When you travel there are going to be strangers around you and your children constantly. The important thing is to work with your children ahead of time, incorporating safety principles into your every day life. Whether you travel or not, these are important things you should be teaching your children about strangers.
Make sure your child knows that a stranger is anyone they don’t know very well. Not all strangers look intimidating or frightening like the mean characters in stories or movies. We even teach our children that anyone you don’t know that knows your name is a stranger. This is important in the information wide world we live in. Someone could look up your kids names on Facebook or notice they have a name on their bracelet. People that try to manipulate children will often use their name as a way to start a conversation with your child and may even use your name as a way to make your child feel safe with them. “Hi little Johnny, your mommy Susan said I should take you home from school today.” In this situation our kids know to run, run, run!
There are also good strangers. I cover information on how to introduce your child to figures of authority in this article. And make sure that your child knows to seek help in public places, where there are many other people that will hear them if they scream for help.
One of the most valuable things a parent can do for their child is coach them on how to handle dangerous situations. The National Crime Prevention Council advocates, “No, Go, Yell, Tell.” Because it is easy to remember. Your children should say no, run as fast as they can, be as loud as they can, and find a helpful adult. Read more
If you have a DSLR and you are shooting in auto all of the time, you are missing out. Automatic focus and composition is great for things like distance or group shots, where you want a nicely lighted, flat image. But if you are photographing someone or something close up, especially in family photography, dimension and vision will be missing from otherwise awesome photos. Fully automatic settings remove your choices as a photographer. What do I mean by vision? Check out this post.
In order to show you the difference, here are two photos I just took of my lovely daughter modeling her newest fashion accessories. The first is full on automatic, including flash, since the camera decided that it needed to use the flash. The second is manually set by me, using automatic focus only. You will notice the white balance is totally different. The automatic shot is more yellow, while the manual shot is more blue. The focus is also different. But lowering the f-stop I was able to focus more narrowly while making the background more blurred. The photos speak for themselves. Although there is not a huge difference, using your full auto settings takes away all of your choice as a photographer. Not to mention the flash is pretty harsh, especially on older subjects. The second image is definitely more what I was going for.
These photos are completely unedited. However if I was going to edit them, I would have a lot more to work with using the photo with manual settings because there are more highs and lows, even though they are subtle… or in photo editing speak, highlights and shadows. In the second photo you can see the shadows from the glasses and wand being cast on her face because the photo is taken using natural light. Using a flash pointed directly at the subject is not my favorite, and shooting on auto usually ends up with your flash going off if you are indoors.
How to use Automatic Focus with Manual Settings:
If you leave the “A” on your lens switched on, you can still use auto focus with manual settings. Most professional photographers do this when photographing subjects. Sometimes though the auto focus can choose to focus on the least important aspect of your picture leaving your subject blurry. In cases like that I always switch to manual focus.
For more information on how to manually set up your photo using the exposure triangle, check out this post. I promise I explain it in an easy to understand way.
If you are ever planning on getting off of autofocus and composing your own shots (and you should!) then you need to know about the exposure triangle. As the name implies, it is made up of three components. The exposure triangle is what determines how much light is let into the camera when you take your photo, and shapes how your photo will look. First let us take a look at the three elements individually so we understand how they work before you add them all together.
by David duChemin is my absolute favorite book about photography.
The first time I read this book, I understood almost nothing within its colorful pages. I had not taken the time to learn what my camera could do, or what settings were where. But the pictures, oh the pictures. They are amazing. Upon a second reading, about a year and 5,000 pictures later, I found his book much more helpful. Now I understand the differences and subtleties he tries to teach his readers about focusing your vision by composing your shot.
Of course duChemin goes over every basic element of traditional and digital photography like the exposure triangle, setting, composition, and equipment, but he brings so much more to the table than just those things. He talks about why it is so rewarding to capture moments and people through your lens. The other book in this photo is about nature photography. It is an ok book. There is nothing technically wrong with it. The problem is that the pictures are just of things. There is a lack of story. But duChemin’s photos challenge you to look at more than just a landscape or an object. He teaches you how to incorporate aspects of humanity into something as simple as a picture of a rusty bicycle (one of my favorites).
He talks a lot in his book about vision. And when you photographing your family you need to think about more than just getting a smile aimed at your camera. You want to expand your thinking and figure out what aspects of that particular moment you want to capture. I would recommend this book for any level of photographer, but especially as you start using your manual focus settings.
One of the things that I wish I had known about travel photography from the beginning is that the best photos have a strong element of humanity in them. Whether it is someone holding something in their hands, or the smile on an older gentleman’s face, the sights you see will look better on film if they take you to a specific memory, not a general place. I’m not saying that you should avoid taking a picture of the Eiffel Tower when you go to Paris, but maybe your approach should be to include the Eiffel Tower as an element in a picture where someone or something else is the subject.
The need for an element of humanity is amplified in family photography when you are traveling with your family because the memories you want to capture involve people that you love. I have a very specific example in mind to illustrate the importance of including your family members as the focal points of your photography, and it involves two little girls that are very much interested in the art of photography. Let me set the scene for you:
Surrounded in tall buildings on every side for many kilometers there is a medium sized park in the center of Athens. It is the only place in this otherwise cement jungle where you can find giant trees, exotic animals, and hanging gardens. It offers shade to the weary, a place to run free for the children, and an amazing opportunity to photograph nature. This is one of my favorite places in the entire city, and my kids love the awe and stark contrast to the surrounding city.
We were there doing a family shoot for some friends, and I was struck by how green everything was. After using my handy dandy light meter (get yours here for FREE) as a starting point for my settings, I started to photograph these beautiful green leaves that the sun was illuminating from above. My first shot was a success, but I decided to take one more just in case. Later on when I was going through my images on the computer, I noticed that the second picture had two little intruders that snuck in the frame. You can see the difference below.