Tips for Capturing Details -

Tips for Capturing Details

A huge thank you to Chelsea from A Spoonful of Whimsy Photography for sharing her tips on capturing details in your daily life. 
Hello! My name is Chelsea and I’m so honored to be here to share some of my thoughts about capturing details in photography.
To share a bit, my youngest son just turned two and I’m still in shock that time has flown past me so quickly. I have 4 children under 6 so my life is pretty much a whirlwind of sleepless nights and chaotic days, but its a blissful insanity. But alas, this beautiful mess has taken its toll on my memory and so most of the last 6 years has become a blur. Which is why I turned to photography in the first place to give me a storytelling touchstone to recall a time otherwise lost. And since the small seemingly inconsequential details of our daily stories often fade the fastest, I focus a great deal of my energy in thoughtfully recording the tiniest of memories. So below, I have compiled my approach to savoring beautiful details.
Lens: First of all, I should clarify that lens choice is completely personal. There are tons of lenses out there and everyone should take the time to find a lens that fits them best. For me, I prefer to use a wide angle lens for indoor images I feel they add a whimsical storytelling feel that I am drawn too. I also recommend choosing a lens that can open pretty wide, I usually shoot with my Canon 24 1.4L ii which I love because with an f-stop of 1.4 it can let in a great deal of light. For really tiny details, you may want to consider investing in a macro lens. I also own the Canon 100 2.8L lens which is lovely for eyelashes, freckles, fingernails, etc. and as a perk, the 100 also makes a lovely portrait lens.
photography tutorials
{I chose to crop at her knees to keep the focus on her tiny feet and the nature details.}


I only shoot natural light so I do not use a flash. I typically am busy teaching or playing with my children so I use very minimal equipment and often only shoot with one lens during a session.

Camera Settings
Since I mostly shoot indoor details using 1 natural light source I often find myself using the following basic settings: on my Canon 6D body with my Canon 24 1.4L ii lens I start by adjusting my aperture, depending on how deep a focal plane I want I typically stay in the 1.8-2.8 range, on occasion if I’m shooting an aerial shot from above and want more grace I may go up to an f stop of 4. After I set my aperture, I will add in 400ish ISO and then adjust my shutter speed to give me some grace with adjusting my settings quickly when shooting my little ones in changing light. That way if minor adjustments are needed I can easily just adjust the shutter speed. If it is really low light I will pump my ISO as high as 2000. I find it is way better to get my subjects highlights perfectly exposed with a little bit of grain than trying to lift the exposure higher in post.

Metering and Focus
I use the center focal point to meter off my subjects highlights. I also choose to back focus. If you do not know what back focusing is, I recommend looking into it and seeing if it would be a good fit for you. It has made my life so much easier. Since it frees up my trigger finger to catch moments instantly when they happen.

Turning Ordinary Moments Into Masterpieces
In my home I want to display authentic details of our life but I also want those moments to be aesthetically pleasing to look at lol. So how do I set the stage to capture beautiful details?
photoshop lightroom tutorials
1st image is my dining room fully lit. I love the natural light pouring in from the sliding glass door on the left. 2nd image shows the same space with all of the artificial lights turned off and all other light sources blocked. 3rd image is the final shot.
Here are some helpful tips to begin with:
  • Hunt down beautiful light, I personally shoot a lot of our daily moments in our dining room by a large sliding glass door. But you can choose any gorgeous light indoors or outdoors that speaks to you. I love to shoot detail shots outside too in intense midday sunshine or in the warm glow of golden hour backlight. It does not matter, but find the light!
  • Choose classic clothing for your subjects and for an added touch, you may want to add some nostalgic accessories (handmade dress, grandmas necklace, special hair bow, etc.) or keep it completely authentic and let yourself and your kids be crazy messes, that’s art in my eyes too!
  • Choose a natural activity to keep the subjects engaged. For children, I recommend open-ended activities that will keep their creativity and curiosity genuine, such as:
  • baking, art, picking flowers, blowing bubbles, exploring, eating, sensory play, bath time, etc.

For families or parent-child interactions:
Reading stories, dancing, playing with a classic toy such as building with a train set, snuggling on a blanket, exploring nature.
It is during this time while your subjects are engrossed in their activity that you can quietly sneak up close to capture detail shots.
Shooting Tips
The whole person from head to toe is important. Take the time to examine their hair, eyes/lashes, lips, teeth, freckles, hands, and feet. The whole point is to remove the distractions of the whole scene to narrow in on special characteristics, especially when those details may be fleeting. Hands and feet often tell wonderful stories so pay extra close attention to these details.
lightroom presets
{Notice how even though you can't see anything else except their hands that you can feel the connection between these children and their grandparent.}
lightroom photography tips
{Don't forget about including pets with details shots}
Be sure to move around. Shifting your perspective can have a huge influence on the feel of your photos. For example, get really close for lashes then back up to capture the catchlights in the eyes, shoot flush with the ground to capture tiny toes in their environment, then pull out a stool and climb high to shoot down. Also, remember to play with your focus. In the bath series below, I used my narrow focal plane to draw attention to bubbles, the glass cup and the water, tiny fingernails all while allowing the creamy bokeh to blur the rest. In many shots, my subject is still visible but he’s softened to allow the focus on the detail.
photography tips photo tutorials
{I created an entire bath series using details just by finding the light and continually moving my position and perspective.}
To create a more unique perspective and composition, don’t be afraid to crop off body parts. The vast majority of my images are faceless. Even though you are often getting very close to your subjects, still keep in mind the location of the detail you want to highlight the most. I either use the rule of thirds as a rough guideline for my focus or dead center. Utilize focus, color, lines, and light to help draw the eye towards your main detail.
photoshop actions tutorials
{Composition focused on the lower left third of the image (light, clarity, and vivid color draws the eye).}
I hope you found some of this useful. Best of luck to you all capturing your sweet memories.
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1 comment

Thank you so much for sharing your tips! Your pictures and your writing are beautiful and equally inspiring!

sharon cox

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