Guest Post from Tamara: How To Photograph Children And Moose, But Not Together


Every dad blog worth its weight in bratwurst ought to have a moose photo on its pages.

I think Hemingway said that. Or maybe Socrates. It could have been Jimmy Carter, but anyway … it’s true, and I feel as if, today, I have arrived.

Please welcome Tamara from Tamara Camera Blog. I’ve said before that I can’t categorize her as a photo blogger who can write like a champ, or an awesome writer who takes incredible pictures. She’s all this. She’s the ace of the pitching staff who also hits cleanup, but on the big stage, not just a 1A high school in rural Iowa.

Be sure to visit her social-media links and check out her amazing work. I would have had this excellent post up yesterday, but I was blissfully lost out of the reach of civilization. Tamara’s words are a great way to return to my world.

***

Once upon a time, I figured out that I wanted to be a photographer. It is a story that I’ve told a thousand times and I’ll tell it a thousand times more – it started when I saw the sun shining through the school bus window and lighting the long, blond eyelashes of a classmate as he stood and waited for his stop. I thought instantly that it should be photographed but I wasn’t in the habit of taking one of my prized cameras onto school buses, and also not in the habit of having that boy (or anyone else on the bus, for that matter) think that I “like” liked him. I actually didn’t know him very well, but this is how rumors get started, right?

Photographing a boy’s eyelashes on a school bus. I’d be that girl. “She did WHAT on a bus?” Yup, that would have been me.

At merely 10 years old.

And so I kept silent. For a long time. And then years passed without a decent outlet for my stress/joy/love/beauty/wonder/disgust, etc. until the day an ex-boyfriend (then current) gave me my first serious camera. All heck broke loose the moment my finger found the shutter button. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t stop. I took photos of everything – trees, buildings, sunsets, events. Then I moved to portraits of animals and people. I thought they both had their advantages and challenges. I liked challenges. I would drive 10 hours to the middle-of-nowhere Maine just to photograph a moose. It’s not easy to photograph a moose. It’s not easy to find a moose.

I consider myself inspired by many things. However if you had asked me once what I would photograph if I was told I had to spend my life only photographing one thing? I would have chosen moose, hands down. I would have spent my life huddled around wild swamps at daybreak and again at twilight. It would have been a happy life – moose and me. And then life had other plans in the shape of a handsome man and a plan to settle in and find new inspiration. I found something I wanted to photograph more than moose.

Along came my baby girl. A bundle of joy. Out came a newer, more serious camera. The inspiration came hurtling out of its gated jail and it never left. It never will. I learned so much about photographing babies and then toddlers. Then I had a second baby. A boy bundle of joy. A messier, droolier and lazier version of his sister. He is wonderful, though. Dirt-smudged and all. Toothy-grinned.

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And now that we have two mouths to feed, it isn’t just inspiration. It’s survival. I’m here to take these photography skills further than they’ve gone before. Create a successful business. Sit in front of a computer until I’ve missed three days of my life doing batch processing. Then, taking a break only to dive back down to the depths of this deep, mysterious and vastly unknown dream of mine.

I photograph families, children and children-related events most of all. Like the elusive moose, there has to be discovery and intuition.

Each year … no, each month (let’s be real here, each day) – has new challenges on the horizon as children grow. I run after them to keep up, and I’m learning all the while. There are some tried-and-true methods that work for me to get the best photography I can of the various personalities I meet. Just like I once did with moose, I take in and give out tips I’ve learned to get better photos:

1. I don’t have preconceived ideas of how I want to pose kids. I never have them say “cheese.” Kids cannot easily be molded or bended into uncomfortable positions, at least with any kind of easy or natural result. I wait to see what they’ll do – climb a tree, giggle on the ground, point to the sky. I may pretend I’m checking settings, even when I’m snapping away. I may gently ask them to move an arm or a leg and I may nudge them into a certain position, but you can bet they were there or on their way there to begin with.

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… alternately, I don’t have preconceived ideas of how I want to pose moose. I never have them say “cheese.” Their limbs are not easily molded or bended. I take what I can get and marvel at its easy and natural result:

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2. Relax. And wait. Patience is key. So is continuous shooting mode. I find that a fast shutter speed (at least 1/250) is important to avoid blur. Find your moment. Find your moments. Shoot, shoot away.

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Similarly with moose, patience is important. Those suckers are really, really hard to find unless you don’t want to find them which is only while you’re driving alone on a deep, dark road and one steps out in front of your car. Generally you want to try dawn or dusk – in wet, swampy areas to actually see them, although the photographic results won’t be ideal. Always, always ask the locals. Moose can be unpredictable but if they go to a certain watering hole every day at the same time, chances are you’ll get results by going there. Obviously broad daylight is best for properly exposed and relatively non-blurry photos.

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3. Get close. Find those flattering angles – generally when you shoot from too low, you get unflattering up-the-nose shots. I use a prime portrait lens in 35mm or 50mm. When you’re close and right in their faces, talk to them. Whether they’re babies or toddlers or older kids or adults (or moose), just talk, talk away. It will show in your photos.

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However, don’t do this with moose. Don’t get close. And if you do, for some silly reason, you can take up-the-nose shots if you want. Don’t try to be taller than a moose. Unless you have a ladder. And the moose is stuffed. With moose, use a zoom lens or a long prime.

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4. Have a helper! Once I did a photo shoot with a one-year-old, and her older cousin held her favorite stuffed animal just over my shoulder. In every photo, she is laughing and glowing and clapping her hands. Sometimes I can’t entertain and shoot at the same time, especially not if my subject requires me to dance and make faces. Having a relative or friend or assistant is wonderful. I also confess that I’m not above bribery.

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Helpers come in handy when looking for moose too! I generally like a helper to drive the car and slam on the brakes every time a large, dark patch of something or other flashes in between our eyes. When you look for moose all day, sometimes you start to hallucinate logs as moose. True story. A helper will park the car safely and far enough away from the moose so as not to disturb them (remember, you have a zoom lens, right??) and will stay patiently while you take photos. Mama moose with babies and male moose in mating season are very dangerous. In reality, all moose are unpredictable. So leave your moose pheromones and moose mating call whistles at home. (Yes, they exist here and here.) You should be above that kind of bribery.

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5. This should be obvious but if it isn’t, use natural light as a first choice. Second choice can easily be an external flash or portable flash or just anything that bounces away from the children’s faces. Flash can eliminate eye-catching shadows and give the skin a flat look. If it’s bright enough, natural light and a simple prop or two will work wonders.

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And you know what’s coming. Moose like natural light too. If you shoot a flash in their face, they may charge you. And even worse, their eyes will glow creepily in your photos. Er … even worse is that they will charge you. I would also recommend against taking a moose into your photo studio.

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So I sincerely hope that clears up a few mysteries for you, should you ever come across an unpredictable child or an unpredictable moose with your camera. And if not, feel free to drop me a line anytime!

***

Tamara is a professional photographer, a mama of two, a writer/blogger at Tamara Camera Blog and a nearly professional cookie taster. She’s been known to be all four of those things at all hours of the day and night. After two cross country moves, due to intense Bi-Coastal Disorder, she lives with her husband, daughter and son in glorious western Massachusetts. Pets are soon to follow. She dreams about northern lights, moose and whales always.

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Bloglovin.

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119 Replies to “Guest Post from Tamara: How To Photograph Children And Moose, But Not Together”

  1. Outstanding pictures, Tamara. I have to great cameras, both Nikons, and I keep them in manual mode because I am hopeless on figuring out how to change the settings and then getting back to where I started again. I even went to a photo class at Ritz camera, but I’m hopeless. I need one-on-one. I could really use a faster shutter speed for children because they are never still, especially babies. Enjoyed your post very much. Thank you, Coach Daddy, for giving us Tamara.

    1. Thank you so much! I used to love Ritz Camera but then I moved and then the one where I moved to closed. Actually that happened to me twice. I doubt you’re hopeless – the fact that you know what shutter speed is means you’re already a step ahead of tons of people.

    2. Great suggestions for taking better pictures, Tamara! Coming East: I always thought I was hopeless until a professional photographer/teacher taught me how to see and how to use my camera. Granted, some folks come by it more naturally, like our talented Tamara, but we all have our own strengths. 🙂
      I agree with Tamara-just knowing about shutter speed puts you a step ahead!

  2. Oh, Tamara, this might go down as one of my 5 favorites posts of yours ever – which say a lot, since I think I could recall titles and synopses of several of your posts by heart – they kind of live in my head, you know? I love how you can trace your interest in photography back to an exact moment, although I, as well, NEVER would have snapped a photo of a boy’s eyelashes for the same reasons. Ever. And I very appreciate your advice on photographing moose. I will make sure to leave my mating call whistle at home that day, for certain!

    1. hah – you always know how to make me laugh and cry with your comments. Thank you.
      If you ever get up to New England, we can go on moose safaris. There was a moose in the town next door last week!

  3. Wow, your photos are fantastic. Great topic and post. I want a moose photo on my blog too! But I definitely do not, DO NOT I said, want a moose to wander through my backyard (i.e. the alley) right now. Ahem.

    I’m still waiting … (note my patience)

    1. I would be happy to provide moose photos for your blog if you ever need one! I may steal the one Eli put on the top of my post because it’s just so great.

      (patience noted)

  4. As always your pictures and words come together beautifully. Everything about this post is wonderful. By the way, I’m going to use some of your tricks when I take pics of my Little’s especially not having them say “cheese”.

    1. Thank you, Mariann, for your continued support! You can totally have them say something ridiculous other than “cheese.” Something that will make them crack up. And then when they’re cracking up and also right after, snap some photos..

  5. I’ve had a few run ins with moose here in Maine. Luckily I have not been charged or have hit one with my car yet. I only seem to find them when I don’t want to see them. I will be sure not to invite them into my photo studio. 🙂 Thanks, Tamara, for the great advice!

    1. I was wondering if you ever see moose! I suppose it’s part of the normal Maine life, although maybe not a daily thing. We have friends in Bethel who told us the chances of them seeing a moose there are the same as the chances of us seeing white-tailed deer down here. The thing is – we live in the woods and white-tailed deer have hiding places here. I used to see them constantly in Jersey but only once here. Moose hide less in western Mass than white-tailed deer!

    1. But not Madison with a moose, right? How about a stuffed one? I would love to give you a professional session with Madison because that would mean I was in Colorado. And I would like that a lot.

      1. Done. That will take me ten seconds, tops. I have a whole photo software program on editing kids with moose. It saves lives, ya know.

    1. Thank you! It’s funny that when you work with someone (or on their blog, but it’s still with), you tend to have a similar voice to their writing. Not that I’m mimicking because it doesn’t sound like him – it’s just that Eli brings out this particular voice in me, the same way it happens elsewhere with other people.

      Now I’m just rambling. Thank you! Always great to visit you and be visited by you. Even when I’m traveling!

  6. I love the pics. I have never hung a portrait studio picture on my walls, they have always been the in the moment, peanut butter bath, the gum sticking up out of the hair, or the swing when a kid is batting. Those are memories, and you see that. That exact ability sets you above the rest. You have real talent, show it off until the arthritic finger won’t push anymore 🙂

    1. ha! Thank you. Maybe I’ll push on past arthritis..for as long as I can. My grandfather created art until he was 99! However he lived until 100, so what was he doing for that last year?!

  7. Lovely post, Tamara. Although, I will say that I am much more likely to photograph children than moose! Someday I will have a *real, big-girl* camera and learn all these ins and outs!

    1. And I will be here to see your photos or help if you need help! But you probably won’t. Unless a moose is involved and then you’ll think, “Must call Tamara now!”

    1. I think it’s a definite! Going to Alaska and not seeing a moose is like going to Aspen and not seeing mountains! Or going to Hawaii and not getting lei-ed!

  8. This reminds me of my one trip to Canada in which I spotted a momma deer and two baby deer probably less than a week old. I had >just< decided to start trying full manual and I got the car stopped, hopped out, ran across the street and took pictures at 300mm. I got back in the car and realized I had forgot to check the settings before and after the first shot. Devastated. This was only last summer so it's still a fresh disappointment. It only means I have to return again someday.

  9. Tamara, I need you to come to Kansas and teach me more about taking good pictures. These tips are all great and I’m going to try to apply them. I also think it is about time to upgrade to a DSLR for me!!

    1. I would LOVE to go to Kansas – least of all because it’s one of the 50 states I’ve never sent foot in. And most of all – I’d get to meet you! And we could take pictures of cornfields or something.

      1. Cornfields? That’s one of the things I love about where I live, I can drive 20 minutes and be in the middle of nowhere, or 20 minutes and be in the middle of all the action. Well, the cornfields are also great for mazes in the fall with cool weather and pumpkin patching. 🙂

  10. I love taking pictures but I suck at it!! LOL I think I have maybe one or 2 shots of the kids that are considered photo worthy. You are very talented dear lady!! And the moose – holy heck those things are huge!!!

    1. They totally are huge! My second favorite animal is a blue whale. There’s a size theme here. I like elusive, larger-than-life animals. I wonder if it’s because I’d like to be gigantic, elusive and larger-than-life. I doubt you suck at it, but I appreciate the compliments always!

  11. Loved the post Tamara, I have a Canon eos 600 and I’m something of a happy snapper. Thanks for the tips, I’m endeavouring to learn the intricacies of using manual. Love the moose shots, the last place you want them is on your windscreen though. I have a passion for filming kangaroos and wallabies, most days we have to beat them back from the house with a big stick. Oh yeah and birds, I don’t beat them with a stick though. Thanks to Eli for re-blogging you.
    Cheers
    Laurie

  12. I never thought I’d be thinking of moose when taking photos of kids but I know I now will! I love the advice and the comparisons (and the helpful suggestion not to get too close to the moose or stand above the moose when taking a photo: I’m sure that will come in handy at some point in my life…).

    1. Hey, you never know! You might save your own life one day and you’ll think, “Remember that random photographer who told me not to stand over a real moose on a ladder? I should thank her..”

  13. I love your tips, as always, Tamara. I have seen many moose, but I have always been driving at the time, so no photos. My children are my favourite subjects of course, and I get such a thrill when I catch a moment. Seeing gorgeous photos like yours makes me long for a DSLR and learn about shutter speed and flashes and lenses and ISO. One day, I hope. 🙂

    1. I hope so too! It’s gotten to the point where I can’t use point and shoots anymore. It’s like when I went from PC to Mac and now I can’t go back! Actually, it’s not like that at all. And now I want double sirloin, lobster and ribs. I think Eli’s little avatar keeps saying distracting things. Thank you, though!

      1. You’re right because the largest of the sub-species of moose is the Alaskan moose. The east coast ones are smaller and less burly. Which is a crying shame. I imagine Russian and Norwegian moose are astounding, though. And Alaskan moose can see Russian moose…from Alaska.

    1. Oh no way! I need to go there. I love Toronto. I went when I was 16 and again at 23 and now I need to go to something like this. We have a bear art auction at the town next to ours, but it’s just not the same.

  14. Oh, I just love your moose! I photographed a few on vacation in Alaska, but only with a point and shoot camera. I think I may need a better camera, but to take pictures of my kids, because there are no moose in Illinois.

    1. I think I remember you blogging about moose and I was just itching to butt in and tell you how much I love moose! Ha..I probably did. We actually do have moose in MA and they’re common lately, but I’ve never seen one here. Only in Maine, New Hampshire, Wyoming and..Montana. Maybe.

  15. Great tips, Tamara. Glad you share your expertise here, I remember when we did a Mother’s Day photoshoot back in May, I had a hard times with my son. He is very playful when he knew his picture was taken, but you can expect a 3 years old boy to be serious. Luckily, the photographer is very professional and he seems to know how to work with little children. By the way, great pictures.

    http://herweightlossdiary.blogspot.com

  16. I’m diving deep into photography right now and I’m so loving it! Definitely applying your tips.
    (well, except for the moose ones because Malaysia, no moose, heh)

  17. SO you already know that I love love love when you teach Tamara because I always feel like the post is specifically for me (and I will continue to believe that until you tell me different) fantastic post. I love all the tips but especially the one where you tell us–ahem–me to talk to your subjects. Makes so much sense!

    1. haha – I am certainly always talking to you, but not because your photos aren’t great. It’s because you’re one of my favorite bloggers and I write with my favorites in mind!
      Talking to pets helps too. Talking to moose….not always as effective, but it works occasionally.

  18. Great tips and wonderful photos. I love how you capture expressions–your patience really shows. I am learning a lot from you. Those expressions really add to the magic of your photography and make it so special. I love how you incorporated moose and child photography together-very fun.

    1. Thank you! I had no idea I was going to do that until I had already done that. And then of course was a moment of, “Wait..should I do that?” I’m glad I did. I’m glad my photography shows patience because in real life, I’m a lot less so!

  19. I am so late to this party but it is so good to see two of my faves in one spot. I need all the advice I can get when it comes to taking pictures of my kids. They are like little flashes of light these days. I love the comparison to moose. I always call Nico a big moose. 🙂

      1. is that the only F word you’ve been tossing around? If a moose charged me, I might use another.

        The party is open, as long as the pizza is hot. Or reasonably warm. Who am I kidding? Cold is good.

  20. This post was awesome! And your photos are breathtaking! I wish you lived near me! I need some good pics of my kids, and I have been sorely disappointed by two photographers…

    1. Oh no! I wish I could remedy that. If I disappointed you, I’d just try and try again. I always have to get it right. Perfectionist photographers are the worst.

  21. You are an AMAZING photographer! Gosh these photos are gorgeous. I loved all your tips, especially for capturing moments without a blur. That’s been my most recent problem with a toddler. Beautiful photos and captivating writing, like always. Great post.

    1. It’s always the problem with toddlers – even with me a lot. Thank you so much for reading it. I’m happy to say that kid moose are generally slower and easier to photograph than kid humans. Kid humans just have it in for us. Always.

  22. I always enjoy your photography, your willingness to share, and your sense of humor.

    A short story about my photography teacher, who is a seasoned nature photographer:
    He was hoping to capture photographs of moose from a path in the woods. He had his tripod set up on the path when he heard a thunderous gallop. He looked, and saw a moose bearing down on him. Jim tossed his tripod, camera and himself into the underbrush just before the moose crashed on by.

    Slightly shaken, he climbed back onto the path and was setting his tripod back up when the moose came thundering back by. Again, he and the equipment went flying before the angry moose could get to them.
    Yes, moose are unpredictable, dangerous, and will charge, even unprovoked. Perhaps the moose was just having a bad hair day and didn’t want his pic taken. 🙂

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