New on Taproll: keywords, more photo uploads, global currencies, and more

As announced on Friday, we just launched a major revision to Taproll, centered around our new search and keywords platform. There were numerous other key changes as a part of this launch which we didn’t get to in our last post, so here they are:

  • Keywords: you can now claim keywords to target the exact search queries that are relevant to your business (as detailed in Friday’s post)
  • More Photos: Free members can now upload up to 10 high-resolution portfolio images, and PROs can now upload unlimited photos to their Taproll profile
  • Global currencies: You can now list your rates and fees in US Dollars, Euros, Yen, Canadian Dollars, or whatever your local currency happens to be.
  • Set your Hourly rate: Set your hourly rate (in addition to project-based fee) and show up in searches for specific hourly rates
  • Longer bio / greeting: We’ve extended the text you can include in your Bio – this text is also covered by our search engine, so make it relevant to your audience and include target keywords
  • Physical address, map and phone number: If you’d like to advertise your physical address and phone# you can do so under Edit Settings, Users will then see a map of your location on your profile.
  • More links to Google Plus, Yelp, etc: All members can now advertise up to 7 social media links – and as always, these are free backlinks to boost your SEO on all your sites.

We’re excited about the growth we’ve seen on Taproll (we are now well past 1,000 professional members) as well as the quality and professionalism we’ve seen across the site. We think these new changes we’ve launched will further accelerate our progress towards becoming the defacto visual search engine for hiring talented local professionals in cities across the globe. We’re glad to have you on board, keep up the great work, and keep spreading the word about Taproll!

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The Big Search Box, Finally on Taproll

More than once I’ve been asked (when people are checking out Taproll): “Where’s the big search box?”

Well, tonight, we’ve launched the “big search box” that everyone has been waiting for. Now, you can simply type in whatever you’re looking for, whether it’s “black and white photography” or “nature” or “baby photographer” and instantly start scrolling through profiles that match what you’re looking for.

Try it out yourself, we think you’ll agree that this is a very cool and new experience. Typically, we’re used to getting back a list of links when we search for something. Now with Taproll, you type in your search and instantly start flipping through lots of stunning photos, with the end goal of finding the perfect professional to meet your needs.

Pros: Setup your keywords!

If you are a Taproll professional – be sure to login to your profile and setup your keywords so you come up in more search results. You can now pick up to 20 keywords (60 for PROs) describing exactly what you do. Keywords can be anything you think people would search for when looking for your services, examples might include:

  • artistic
  • architecture
  • food
  • pets
  • hdr
  • studio
  • soft focus
  • abstract
  • destination wedding
  • trash the dress

We’ve already gone ahead and converted any sub-categories you chose into keywords, but you can add to these as you like.

Other key changes: we’ve expanded your welcome message to a much longer length so you can fully describe yourself and your services. We’ve also included more contact links for sites such as Google Plus and Yelp. You can also now include your business phone number and address (if desired, these are purely optional) and you’ll get a little map included in your profile.

Refer Event Planners, Lighting Experts, Caterers & more and Earn Credits

Probably the most significant aspect of  this launch, however, is that we’ve expanded beyond photographers. While photography will always be the at core of Taproll, we also recognize that consumers search for all types of local professionals, and professionals network locally with many other types of professionals. Our mission is not just to be the world’s simplest way to find a great photographer, its to be the world’s easiest way to find and hire a great local professional. You’ll hear more about how we plan to extend Taproll’s reach beyond photographers and become a larger community of creative local professionals who network together and find new business in ways never thought of before.

In the meantime – its also important to note that you can now refer more types of professionals to Taproll – so refer the great people in your network who you think will love what we’re doing here at Taproll.

Do you know any great:

  • lighting professionals
  • models
  • hair stylists
  • makeup artists
  • event planners
  • interior designers
  • architects
  • award-winning pastry chefs?

You already know that Taproll is a great venue for marketing yourself through photography – share the news with your colleagues and friends and earn additional free months of Taproll PRO (every 5 referrals gives you 1 free month).

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Referral networks: Who do you as photographers want to network with?

From day one, Taproll has been focused on providing the best venue for photographers to showcase their work, and meet potential clients. We think we’ve had a great start in this direction.

Beyond this, we also envision Taproll being a great place to network professionally with other creative professionals. Photographers are constantly collaborating with other creative types, and in our eyes, Taproll can not only be a great place to meet clients, it can also be a great place to meet and collaborate with other creative professionals.

To this end, we are working on a new set of features which open Taproll up to non-photographers, and enable collaboration, referrals and more communication among various types of creative professionals.

To help us get these features right, we wanted open up the discussion and hear your thoughts on the subject of professional networks and referrals. Here are a couple questions we’re curious to hear your thoughts on:

  1. What types of non-photographer professionals would you most like to see on Taproll?
  2. What types of interactions or activities with these other pros would you find to be the most useful or beneficial for your business?

Please share your thoughts here in the comments, or on our Facebook page. We’re looking forward to hearing your opinions!

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How to Spot an Unprofessional Wedding Photographer

With the recent surge in DSLR sales many “fauxtographers” have begun flooding the market. As a result, it has become increasingly difficult for clients to sift through the web of professional photographers and amateurs looking to make a quick buck. Thankfully, one of our very own PRO Photographers has created a guide to help you through making an informed decision, because unlike your money these moments cannot be replaced.

Christina Bentheim is a proud member of the Professional Photographers of America, Wedding and Portrait Photographers International, and National Association of Professional Child Photographers. Based in Las Vegas, she specializes in engagement photography, creative wedding photography, and lifestyle portraiture of children.

Photos by Christina A. Bentheim, Red Corduroy Media Group {Photography}, L.L.C.

Wedding Photographer v. Wedding Fauxtographer
As a Las Vegas wedding photographer, I frequently get inquiries about my services from individuals wanting everything for virtually nothing. This is a result of the market being flooded by “fauxtographers” who do not operate legitimate businesses. They offer sub-par quality and service for the lowest bottom dollar. It’s illegal and it’s harmful to the client. Thus, my 10-part “Running A Legitimate Photography Business” blog series was born. (See the entire series about legitimate wedding photography studios).

[A note for budding photographers: This is meant for information only and not to give business advice. Always check with your lawyer and CPA prior to starting a business.]

“Photography is part art (and) part science… You can’t effectively run a legitimate photography business having one without the other”

Las Vegas wedding photographers are in abundance. However, there are a select few who truly create artistic stunning wedding photography that clients treasure. Typically it is simple to spot the differences between a professional wedding photographer and a “fauxtographer” for seasoned professionals, but because there are so many people holding big consumer cameras, many amateurs (or hobbyists) think that the pictures they create are just as good as those of a pro. A wedding day is a one-time deal. When it matters, clients need a trained professional wedding photographer to capture each moment as it unfolds and to create new moments between the happy couple.

Every photographer starts somewhere. Please don’t misunderstand that I realize that. However, if a photographer is charging for sessions and NOT using professional equipment with creative vision–-or using professional equipment without knowing how to operate it, quality will suffer. Photography is part art (lighting, composition, storytelling), part science (technical skills and proper equipment to capture the composition). You can’t effectively run a legitimate photography business having one without the other.

The Experiment
At a recent wedding, I asked someone who LOVES photography and LOVES to take pictures to follow me around and take pictures as a sort of second shooter. I wanted to be able to show you the difference between what I, as a professional wedding photographer, did versus what this person photographed. The results are very telling. Which photographs would your clients rather have?

Notice that the left image is of virtually the same moment in the ceremony when the bride held up her bouquet in a type of victory! The “photographer” who took the image on the left missed the moment. Gone. The image on the right is crystal clear with perfect light and tells a story.

Not only is the image on the left poorly composed, blurry, and blown out, it doesn’t send a message! The image on the right, though is clear, the subject (the bride) is well lit, and authentic emotion is captured. Instead of using flash pointed at the couple as the photographer did in the image on the left, I used ambient light cast from the videographer’s light.

The image on the left was again taken by the amateur photographer and is blown out (details from the gown are not there), angled at a non-creative angle, and distorted from a wide-angle lens. The image on the right, taken by me, is composed and lit well, and captures a sweet kiss between the new husband and wife.

Professional Image Enhancement and Workflow After the Shoot
Professional wedding photographers have the ability to get the images right in camera. However, everyone has no doubt heard of Photoshop, which is used for image enhancement. Photoshop isn’t the only piece of software out there that professional photographers use. Fauxtographers, though, are known to use tools like Picnik, which is NOT professional editing software (or really strong Photoshop actions that overpower). The reason professional (read: expensive) software must be used is because a lot goes into color balancing images, preparing them for print, and then sending calibrated files to the lab. This cannot be done in Picnik or other web-based imaged editors. Period. (Microsoft Paint doesn’t count either.)

“a terrible photographer with a fantastic camera will take terrible images”

Now on the flip side, if a photographer doesn’t edit photos at all-–saying that they don’t need to, they are cheating the client. No matter how stunning a wedding photographer’s work is SOOC (straight out of the camera), it is unfinished. In some of my blog posts I’ve given examples of SOOC images versus those that were enhanced (another one is posted below). It’s clear which ones the client prefers. Many fauxtographers will take a bunch of pictures and burn them right to a CD or DVD–-and hand them off to the client. There’s no editing. There’s no completion. It’s half the job. You can count on the fact that the final images will be just pictures–-not pieces of finished art. (Those are also called shoot-and-burn photographers.)

Powerful Computer Equipment to Produce Final Images
The professional wedding photographer needs to have computer equipment capable of batch processing large image files, as well as uploading them to on-line galleries for clients to view. While I choose to work on a PC, many pro photographers work on Macs. The platform doesn’t matter–the ability of the computer to process, does. The quality of monitor also matters. Color calibration experts recommend not editing images on laptop screens because the calibration is never spot on. They also say that any monitor that costs less than $500 is not good for image editing and calibration. This calibration is critical for professional delivery of images.

Additional Peripherals to Finish the Job
In addition to the software, most of us have physical calibration devices, too. The one I use is the Spyder 3 Pro. There are also a plethora of other devices such as high-dpi scanners, professional large-format printers, etc. that are necessary depending on what products the photographer delivers to his or her clients.

What is the Bottom Line?
If a wedding photographer with pro (or semi-pro) equipment doesn’t know how to use it, it’s just as bad as hiring a really great 757 pilot who doesn’t know how to fly a 777 jumbo jet across the ocean. Both will end in tragically bad results. You can also think of it like this:

  • A terrible photographer with a terrible camera will take terrible images.
  • A mediocre photographer with a terrible camera will take mediocre images.
  • A fantastic photographer with a terrible camera will take fantastic images.
  • On the flip side, a terrible photographer with a fantastic camera will take terrible images.

A fantastic photographer doesn’t just take pictures-–or even just capture things. He or she CREATES MOMENTS and turns them into masterpieces. Are you faux? Or a pro?

Christina is also a volunteer portrait photographer for families and children touched by cancer through the F.I.L.M. Project, a participating child photographer for children with disabilities through Inspiration Through Art, an affiliated baby photographer for parents suffering from impending or recent bereavement through Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, and a wish-granting wedding photographer for couples experiencing the magic of love while facing terminal illness through Wish Upon A Wedding. Additionally, Christina offers complimentary portrait sessions to adoptive parents for the preparation of their adoption agency portfolio and birthmother scrapbook.

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Interview with Kenneth Benjamin Reed of Vorpal Images, PRO Photographer in Portland, Oregon (USA)

Kenneth is a true artist melding thought-provoking moments with seasoned technique. His flair for the cinematic leaves each client looking and feeling like a star. “These are the photos you actually want,” Kenneth says.

Currently, Kenneth works as a commercial, editorial, and portrait photographer having professionally shot for numerous publications, magazines and businesses. We’ve asked Kenneth to answers a few questions and share a little bit about himself and his studio. We hope you enjoy!

Meet Kenneth Benjamin Reed, PRO Photographer in Portland, OR (USA)

Photos by Kenneth Benjamin Reed – Visit website

1. Briefly introduce yourself and your photography business.
I’m Kenneth Benjamin Reed, a photographer based out of Portland, Oregon. I primarily focus on portraiture, advertising, and editorial photography.

“…it helped me learn lighting essentials and how to respect good composition”

2. What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Seeing my clients when they get the images they really want- I love that! People just blossom when you exceed their expectations, it’ feels great.

3. What was your very first camera?
My grandfather’s old Fujica ST701 with a 50mm prime. I still have it, too. A challenging camera to learn with, but it helped me learn lighting essentials and how to respect good composition.

“(I) seriously suggest any emerging business photographer to look into (ASMP). Priceless experience and advice.”

4. What are the keys to a great photo shoot or client engagement?
Always maintain a personable demeanor- The slightest nuance of stress or frustration can really affect clients, so it’s always best to focus on solutions and keeping the client happy by not letting complications or obstacles bother you. Think fast!

5. What are some common mistakes that emerging business photographers will make? How can they be avoided?
I’ve learned all sorts of helpful information from the ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers), and seriously suggest any emerging business photographer to look into their resources. Priceless experience and advice.

6. What social media strategies or channels have worked best for you in expanding your photography business?
I get most of my requests from personal references- either in person, email, or via my website but I also make use of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and LinkedIn.

7. Any last thoughts, comments and/or suggestions for our photographers and clients?
Photographers– Prime lenses, large file sizes… These two considerations can one-up your work quite nicely.
Clients– Thank you for knowing the difference between quality and quantity… that’s why we work so well together!

We want to thank Kenneth for joining us this week. Make sure to check out his profile on Taproll for more information and great images!

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Soothing Techniques, Lighting Setups and other Newborn Baby Photography Tips

Asiya Khaki is a New York based photographer that specializes in newborn, children, family portraiture & wedding photography. This week we’ve asked Asiya to share her thoughts, including useful tips and helpful advice, on newborn photography. Hope you enjoy!

Meet Asiya Khaki, Baby Photographer in New York, NY (USA).

Capturing a newborn on camera can forever hold some of the previous first memories of a newborn’s life in a special and exciting way. Newborns change so much after their first couple weeks that it is best to photograph them before they are two weeks old. After two weeks, many newborns develop baby acne and are not able to bend into the same fetal-like positions that were so natural to them during the first few days of life.

“it’s best to photograph newborn babies close to a window so that natural light can be used”

The fetal position is natural for newborns so most babies tend to sleep soundly in this position. Some babies are able to sit with their legs all the way forward or sleep on their back with their legs bent all the way up to their faces. If the baby naturally bends into this type of position, then I will photograph him or her in this type of position.

Here are a few tips to take successful newborn baby photographs:

One of the most important things about photographing newborns is to make sure that the space you photograph the newborn in is very warm. Like adults and kids, newborns do not like being cold, so turn up the heat if you want a happy baby. If you plan on doing naked shots, the temperature of the room is critical.

“Babies love the sound of a continuous ‘shush.’ This form of white noise…”

Babies are happiest when they have recently been fed, so make sure that the baby you are about to photograph has a full belly before you start the shoot.

Most babies tend to flinch when flash from a camera is used. Therefore, it’s best to photograph newborn babies close to a window so that natural light can be used. If you have a bean bag or a couple big pillows, arrange them to make a “nest” on a table, stand, or on the floor near a window that gets plenty of natural light. Cover the nest with a few baby blankets and you have got the perfect setup.

When photographing a baby, you have to work on the baby’s schedule. So don’t rush, take your time, and enjoy the experience.

You can sooth a baby by making a repetitive soothing noises.  Babies love the sound of a continuous “shush.”  This form of white noise often reminds the babies of their mother’s heartbeat and can put them into a deep sleep. Another method of soothing a baby is picking the baby up and slight rocking it back and forth. If you have warm hands, you can try placing one of your fingers between the two eyebrows of the baby. There is a pressure point in this area and it causes the baby to feel sleepy and relaxed.

To see examples of newborn photography, please visit my website where you can get ideas on how to photograph a newborn.

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Interview with Dan McClanahan of McClanahan Studio in Des Moines, Iowa (USA)

McClanahan Studio is an award-winning husband/wife duo specializing in cutting edge photography. “Our goal is really just to capture images that people can’t stop staring at,” Dan says. Their infectious passion for photography and people has garnered them much deserved attention both here in the United States and worldwide. As one of the leading photographers on Taproll we’re pleased to introduce to you this exciting young couple whose creative work always leaves us wanting to see more. We hope you enjoy!

Meet Dan and Alex McClanahan of McClanahan Studio, PRO photographers in Des Moines, Iowa (USA).

Briefly introduce yourself and your photography business.
My name is Dan McClanahan and I own McClanahan Studio with my wife Alex. We specialize in high-end wedding portraiture, commercial projects and high school senior photography.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I get to hang out with cool people and create images, which is something I’d do for fun anyways, so it’s pretty sweet to do it for a living!

What was your very first camera?
Canon Rebel XT

What are the keys to a great photo shoot or client engagement?
Being passionate and excited is contagious. Also being respectful of the talents and personality types that you’re working with. The general rule of thumb is that if your clients have a good time, they’ll love their images even more.

“Figure out your business early on… and you’ll achieve your goals much faster and save yourself a lot of pain”

What are some common mistakes that emerging business photographers will make? How can they be avoided?
Most emerging photographers these days take great images, but they don’t have a clue about business (I sure didn’t). It’s normal because most photographers are right-brained. Figure out your business early on (what clients do you want, how much do you need to charge, etc) and you’ll achieve your goals much faster and save yourself a lot of pain. You’d be amazed how quickly your imagery improves when you remove business worry from the equation.

What social media strategies or channels have worked best for you in expanding your photography business?
Easily our Facebook business page for portrait work. Every time you tag an image a whole new market of people see it that would never be exposed to you otherwise. We get more traffic on Facebook than our web site and we’ve even booked some awesome jobs with people that had seen our work on Facebook and nothing else. Commercially, Art Directors are typically on Twitter more than Facebook so we tweet as well. Effective blogging is also a powerful way to reconnect with clients.

Any last thoughts, comments and/or suggestions for our photographers and clients?
I think it’s an incredibly exciting time to be a visual content producer and consumer! Things are moving at lightspeed and there are new paths being forged all the time. Even though there’s more “competition” than ever before, there’s also more opportunity for those that are willing to work hard for it.

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How to blend foreground, background and add 3D using Photography Studio Backdrops (Part II)

Continuing with last week’s post on Chinese Photography, here are some more tips for making your backdrop photography even more creative and realistic. (See Chinese Photography 1)

Chinese Photography Part II

4. Make a connection with the backdrop –- reach out and almost touch it, or act like there’s some interaction with it.
This is a great effect for increasing reality, but be careful not to cast a shadow, because that will be self defeating. A shadow in the wrong place is a key thing that can tip off the eye that something is artificial and not right. (PS: there is not an actual piano in the image below. It’s a part of the backdrop).

5. Have the foreground subjects stand different distances from the backdrops.
The mind expects backdrops to be very close, directly behind the subject, but doesn’t as often think about the backdrop being very big and far behind the subject, therefore when multiple subjects are spread out, its sometimes convinces you that the environment is real. If you’re using the right type of backdrop, it also brings an extra sense of forced perspective and thus a 3D effect.

6. Match The Lighting
Lighting match is crucial to tricking the eye into thinking it’s a real live scene. To recreate this effect below, put at least one light source behind the subject and on the side that the sun appears on the backdrop. See Sunburst Road for another example of this type of lighting [ Flare is generally a great trick so that no one realizes you’re using a backdrop.

7. Dress The Part
This suggestion is pretty self explanatory. When you dress like you fit in the environment around you, the mind doesn’t think as much.

8. Crop off the floor, because where the feet touch the backdrop is often tell tail sign that something is not real.
Notice how the second and third pictures work much better than the first.

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How to blend foreground, background and add 3D using Photography Studio Backdrops

Jeremy and Hillary Smith are the owners and operators of Photo Pie, a retailer specializing in creative backdrops, costumes and other custom products. Their goal is to show how truly unique, creative, artistically admirable and even realistic images can be produced using backdrops, costumes and other products. Taproll is pleased to bring you a great new series on backdrops including fresh insights and helpful tips. We hope you enjoy it!

Chinese Photography Part I

“it’s a matter of taking what’s good and spitting out the bones–photography is no different”

Sometimes it’s good to look outside of our sheltered group when we want to encounter fresh ideas. That’s how the Renaissance was brought to Europe. One reason we are able to excel in so many fields in America is because we are continually in the practice of bringing in new ideas from different cultures. Even a lot of the creativity that we see on TV had their origins outside our culture (American Idol, Shark Tank, Wipe Out, and various dramas) in places like Britain, Japan, etc. Some times though, it’s a matter of taking what’s good and spitting out the bones–photography is no different. I lived in China for many years, and was fortunate to be exposed to some photography styles not seen as often in the Western mainstream. Granted, much of what I see overseas doesn’t meet my approval (we at Photo Pie have a very sensitive “cheesy meter”), but still there are some things we can take and assimilate into our own styles.

First, here’s a video about what the photography scene is like over there:

Over there backdrop photography is widely used for these wedding shots (more than is shown in the video), but in America the perception of backdrop photography has been damaged over the past few decades (and rightly so) because it has been done SO poorly, traditionally speaking. One of our goals is to show how backdrops shouldn’t equal cheese, but if done correctly, can make a very realistic and artistic image. In any event, here are a few tips that the Chinese use that we can use to make our backdrop shots just a little bit better.

1. Put in some foreground objects like leaves (and wind is nice too)

2. Fog, always a great effect that ads a sense of 3D and blends the foreground and the background

3. Use a prop in the foreground (a realistic prop, or something from everyday life).
Please don’t take this advice wrong and buy some gross looking, fake looking, manufactured monstrosity that doesn’t match the backdrop at all. Again, having something in the foreground is great for bringing a 3D effect, and it causes the mind not to cast as much doubt on the background because the foreground looks so real.

Please check back next week for Chinese Photography Part II, a new series on backdrops.

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3 Keys to a Successful Baby Photo Shoot and other Great Tips by Rose Kasinecz

This week Rose Kasinecz drops by to share her thoughts on baby photography and getting silly for the camera and kids. Having spent time as an apprentice to many great photographers and working with kids for many years, Rose draws from her experience to bring us simple yet tried tips and helpful advice.

Meet Rose Kasinecz, the “baby whisperer”, Baby Photographer in Chicago, Illinois (USA).

The secrets to a smiley, happy baby ready for a great photo shoot are sometimes a bit obvious and sometimes a little hard to discover. In spending the last 5 years working solely with children as my subject, I have noted a few helpful tools which I come ready to use! (3 Keys to a Successful Photo Shoot)

“I just take off my adult hat and happily put on my little kid demeanor and goofy smile”

Certainly, I am a kid person. Of course, I suppose, most of us trying to capture these fleeting moments of beauty would have to be a) in our profession or b) a parent! That being said, I think like a kid during my session photographing them. I want them to be 110% comfortable. To create that sense in them, I just take off my adult hat and happily put on my little kid demeanor and goofy smile! This sets a good and happy tone to my shoots, right off the bat.

PARENTS: consider that though you may be a pal to your kiddo, you are still trying to get them to follow your “rules” of the photo session. Consider making it light and fun! Playing games is often a better way to capture a true moment than forcing little Billy to smile! You will get a much more genuine shot and a far less “forced” camera face.

PHOTOGRAPHERS: certainly you are a pro within your area of photography. Remember though, that these little creatures are quick on their toes- even if they don’t move that much yet. Subtle movements can make or break a shot. I find that lighting is key and I always wear my running shoes!

“Initially… I abandoned my quick shooting style… then I understood I had to keep that finger on the trigger”

Another trick I keep up my sleeves is to shoot from the hip constantly. I spent a few years shooting weddings and events. Initially when entering the portrait world, I abandoned my quick shooting style for a more focused and intent method of capturing sneak peaks into peoples souls. I realized this was good, at first; then I understood I had to keep that finger on the trigger just as I had done with weddings or that glimpse I’d been waiting for might be missed. The action can be very high or very low, depending on the kiddo being photographed.

Below are a list of my “tools.” Like I said, I think like a kiddo!

1. Always have babes fed, napped and alert. This may seem like a no brainer but a happy kiddo is a better subject.
2. Keep items of bribery on hand. Cookies, goldfish, Cheerios and the like are great items to keep your little one appeased and distracted throughout the photo shoot. Even hiding the cookie on “set” makes for some great shots of the little one looking for his or her treat!
3. Have your home set at a comfortable temperature. If you are shooting naked shots, be sure the temp is comfortable for babies in less clothing. Alternatively, if you are shooting the little one in a homemade wool swaddle or knit sweater, turn up that AC so no one overheats!

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