{Pull Backs}: Taking Nice Pictures

You asked for it, you got it! You wanted pull backs. This is something where I could take a gazillion examples. I could spend a year at every session to show you my pull backs of the spaces I find, but that's only in a perfect world. Here's what I can tell you...

Shoot tight. If your house is full of clutter and kid stuff (like mine!), just shoot tight. You don't really need a picture of the whole scene. Look at your space and follow the light. Where is the nice light? Take your picture there. If there's something in the way of your tight crop, move it. That's all!

When I look at a space, I never, ever look at the whole. I look at all of the tiny pieces of each little space that makes up the whole. So, can I take awesome pictures at a big beautiful park? Of course! There are so many spots to choose from, but that's just it. SPOTS. I don't need the whole park to be beautiful. I just need tiny little pieces of space, which can actually be found anywhere and everywhere.

Let me show you what I mean.


Meet Nikki. She's a dear friend of mine. We went out last night to enjoy the warm February day and take some pictures for her new business.  (Shameless Plug: Nikki's business is all about health. She doesn't diet, she forgives herself on days she skips exercise. She's healthy, and she can help teach you how to do the same. I love seeing her posts in my FB feed. She shares the ins and outs of a normal day/week as a mom of two. Some days are good, some days are harder, and I adore her honesty. I think we can all relate. She's an inspiration! I absolutely recommend following her. I'm so very proud of her and can't wait to follow this journey. Nikki's Facebook page is here and her website is here.)

See the two pictures below. What I saw was a nice neutral backdrop with gorgeous low light shining through. It's a PIECE that I saw in a big landscape. Look how gorgeous that backlight is and how the pavement is a nice reflector onto her face. I love it!

Below is the pull back. Walking along the street, I saw these little steps to the left, the big trees and the pretty light. I didn't see the street, or the wires or the houses (or the personal property haha).


Spot two. I know, for sure, she thought I was out of my mind when I walked to this spot and said, "Let's do something here." Nikki, you're brave. Thanks for trusting me! What I saw? The trees and the light, again. I liked how I could use the big tree trunks to frame her and get that pretty golden light behind her. And again, the pavement is bouncing off of her face. Where did we take this picture?

In the back parking lot of an EMT/Fire Department. Yup, just by that black car. The field is open and it's lined with buildings and houses, but I knew that they'd be pretty blurred out since they were so far in the distance. Hardly a distraction with that pretty smile and pretty light!


Another spot Nikki thought I was crazy (don't like, Nikki!). We just wanted a quick shot of her writing in her book. I felt like we needed another landscape that was more on the natural side, not urban. We were on a corner of town that was littered with buildings, structures and cement with almost no grass in sight. Hardly a place to find a nice serene area. Right? Wrong. I saw the tinniest of spaces and knew it was all we needed for this shot, so I plopped her in that grass and got exactly what I needed. A wooden fence layered with the beautiful texture of pine branches. The sun was just about set, so it was nice, even, beautiful light.

This is where I sat her down. Right on a busy street corner in the middle of wires and a big sign (this is not another shameless plug even though it looks like one. ;))


Let's head inside now. Sometimes, it's the hardest to find those spots inside. I utilized my nearly three year old for these pictures. She was mostly compliant, but clearly has my issues when it comes to being in front of the camera. Humor is her defense mechanism and when that doesn't work, a temper tantrum may ensue.

As you see, it's a nice tight shot of the upper part of her body and a plain background. These plain, clear spaces don't come easy in our house.

See that spot to the left? I put her pony right there to ploy her to that spot. It worked like a charm. I had to move the easel out of the way to get that space, which leads me to the next picture...

Apparently moving the easel 2 feet sparked new interest in using it in a fun "new spot." I shot a few different angles, again, nice and tight, and I loved how it turned out. I enjoyed the high angle the best. I felt like it showed fun teamwork between my little loves. (Or Miss Bossy Pants telling JP that he wasn't allowed to color... either one).

This is the space I was working with. Lots of clutter and the easel is in an awkward spot, but it worked.


And the picture below? Just to show you that it's okay to include the crap. It's your crap, it's your life, it's their life. They'll want to remember the toys they played with and so will you. Primary colors, snacking and PBS is how we live. This is something I want to remember, no question.


I LOVE this couch. It reflects light that's almost magic. It's just gorgeous. Hannah, becoming disinterested in my pull back photo shoot, decided to lay down and nearly nap. This still offered a really gorgeous shot of her being her. This is totally classic Hannah. Thumb, hair, looking right through you. Love her! Then my little guy hopped up, so I couldn't resist ;) All of this to say, I nabbed pictures of my kids totally being themselves that I just adore, and it was just on the couch with my shooting low.

The pull back. I moved the couch back every so slightly so it was almost completely facing the 3 windows. The light was flat, but sometimes that can be such pretty lighting, which you see on the kids above. And no, I didn't scratch the floor!

After taking a picture of the pull back, Hannah was devastated. She said, "No, Mommy! Take a picture sitting HERE! Not there!" The struggle of being a threenager.


And two final locations as bonuses that weren't taken with this blog post in mind.

The first is a self portrait I took. I have the image and the location spot side by side. I set my tripod up on the right side of the frame, perpendicular to the window. I then knelt in front of the camera, my back to the half wall. I knelt perpendicular, in line with the very edge of the last window. This allowed the light to hit me, but it was not hitting anything behind me making the background mostly black (and in post I probably pulled the blacks down a bit to help make it darker). The clutter you see on the floor here? Totally there when I took this picture. 


The final pull back. See the halfway on the right in the pull back? That's where I had my husband sit; just about where the gate is (but was closed when I took this picture). I took this picture at night, all lights were out and I set up my off camera flash camera left further back to get the dramatic light and shadow.


So, there you have it! I really hope these pull backs help to show you that you absolutely don't need a nice space or a perfectly clean and tidy home to get cool pictures. Just shoot tighter, shift some furniture or just move the few things that might be in the frame. And always... follow the light! When you're looking at your spaces, don't look at the whole, look at the little nooks and crannies.

Your eyes will learn to find these spots, but only with time and practice. And honestly, when it comes down to it if you're taking pictures to document your kids, just take the picture! Forget about the clutter, it's your life right now. You'll get a laugh out of it in a few years and may actually enjoy seeing it. Every picture you take doesn't need to be award winning or perfect. It's supposed to freeze time and capture a memory.

Happy clickin'!!