Photography Tips From Step2 Toy Photographer

Selfies, candid, professional – with the invention of the smartphone, we now have access to a camera every second of the day. We asked our Step2 in-house photographer Jeff Strawn to answer some of the burning questions we have about photography!

Photography Tips from a Toy Photographer - How to Photograph Kids!

S2:  For aspiring photographers, where should they start? Is there a subject that you recommend for them to practice with?

JS: I would definitely start with photographing your interests or hobbies. Start with a subject you know about. This will make you more comfortable in the environment. This way you can anticipate movements and select some really fun and creative angles.

S2:  When shooting outdoors, which camera setting will give you the best results in sun and in shade?

JS:  I have a few answers for shooting either in the sun or shade. Depending on the subject, for sun shooting, I really prefer low ISO’s (50-100) for still subjects (portraits or well lit landscapes). This will give you the best quality pixel to work with. Then you’ll adjust your aperture, f/stop,and shutter speed. If you’re shooting subjects that tend to move and need tracking, I would boost the ISO up higher to around 400-800 and keep the F/ as wide as it goes (etc f/2.8). This will give you a more interesting look and you can also shoot a faster lens speed maybe 1/2500 of a second. What I mean by that is how fast the lens opens and closes. In sunny weather my bench standard is a minimum of 1/1000 of a second. If I can go faster I will. As long as I don’t go too high on my ISO and create grain. 

As for low light or shade, it’s similar to the previous answer, it depends on the subject. The ISO should be closer to 200-400 and if you’re shooting with a low f/stop the shutter speed will vary. Let’s say ISO 100, f/4 @ 1/250. This would be good for stationary subjects in the shade. If you are shooting something that’s moving, you’ll have to boost the ISO, to maybe 800-1600.

S2:  For indoor shooting, what are the best source of artificial lighting?

JS:  Use as much of the sun or window light as possible. If this isn’t possible you’ll have to be creative and use different lamps to shape the subject with light. Two lights should be enough. Other than atmosphere light, you can use one light in front as the “key” light and the secondary for a hair light. This will help frame the subject.

S2:  When you go on vacation, what equipment do you take with you?

JS:  My vacation kit usually will consist of the basic Full frame camera, 70-200mm 2.8 and maybe something real wide, like 16-35mm or wider. This will cover any or all situations that I might run into. I have had good success with my 24-105mm. It’s a a simple solution and works without any fumbling around while changing to a different lens.

S2:  What tips do you have for photographing kids?

JS:  I’ve always said, if you can photograph kids successfully, you can shoot anything. It takes a lot of patience, but I think the trick is being a goofball. Be goofy so they don’t see you as an adult. This way they will open up to you and be more willing to listen. Asking questions and being interested in some of their favorite things really can get you in the front door. When all else fails, give them money or treats –LOL!

S2:  Do you have any advice on photographing kids who are playing sports?

JS:  My biggest advice for shooting any kind of sports is to shoot fast and make sure you have a lens that has image stabilizing. I shoot at a minimum of a 1/1000-1/1600 of a second if the situation allows it. This will almost ensure stopping the motion of the player. Keep in mind that the faster your shutter speed is, the higher your ISO may become, so choose your combination wisely so you can keep from producing grainy images.

S2:  What is one tip you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?

JS:  My biggest piece of advise is to shoot as much as you can. This will help you learn more and make faster decisions when it may really matter the most. Being aware of all the possibilities will help you select the best solution for that moment that you need to capture now! Plus, always invest in a good glass (lenses). Lenses will change, but camera body technologies change way too often. There’s always a better, faster camera coming out. If you have a great camera body but a mediocre lens, you’re going to get a mediocre picture. Invest in lenses.

S2:  What is your favorite photo that you’ve capture for Step2?

JS:  That’s hard! I’ve shot a lot of great photography for Step2, but I also have produced some “not so proud of” photography.  Sometimes the cards play into your favor, but sometimes the variables don’t make for a good cake. This photo of the Corvette Bed is one of my favorites because it was out of the Box for Step2. The lights really show off the shape of the car and makes it look muscly.

What tips would you add to this list?

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