Santa Fe New Mexico Family and Children Photographer – David Moore » Blog

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This is the photography blog for photographer and writer David Moore. He's based in Santa Fe, New Mexico but speaks with a funny accent.


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    December 28th, 2010

    Personal Favourites from 2010

    My picks from my personal work in 2010 – trips to Ireland, a rodeo and adventures with my daughter make up most of the images.

    You should also check out the client favourites slideshow for my children’s portrait and other work this year (when it’s up). And Happy New Year!

    Posted on 12/28/10 | 1 comment | Filed Under: News, Personal | read on
    December 21st, 2010

    Happy Holidays from Clearing the Vision

    Just a brief note to wish everyone a peaceful and enjoyable holiday period. It’s been a great year for me, and I’m really looking forward to 2011.

    Best wishes,


    Posted on 12/21/10 | no comments; | Filed Under: Personal, Santa Fe | read on
    December 20th, 2010

    Feeling is everything

    You want to get great photos of your kids? Remember just one thing:
    Feeling is everything.

    If your pictures communicate real emotion, then it doesn’t matter if they’re not perfectly exposed, or if the background has some clutter – they’re still a hundred times better than a perfectly composed and beautifully shot image that doesn’t communicate anything.

    You can only capture that feeling if the kid is feeling it. A genuinely happy child smiles with their whole face, not just their mouth. And cheesing (or is that cheezing?) – that fixed grimace smile that kids adopt at a very young age – is  nothing but a sign that they’re not feeling what they’re pretending to feel.

    Not every emotion your pictures communicate has to be happy, of course. A shot of a child concentrating hard on something can be riveting, or an image that communicates sadness can be equally moving.

    Not Just One Way Traffic

    Of course, the child isn’t the only one doing the feeling here. The images you choose to make and the way you do it says a lot about your mood too.

    If you’re feeling a little lost or isolated, then placing the child in a largely empty frame with their head turned away can say more about you than them.

    But most of the time I’m trying to connect to the emotion of the kids on a shoot – if someone’s shy and reserved, then I’ll be  quiet and gentle too, if someone’s leaping about I’ll try and reflect that energy myself and communicate it in the photographs. But I’m in the final images somewhere, I know.

    This is one of my favourite photos of my daughter (and her beloved teenage friend Sophie). Taken with my iPhone 3G, it's not a very good photo in lots of ways, but it captures a precious feeling, so I love it.

    Technique is necessary not sufficient

    ‘Ah,’ you say, ‘But isn’t a technically perfect photograph of real feeling better than a shot of the same emotion that’s underexposed and has a tree growing out of the kid’s head?’.

    The answer of course is yes. Which is why it’s worth studying all you can and building up some solid technique if you’re photographing your own children.

    It’s also why you might hire a professional photographer to take the shots of your child – they should be better at getting the kids to be themselves in the less than normal situation of a photo session.

    They should also be better at picking the moments to capture the real emotion. And they should also be better at composing the image and getting it technically perfect (in camera and with their post processing and printing).

    What you’re also getting with a pro is (one would hope) something of their personal vision – their take on childhood.

    Altogether, that’s a pretty rare and expensively acquired skillset, so you’ll have to be prepared to pay for the pro’s ability and time.

    But if you’re looking through galleries of photographs (your own or someone else’s)  and you see photographs of kids that look great when you squint but don’t really deliver much impact when you really look closely, the chances are what’s missing is that genuine emotion.

    And capturing that is something that should work on yourself if you’re interested in making great images of children (or anybody, for that matter).

    Like I said, feeling is everything.

    Posted on 12/20/10 | 4 comments | Filed Under: Children's portraits, Tips/Tutorials | read on
    November 30th, 2010

    Tips for Photographing Children’s Parties

    Make sure to shoot the key moments. (Canon 5D. EF 85mm f/1.8 lens at f/2.2. ISO 1600 1/250 sec -2/3 EV)

    Parties would seem to be a great opportunity to take photographs of your children having fun. And it’s an event you want to capture for posterity – especially if it’s a birthday or other special occasion.

    But capturing good images can be more difficult than you’d think. Fast-moving cake-fuelled children, indifferent light and lots of visual clutter all offer challenges.

    Here are some tips for getting the most out of a children’s party

    1) Don’t shoot from your normal height

    Getting down to eye level with the children often produces better results than shooting down on them from the normal parent-view height. The pictures are more involving and you don’t just see the tops of little heads.

    Alternatively, shooting from directly above, or way down low can also produce some interesting results

    Changing the angle can produce an interesting version of a classic party event.

    2) Mix up the type of shots

    I mainly shoot candid shots of the children with a reasonably long lens (most often a prime 85mm f/1.8 on a full-frame camera), but even with a single prime lens it’s worth looking for a range of shots.

    The cake, the pile of presents and other details will help set the scene, as will wider shots of the room and bunches of kids.

    The key is to imagine you’re telling the story of the party through your series of photographs – what images would you need to explain it someone who wasn’t there?

    Don't forget to shoot some details that help tell the story of the party.

    You can often get some of the details before too many people arrive, when you’ve got more time. Before and after shots of the scene of the party can also work well – especially if there’s a piñata and lots of wrapping paper involved.

    3) Remember whose party it is

    Especially if it’s your own child’s party, don’t forget that they’re the ones who should have the most attention paid to them photographically. I speak from hard experience on this one. At one of my daughter’s birthday parties I took roughly an equal amount of photographs of everyone there, just shooting whatever appealed to me.

    As it turned out, not many of the shots of my daughter turned out to be that great, which was unfortunate but also ridiculous on my part – whatever else you photograph, make sure you have plenty of good shots of the child whose party it is.

    4) Shoot the key moments

    You’ll probably spend most of your time getting candid shots of everyone enjoying themselves, but there will also be some must-have moments, like the birthday boy blowing out the candles, or the attacks on the defenceless piñata. If it’s not your party, check with the hosts about what’s planned so you don’t miss the important elements.

    A note on the candle blowing photograph. This can be tricky to capture well, and you can’t really ask for a re-shoot. So here’s how I try and approach it.

    • make sure your flash is off if you have one, so the face is lit by the lovely warm candle light (the brighter the ambient light in the room, the less you’ll see the light of the candle, though)
    • I use exposure compensation to underexpose by -2/3 or so, which will darken the shot a little, creating a bit more drama and emphasis on the face
    • if you’re shooting indoors and it’s not very bright, watch that you’re not choosing an aperture that will result in too narrow a depth of field, unless that’s what you intend. If you’re in close at f/2, what’s in focus is likely to a very thin sliver (probably not both candle and face if you’re shooting head-on)
    • burst mode (if you’re camera has it) will give you the best chance of getting a good shot of the moment the candle is blown out. Sometimes kids can look a little odd as they puff out their cheeks and blow, so having lots of images to choose from can help
    • kids all tend to gather round the cake with wide eyes, so if there’s time a wider shot of all the friends staring can be worth it, too

    5) Party etiquette

    If it’s your party, then shoot away, but if it’s someone else’s then you should check with the hosts that it’s OK (often they’ll be delighted that there’s a keen photographer taking pictures – make sure to share them, though). This is especially important if there are friends of friends there that don’t know you – even if the hosts are happy for you to shoot, be aware and sensitive to particular parents’ wishes if they’re not keen on you photographing their child.

    You should also make sure to be respectful and friendly to the kids – they’re at the party to enjoy themselves not to follow instructions from grown-ups they might not know that well. So let them do their thing without intervening, or introduce yourself and make taking photographs part of the fun – showing them the results of their antics on the back of the camera for example.

    6) Technical issues

    Especially in the summer, there can be a lot of indoor/outdoor mixing at parties, so make sure you change your ISO and other settings to reflect the different lighting conditions. In these situations I often leave the camera in Auto White Balance mode and make any necessary white balance adjustments later (I shoot RAW, though, so if you shoot jpgs you’ll have less lee-way on this).

    I tend to shoot in Aperture Priority mode, which gives me quick control of depth of field as I make decisions about what sort of images I want. But I’m always checking the shutter speed is fast enough to freeze the motion of the fast kids (unless I’m deliberately going for some motion blur). I tend not to use flash at all, but if I were to use it I’d employ a diffuser and/or bounce the flash to avoid it overpowering the scene.

    A tripod would just get in the way, and won’t freeze motion anyway, so leave it at home and handhold. As mentioned above, burst mode will give you more options of capturing a crucial scene successfully.


    The main point of party is to have fun, so unless you’re on the clock while you’re shooting, remember that first of all you should be enjoying yourself. But I hope these tips will leave you with some memorable party photographs to help you remember what a good time you and the guests had.

    I’d love to hear your suggestions and tips for taking better party photographs – feel free to share them in the comments below.

    Posted on 11/30/10 | 2 comments | Filed Under: Children's portraits, Tips/Tutorials | read on
    November 17th, 2010

    Learn your craft then forget it

    One of my wife’s teachers in architecture school wisely told his charges, ‘The bird of inspiration is not going to take a dump on your paper in the shape of your design.’

    He was arguing that you have to put yourself in a position for inspiration to strike. Be at your desk with your skills and techniques honed, working away at stuff. Then you might get ‘lucky’.

    The necessity of learning your craft is undeniable, and while I’m not pretending I’ve got anywhere near mastering it, I’m learning and I try to pass on tips and suggestions here that will help others. As my tagline says, I’m committed to ‘better children’s photographs for everyone’.

    But for most types of photography – and definitely if you’re photographing children – you need both to learn your craft and then be able forget about in some ways while you’re shooting. If you take a photo with a 1/100 second shutter speed, even within that single second you had a 99% chance of not getting the particular shot you did. It’s amazing we get anything half-decent at all.

    So when I’m shooting, I’m trying to think rationally about my backgrounds or composition. But most often I don’t have time. I trust that somewhere in my head there’s a bit of me that’s assessing what would make a good shot, moving my feet to get a new position that cuts out something distracting or brings more light into the eyes. But sometimes if you have to think about it, you’re taking too long.

    So I’ll set the camera up (almost always on Aperture Priority, pretty close to wide open – say f/2.2) and then don’t worry about thoughtfully composing a technically perfect shot. Instead, what I’m looking for is emotion, because that’s what powers a lot of my photographs, and it’s easier to assess that quickly.

    The most technically proficient shot is meaningless if it doesn’t communicate something – all that craft has to be in the service of something more important.

    The image above shows what I mean. I took it at one of my daughter’s friend’s birthday parties. (Even when no-one’s paying me, I’ll be the one taking photos of kids I know.)

    My daughter Fionnuala loves her kindergarten teacher Naomi with an intensity that’s wonderful to see (Naomi also taught her last year, so this is a long-term relationship). I was talking to Naomi when Fionnuala came up and snuggled into her. Instinctively, Naomi put her hand on Fionnuala’s head, and seeing that, I pulled the camera up to my face and got this shot.

    What I saw was a sweet personal moment, but also a more universal image of nurturing and love in Fionnuala’s dreamy expression and the affection communicated in Naomi’s protective gesture .

    At the time of course I wasn’t thinking this at a level I could express in words – I was probably thinking something more like ‘Ahh, there’s something there, where’s my camera!’.

    The black and white treatment seemed to simplify things further, and I’m very happy with the way it turned out.

    In fact, it only works well on a universal level because it has a personal truth to it. Writers are often told to write what they know because the more specific they get, the more (counterintuitively) what they’re saying has universal currency.

    So if you’re a parent looking to take better photos learn your craft, and then have it in the background while you tell stories that are unique to you and your family.

    If you’ve got stories to tell about what you’re thinking about while you’re shooting, I’d love to hear them.

    Posted on 11/17/10 | no comments; | Filed Under: Children's portraits, Tips/Tutorials | read on
    November 10th, 2010

    Autumn shoot with three daughters

    The weather has turned decidedly cold here in New Mexico today, but it was a warm and bright autumnal afternoon when I met up with Lauren, Mike and their three daughters in the park recently for a shoot.

    The older girls in good spirits, crispy leaves, a bright sun but some nice shade under the trees all added up to some fun on the main shoot day.

    But poor baby Vivi had missed her nap so was out of sorts though, so we reconvened at the same spot a couple of days later for her shots, and the groups of her with her big sisters.

    Here are some of my favourites from the day. Mike and Lauren were looking for some images for their Christmas cards, and for printing and framing individual portraits of the children.

    Let me know if you’re in the Santa Fe or Albuquerque area and would like something similar – not long now before the Holidays are upon us.

    (Tech note for those who are interested: All shots were taken with a Canon 5D using a EF 85mm f/1.8 lens. Processing in Apple Aperture.)

    Posted on 11/10/10 | no comments; | Filed Under: Children's portraits, News | read on
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