• Sara HarrisSara Harris

    Making the Most of Your Family’s Vacation Photos

    August 20, 2014 | Posted by Sara Harris

    Making the most of the boatload of family vacation photos:

    Now that every member of your family has incredible picture-taking power at their fingertips, your vacation images are likely spread out across multiple devices and have been liked, pinned, tweeted and hashtagged across a half dozen social media accounts.

    But with just a little bit of time and thought, there’s so much more you can do with these pictures as you’re taking them and after you get home.

    vacation napcp sara harris photography
    vacation napcp sara harris photography
    vacation napcp sara harris photography

    Start with the end in mind.

    Think about how you would like to “live” with your memories. So many options… An album, framed prints, a wall of gallery-wrapped canvas, a slideshow set to music. You can in fact do all of these with photos you took with your phone as well as your camera.

    vacation napcp sara harris photography
    vacation napcp sara harris photography
    vacation napcp sara harris photography

    But as you are in the moment, living and documenting, here’s a tip for the moms. Make sure you include yourself in the moment, historically as well as literally. You may end up behind the camera most of the time. But whatever it takes, make sure that you all appear together and individually coupled off at least a few times in your printed memories.

    vacation napcp sara harris photography
    vacation napcp sara harris photography

    So what’s the best way to do that? Learn the art of the “selfie” or the “ussie” by mastering the self-timer and the hand extend. You could stalk that random person who looks friendly and appears that they know what they’re doing, or better yet, learn and get creative with the self-timer. Remember that the self-time is your friend — as are mirrors, plate glass windows, and water with reflection. At the end of the day, no one is concerned more about your family pictures more than you, so take control of it.

    vacation napcp sara harris photography
    vacation napcp sara harris photography
    vacation napcp sara harris photography

    Here’s the one that the nice well-intentioned stranger offered to take.

    vacation napcp sara harris photography

    Here’s the self-timer, a beach chair, and a creatively positioned book.

    vacation napcp sara harris photography
    vacation napcp sara harris photography

    How do you want to remember this moment?

    Round up all the images to one central location.

    Once you get home, it’s all about the gathering of the images and what to do with them.

    First, figure out where all the pictures currently “live.” Then create a single folder on your computer and start dumping all the vacation pictures in it. Most importantly make sure you create at least one redundant copy of the folder, in a different location!!

    vacation napcp sara harris photography

    Hashtagging in advance can make gathering much easier. A tip: while you’re on vacation, create a family hashtag and have all your people use it when they are sharing images socially. Ours is #harrisagogo, and it makes it really easy to go back and search for images. If you didn’t use one at the time, no problem – you can always go back to Instagram, Facebook, etc. and add a comment with your new family hashtag later.

    vacation napcp sara harris photography
    vacation napcp sara harris photography
    vacation napcp sara harris photography

    The idea is to figure out all the great images your family captured that you may not even know about yet!

    So what’s really the ‘best’ thing to do with your pictures?

    The right answer is that it doesn’t matter as long as you get them off your devices, and actually do something with them.

    You may not yet feel all nostalgic about what happened last week, but I promise you that in 10 years, 5 years, and probably even next year you will — after your kids have changed and so much water has continued to flow under life’s bridge.

    You will be so ever grateful that you invested a couple hours to get the digital pictures off the family iPhones and cameras and on to the walls and family coffee table in priceless tangible keepsakes that you will cherish for years to come.

    vacation napcp sara harris photography
    vacation napcp sara harris photography

    Erin McMannessErin McManness

    Happy Fridays: 5 Tips for Thrifting

    August 15, 2014 | Posted by Erin McManness


    1. Thrift often and thrift early: the best time to get to the thrift store is in the morning! Not only will it be less crowded, but you’ll get first dibs on all of the new items for the day!

    2. Shop the better parts of town for nicer items: this seems like a no-brainer, but many people will only go to the thrift store that is closest to them. While it’s more convenient, driving a little further to a nicer part of town will yield more high-quality items… and often, the best deals!

    3. Thrift while traveling or on vacation: thrifting while you travel can be an exciting experience, especially if you’re in a different culture or region from your hometown. You can often find unexpected treasures or items that are not typically native to where you live. If you find something that won’t fit in your suitcase, many thrift stores can set you up with shipping, or can at least point out the nearest post office.

    4. Look for upcycling potential: we love sites like Apartment Therapy and IKEA Hackers because they give great advice and tutorials for updating a really unique find. When thrifting, don’t overlook that beautiful sidetable because it is an ugly color, or pass by that armchair because it has an ugly carpet-bag pattern. Roll up your sleeves and bring those amazing finds back to life.

    5. Consult a professional: we love Blue Eyed Yonder’s “Pick With a Pro” Retreat! In this retreat, Krista will accompany you to The World’s Longest Yardsale and provide instruction on how to find unique, beautiful items, as well as offering tips on the values of items and their rarity.

    Good luck thrifting and be sure to follow us on Pinterest!

    Rebeccah ParksRebeccah Parks

    Underwater Film Photography

    August 10, 2014 | Posted by Rebeccah Parks

    Underwater photography is everywhere these days! It embodies summer so perfectly; it’s playful, adventurous and gives us a whole new perspective on our children. It can also get very expensive, very quickly. Even as a professional photographer, the $1,500.00+ price tag for the underwater housing for my camera was simply not in my budget. Thankfully, there are much more pocketbook friendly options that anyone can try.

    Enter: the trusty old underwater disposable camera. Yes, in this age of iPhones and DSLRs, the disposable film camera from your local convenience store still does serve a purpose. At roughly $8 per camera and with processing from places like mpix.com as low as $0.19 per exposure, you really can’t afford to not give it a try.

    After having worked my way through a number of disposable cameras, I came up with a list of tips that I think will be helpful to anyone else who takes the plunge:

    Rebeccah Parks Photography Minneapolis Underwater Photography_2

    1- Get to the pool early

    I made the mistake of waiting until midday during one of my first tries and the pool was filled with people who crowded my shots and made splashes when I didn’t want them. The next time, I went right away when the pool opened at the resort and not only were my shots so much better, but I also didn’t have a ton of other parents staring at me wondering what the heck I was doing.

    Rebeccah Parks Photography Minneapolis Underwater Photography_3

    2- Get in the water yourself

    This one might seem like a given but I tried my first few shots just sitting on the edge of the pool and sticking my camera down into the water. It didn’t work at all so into the water I went and it made a world of difference.

    Rebeccah Parks Photography Minneapolis Underwater Photography_5

    3- Wear goggles that cover your nose or use a nose plug

    I had no idea how distracting it would be to have water getting in my nose while trying to compose a shot, so I switched to pinching my nose closed with one hand and holding the camera with the other. It didn’t leave me an arm to maneuver in the water, which made things a bit tricky. Good snorkeling goggles would be best.

    Rebeccah Parks Photography Minneapolis Underwater Photography_7

    4- Position yourself first

    The settings on disposable cameras are automatic, so you can’t set it to a faster shutter speed to capture motion like you could with a digital camera. Instead of telling your child to jump in and then quickly dropping yourself down in the water to try and get the shot, tell your child to count to 3 first, get in place and then once you see them entering the water- press click.

    Rebeccah Parks Photography Minneapolis Underwater Photography_16

    5- Shoot when it’s sunny and bright

    I tried shooting later in the afternoon and on an overcast day once and the photos were much less vibrant and my daughter was much less interested in staying in the water to play.

    Rebeccah Parks Photography Minneapolis Underwater Photography_9

    6- HAVE FUN

    I don’t know about you, but I get so wrapped up in applying sunscreen and making sure my daughter is safe and reminding her to use her side breaths that I forget to simply live in the moment and have fun. So my last tip, if not the most important tip, is snap some photos… and then put the camera away and just have fun with your child.

    Rebeccah Parks Photography Minneapolis Underwater Photography_11

    Summer may be coming to an end for many of us, but that doesn’t mean the memories have to fade. Go out and give it a try- I promise you won’t be disappointed!

    Rebeccah Parks Photography Minneapolis Underwater Photography_14

    Rebeccah Parks Photography Minneapolis Underwater Photography_17

    Sandy Summers RussellSandy Summers Russell

    Helpful Tips & Advice from Competition Judge Sandy Summers Russell!

    July 31, 2014 | Posted by Sandy Summers Russell

    NAPCP’s latest round of their international image competition is now accepting entries. Are you excited? Or maybe you’re not sure what to enter or even if you should. I’ll be perfectly honest; I used to have a love-hate relationship with contests. Over the years I have entered and also judged many competitions. While I’ve done well as a participant, I’ve certainly not placed in them all. So why do I keep entering? What does a winning image need to rise to the top?

     First, put yourself in the judge’s shoes. Remember, they’ll be looking at thousands of images – one right after the other. Is it early or late in their day when they get to your image? Have they seen the same pose and set up 400 times? Perhaps the judge likes really clean black and white images best, or maybe they’re a sucker for vibrant color or beautiful backlighting. Maybe they can’t stand those things and think it’s all way over done. The truth is you just don’t know what a judge will really like and art is subjective. We’re all going to like different things. So how do you pick a winning image to enter?


    Well, I don’t have a magic bullet for you, but I will share a bit of advice I received early in my career from one of my mentors National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore.  I learned many things from him, but there’s one thing I think about nearly every day.  Joel said there are three things needed to make an exceptional image: lighting, composition, and emotion. You can have a nice image with just one or two of those, but to make it truly exceptional you need all three.


    So let’s talk about that. First up is lighting. Lighting has many aspects to it, but at its heart it’s technical. Is your image technically perfect? Have you exposed for lighting conditions accurately and with a purpose? If you’ve over or underexposed the image is there a good reason for it? There better be, because if an image is not technically perfect, you’re starting off at a competitive disadvantage. Has lighting enhanced the image? Is there something about the light that creates enchantment or wonder? Does it shape the subject’s face or convey a certain mood? Exceptional lighting can create magic in the mundane.


    Next up is composition. You all, I hope, have heard about the rule of thirds and leading lines. If you haven’t you’d better Google them now. Essentially, they deal with the placement of your subject and what elements you use to focus the viewer’s attention where you want it. Additionally, an image is most successful when you give the eye a journey. What does this mean? Well, when you place your subject exactly in the middle of your frame the eye has no other place to go, no other reason to look at what else is in the picture. There is no journey and only a destination and so you have told an incomplete story. Sure rules can be broken, but once again, you better have a good reason for it.


    Finally, and I think most importantly, we have emotion. Emotion deals with both responsive and captured feelings. How does an image make you feel when you look at it: happy, sad, in awe? What about the emotion from your subject? Are they just looking straight at the camera with no feeling, or can you see a twinkle in their eye? What does their body language say? Do they look uncomfortable? Are they holding their head at a strange angle? Are their hands and shoulders relaxed or clenched and tight? Have you captured peak action with the body language or an honest laugh, smile, or touch? These real moments are often much more powerful than a contrived one no matter how perfectly you pose them.


    So this is quite the laundry list to cover when choosing images for the competition. Go through your work with an objective eye and see what fits the criteria best. Seek another perspective while you’re at it. Sometimes as the artist it’s hard to separate yourself from the image because you know the back-story of what it took to create the picture. Or perhaps it’s of your own kids, and your love for them overshadows any flaws the image might have. I’m sure you’ve all had a client pick out an image from the session that you considered culling, yet they adore it because it captured a nuance of their child you might not comprehend. Even though it’s not perfect they love it. Well, remember, a judge doesn’t know the back-story, so they can only judge an image on its merits.


    Finally, why bother going through all this work to enter? What do you gain from it? Let’s admit that one of the biggest motivations is accreditation from a prestigious organization. Being able to put award winning NAPCP photographer on your resume goes along way with increasing your credibility with perspective clients. I’m not going to lie; winning NAPCP Photographer of the Year was one of the biggest highlights of my career. Seeing your image up on the Times Square Billboard is absolutely surreal, and this year’s winning prize package is incredible.   But these are just perks, and it’s not even the main reason to enter.

    The real reason is this competition gives you the unique opportunity to grow as a photographer. Every one of your images is seen and evaluated by four very experienced photographers from a variety of backgrounds. Their perspectives can give you insight into where you need to improve as an artist. We all are learning on the job. Even after twenty years I still pick up new stuff all the time. But sometimes in our quest for perfection we’re too close, and we can’t see the forest through the trees. The competition point system, and especially the optional critique, can highlight areas of needed improvement that you might not have been able to see on your own.  Sure, you may not always agree with what is said, especially at first, but constructive critique can still open your eyes to aspects of your work you might not have considered. You can then take that feedback and make it your own by spinning it towards your individual style.

     Yes, art is subjective and every single one of us will interpret it differently. But skill is a learned experience, and we all have room for improvement. So show me what you’ve got, and I’ll do my best to help you on your journey towards excellence. And who knows, maybe it’ll be your picture up on the Times Square billboard next year.

    It's A Big World But She's Daddy's Girl

    Please visit our website to find out more about entering the International Image Competition (submissions accepted through August 14, 2014).  In addition, our prestigious Photographer of the Year prize package will be awarded to one winner at the end of BOTH competitions (July 2014 and January 2015).

    Gina CoopermanGina Cooperman

    A Little Backyard Magic

    July 28, 2014 | Posted by Gina Cooperman

    Summer is a time for being outside, having fun, and finding adventure. As a mom of twins, I’m constantly looking for ways to keep my kids active and happy during these months home from school. As a photographer, I’m constantly looking for activities that will be fun for them but also great opportunities for me to capture a little of that childhood wonder.

    It’s so easy to get caught in the trap of spending exorbitant sums of money to visit the latest and greatest amusement park or, even more so, a five-star vacation. But, the reality is, most families today simply can’t afford those luxuries. And, the reality is, we don’t need those things to make little magic. The best part of summer is being able to get outside and explore what’s right around us. This is especially true if you live in a place like I do, that is cold 7 months out of the year!

    This summer, it’s been my focus with my kids, to find adventure right in our own backyard. When capturing photos of my kids (or my clients’ kids), the single best piece of advice I can offer is to just let them be. But, the real Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo happens when I can capture moments with what’s right around us…when my/your/our kids are just being kids.

    Cooperman_1 (1)

    Allow them time to explore their backyard treehouse…Let them get dirty…Let them enjoy the sunshine. Here, my son explicitly ignored my request that he leave the dirt on the ground and the toys indoors. But, you know what? He was right. It was way more fun to mix all three together! And, I ended up with one of my two favorite images so far this summer!


    My daughter is an odd mix of fairy princess and bug investigator. Every time she comes at me with a night crawler, I go running. But, when she wants to have a “magical glitter fight”? Heck yes! This was one of those days when she wanted to be a fairy princess but declared that all fairies need pixie dust! I mean, what fairy worth her salt doesn’t have fairy dust?!

    Cooperman_3a (1)

    Cooperman_3b (1)

    If you’re lucky enough to have a pool (or some body of water in your backyard) then you have hit the jackpot, my friends! We’re incredibly lucky that we do have access to such a summer staple, and we take advantage of it almost every day. (Confession: my underwater camera & housing have seen more action recently than my big camera). But, you don’t need a fancy camera or expensive underwater housing in order to capture the fun and adventure that a day spent in water will bring. There are plenty of good underwater point & shoots on the market today that make water photography accessible to virtually everyone!

    Cooperman_4 (1)

    When you’ve toweled off and just need a little diversion on dry land, pretend play is a great way to have a little fun at home. My son asked to have a zoo safari outside, so we broke out their animal masks (which were, admittedly, a splurge) and headed out after dinner. I was the zookeeper and the kids were, very fittingly, the animals. I’m not normally one for props in photos, but I do love to use the things my kids love in order to capture the magic of their personalities! And, Wyatt LOVES his yellow giraffe mask…

    Cooperman_5 (1)

    Let’s face it, sometimes oldies are goodies for a reason. Who doesn’t love bubbles?!?! I will say that I got tired of constantly blowing bubbles and then my husband got irritated when I kept asking him to blow bubbles so I could get a few shots of the kids. (No bubble-blowing whilst holding the big camera) So, the simple bubble machine I bought this spring was quite possibly the very best $15 I ever spent! My kids are endlessly entertained; my hands are freed up, and then sometimes I get an image like this! While it’s not particularly new, this image is one of my very favorites. Adventures and magic don’t always have to involve something new. Sometimes it’s as simple as a backyard bubble chase with a favorite stuffed friend to spark the fun.

    Cooperman_6 (1)

    This summer has been one of change for our backyard. We transitioned from toddler toys to the real big kid treehouse & swing set seen in the first photograph. My kids are incredibly lucky to have grandparents who spoil them with these things. This particular sandbox was one of the things that we removed to make room for the new swing set, and this is one of my last images of the kids and their ever-present sidekick playing in it. Adventure brought to you by sand. Here, they started looking for pirate treasure and ended with making “cakes” for the tea party. Childhood is all about make believe…and make believe is magical. And, if you’re able to incorporate the favorite family pet into the mix? Gold!

    So, this summer, get outside and enjoy your own backyard! There’s magic and adventure to be found everywhere, no matter how simple or small. You just have to look for it!



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