of the stuff we see online is kinda blah.

Most people whip out their phones and just hit the button and don't think twice about it! We understand that not everyone has the time to invest in lighting courses, composition seminars, exposure triangle tutorials, or advanced editing techniques. But that doesn't mean your phone photos have to suck! So instead of you investing tons of hours and dollars to learn loads of super fancy photo techniques, we have decided to share a few quick tips so that you can take better photos with your iPhone!

1. Use tap to focus.

Let's be honest, in most modern cellphones, the autofocus does a pretty good job. But using tap to focus (especially in difficult lighting conditions) helps the camera decide where to place the emphasis of the photo. More than helping to adjust the actual "focusing" or sharpness of your subject, tap to focus gives the camera more information about how to adjust the exposure (brightness) and contrast of the image to give you a better photo. Go ahead and test it out. Have your subject (kid/dog/family member) stand in front of a strong light source like the sun or a bright lamp. Let the camera autofocus and see what happens. Usually the person's face will be too dark to see. If you tap to focus on their face, the camera adjusts it's settings to the subject and the end result is better light on the face and a better overall picture! Keep in mind, this isn't foolproof and your cellphone still might struggle in difficult situations, but it can help a lot of the time!

2. Compose your image...don't just take a "snapshot!"

If you are around photographers for any length of time, you will hear them say something like "Composition is key." The fact of the matter is, the best equipment in the world can't create a beautiful picture by itself. Most photographers realize that composing a picture properly is much more important than the equipment used to take the photo. And guess what?! That little device in your hand is a CAMERA. It takes photos...and photographs need to be COMPOSED properly. So what can you do? Two simple things can really help you compose better images.

First, use the "rule of thirds" grid that comes on most camera apps. On your iPhone, you can turn this on in Settings>Photos & Camera>Grid. This will overlay a grid on top of the scene as you take your photo. Use the grid to your advantage by simply placing your subject (typically whatever it was you tapped to focus on earlier) at the cross-section of one of the points of the grid.  A lot of times, this will help you follow the "rule of thirds" and, for most simple images, will help your photos to have a better composition. This isn't a hard a fast rule, but in most instances utilizing the rule of thirds is more pleasing to the eye (thus creating a better photo) than whipping out your phone throwing the thing you're taking a picture of in the middle of the screen and tapping the button.

Second, pay attention to what's in the picture!! Or to put it another way, look at what's on the whole screen! Every photo contains a foreground, mid-ground, and background. These are important concepts and we could spend a whole blog post on each one, but for simplicity's sake just pay attention to what's on the WHOLE SCREEN. Take a half second to look at what's in front of and behind your subject.  A lot of times we whip out our phones to take a picture, and we are solely focused on the person's face on the screen and waiting for the "smile" moment. The problem is, if you aren't paying attention, you could miss the light pole or tree growing out of the person's head because you were too focused on their face and didn't pay attention to what was behind them! As important as catching your subject at the right moment is, it is all for nothing if there's a big distracting thing right in front or behind them!

3. Take one minute to edit your photos!

We know what you're thinking...we aren't asking you to run all your iPhone photos through Photoshop. Nobody has time for that! But, there are so many other quick options for editing photos on your phone now, that ANYONE, at ANY skill level, can spend (literally) 30-60 seconds to make their photos look better. A simple editing principle to always remember is: you edit to enhance your photos not fix your photos. No amount of editing will make a bad photo look good. But a little bit of editing can make a good photo look great. Here are a few options you can use depending on your skill level...

An example of the power of editing.

For the beginner, VSCO, Afterlight, or PicTapGo are great options. These are great because they add simple films and don't require a lot of technical knowledge to get a decent result. Each app is a little different so it really just depends what look you want! Just be careful because most of these "simpler" options can look overdone if used excessively. Also, don't forget iOS has some basic editing options built right into your Photos App. So if you don't want to download (or pay for) a new app, just open your photo, and tap the three lines next to the trash can and explore the editing options!

For the intermediate/advanced photographer, Snapseed is OUR OVERALL FAVORITE mobile photo editor. It's a little more complicated and does require a little bit more technical knowledge, but even applying a few basic adjustments in Snapseed (the Tune Image and Details modules are our favorites) makes your photo really stand out! More advanced photographers will love the Selective Adjust module to really take their images to the next level!

For the super-intense, highly-advanced, semi-professional....Lightroom Mobile is a high quality, desktop level editor that we love! This app is not for the faint of heart and does require some significant know-how. But for those with the expertise, it really can transform a good photo into a great one!

We love taking pictures but more importantly we want our clients to have beautiful gorgeous "post-worthy" pictures ALL THE TIME...even when just snapping photos with their phones! We can't be with you on your family vacations (although you can take us if you want to, we won't object) or at the ballet recitals or soccer games where you take all your photos. But if you follow these few simple tips, you can take better photos with your phone and have photos you're proud of, even when we can't be there to take them for you!

5 Things I Learned From Disconnecting (Sort of) For a Week

5 Things I Learned From Disconnecting (Sort of) For a Week

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Snapchat. Text Messages. Email. In our day and age we are ALWAYS connected. With the advent of the internet and smart devices, it is almost impossible to disconnect from the constant stream of information scrolling through your news feed. That is, unless something drastic, for instance, when you go over to a friend's house for a barbecue and you accidentally take your phone for a nice long swim and turn your iPhone into a really shiny paperweight! Whoops!

So after my phone did it's best Dory impression, I was kind of without a phone for a week. I wasn't completely disconnected since I could still access the internet on my computer. But I didn't have instant access to every corner of the internet like I was used to having in our smartphone saturated culture. Once I got through the initial withdrawal stage (the struggle is real people), I had some time to reflect and think a litte bit about how being constantly connected affects us.

Before I begin, I must confess that I am not advocating that we all go back to the stone age and start foraging for berries and hunting our own meat with sharp objects. I am an unabashed Apple fanboy (sorry Androidians!) and geek out (probably a little too much) over the latest iDevice or iOS update. So please don't take what I'm about to say as an endorsement of a completely disconnected lifestyle (although if that's your thing, more power to you!). Now that I've gotten that disclaimer out of the way, here are 5 things I learned from being without my trusty iPhone for a week:

1. Let's get THE most important one out of the way first. If you don't read the other 4 things I learned, at the very least, read this one. Here it is...Real relationships happen in real life with real people. This is something that I am sad to say, I forgot far too often. It is way too easy to assume that because your Instagram picture got a ton of likes and comments, or you have a constant stream of Facebook notifications, that you have lots of friends, contacts, and acquaintances and that people REALLY know you. As valuable as online relationships are, I learned that they are NOT a substitute for real live, face-to-face, interactions with other living, breathing people. It was truly eye opening to spend undistracted time with Megan and the kids and to really observe their personalities in action. We all know that family and friends are the most important things we have in this life, but sometimes we forget just how important they are when we are constantly being distracted by all that buzzing and dinging going on in our pockets.

2. The world is an awesome place! I didn't realize how often I buried my face in my phone as the world just kind of passed me by. Whether it was while I was walking to my car (I know, I know, texting and walking is a public safety concern), sitting inside checking out Facebook during an amazing sunset, or just constantly checking your phone throughout the day for no reason. Not to get all existential on you, but after a week without a phone, the birds seem to sing a little louder, the sky seems a little bluer, and a nice breeze is just a little more refreshing. Weird? I know. But it's true. Maybe it's because without a phone, I was just a little more "present" in reality, but I found myself noticing and appreciating the little things just a little bit more.  

3. I got so much more done! Without the constant distractions it was so much easier to stay focused and complete tasks. Dishes got done faster. Kids got put to bed on time. Daily chores didn't have to "wait till tomorrow." It's not that I was being lazy (well maybe sometimes), but without the constant starting and stopping during a task while you check email or see who's texting you, it was so much easier to get stuff done. I even picked up that ancient technology known as a book and read TWO of them! I found that instead of looking back at my day and wondering where the time had gone, I was able to look back and see all the tasks that had been accomplished. 

4. I remembered how to talk to people! True confession time. I am an introvert. No, that doesn't mean I sit in a cave all day and endlessly whisper "my precious" in a creepy voice to my iPhone. It also doesn't mean that I don't enjoy being around other people. What it does mean, however, is that I'm terrible at small talk and that sometimes I need a little extra "alone time" to recharge my batteries after being around other people for a while. What I realized though, is that far too often I would whip out my phone during those "awkward silences" at gatherings or during conversations. It was way too easy to get all Gollum-ish (minus the creepy whispering thing) with my iPhone so close at hand. Instead, without that "safe haven" just a pocket away, I was forced to really engage with people and maintain a bit of back and forth conversation. Crazy right?! Don't get me wrong, no one will mistake me for and extrovert anytime soon, and small talk still kind of makes my palms sweaty, but after a little practice this week with no phone, I am fairly confident I can keep the small talk train rolling down the least for a little while! 

5. Finally, don't be afraid of the "B" word! Being bored isn't always a bad thing! Sometimes people eat because they're bored. Others whip out their phones and play Crossy Road. I'm not judging...I still giggle everytime Poopy Pigeon makes that "poopy" noise. However, after not having a smartphone for a week to magically whisk me away to car-dodging paradise any time I want, there were times where I was left to sit with nothing but my thoughts. In our consumer culture, we are constantly bombarded with things that want to "entertain" us and our smartphones are no exception. As I commuted to and from work with nothing to do but think about my day, wonder what the kids did all day, or contemplate the meaning of life, I realized that sometimes it's ok to be bored. In a weird way, I think our brains need a bit of time to sort thoughts, reorganize ideas, and get back on track, and boredom proved to be a really good way of getting my mind right.

Now that the week is over, and my new iPhone arrived in the mail, I'm trying to remember what I learned and change my habits a bit so that I don't fall into the same traps I did before. I utilize the vibrate and "do not disturb" function a lot more now than I used to. I try and schedule times to check social media instead of just "always being on." If there's a living, breathing human in front of me, I try my best to keep my phone in my pocket and give them my full attention. I'm also trying to maintain my new found reading habit. When its time to unplug, I try and leave my phone in another room because "outta sight" in this case really is "outta mind."

I still love getting on social media, hopping through traffic with Floppy Fish, or scrolling through articles on Feedly. But, after a week with no phone, I realized that a little less time with your phone and a little more time with the ones you love is a sacrifice we should all be willing to make.

This totally has nothing to do with phones but they're too cute not to add! :)

This totally has nothing to do with phones but they're too cute not to add! :)