I started out as a “mom with a camera.” I bought my first dSLR after I’d learned everything I could with a point-and-shoot, and I did it to get better pictures of my daughters.
Now that my passion has turned to dance photography, I’m finding myself using somee of the same techniques I did with my kids, and it made me realize these might apply to a ton of other situations, too!

You might have read my tutorial on not saying “Cheese” to get people to smile. But that’s really only half of it. The other half is on your shoulders, getting them to smile without the standard call-to-action.

The biggest thing that has turned my pictures from nice to WOW is that I’m getting better at anticipating timing. It’s the easiest thing to do when you start with your immediate family (this can include pets), because you know their mannerisms. You may not have ever thought it through, but at a subconscious level you know the look they make immediately before they give you a huge smile. (and if you don’t already, holding the camera up to your eye and watching them through the viewfinder will make you clue in to those mannerisms).

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This takes time. But the more you focus on really getting the emotions, the more it will pay off.

So how does this transfer into dance photography, or whatever you might be interested in shooting when you’re not training your camera on kids?

It’s all about timing. It’s about learning how to anticipate what’s coming next.
The better you know the subject you’re shooting, the more you can anticipate it. That’s why ballet feels the most natural for me to shoot: I have ballet experience as well as musical training. I can see what a dancer is doing and be prepared for a jump or a beautiful pose because of that experience.

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But that doesn’t mean you have to spend months getting to know a family before you can catch expressions that are truly “them.” Training your eye with the people in your everyday life is a way to learn mannerisms in general.

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The longer you spend figuring out how to make your son laugh, for example, the quicker it will be to get a smile out of a boy you’ve only just met.
The more time I spend shooting hip-hop classes (a new dance style for me), the more quickly I found myself getting comfortable with African dance, one I had absolutely no experience with.

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Does it mean all my shots will be amazing? Hardly! But I’m far more likely to have “wow!” pictures with each conscious practice!