When clients tell me that not all of their family photos are professional, I reply with "Neither are mine." I firmly believe that snapshots are an important part of documenting our lives and memories. Unfortunately, I see a LOT of horrible photos on Facebook and other social media -- very blurry, dark -- some I really can't even see what is going on. So I've put together a few tips on how you can make the most of your everyday photos. You may have seen the segment on The Hampton Roads Show on WAVY TV 10 where I was in action while explaining some of what I wrote in this post. I have two scenarios, and you'll see some common points between the two:
Holiday card photos
Every photographer will tell you that lighting is everything, so finding good light is the most important thing to do. Good light will generally come from behind the camera onto the people being photographed, just like you see when a photographer uses studio lights. Outside, you’ll want to pay attention to the direction the sun is shining, but be sure you don’t have any harsh shadows (lines) on the people. Standing at the very edge of a shady area works wonderfully well. Be sure to choose an area that doesn’t have anything distracting in it. This is a photo of me and my family. I used a tripod and chose a location in my neighborhood. I did not use Photoshop to alter this photo so that you could get an idea of what to expect.
Be realistic about how many photos small children will tolerate. I speak from experience when I say that the most difficult people to photograph are your own children. To minimize the resistance, get all adults into place first, then add in the kids just before hitting the timer button. As incentive, you could try balancing a piece of candy on top of the camera as a reward for anybody who looks at it. An alternative would be to intentionally have everyone interact with each other. Remember to have that tripod at about eye level.
(This is when it's good to be a photographer's kid: I set up a "fake Christmas" for my kids so I could get these photos for all of you.) Just like with the holiday card photos, lighting is crucial. I advise you to open all the blinds and drapes and then as a last resort, turn on all the lamps. Choose a location where you can have a large window right behind you. Clear out all clutter and furniture both behind and next to the tree. In the photo below, there was a window to my right and also directly behind me. Yes, I choose the location of my Christmas tree based on the best light :)
Get down to kid level and have the camera just a foot or two off the ground so you can really get those smiles as they look down and see their new toys. Remember that a mix of look-at-the-camera and candid moments really tell the story better!
Potential pitfalls: Those bright, airy photos with light pouring in through the window behind the person require some knowledge on how to use the settings on your camera, so my advice is to not take your shots directly into a window.
Do you want to learn more about how to use your camera? Join me in January when I start my mission to Save the World from Bad Photos... sign up for a class!
Do you want to look fabulous in any photo? Find out here.