Saturday, August 16, 2014

Getting Your Kids in the Picture: The subtle differences between bribes, threats, and good natured cajoling

(In which I reveal the TRUE magic words while referencing Frozen)

I was guest blogger on Megan Love Photography and delivered this all important information to people everywhere. Unlike Meg Kelly Anderson's valuable insights about getting better photos GIVING UP control, people far and wide (at LEAST three of them) learned to clamp down and force their kids in front of the camera #fercryinoutloud (Sorry. I didn't manage to take over the internet this summer, so I'm trying for that one hashtag).

Unfortunately Megan Love's blog has some technical problems, so I am reposting here. Because sometimes you gotta stick your kids in front of the camera whether they like it or not.


When Megan and I decided to swap guest posts on our blog, I was just a teeny bit intimidated. Although interested in photography since I got my first camera at age 7, I didn’t get a DSLR until just a few years ago. What could I possibly contribute?

Then it happened that some choice parenting words fell out of my mouth (probably, “No eating the cat food! Cat food is only for the cat!”) and I realized that with four kids, eleven years of teaching, and thirty three years of childcare in various settings, one thing I’ve learned a little bit about is...well...children.

Whether or not I can utilize this knowledge at any given moment is another story, but here is something that might help get your kids to cooperate when you’ve been getting “The Hand”.

NOBODY likes getting the hand.  But I can pretty much guarantee that giving “The Hand” isn’t any fun either.

I got “The Hand” for years.  At least, it felt like years.

Threats are one option, and quite honestly some children respond to them rather rapidly.   However, threats are rarely going to make for that heartwarming captured moment picture you may have been hoping to capture.

I know, because here’s the picture I got when I told my boy, “If you don’t come out and let me take your picture, your cat will probably get eaten by a coyote”:

In my defense, I needed the subject matter, so it was a choice between him and the cat.  And there ARE occasional coyote sightings in my neighborhood. 

Compare this to the picture I get when I tell him, “Try not to look too much like a terrorist” and you’ll see that humor has distinct advantages: 

Bribery works for a lot of children.  When my boy was a preschooler, he would clean his entire room for four chocolate chips.  But there is an even better way to get that coveted photo from a kid who wants nothing to do with being in front of a camera. 

The magic words are…

(I hate to say “wait for it” but how else to emphasize the anticipation of it all!?!?!) 

Wait for it...

The magic words are: "AS SOON AS"!
Pretend you are ten years old and you hear the following offer, stated three different ways.  Take at least a moment between each one to see how it pretend makes you pretend to feel.

A) If you don’t finish the dishes, we’re not going to see Frozen!

B) If you do the dishes, we’ll go see Frozen!

C) As soon as you finish up the dishes, we can go see Frozen!

Neither you nor your parents are going to have a great time with A, whether or not the dishes get done.  The atmosphere is already one of threats and not so conducive to having fun.

B is better and is fine if it works, but notice that the word “if” gives the child an out.  It puts the ten year old in charge and gives a choice about whether or not the dishes get done.

In my mind, the best is “AS SOON AS”!

“As soon as” combined with a touch of humor and playfulness can work wonders.  In scenario C, it doesn’t matter if the dishes get done or not.  The responsibility was still with the child, and the child has no one to blame but him or herself if the dishes don’t get done. 

Scenario C leaves the parent with options that aren’t really available in A or B.  If it’s getting close to movie time and the child has been working diligently, the parent might say, “I think you can finish up on time to see the movie!  Let me give you a hand!”

But if the child has been balking or lollygagging, the parent might say something along the lines of   “Oh well.  We can see Frozen tomorrow night no big deal.  Maybe we’ll still have time for a game of yahtzee before bed if you hurry.” (No skin off mom or dad’s back either way).

The key to this strategy is the true belief that “It’s my way way or the highway” that just isn’t present in option B.  Option B has that element of pleading that gives the child the clear indication that mom or dad really isn’t in charge.  The “in charge” feeling is more present in option A, but not in that “feel good way” that produces a good photograph.

The above pictured boy does his best to avoid babies at all costs.

More in the"Tips for Improving Your Photography" Series that might ACTUALLY help your photography:

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Yane! {Photo Friday}

I can't help myself and it's not even ****MY**** baby! Look at this doll:

The Boonga talks about her all the time, especially the part where I gave her a magnet with "Yane"'s pee-chure (picture) on it, and she lost it right away. In my car. A confined space...

Anyway, lookout Yane! I'm pretty sure The Boonga is even now plotting ways to teach you to lick tables, chairs, and floors alike (not to mention minor torture of household pets).

Saturday, August 09, 2014

On Today's Episode of "Dark Shadows..." : Using Natural Light Indoors

Anne Oliver of Lolli Photography is AMAZING not to mention generous and kind.  She has taught me so, so, so incredibly much over the years and here she is doing it again!

Don't blame Anne for MY poor photos though.  Half the time I'm just trying to keep The Boonga from licking whatever awful things she finds on my unswept floor, much less trying to get her to pose.


On Today’s Episode of “Dark Shadows……”

By Anne Oliver

So originally I was going to use as my title for this article the cliched (albeit true) statement that it’s “All About The Light.” Ask any photographer what the most important thing to learn is, and that’s what they will tell you. And of course I agree. But what I want to do is bring you over to the Dark Side...invite you to enter the Shadow World...explore the dark recesses of….OK, OK, enough cliches and bad puns. But the fact is that your photography will improve markedly when you not only look for the light, but also use the shadows to provide shaping, dimension and depth to your images, whether they are portraits, still lifes or macro shots. And you probably already have what you need to achieve these amazing shadows - a window!

Window light is wonderful. Let’s call it “Wonderful Window Light,” heretofore referred to as “WWL.” (In part because I’m working hard to be clever, and mostly because I don’t want to type “Wonderful Window Light” over and over. Yup, I am lazy.)

But you can’t just plop your subject down in front of a window and start snapping away. First, find the right kind of WWL. The main thing you want is INDIRECT light. Indirect light is soft and even. If you see bright sunbeams on the floor or those enchanting little dust motes flying around, you’ll need to modify that strong light coming in. Drape a sheer piece of white fabric across the window, and you’ll have exactly what you need. Second-story windows are fabulous, because they are often not blocked by trees or other structures. And you know you’re a photography nerd when what excites you about a hotel room is not the bed or the fancy shower but the huge windows that allow massive quantities of WWL to illuminate the room! (A little further down you’ll see some hotel windows that made me a very happy traveller).

Next, consider where you will place not just your subject, but yourself. And since we are talking about shadows, place your subject at an angle to the window. 45 degrees is the most common recommendation, but you can start there and slightly adjust them to achieve different looks. If you place the subject parallel to the window (in other words, with the window directly in front of them), the light will be flat with no shadows, and that’s not what we want. We don’t want “Boring Flat Light” (BFL)...we want WWL, remember?

Now to place you, the photographer. Usually I am crammed up against the window or the wall, and it’s hilarious to see, let me tell ya. Here is a diagram of the basic 45-degree set-up:

And here is a pull back of the 45-degree set up in action.She was sitting on the white stool, and I was standing just next to the fan.

And a photo from that setup. Notice how the shadows create soft curves around her cheeks and mouth?

Once you place your subject at an angle, play around with rotating them away from the window and then having them face the window more directly (although not too much - you don’t want to turn them so much you get BFL instead of WWL). As they move, watch the catchlights in their eyes and how the shadows fall differently across their features as you move them. Even tilting their head one way or another, as well as tilting their chin up or down, will subtly change the shadows. Let me show some examples of this…

Here she is turned slightly more away from the window, which results in stronger shadows on one side of the face. Depending on the quality and strength of your light, those shadows can be really strong and dramatic or more subtle.

Here you can see that having her tilt her head in the other direction changes the shadows slightly.

And here I had her move a little closer to the window. She’s also closer to the wall, which resulted in stronger, more defined shadows behind her.

If you’ve ever struggled with your Black and White conversions, it could be because you used flat lighting. Images with dimensional shadows make for stronger BW images.

And WWL and good shadowing also makes for great still lifes. We travelled to Seattle recently, and I was so happy to open that hotel door and see a wall of windows. (You might also be a photography nerd if you talk about WWL too much. Evidently I might have expressed my desire for WWL a few times before we arrived, because when we walked in the room the first thing my daughter said was, “Hey look, Mom, you got your big windows!!”)

This was a very “make-do” kind of shot. I had purchased this lovely handmade vase and asked the woman if I could keep the little flowering branch she had in it for display. I used my husband’s leather iPad case on which to place the vase and the inside of an open book for the background. But I applied the same principle of putting the scene at an angle to the window and then moving it around for the desired amount of light vs. shadows.

You can use WWL for macro shots, too. Here is my makeshift setup - my suitcase with a towel thrown over it, and the flower wrapped in a towel and placed in the ice bucket, LOL. But all that aside, I still kept in mind the placement of the flower at an angle to the window in order to give me some soft shadowing, which gives the petals depth.

And here are some of the resulting shots using that setup.

So I hope all of you get a chance to play around with WWL to achieve some lovely shadows in your photography, regardless of what your subject is. Your dark side (and your photos) will thank you!


Just dying to see more of Anne?  Here is one set of photos of hers that I love in particular.  But really, you can't go wrong checking out her entire website!!!!!!

Thank you so much Anne!  You're the best!

More posts in the "Tips for Improving Your Photography" Series:

Getting Your Kids in the Picture: The Subtle Differences Between Bribes, Threats, and Good Natured Cajoling by me, but guest posted on Megan Love's blog which is having technical difficulties and I will either repost here or link here soon!

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Friday, August 08, 2014

Yoda {Photo Friday} (& giveaway!)

Lara at Overstuffed gave me the idea to do a once a week photo post. Well, I mean she didn't actually GIVE it to me.  I kind'a like stole it off her.  But she's a kind and generous person, and I don't think she minds.  Very much.

So here's my lovey baby, doing her "Yoda."

She loves to dance to any NOISE.  But particularly "Shabbat Noise!"


This is not Shabbat Noise. Obviously it's Fourth of July noise. rained cats and dogs here on July 4th so we weren't able to go watch fireworks.  Here's hoping that I can keep up with this!  I'd love to have something as consistent as Janice's Feline Friday!

At any rate, remember there's ORGANIC Shea Butter to spare!  Enter before it's too late for FREE!

brought to you by
Wonderfully Messy Mom & and Beauty by Shea!!!!!
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Monday, August 04, 2014

Sticking a Giant Label on Your Head Only Seems Like a Good Idea for a VERY Short Time {AKA Baby's First Haircut}

You know what's NOT a great idea?  Putting a giant label onto your baby fine hair.

It seems like fun at first...

But getting it out stinks!  Ok...not literally.  The coconut oil part smelled good enough, as did the detangler.  But OWIE!

Still, even in pain I can ham it up for the camera...

Finally!  Mom pulls out the scissors.  The nightmare is over!!!!!!!  

Move along people!  Nothing to see here, nothing at all...

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Letting Your Kids Call the Shots: Tips on Getting Great Photos of Your Kids!

In which Meg Kelly Anderson, World-Premier-Mom-With-Camera gives us advice that even BETTER than telling your kid that if he doesn't come out and let you practice taking some photos of him, his cat will probably get eaten by a coyote!!  (Sorry for the tiny pictures on that one.  I didn't know any different back then.)

Meg is not only a great photographer, she is one of the nicest, funniest people on the planet.  So stick with her and improve your own awesomeness!  


I'm a busy mother of three, trying to balance all different aspects of life.  Photography is my passion.  Jill has graciously allowed me to share my favorite tips on her blog.  In a perfect world I would have a professional photographer capturing my fabulous children in various poses and outfits on a daily basis.  Sometimes the photographer would do some lifestyle work from a discreet distance.  The kiddos wouldn't even know they were there.  The catch lights and skin tones would be amazing. 

My budget brings me back to reality.  Therefore, I try to snag some nice shots on my own.  And we ALL know that our children behave better for other people than they do for their parents, so this can be challenging.  I have done the begging, threats and bribing.  It's a hit or miss, often resulting in stilted smiles and eyes that aren't looking at the camera.  Loving my children as I do, I still can't erase these C+ images from my files.  They are all keepers.  But that's a discussion for another day.

One thing that has really helped me to achieve better cooperation from my kids is to get them on my team.  We are partners in crime.  I ask them for input on their clothes, shoes (or lack thereof) and background location.  It often helps to allow them to pick a special toy to join them in the photo.  Within reason they also choose the hair style and pose.  This has resulted in some fairly funny stuff.  It has also brought about some of my very favorite pictures.

The other day my five-year old came into the room wearing a cowgirl outfit and asking if she could model for me.  Music to my ears!  She told me she wanted to have her hair in two braids, although this was rather like trying to tie a bow with a two-inch ribbon.  Her hair is a big short and fine for braids, but we made it work.  She asked if cowgirls rode cows, and I broke the news to her that they rode horses.  She found her favorite stuffed horse, I grabbed my big reflector and out to the back yard we went. 

Here were Hannah's perfectly imperfect ideas for posing:

This was my contribution.  I know because I always tend to get in too close:

If I ever hit it big, I still plan on having our own personal paparazzi running around the house, along with a maid or two, of course.  Until that happens, I'm so grateful that I have figured out a way to capture these fleeting moments in time.   I can happily report that I now have a photo of Hannah taken just moments after she learned that cowgirls do not actually ride cows.


Thank you so much Meg!  I love the post and it was SO GREAT to see you and your gorgeous models yesterday!

More Posts in the "Tips for Improving Your Photography" Series:

Five Tips for Better Images (without buying stuff)! by Megan Love

*All pictures by Meg Kelly Anderson except the random little boy with the camera at the top, which I got from Dollar Photo Club because there was room to put all the Pinterest-y information!*

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

TBT - Why You Should Definitely, Definitely Take My Imaginary Parenting Classes (Part XXVIII)

My sweet pea took her trip to Israel during much calmer times (Summer, 2011) than my boy (who just got home on Sunday).

I thought it would be nice to hear the joyful ramblings of a teen who just got back from the trip my boy did not experience.  I love that she came home not just with pictures, but requesting to guest blog!

Notice that she took "pretty and scenic and memorable" pictures, but she saved the ones with the swear words and inappropriate body parts just for ME!!!!  You should definitely, definitely be taking my parenting classes folks!!!!!!  (Warning: swear words & stuff)


Hello everyone out there in blog world! This is my only my second guest blog post ever, the first one being when I got a jellyfish sting on my arm when I was 12. I recently got back from the best summer trip ever in the whole world. It was called Ldor vDor, and for those of you who don’t speak Hebrew, that means generation to generation. My group went from pre-world war II settlements in Prague, Czech Republic, to touring concentration camps and ghettos in Poland, and finally to the beautiful Jewish homeland of Israel. The whole trip altogether was 5 full weeks. Five full weeks of 39 Jewish teenagers running around multiple airports with 4 counselors and a security guard (with a gun). I had a fantastic time and it was life changing and I learned about responsibility and whatnot.

Of course, as I was traveling through multiple countries, I kept an eye out for silly signs and foreign English fails for my mommy to use in her blog. Five weeks away from home and you would be surprised how many funny signs we came across. Especially in Poland. 

In case anybody was wondering, it didn’t taste very good at all. 

Probably because it was Zartbitter. 

We saw a random communist bus. I don’t know why.

In krakow, people fart on street signs :

When we were leaving Poland to go to Israel, we had a 7 hour layover in Frankfurt airport. My group of friends wandered over to the bookstore to buy some foreign magazines to keep us entertained. At the store, we giggled at the names of towns to tour. This one pretty much speaks for itself:

Then we arrived in Israel. Israel is my favorite place in the whole world except for maybe my summer camp. Not only because it is the land of my ancestors and all historical, but also because in Israel, hummus is very convienient. You know you are in Israel when hummus comes in pudding cups at gas stations.

And last but not least, while we were touring Tel Aviv and learning about the city’s historical roots, we came across this sign:

Translation: 31 Penis street. 

40 teenagers walking past this street made for a lot picture taking. We got a lot of stares from the locals, because in Israel, it means something totally different and completely appropriate. 

I hope you enjoyed my silly Israel pictures. I have pretty and scenic and memorable ones too of course, but these are the ones I brought just for my mom's blog. I plan to go again next year and hope to bring you more!

Monday, July 28, 2014

How it Feels to be Me Today (aka You may have spaced your kids too far apart when you can't even take an airplane to Europe and then swim across the Mediterranean to get the teen, because you wonder who would watch your toddler while your husband is at work.)

My boy got back from Israel last night, and I am happy.

This is not a political blog. I try and make it a place to come and laugh at life's mysteries, not bemoan them, and to whistle in the dark if nothing else.  But I can only be flippant 99% of the time.

My boy was in Israel with the missiles, and he was there when the airport shut down, and he was there without me.

And though my son flew home, one of the counselors was called to fight.  While I feel relief, other mothers are consumed with worry.

I stand with Israel and I truly, honestly believe that Israel does it's very, very best to do right by its people despite the fact that there will be times when politics get in the way of a simple yes/no, right/wrong answer.

I don't believe that Hamas keeps the best interest of its people in mind.

That said, I risked the nonpolitical, humorous nature of my blog to tell you this: 
Children's lives matter more to me than who started fighting first.  Our children and their children are dying.  To quote Leadbelly, "We're in the same boat brother". We can't stop Jewish children from dying without trying to bail out the boat.

I am heartbroken for every baby all the world over who has to suffer for any reason, but particularly for these children. 

Still, I have my boy back, so we celebrate. 

And celebrate we did, with Mexican food and Dr. Pepper and Dr. Pepper ice cream. It was pure joy.  With caffeine.

But at the same time I cried.  I cried all day long.  I cried for the babies, the babies on both sides, who happened to be born in conflict, who will be staying in a country at war, whose earliest memories will be of hiding and fear rather than play dough and story time.  And I don't really know what to do with that part, except to write this.

So, here's my view in a nutshell:  

Israel = good.  

Babies = good.  

Fighting = bad.  

Hah!  I found my flippant side again.  

May it last.
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