Why looking off-camera makes for a great picture — Washington, DC Family Photographer

I was recently watching an interview conducted by Photoshelter.com with noted photographer Brian Smith, who talked about some his “secrets” to great portrait photography.

Near the end of the interview, as he shared details about some of his most popular work featuring actors and celebrities, a viewer asked why he chooses to shoot some subjects posed in such a way that has them looking off to the camera or down.

I loved his response. He said, “In general, I think looking into the camera is over-rated.” He said actors often prefer looking off camera rather than directly into the camera and smiling because it allows them to get “into character.”

For regular folks like you and me, I find that capturing moments when someone is looking off camera actually tells more of a story. It makes you wonder — hmm, what was that person looking at, thinking about, or reacting to? When you think of it that way, I believe that onward looking pose often extends the shelf-life of a photo, too.

It’s for these reasons that I also enjoy taking photos when people aren’t smiling or laughing. 

My husband once asked why I loved one particular picture of our son so much because in it he was frowning or scrunching his face — I can’t exactly remember his expression.

And I told him it’s because people don’t smile 24/7. Frowns, flat expressions, crying and the like are part of our emotional repertoire as human beings. So why not capture it, I thought to myself?!


While I certainly am not about to abandon having my clients look directly into the camera and smiling, I also want to be able to capture the full range of emotions that may surface on the day of our shoot.

Looking off-camera is simply one of those opportunities to tell the whole story, to elongate a moment in time, and to capture natural emotion. Whenever I get a chance to, I hope to be ready to snap away when that moment arrives.

Here are some of my FAVORITE photos from the past season that included my (oh, so gorgeous) clients looking off camera. What do you think?

Dana_020 Randolph10 Stitt14 Tomeka_005[All images on this blog post and website are © Emily Ann Brown Photography and cannot be used without expressed consent]

How to Take Great Pictures Without a Backdrop — Family Photographer

A couple of weeks ago, I impulsively wanted to take some updated pictures of the kids. Maybe it was all this snow we’re having in the Washington, DC area that drove me to subject my two kids to a mini photo shoot just before church on a Sunday morning. Whatever it was, I desperately needed a spring pick-me-up and I knew photographing my babies was going to lift my spirit in no time!

So I dressed the kids in bright colors, then whipped out my camera and started snapping away.

Suddenly, I decided to create a makeshift backdrop to give the pictures a sort of “studio” feel. Even if you’re a mom or dad hoping to take better pictures of your kids and you don’t own a DSLR or other professional equipment, you can easily create more dynamic pictures by choosing a more appealing backdrop.

I would try a brick wall, wall paper, out in nature or the park, or even in front of curtains — sort of like what I did. Try and distance your subject about a foot or two in front of the backdrop to create depth. If you have squirmy little kids like mine, entice them with a stuffed animal or treats to encourage them to sit still. (Good luck with that! :-))

I happened to have some clean white, sheer drapes and placed those in front of a shower curtain, then hung both of those over a chair in my dining room where the lighting was its best. I chose to overlay my sheers onto the cotton shower curtain so that it wasn’t see-through, but kept its soft texture for my image. I thought the effect suited my subjects — my little ones.

I think this batch of pictures was quite successful, despite my futile attempts to get my 1.5 year old to sit still long enough for me to snap some photos of him!

Check them out and let me know what you think. And if you have ideas for creative backdrops, please share!


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[All images on this blog post and website are © Emily Ann Brown Photography and cannot be used without expressed consent]

Why I Got Into Photography


My son Chandler. I snapped a couple of shots of him one day when the sunlight was cascading through the window just perfectly in our master bedroom.
© 2014 Emily Ann Brown Photography

As some of you know, I launched this photography business only recently. That’s right. I haven’t been in the business for more than a decade or even a couple of years. But the torch that I hold for photography, specifically portrait photography, is ablaze and I don’t see anything extinguishing that love any time soon.

I initially picked up my first DSLR (digital single lens reflex camera) last summer after deciding I wanted to take better quality pictures of my family and kids. My first digital camera was a snap-and-shoot, given to us by my older brother when my husband and I got married eight years ago.

But I stopped using it a couple of years ago, when camera phones became more sophisticated. That, in addition to my laptop, were what I began using more frequently to capture some of the day to day shots of my kids to share online. They were decent pictures, but nothing to write home about.

Meanwhile, I would spend hundreds of dollars on professional photography throughout the year to capture my kids’ milestones. It started with a trip to JCPenney until I discovered photographers in the Washington, DC area who charged more of a premium for custom portraiture photography.

Thankfully, I had found some great photographers to work with over the years, and I always loved the finished product.

But after doing the math, I figured that by investing in my own professional equipment, I’d end up saving my family thousands of dollars by taking the photos myself. [Read more…]