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Transform Your World

by Chelsea Olivia Phoenix Hart about a month ago in editing

How to get great Photos (With Difficult Kids)

All Images are Copyright Chelsea Hart.

"Smile" You say, ask, call, command! Beg...Cry...

If you're a parent of multiple kids, you know exactly what I am talking about. 100 photos and not one of them has everyone looking at the camera.

On this chilly grey spring day, we were out for an adventure at our local beach in Qualicum, B.C. I was competing for my kids attention, in a losing battle, with fresh hot potato wedges.

I wanted to get a good photo of my kids for my mom, who was in the UK and had just started her Chemotherapy. 

“Theo, Look at me, that's not looking at me! Turn your eyes, not just your face. No! Evie don’t put rocks in your mouth. YUCKY.” 

Evie, balancing a rock on her head- like mommys doing...

"What's This? Look Up at Mommy!" I balance a rock on my head in desperation.

Inside I start to feel pressured, that this is going on for to long. I can feel people watch me as I preform, trying to get smiles out of them.

" Wait, don't give them more wedges!" I shout at my husband. His hand freezes mid-air. I stop myself. "Sorry, never-mind.. the photoshoots over! Have some real fun..."

My husband hands me a steaming hot potato wedge, and we share a look.

I join the kids on their log, looking out at the ghostly islands drifting in and out, behind low rolling clouds over the almost still water.

She was supposed to be here too, my mom. That was the plan before she got told she had stage 4 cancer. I think about her as I hold my daughter's hands, helping her balance along the high dividing wall that defines the raw wild beach from the vast flat parking area. I know Evie is safe, because she is in my hands. I am her mother and I trust that connection, instinctively knowing I will have her, if she trips, if she falls. I won't let her get hurt.

She makes little humming sounds, each one is a sweetness. I imagine my mother walking alongside me, she would want nothing more then to hear it too.

I feel a lump of guilt push inside my throat. I swallow it down. I want to be there for her, holding my mother's hand too as she fights. Instead all I have to give her are my photos.

When we got home I put the kettle on and looked through a screen full of loveable but imperfect photos.

" I can do better..." The idea crept into my mind slowly as the water started to boil.

The kids were happily snuggling on the couch so I decided it was time for Photoshop. I pulled out my computer and sat down with a cup of tea.

I chose the first two photos that I wanted to compile, and dropped them into the program. 

"How long did this take?" You're probably wondering.

It took me less then 1 hour, but I use photoshop all the time for my work in Web design & Graphic Design, and for fun.

There are free apps that can do quite a lot these days as far as filters, or stickers exc, but if you want something high quality it takes time and practice. 

Fortunately I have some Tips that will help any parent turn a few bad photos into a great one! 

I layered the Photos by dropping them into photoshop and opening the side menue. I used the Eraser tool to remove the background all around the good photo of my son. I could have used the Lasso tool to outline him, and delete the rest, but a finger and track pad can result in a photo decapitation from a slip more often than not.

Before using the Eraser, make sure to click the Eye/Viewing switch to off position, on the layers below, (and above for good practice,) so you can make sure:

1) You don’t remove the wrong layer information.

2) You can see clearly whats left on the screen.

 When working with layering images, label each image clearly so that you can keep track of its order in the process. 

When I am done removing the background, I turn on the layers visibility, and line up Theo's good shot with his body in the next photo. Usually I would have removed the unsmiling Theo, but I wanted to keep the background information incase I could use it at this point. 

I could stop here and have a decent picture of both my kids smiling... but then I looked at the un-inspiring background, and again thought

"I can do better..."

I had an idea to use a photo I had taken a week before, at Illusion lake, so I tried it.

 The name giving quality of the lake, the illusion of an upside-down world, was far too distracting behind the children's heads, so I used the smudge tool to blend it into swirling waves. 

When you're working with layers you can adjust the colour, tone, hue, contrast, saturation, etc. holistically across the image, or you can select sections to get creative with. 

Play! You can use any tool and technique to create any scene you can imagine.

 I experimented with a dark moody looking scene. Bluring the lake, blurring the trees, it was interesting, but it wasn’t the feeling I wanted. 

Don’t panic when your project isn’t looking like you wanted it to. Its ok to scrap something that you don’t like and try new ideas out.

Have fun and get creative. The more you try and practice, the better you get.

I use Adobe Stock for materials, but you can search for free photos to use, or buy the rights to them if you don’t have what you need to hand.

 Once I landed on the right background, I turned up the saturation, and the darkness, I drew the hue to a pink scale and made the mountains look like something out of a sci-fi movie.

I wanted to transform the colours to harmonize with the bright colours the kids were wearing. I applied this technique to each of the three background layers.

Then, because I couldn't help myself, I touched up my son's haircut with digital scissors!

The end result was spot on. A photo that was saturated with positive energy and happiness. 

So what if we didn’t actually go to Mars, or anywhere because of Covid, we would if we could... but we can't, so we dream.

Chelsea Olivia Phoenix Hart
Chelsea Olivia Phoenix Hart
Read next: 4 Ways To Find Inspiration As A Beginner Photographer
Chelsea Olivia Phoenix Hart

I have a creative spirit, I enjoy the process of transforming the world through creative projects.

See all posts by Chelsea Olivia Phoenix Hart

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