UPDATE: the Nikon D40 doesn't support auto-focus with Nikon prime lenses arg! Get a D50 Nikon fans! 

Herewith a recipe (of course play around and have fun, this is just what works for me and I know it will work for you too and command key = control key on Windows and option key=alt key on Windows) for awesome kid photos:

  1. Get a digital SLR (I have a Canon 20D, but any decent DSLR e.g. Canon 30D, Canon Rebel Xti or Nikon D40 or Pentax K100 or better will work nicely too) and a fixed  50mm lens like the cheap Canon EF 50mm f1.8 that I bought a year or so ago for about $100 Canadian. Unfortunately point and shoots don't work very well for kid shots in 2007 (just too slow but of course much better than nothing if you aren't carrying your SLR everywhere). I hope by 2010 that we will have a decent point and shoot like the mythical DMD.
  2. My default settings for my DSLR (play around to get the depth of field and effects you want of course): If you are inside, set your ISO to 1600 (or 3200 if you have a camera that supports it) and your aperture to f1.8 and shot in aperture priority and you can shoot almost in the dark. If you are outside set your aperture to f7.1 and ISO to 100 to 400 depending on the lighting. And set your SLR to RAW mode so you can best take advantage of Lightroom. Set your white balance to auto. I also set mine to the Ken Rockwell 20D settings to get very vivid and over saturated pics
  3. Go crazy and take lots of pics. The lens is fixed focal length so you'll have to get up close and personal with your kids but it's fun! And you'll get lots of great pics. Some will be blurry but you will have a lot more keepers than you would with a point and shoot.
  4. In Lightroom import your photos from your card: File->Import Photos... I import directly to a firewire drive to a directory for each month and I set the filename to yyyymmdd-seqno.cr2 e.g. 20070516-3.cr2. And for every photo I put in keywords: rolandtanglaophoto, 20d, canon20d, nameofkid
  5. Using the library mode delete all blurry and bad photos
  6. For photos that you can't decide between, select them (in Library select the first one and command click to select the others) and hit N to get survey mode and delete all that don't make the cut. Be brutal about deleting :-). With a digital SLR, you'll have lots of great photos so delete marginal photos! And no I don't follow my own advice :-) !
  7. The default conversion of Lightroom is pretty good . Since I am a parent and have no time I just leave it for 90% of my keepers.
  8. For a few special photos I do the following (this like all uses of the Develop Module is subjective; make sure your monitor is calibrated and go crazy and play around and find out what suits your aesthetic and photos and I am still learning and I will probably look back on this and laugh at my unsophisticated use of the develop module! But the cool thing about shooting in RAW is that I will be able to apply my new found knowledge easily!):
    i) crop if necessary by hitting R
    ii) Set the white balance (hit 'W' and click the eye dropper on something that you know was white in the photo and then manually tweak the white balance up and down as necessary using the Temp and Tint sliders
    iii) Set Exposure - Hold down the Option Key and click on "Exposure" in the right sidebar and set it to just before or after it clips (it's up to you decide what looks best, the clipping indicator just shows you what the computer is best but you know what's best!)
    iv) Set Black point - Hold down the Option key and click on "Blacks" - same drill as Exposure - often times the default black point is too high
    v) Set Fill Light -usually needs to be increased a lot - to about +10
    vi) Set Recovery - I usually end up increasing this to about +15-20
    vii) Set Brightness - I usually increase to about 60 vii) Set Contrast - I usually bump this to 30 or so
    viii) Vibrance - I usually bump this to about +21 as it suits my Ken Rockwell oversaturated aesthetic :-)
  9. Export to JPEG for upload to flickr (you'll probably want different setings for JPEGs that aren't going to the web) - Select photos in Library Mode and the File -> Export Photos (make sure Minimize Embedded Metadata is unchecked and Color Space is sRGB; I set Quality to 85 and export to a Folder called LIGHTROOM JPEGS underneath my monthly folder)
  10. Export to flickr. I drop and drop the JPEGS into PictureSync (how to setup PictureSync and Lightroom)

Whew! It's a lot easier and faster than all the text above implies!

Notes / things to improve on:

  1. Don't forget to add keywords in Lightroom - they become tags in Flickr and help you find your photos later.
  2. The 50mm obviously doesn't work for sports photography. For that, I have a zoom lens which I love; the Canon 28mm-135mm f3.5 but for some reason (maybe it's size and the fact that the 50mm lets in so much more light) it feels more fun to use the 50mm. I'd love to get the Canon EF-S 10-20mm and also a big zoom like the 70-300mm L. Someday when I have money :-)
  3. I am re-reviewing the Luminous Landscape Lightroom videos and the George Jardine Develop video and considering getting both the Kelby and Evening Lightrooom books to hone my Develop module skills.
  4. I would like to buy a pair of 100GB firewire drives and backup all my photos upon import to both drives. Again, some day!
  5. Since I take alot of ISO 1600 and 3200 shots, I'd love to incorporate Noise Ninja or some such assuming it can be done in an automated and easy way with Lightroom. This will have to wait until the Lightroom plugin SDK is available.
  6. I'd love to shoot cool cross processed film like Kris but I don't have the time, energy or money (in that order!).