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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    May 16th, 2011

    Little Ballerinas

    Little girls love ballet and my daughter is no exception, so I was delighted when I got the chance to shoot her pre-ballet class at the Dance for Joy Studio in Santa Fe.

    Their teacher Allegra Lillard is enthusiastic and caring, and the girls were clearly enjoying themselves at the same as learning a lot.

    Most of the dancers were five or six years old, and in the images there’s a great mixture of the more grown-up elegant moments when they look like tiny ballerinas, and the more relaxed times when they’re just kids having fun.

    Good Light, Good Subject, Can’t Lose

    Warm sun filtered through the shades on the windows and was reflected by a huge mirror on the opposite wall, creating a flattering light, and with a class full of cute little girls it was hard to go wrong. The class is an hour long and there were around 100 images in the set I showed the other parents.

    I shot mainly with the very nice 135 f/2 L (that I’d rented from, using my 50mm f/1.4 for some of the wider shots. I was looking for close-ups of faces, full-body shots of individual dancers, and interactions between the girls (with a few detail images thrown in).


    Posted on 5/16/11 | 2 comments | Filed Under: Children's portraits, Santa Fe | read on
    May 9th, 2011

    How to photograph groups of children – a behind the scenes look

    I had the great pleasure to be back at Gentle Nudge School the other day to take the class photos for the preschoolers (mainly three and four year-olds), and the pre-k/kindergarten class (mainly five and six year-olds).

    My approach is to make things relatively loose but fast-moving. Keeping the children happy and not fussing over every last detail serves two purposes. Firstly, the more time we spend arranging the exact spacing and getting individual hands in ideal positions, the more likely it is that more kids are going to look miserable. Secondly, the children will look like themselves if they’re not cowed and overly orderly.

    There’s a risk in this that one or two children will be doing something you really don’t want, but everyone else looks great. A more controlled approach would mean those couple of kids look better, but everyone else looks worse. The children meet in the middle, looking slightly stiff. That’s not the sort of image I want to make as a photographer, or buy as the father of one of the girls in the Pre-K/K class.

    To increase my chances of getting more people at their best, I shoot in burst mode (five frames a second or so on my 5D Mark II). That means if someone’s blinking when I first press the shutter, there’s a good chance they’ll have finished blinking when I stop holding the shutter down.

    I also use a tripod. It frees me to interact with the kids, and it also means I can swap heads between different frames if I have to – since the camera’s locked down the background won’t move, making the head swap much easier.

    I’m really pleased with how the ¬†finished images came out:

    Posted on 5/9/11 | 6 comments | Filed Under: Children's portraits, Santa Fe | read on
    May 4th, 2011

    Day in the Life of a pre-K/kindergarten class

    I recently spent a whole day photographing my daughter’s pre-K/kindergarten class at the Gentle Nudge School in Santa Fe, NM.

    There were several reasons for wanting to do this. Firstly, after two very happy years at Nudge, my daughter will be starting a new school in the autumn, and I wanted to have a record of her and her friends. Secondly, it was a whole day shooting candid and relaxed shots of cute kids (mostly aged five and six) – which to me is a pretty much perfect scenario. Also, I love the school myself and have a great deal of respect and affection for the work the teachers do there, and I wanted to share that with the other parents and a wider audience (that would be you).

    I’m sure parents always wonder what life is like for their kids at school. Not just what they do, but how they do it, what it’s like in this world that’s so familiar to the children and so closed off from the parents, because we’re just not there very much.

    So when I took my daughter to school one Tuesday a couple of weeks ago, I just got out my cameras and stayed. Naomi Brackett, the director of the school, had liked my idea and allowed me to wander around all day unimpeded, and I never got the sense that what was going on was in any way different to what would have happened if I’d not been there.

    What I Learned

    I sort of knew this before, but my day underlined it: teachers work hard, all the time. There are three teachers in the combined pre-K and K class, and the whole class of around 20 is never doing the same thing all at once – they’re split into smaller groups for different activities.

    How the teachers keep track of everyone, deal with minor alarms, provide help and advice and prepare for the next thing is beyond me. Even doing rest time when the younger kids were sleeping and the older ones quietly writing or drawing in their journals, there was no rest for the teachers. I was exhausted at the end of the day, and I was just standing around taking photographs.

    The ability of the children to concentrate on their activities was also impressive. They focussed intently on the current task, and then smoothly shifted to their next task. Just as impressive was the good-natured way the children got on with each other – sharing and helping were much to the fore.

    I’ve no idea what it’s like at other schools, but what I saw at Nudge was a deeply comfortable sense of teamwork that the kids had with the teachers. The children were full participants and collaborators in the day, rather than just passive consumers of it, doing what they were told. The teachers shaped the program of course, but the kids were comfortable with it, and committed to it with their attention and goodwill. It was great to see.

    Technical details

    With the photographs, I was aiming to tell the story of the day in a number of ways:

    • exposition: shots of what the kids were doing (making posters, mixing salt dough, whatever), and how they were doing it
    • portraits: individual images of the children
    • interactions: children reacting to each other, or with the teachers
    • details: that showed more about the life of the school

    As this was a personal project, I didn’t have a shot list to fulfil, or an obligation to get an equal amount of images of all the children, but I tried to be as expansive as possible in my coverage, while still being true to the moments and situations that appealed most to me.

    At times I’d talk to the children and ask them to tell me or show me what they were working on, but most of the time I shot more candidly, and it was these photographs that I like most. It takes time just to blend in to the background enough that no-one’s paying attention to you, but it was definitely worth it.

    I shot with my Canon 5D Mk ii (with my 85mm f/1.8 attached), and my 5D matched with my 35mm f/2. Given the low light in the old adobe rooms of the school (and my personal taste) I was at or near wide open (so under f/2.8) pretty much all day inside.


    I’m proud of the images from the day, and very pleased I have such a record of a place that means so much to our whole family.

    I left a coil-bound book of around 100 of the images up at the school for the teachers and other parents to look at, and the feedback from them has been very touching. Two sets of parents of children who are departing at the end of the school year have even asked for their own copies 0f the whole book.

    It was a very rewarding project to undertake – maybe there’s a personal project near to your heart that you could start on?


    (best viewed full-screen)

    Posted on 5/4/11 | 2 comments | Filed Under: Children's portraits, Santa Fe | read on
    April 1st, 2011

    Baby Lillian and the wobbles

    Taking photographs of children for friends was the first photography I did that wasn’t just for my own amusement. It’s how a lot of children’s photographers start, and it’s still something I really like to do, but it had been a while since I’d done a session for friends.

    Maybe this was the reason I was nervous during the shoot for my friends Tim and Heather, and their lovely daughter Lillian, who was around 2 months old.

    Sometimes you’re confident you’re getting good images. Other times you feel you’re just shooting dross and are waiting for (and partly willing) the client to tell you to go home and forget the whole thing. This was more like the latter feeling, but my friends probably wouldn’t have thrown me out.

    These wobbles beset me more with young babies than older kids, perhaps because it’s harder to form a connection with a young baby. Normally, if the child is having fun and is tolerating my foolishness, then I’m happy and I’m reasonably sure the images will be good. But if you’re not getting any feedback from the subject (because they’re too young to give it), there’s less to feed off, and you start wondering if you’re just a faker.

    That said, I was happy when I got home and looked at the images I’d got. Tim and Heather are delighted new parents, and are reacting to the drastic up-ending of their lives with good grace, good humor and real affection, and the pictures show some of that. There’s not much more you can do when a baby’s first home – I remember feeling that it was a day of huge achievements if I managed to dress myself and make it down the driveway to the mailbox.

    Lillian is bright and aware – she seemed very curious about me – and like most babies, looks positively angelic when she sleeps.

    So even when¬†you’re not sure you’re getting the shots you want, keeping an open mind, asking yourself questions while you’re shooting, and reacting honestly to what you see in front of you get you through. That, and a sleeping baby shot

    Here’s an Animoto slideshow of more of the images from the day.


    Posted on 4/1/11 | no comments; | Filed Under: Children's portraits, Santa Fe | read on
    March 30th, 2011

    Children’s shoots with two cameras at once

    Gratuitous baby shot from a recent party to welcome Milana to our community. It was shot with (spoiler alert) my new camera, though.

    I completely agree with David duChemin that gear is good, but vision is better. That said, here comes a partly gear-related post.

    Regular readers will remember I recently had a clear out of some of my lenses that I wasn’t using regularly.

    At the time, I thought my most likely purchase with the money would be a swish 35mm f/1.4 lens, but as I thought more about it, and picked up some more tips and ideas at the WPPI conference, a new plan emerged.

    It was cemented after I did a recent baby shoot in quite a dark house (images to follow when the clients have seen them). The low-light capabilities of my old 5D were beginning to cause me problems.

    Firstly, even when using the center focus point (which is almost always the only focus point I use) it would hunt for focus in low light. It was a bit of a problem when I did the Tumbledown party portraits, but even more of an issue this time. And the baby wasn’t exactly speeding around – had it been a fast 2-year-old, then I’d have been in even more trouble.

    Secondly, when I reviewed the images afterwards, I wasn’t that happy with the noise generated at the high ISOs I’d had to employ. It would be fine for smaller prints, but larger ones would show it.

    So I wanted a camera with better noise control at high ISOs, and more reliable focus. And I wanted to try shooting with two bodies at the same time, to minimize the time spent changing lenses. (Oh, and HD video was also something I wanted to play with.)

    Throw in a great price I found for a Canon-refurbished body, everything was pointing towards a new body instead of a high-end lens.

    Shooting with two cameras at once

    So I’m now the proud owner of a Canon EOS 5D Mark II (which means Canon will be announcing the 5D Mark III any day now), and one of the first things I wanted to try was shooting with both it and my old 5D at the same time (light conditions permitting).

    Instead of the 35mm f/1.4 for $1400, I’d also picked up the Canon EF 35mm f/2 for around $300 (although Amazon are currently showing it as much more expensive – perhaps due to the disaster in Japan?), and so with my daughter as my willing test subject I took some shots at home before we went exploring through the arroyo and hillside across from our house.

    The 35mm shows the situation - a girl in an improvised tent

    The 85mm shows the tender moment - the girl and her knitted mouse.

    The 35mm f/2 was on the 5D and the 85mm f/1.8 on the 5D II.

    The idea is that you can tell a wider range of stories with both the wide angle lens and the classic portrait lens at your disposal more or less instantly with no lens swapping.

    This, while still getting the prime lens image quality and being able to shoot at the kind of apertures that primes offer that zooms don’t – ie. under f/2.8.

    I really liked the flexibility it gives me, while still making me thing about how I’m composing the shot, and what I’m trying to say with each image.

    It’s obviously not quite as quick as just sticking a zoom on one camera body, but I welcome the constraints and love the image quality I can get while still being flexible.

    Next steps for the two-camera approach

    Using two cameras, you can prepare for all sorts of situations with by choosing different lens combinations.

    Again the 35mm shows the girl in her context (while still getting some background blur)

    Press photographers often go with a medium zoom (say 24-70mm) on one body and and a longer zoom (say 70-200mm) on the other, to give them instant access to a really wide range of focal lengths.


    The 35mm and 85mm setup would be good for weddings and other events as well as the environmental portraits I was doing here. Or stepping it up to a 50mm and a 135mm for sports work could yield good results too.

    Having two large cameras hanging off you isn’t very discrete, and I’d only really do it if I was somewhere specifically for the purpose of taking photographs – it’s not a casual set up.

    But I’m happy with the way it worked out, and looking forward to adding it to my arsenal on a real shoot.

    Grab the 85mm, and you get the quick portrait when the moment's right.



    Posted on 3/30/11 | no comments; | Filed Under: Tips/Tutorials | read on
    March 17th, 2011

    Happy St Patrick’s Day

    For the day that’s in it, I thought I’d put together a quick gallery of some images I made the last time we were in Ireland. As you might know, I grew up partly in Ireland, went to college there and lived there all the way through my 20s.

    A bunch of my aunts and cousins are there, and I’m Irish enough to understand a pub order of ‘One Guinness and a glass of Guinness, please.’

    So enjoy the day, and the photographs.

    Posted on 3/17/11 | no comments; | Filed Under: News, Personal | read on
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