Mom Blogger: Drew B. of MomTog
It’s not just point-and-shoot for this tactful mother of two
Should kids really say “cheese” when posing for a photo? This is becoming quite the query on Elizabeth Street, where we all want to capture great family shots without the stiff poses. Luckily, professional photographer and founder of MomTog Drew Bittel agrees with Ana Schechter: “Rather than ruining a good moment by making kids aware of the camera, capture your child more candidly,” says Drew, whose popular blog, MomTog, embraces this spirit of naturalism. We talked to the camera-savvy blogger about her stint as a wedding photographer, how the iPhone is changing the industry, and tips galore for getting some great additions to the family album. —Lucie Alig
Can you tell us about your personal history with photography—how you got started in the industry?
After marrying my high school sweetheart, I saw the wedding pictures and loved how much emotion I could feel from them. I wanted to capture those moments for others, so I bought my first DSLR camera and started taking pictures of everything I could. Then I got a job second shooting for a pretty mediocre wedding photographer and learned everything not to do!
MomTog is such an interesting mix of community sharing and professional tips. How would you describe the site’s mission?
I just wanted to create a place where I could connect with other moms who have a passion for photography—whether they’re professionals or just love to capture memories.
So what are your go-to tips for photographing children?
Using a DSLR—a camera where you can change the lenses—is key. Kids are quick, and point-and-shoot cameras (including camera phones) have a shutter lag that just can’t keep up! If shooting in manual is too intimidating, I suggest trying out the aperture priority mode, which allows you to have some control over your settings without having to control all of them. Also, try shooting without your flash, and use natural light whenever possible. Even the best flashes create harsh shadows and blow out highlights. Lastly, getting down on your child’s level is helpful for getting their perspective. Don’t be afraid to lay down on the ground with them! Focus on the way they do little things—how they hold their crayons, the way they carefully line up their toys. Kids change so quickly, and I’m always trying to capture the way my kids do certain things. It might be completely different tomorrow.
Any tips for getting kids to cooperate?
Some of my favorite pictures of my kids were taken when they had no idea I even had a camera with me. I usually get the shot, and then put my camera down to be in the moment with them. I don’t want my kids to remember me as the mom who always had a camera attached to her face! In the instance that I’m doing a “real” shoot of my kids, however, I’ll start prepping them a few days in advance. I tell my four-year-old where we’re going to go, and let him be my special helper. During the shoot, I make it a game for my kids. The “opposite game” works great; if I tell my son not to do something, it’s almost guaranteed that he will do it!
With the influx of camera phones, it seems like more people are taking snapshots than ever before. How do you think built-in camera phones are affecting the field of photography?
I’ll admit that I was totally against camera phones at first. But with the release of the newest iPhone, I was sold. The quality is just as good as any point-and-shoot camera and it so much more convenient. I always have my phone on me, so I’m able to capture even more everyday moments. The camera phone is making everyone a photographer, and I think that’s a good thing!
Do you have any favorite photography apps?
I love the Camera+ app, and for filters, Magic Hour is my favorite. Of course, I also love Instagram; you can follow me at drewbphoto. Warning: I post a lot!