Aug 11 2014

Mommy Monday: 5 Tips For Better Photos- Guest Post with Sarah Tolson

Happy Monday to you all!!  I am so excited to have Sarah Tolson guest posting today for Mommy Monday.  She is a friend of mine and took newborn pictures of our little guy that we just love!  What a special gift that we will treasure forever!  



I couldn’t choose just one to show you so here’s another!  My sweet dad picked out this little truck for his grandson before he was born.  I am just in love with this sweet pictures we have of our little one!  



Sarah is a very talented photographer  as you can see and as sweet as they come!  She is here to share some great tips for capturing photos of your little (and not so little ones 😉 ).  



Hello!  My name is Sarah Tolson and I’m a San Diego based Family Photographer.  I’ve been doing this photographer thing for over 10 years, and it is a blast!  I also am a wife and mom of two wonderful kiddos, who aren’t really kiddos anymore.  They are both teens, and I don’t even know what happened!

Marissa invited me to share some photo tips for Mommy Monday.   Here are my top 5 tips for better photos.

Tip #1 – Find a good starter camera.

Yep.  I said it.  Now, hear me out… You are working with a woman who doesn’t like to spend a lot of money.   You do not have to break the bank to acquire a great starter camera.   There are loads of DSLR cameras on eBay and Craigslist for a fraction of the cost of a new camera.  I started my photography career with a Canon Rebel, and a 50mm 1.8, otherwise known as a nifty fifty.

And.. I shot with that set up for.three.years.  Yes, you can get some great shots with that simple of a set up.   Listen, I’m not technical.  When I first started out, I went to Sarah’s School of Online Photography.  I would not stop researching and learning every spare second I got.  I scoured books at the library, I studied on forums, and I watched every YouTube video on photography/editing I could find.   And this was all during kindergarten and naptime.

Tip #2 – Find the good light.

Many people think you need to be in bright full sun to get a well lit picture.  This is not true.  In fact, that harsh direct light will create shadows, make uneven skin look more uneven, and cause your subject to squint.  That doesn’t make a good picture.

Say you need a first day of school picture, or another milestone picture.  Get your subject ready, and head to your front door, and have your subject stand or sit in front of that open door.  You are going to stand on the porch/front walkway and shoot in towards your subject.  Even your smart phone pictures will look better under this light.   This lighting tip will work anytime the sun is not at sunrise or sunset… so most of the day.

The light streaming in from the door will be blocked or filtered by the porch   It will filter in and provide sparkly catch lights in the eye, with nice and even light on the face.   Try it.  Photoshop was only used to crop and sharpen this photo.. nothing else..

Also, if you tell your little subject to try their hardest not to laugh.. it works well to get a great genuine smile.  Like this one.


Tip #3 – Find the good shade

These following images were taken at 11am with little shade.  I mean, it was bright!  What I did was position this little guy in the tiny bit of shade I could find.  I wanted catch lights in his eyes, and minimal shadows on his face.   (Hint.. good photos always strive for a little hint of light in the eyes, and minimal shadows on the face, as mentioned in Tip #2.)

You may have to turn your subject 360 degrees in a circle to find which way the light is facing.   I still do that, to this day, to make sure there isn’t a better angle for the light.  I did that at this photo session, and discovered that his eyes and face were shadowed when he was facing the other way, even though he was in the shade.  Open shade is your best friend in an outdoor setting.   It does the same thing as your front porch by filtering out some of that harsh light, so your photos turn out better.


Tip #4 – Find a good white blanket.

Seriously.  I know you may find this odd, but I travel with a huge white blanket in the trunk of my car.  I have a few of them.  One specifically for newborns that I keep separate, and wash frequently, as you may imagine. 😉  And one I keep in my trunk is for outdoor family sessions.

One of the marks of a less than stellar photo is the dreaded colorcast.   You may have noticed images where it was too yellow, or too blue, or too green, etc.  The camera guesses at the color balance, and unless you know how to photo shop those colorcasts out, you are stuck with them.

Enter the big white blanket.

I have used it a park sessions where the grass was throwing green tints all over my subjects.   So I had my subjects sit on the blanket, and it was like magic.  Colorcast be gone.

I have also used it on a boudoir shoot where the bedspread was too busy of a pattern, and the blanket hid all of that busyness.  Or on a couch for a lifestyle session where the couch was too dark.  The white blanket saved the day.  It has the added benefit of bringing more light to the eyes and face.  It works as a very big reflector.

All of the following images where photographed using the very same big white blanket.

Picture3Tip #5 – Find a good time.

This isn’t really a tip, but rather a heeding from a mom of now middle school/high school “almost” adults.   I started my photography career in film, and I was a young mom without a ton of money for said film, so I didn’t take a ton of photos.  This was also the age before smart phones, so it wasn’t as easy to snap a quick picture.

Now that my children are 15, and nearly 13, the photos, color casted, shadowed, or not are entirely precious to me.   The ones that show their babyhood, or the one of my toddler in the bath, or my 4 year old in a wet suit that was too small for him… all of them just send my mommy heart into the land of bittersweet.   And I wish I had taken a gazillion more.

There is never “not a good time” to take a photo of your child.  Even when they are sleeping.  I say you sneak in there, and you snap a picture.  Even when they are having a bad day.  You snap a memory that you will be tickled by when they are grown.   This final tip is to take the above tips and tricks, and just keep shooting those pictures.   You have the wonderful benefit of being able to delete the photos that didn’t turn out.   And you can swoon over the ones that did! :)


Thanks for having me, Marissa!

For more of my work, come find me on



Thank you so much Sarah for some really great tips!  I am going to be practicing them on my little guy!  

Make sure to go check out Sarah’s website (link above)!  Have a great day, friends!

Signature - Marissa

3 comments on “Mommy Monday: 5 Tips For Better Photos- Guest Post with Sarah Tolson

  1. Pingback: All in Good Twine Guest Post - Mommy Mondays

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