Why you should consider a sunset session

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As a photographer it is my mission to find good light so I can create gorgeous images for my clients.

When the sun is high in the sky you get harsh shadows and the bright sun can cause people to squint their eyes so finding some shade is a must.

Here is an excerpt from the free download 5 Top Tips to improve your phone photos of your kids-

You can see above the difference it makes finding some shade. In the top photo Jaime is squinting and you can see harsh shadows on her face. On the bottom photo Jaime has nice even light over her face and she can open her eyes, makes for a much better image!

Sunset is a popular time of day for photographers to shoot because the sun is low in the sky and can give a beautiful golden backlight to your images. You can backlight your images at any time of the day but you keep more detail in the photograph at sunrise and sunset and the light has an extra special quality that I absolutely love.  

Open shade on an overcast day Tentsmuir, Fife

I love the light in the photograph above but do you see the difference between this image and the ones below?

morning sun, backlit, Backmuir Wood, Dundee, Angus

 

 

walking through field near sunset Wormit, Fife
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The thing about living in Scotland is we can't guarantee a sunny sunset! Although there is always the possibility it may be overcast if you love this light like I do it is certainly worth thinking about when you schedule the time of your session.

We might not all love the shorter days but it does mean that as the sun sets earlier in the day families with  young children can take advantage of this amazing light before it gets too late past bedtime. 

 

Family photo shoot in Wormit, Fife

I grew up in Wormit and was excited to go back for this family photo shoot, I remember lots of beautiful sunsets by the Tay!

It was a little chilly and quite windy down by the shore when we arrived. The sun was due to set in a few hours and it was still pretty bright down by the bay so we went for a little walk while the sun was going down in the sky.

We walked up to the play park then followed the "back road" to the railway tunnel that had some gorgeous light which is where we captured these photos of the boys.

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I do take "looking at the camera" photos but I love when mum or dad can get the laughter started just off camera!

We walked through the field back towards the bay with the sun just going down behind the hills. I love how the light from the sun just peeks over the hills and backlights everyone walking through the long grass. Sunset is my all time favourite time to shoot, we were a bit early for it here but the hills stopped it from being too bright and gives that sunset feel.

Wormit family photo shoot field sunset
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When we got down to the shore we were quickly reminded of how windy it was, this frame caught Laura's hair at the perfect time!

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When you give your mum the BIGGEST squeeze!

When you give your mum the BIGGEST squeeze!

This final images is one of my all time favourites, there is a lot of love in that hug! 


I am now open for sessions this year and I have 2 sessions left for over the Easter holidays. download your free session guide here.

 

An impromptu beach clean and a personal plea

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Monday was a beautiful day here in Carnoustie so Andy and I decided to go out for a walk while both kiddos were at school in the afternoon. We were going to have a walk around Crombie but after driving near the beach and seeing how gorgeous it was we headed along the cycle path from Carnoustie towards Arbroath. I had no plans on taking any photos but as always I had my phone in my pocket, I'm glad I did.

Westhaven beach

We have lived in Carnoustie for 8 years and in that time I have never walked from Carnoustie along towards Westhaven and Easthaven. We have walked to Easthaven to Arbroath but that's another story!

The beaches here are beautiful, a mixture of sand, stones and rock pools. I love living by the coast and being so close to the beach. The walk along the cycle path was lovely and one I will be doing more often, I love walking by the sea!

Maybe it was because we didn't just find one spot to stay in as we usually do in the summer, or maybe because we didn't have the kids with us so our eyes and attention could be elsewhere but I started noticing litter on the beach. Once I noticed a bit of plastic or general rubbish to pick up I couldn't seem to stop noticing it.

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Within a few minutes my hands were full and I couldn't carry anymore. We hadn't intended on going to the beach, if we had I may have had the forethought to bring a bag for a beach clean as it was something I had wanted to do for a few months. I felt disappointed at not being able to pick up more. You could say I was fortunate to find a huge, thick plastic bag lying on the beach and I turned it into my rubbish bag.

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In addition to plastic bottles and beer cans I found plastic lighters, aerosol cans, tupperware, a golf ball, plastic gloves, plastic bags and a toilet brush to name a few. This was all collected in about half an hour on a small stretch of beach. 

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The reason I am sharing this with you is to raise awareness. I had intended on taking the kids for a beach clean later in the year but I have to admit I didn't know our local beaches could be so full of plastic. We all want a better world for our kids, be the change you want to see in the world. If we all do a little it can end up being a lot. So I ask if you can pick it up, please do.

As a family we will make a walk on the beach a more regular occurrence, enjoy the fresh air, run from the waves, build sandcastles, look in the rock pools and while we are keeping our eyes peeled for shells we will also be on the lookout for litter and we won't be leaving it behind.

Carnoustie Beach Park photo shoot on a sunny March afternoon

Carnoustie beach park photo shoot

It's still a little chilly out at the moment and the weekend is set to bring a bit more cold and maybe a little snow but fear not, Spring is on the horizon!

I do love snow and cosy Winter days at home but I have to admit I really love when we start to get more light and the seasons start to change. Clocks go forward soon (Sunday 25th of March) and sunset will jump forward to just after 7:30pm and will be nearly 8pm when we get to the Easter holidays!

If you haven't already been to Carnoustie Beach Park-it's awesome! It is right next to the beach, close to Carnoustie Golf Hotel and is a big hit with the kids.

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Carnoustie beach park playing spring

The great thing about having a photo shoot in a park is that while the kids are busy climbing and playing it gives me the opportunity to photograph them being themselves. The key to natural looking photos is to get the kids involved in an activity or conversation and parks are full of things to do!

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5 Birthday party ideas in Dundee for older kids

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You want to hold a birthday party for your child, you don't fancy holding it at home this year and you're thinking Dundee is nice and central. What options do you have? The kids always love soft play but you're looking for something different now they are getting a bit older. Have a look at these 5 ideas for your kids birthday party in the Dundee area.

1. Ancrum outdoor centre

Fancy an outdoor party? Ancrum outdoor centre have six different birthday party packages and includes an option for dry slope skiing starting from age 5+, indoor target archery from ages 8+ and dry slope snowboarding and introduction to climbing from from ages 12+.

You don't need a birthday as an excuse to take advantage of their facilities, check out their course calendar to see what's coming up or pop over to their facebook page to follow their goings on.

 

2. Dundee Science Centre

My kids love the Science Centre and I am considering this option for Jaime's birthday this year as I know she will love it! You follow the Science Centre over on facebook here.

They currently have the gross lab recommended for ages 4+ and a CSI mystery party recommend for ages 6+. Head on over to their party page for more information and free invitation downloads.

 

3. Ice Skating at Dundee Ice Arena

Ice skating is something I think I did a couple of times as a kid and never mastered but I remember it being a lot of fun! Dundee Ice Arena offer kids birthday parties at the weekend during the public skating session times. These parties are suitable for ages 7+ and are for 7-20 children. You can find out more information and contact details here and you can follow them on facebook here.

 

4. Go Karting at Scotkart

Scotkart have locations in Cambuslang, Clydebank and Dundee and offer kids birthday parties suitable from age 8+. Ages 8-13 use the Junior Track layout with ages 14+ racing on the full adult track. For more information head over to their website here, their Dundee facebook page is here.

 

5. Cinema party at the Odeon

Can you image being a kid and having a private cinema showing?! Yes the Odeon offer this but if that sounds a little crazy they also have packages for the kids weekend screenings (family films not currently on release) and blockbuster birthdays (current releases). You will need to contact them for pricing information, you can check out some FAQs and details here.

 

There are lots more options in and around Dundee, is there somewhere in particular you would recommend? If so I would love to hear from you!

P.s When researching this blog I also noticed there are two trampoline parks due to open in Dundee this year. Looking at their websites they will also be available for kids birthday parties. I'm looking forward to checking them out when they open!

Family photos at Backmuir Wood, Angus

Backmuir Wood Dundee family photo shoot
I cannot recommend Catriona enough. She took the most beautiful photos of our family which included 3 year old twins and 2 dogs! If she can cope with all of that she can cope with anything! Beautiful natural photos in our favourite setting. Thank you Catriona!
— Heather

Backmuir wood is found between Muirhead and Liff, just outside of Dundee and was the setting for this lovely family photo shoot back in October. 

We meet up in the morning, the sun shining down through the trees on an unusually warm October day and went for a walk through the woods.

The twins climbed onto rocks in the clearing, hid behind trees playing hide and seek, hugged while going round and round in circles, held hands with mummy and daddy and looked at the different leaves on the trees. A great walk with lots of opportunities to photograph them both playing and being themselves.

I love the smiles and the laughter. I love how the light filters through the trees and the colours of the Autumn leaves on the ground. It was hard to choose which ones to show you on the blog but here I have picked out some of my very favourite images from their session to share with you.

Do you have a favourite place where you would love to have your family photographed?

Hiding from daddy

Do this one thing for better phone photos

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Your phone is with you most of the time and on hand to photograph your kids whenever and wherever. It is great to be able to catch those little moments that make you smile and that you want to share whether it's making sandcastles at the beach or that time your toddler decided lying down on the pavement made more sense than walking home.

Have you ever found that your photos ended up dark or blurry? This one simple change can improve the photos that you are taking.

What is it I hear you ask? Something simple and something you can start doing straight away-have your subject face the light or, if they are not looking at you but busy doing something else, make sure that when you take the photo that you are next to the light. Let me show you.

In this example I am going to use the window in my livingroom as the light source. I did try to get Finaly to sit on the footstool but it wasn't happening, bribery was involved to even get him to look at the camera!

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3 year old smiling looking up at camera

For me to get light on Finlay I need to move round by the window and take the photo from there. Whether Finlay is looking in my direction or not I am photographing him with my back to the window with the window light falling on him. Think of it like your subject is on stage and you need a light from the front to be able to see them. You might not be able to move your subject but you can move where you take the photo from. Having light on your subject makes it easy for a phone or a camera on auto to expose the scene well. 

The benefit of the subject looking towards the light is you get gorgeous catchlights. Catchlights are the reflection of the light in the subject's eyes. In this example they are a bit lower than I would like, I don't have much love for the light in my livingroom!

Give it a go, try moving about to get good light on your little ones and let me know if it helps. This tip is one of 5 in my free pdf download 5 Top Tips to improve your phone photos of your kids which is included in my free email course. Click here to sign up!

Your checklist for a successful family photo shoot

Here are some pointers to help set yourself up for a great family photo shoot.

Firstly, find a photographer who's work you love. Do you like studio, outdoor or at home images? Do you like natural images or more posed ones? Photography is such a personal thing with each photographer seeing things differently. So look about and find a photographer who suits you.

Once you have found your photographer don't hesitate in asking them any questions that you have. Your photographer will welcome any queries you have and be able to answer them and put your mind at ease.

Your checklist

 

1. Schedule your family photo shoot for a time that works for your kids

Do they nap? Are they in good spirits in the morning or afternoon? As a photographer it is important for me to find good light and that is dependant on the location and the time of day. I adore shooting at sunset but if your little ones will be tired then it may not be a good time for them. Great light doesn't do anything to help unhappy kiddos and without happy kids we won't get very far!

 

2. Keep your kids informed of the plan of action

After speaking with your photographer you know where you will be for your photo shoot and what you will be doing. Letting your kids know will help them during the session so they know what to expect.

 

3. Plan out your clothing in advance

Check out my what to wear blog post here for tips on how to decide what to wear.

 

4. Relax

Easier said than done, I know! Once you have asked your photographer all the questions you have, have a good idea of how your photo shoot is going to go and know what you are wearing it just leaves the photo shoot itself. Your photographer will have a plan of action and know what they are doing so relax and trust them. You may be worried that your kids have a meltdown or don't want to co-operate, family photographers are used to working with kids and many (like me!) are parents too. I am always sensing kids reactions while talking to them and photographing them and know when to move on to try a different tact. No need to worry, we've got this!

 

5. Snacks and drinks

Having snacks and drinks for before or after your photo shoot can be a great move. Better to have them on hand than not!

(Click the infographic below to download your own copy)

Watch me edit-Finlay at Sunset

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Yesterday I uploaded a video to facebook to show you my editing style (i've popped it down below if you missed it!)

The pupose of the video was to show you the edits that I make to the photos that I take and the final image I end up with. I shoot RAW which is a type of file that gives you lots of information for post processing but means the image straight of the camera is a bit dull and needs a little bit of tweaking.

I always try to get the colours as accurate as possible, I tend to make the darks a little bit darker and the lights a little bit lighter while retaining as much detail as I can.

 

Technical details

All these photos were shot on a 35mm lens at 1.4, a shutter speed of 400 and ISO 200.

Editing wise I corrected the white balance (the colours), brightened them up a tad, added some contrast while reducing the highlights to bring back some of the detail in the sky, darked the blacks and lastly I changed the profile from adobe standard to camera standard.

Before/After 

Use the sliders on the images to see before and after-

5 local activities for you and your baby

There are lots of sessions and classes out there for you to attend with your baby, they are fun and interactive for your little one but also for you to meet up with like minded parents. Here I have listed 5 different classes with videos and links to find out what's on in your area.

1. Bookbug Sessions

I am a big believer that reading and singing to your kids from a young age have huge benefits and both my kids loved bookbug sessions. These sessions are free, last around 30 minutes per week and are available all over Scotland.  You can look up your local sessions here.

2. Baby massage

Baby massage is said to have benefits for both mum and baby. Babycentre have lots of information on baby massage here plus 4 different videos for baby massage for calming, helping digestion, strengthening and stretching for you to do at home.

Classes-

Dundee-Peapodbaby (IAIM*) and Deerbaby in Monikie (founded by Health Visitor Lynn Duncan BA BSc (Hons)

Angus-Jennifer Robson (IAIM*)

Fife-With Carly (IAIM*)

Perth-Baby yoga and massage Perthshire

*IAIM (The International Association of Infant Massage)

 

3. Baby Sensory

Baby Sensory classes are suitable from birth to 13 months and are available in Dundee, Angus (Broughty Ferry and Arbroath) and Fife.

4. Baby signing

We started baby signing with my eldest (now 8!) when she was a baby using a Sing and Sign dvd. Jaime was able to communicate in basic signs before she was talking and it was great! We did it a little with Finlay (now 3) but not as often or consistently and I wish we had. I also wish I had recorded Jaime signing as it blew my mind at the time! Here is a little video of Finlay, he is signing "pain", "doctor", kind of signing "again" and "where". At the time of recording he could fully sign along to the full song but I didn't catch it that day!

If you are interested in baby signing there are lots of local classes for you to checkout-

 

5. Water Babies

I am amazed every time I see a baby swimming underwater! I would recommend heading over to the Water Babies website where you can read a wealth of information about their classes, why they do what they do and how.   Water Babies North East cover Dundee, Angus and Aberdeen and Water Babies Central cover Perth and Fife.

Note from me to you-

In an ideal world I would have taken my kids to these classes, I see the benefits of them all and at the time I felt like I was failing in some way that I didn't take them. I suffered from depression and found the thought of getting out and about overwhelming. What I didn't realise in the "early days" of my parenting journey is 1) I was enough and not "failing" my children 2) I was not alone in finding parenting a challenge at points.

I say this because if for any reason you feel "every other mum" does all these activities and you're not good enough, please remember-You are enough.

Catriona
 

p.s-Receieve a complimentary maternity mini session when you purchase a newborn session!