A book review and showing off what I learned from it

The camera manual just wasn’t cutting it for me. Can we say dry much? So when Stephen and I took our birthday cash to the bookstore last week I decided that I was going to get a photography book. After perusing several it came down to two books, one was about photographing babies only and the other was Photographing Your Family: And all the kids and friends and animals who wander through too by Joel Sartore with John Healey from the National Geographic publications. Since the latter was more broad I chose it, but I think I want to go back and get the other book too because it looked like it had a lot of good hints and I liked the way it had little lessons throughout. For those of you on GoodReads, please excuse my reposting of the review, but I wanted to share it with everyone…

Every family has that one person who’s running around trying to document their lives, even the most seemingly insignificant moments. This book is for that person. Get it for them. Joel Sartore is a professional photographer for National Geographic and he will say all the things to this person that you’ve been dying to. Then he’ll give them a bunch of really great, practical, easy to understand photography hints so they can get the best photographs of your family.

Some of my favorites:

“If you’re living with someone, you have better access to that person than to anyone else on earth. That’s huge when it comes to getting great shots. But should you shoot everything? No way. In fact, you shouldn’t shoot most things. Bad light, bad composition, and sensitive subject matter are all red flags. There’s a time and place for everything.”

“Because you have unlimited time and access, your family photos should be the best photos you’ve ever taken. Just be discriminating. Remember, not everything your loved one does merits photographic preservation.”

“Believe it or not, I often construct my pictures from the rear forward. If I can’t make the background look good, I move on. You can really tell if photographers know what they’re doing by looking at their backgrounds. Are there streetlights and tree limbs sticking out of loved ones? That’s the mark of a rookie.”

“Being selective about what you shoot is tough, but it’s the key to making really interesting frames. Ask yourself, ‘Should I take a picture of that?’ and most of the time, the answer will be a resounding no because most of the time the light is too harsh, or the kids or the cat or the spouse are not really doing much. Think about why you’re taking these images. Are they to preserve some special moment? Are you going to show them to people? Is it worth their time and yours? Have you captured something funny, something joyous, something peaceful, something sad? It can all be good, but you have to give it some thought and time.”

“Shoot candidly. Nothing bores me more than seeing photos of people standing stiff and smiling just because the camera is on them. They all look like bowling pins. My mother’s camerawork is gawd-awful, for example. She has this little point-and-shoot thing and drags everyone out in front of it, then lines ’em up and shoots. It’s predictable and irritating.”

“There are many, many times when taking pictures is not appropriate. Ever see a fumbling, oblivious photographer draw attention away from a wedding ceremony? Not cool. Or how about the obnoxious click of a shutter during a school exam? Know your limits at solemn ceremonies. Ask permission to shoot sensitive subjects, even among family members.”

“Please remember, they’re just pictures. Put it in perspective. A hundred years from now, nobody will know you existed. Ever see people who are videotaping every moment of their kids game? Or snapping stills endlessly at school plays or piano recitals? Who in the world will be willing to look at all this stuff? Is that harsh? Maybe, but somebody has to tell the truth, and it may as well be me, an objective observer who has had to sit through way too many bad slide shows. It’s truly mind-numbing.”(less) “

So anyway, I’ve learned a lot and will be revisiting this book several times over to make sure I get the stuff down that he’s talking about. For now I’ve already started putting some of it into practice and really thinking about my photographs. This week I decided to mainly focus on the Av (Apperature priority) mode on my camera and specifically getting some fun and candid portraits. I pretty much kept my F value at 4 or 5 all week long. Now, just because I read a book doesn’t mean all my pictures were great or worth keeping. I did get some that I am much happier with and I feel like I’ve progressed a ton in feeling comfortable as an amatuer photographer.


This shot breaks all the rules… rule of thirds is definitely broken… her ear and the little wisps of hair next to it are what are in focus instead of her face… she’s cut off in weird places… etc. But I love it. I love the expression of absolute delight at doing her favorite thing: swinging.


My white balance setting was way off on this one, but I kinda fixed it in the processing phase. I also cropped it. She was laughing and trying to grab her papa’s mop of hair and he was really out of focus to the point where it hurt your eyes to look at the photo.

Love both of these, but wish his hair wasn’t all in his face! He’s getting it cut this weekend:

Anyway, hope you are enjoying the return of Eye Candy Friday as much as I am. 🙂

6 Comments

Filed under Eye Candy Friday, Family, Photography, Reviews

6 responses to “A book review and showing off what I learned from it

  1. Barbie

    So good to remember all of these things. Justin gets so frustrated with my quest for the perfect pictures. Rarely do they happen when I try to force them. I really need to play with my camera more and focus on getting picture of life in general.

  2. lwuertz

    Barbie, I know what you mean. He had this great example in the book… his mom wanted to get a picture of his infant son who was happily playing with some blocks on the floor in her livingroom. Instead of taking a picture of that, she dragged him into the kitchen to do a posed shot with her where he began throwing a fit and not cooperating for the picture at all. I think so many times we miss some really great moments because we have a preconceived idea of what we want our pictures to look like. 🙂

  3. Paula

    what was the book title? i’d love to read it! i like what he has to say.

  4. lwuertz

    It’s called Photographing Your Family: And all the kids and friends and animals who wander through too by Joel Sartore with John Healey from the National Geographic publications. And now I’m going to go back and recheck this post because I can’t believe I didn’t put the title in there!

  5. just have to say I love that last picture! It’s so sweet! Actually I love all the photography you’ve posted on here. You’re doing such a great job!

  6. I think it’s SO great that you are developing this interest of yours in this way! The rewards are going to be great for your family.
    That book sounds really good. I’ll definitely keep it in mind, because I’ve been wanting to explore photography a bit more too.
    Beautiful pictures, Lisa! I love them!

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