Today’s post is another FANTASTIC guest post on family photography from our friend Jeff Cable. If you haven’t checked out Jeff’s blog, his website, and liked him on Facebook, then you’re really missing out on some great photography inspiration.
Taking pictures can be really fun and it allows us to capture history in an image. One of the greatest subjects for us to photograph is our loved ones. A good photo allows the viewer to see beyond the mere picture and get a glimpse into the soul of the person. Now, you might be wondering how to take that really special picture of that person you care most about. There are some simple tips that can help you transform a simple snapshot into a beautiful photo that will become a long-lasting memory.
Tip #1: Focus on the eyes. They say that the eyes are the windows into one’s soul, and when taking a picture, this could not be more true. It is very important that when you take a picture of a person (or even your pet), that you focus on their eyes. Unless you are trying to take an artistic picture, and trying to blur your image, the eyes must be in focus. Another trick of professional photographers is to take more than one image, and to make sure that your subject’s eyes are not only open, but wide open. If you take 10 images of someone, you will be amazed at the subtle differences in the shape and position of their eyes. It is that subtlety that can make the difference between a good picture and a great picture.
Tip #2: Consider the light. Ask any photographer and they will tell you that they key to a good image, regardless of whether it is a portrait, action shot, or landscape photo, is the lighting. Good light is really critical to creating a good photo. You should try to avoid direct sunlight on your subject’s face. Why? There are two reasons. First, if the sun is high in the sky, it will cast harsh shadows on your subjects face, usually resulting in dark raccoon eyes. Second, if the sun is directly in front of your subject, you will get a whole bunch of images with them squinting. Not a good look for most people! If you have no choice but to shoot pictures with your subject facing into the light, ask them to close their eyes, count to 3, and then open their eyes as you shoot the picture. This will give you a better chance to get their eyes wide open. Also, a shady spot can give nice, even lighting to your subject, helping you avoid those splashes of sunlight on their face or torso.
Tip #3: Pick a interesting location. Another common mistake that people make when taking a picture of another person or group of people, is the choice of location. In selecting a good spot, you’ll want to make sure that the lighting is correct (avoiding mixture of harsh sunlight and shadows), and also that the background is interesting. You should avoid having anything too distracting in the background, and you may want to experiment by having your subject move to different spots within the location. If you really want to impress your friends, scout out a location that reflects the personality of your subject, and shoot your photos there. For the lovely lady in your life, maybe it’s a field of flowers. For the man in your life, maybe it’s an old building or rustic fence.
Tip #4: Be mindful of your flash. Taking pictures inside poses different challenges from outside photos. For one, you will generally have less light to work with, and you may find yourself using the flash on your camera. If you have an external flash, it is usually best to point the flash towards the ceiling and bounce the light to get a more natural look. There is nothing worse than overpowering your subject with too much flash and making their skin look pasty white. If you are taking your photo with a built-in flash, see if you can turn down the power to add subtle lighting to your subject without making it obvious.
Tip #5: Get close. Not every picture has to be from head to toe. Try getting in really close and shooting an image where the face fills the frame. If you want to get really daring, try photographing just a portion of your subject’s face to draw attention to their eyes.
Tip #6: Relax and let them be themselves. Nothing is worse than seeing a picture of someone with that forced smile, and we all have seen hundreds of those! Usually, the best pictures of people are the photos that show them being themselves, where they’re not forced to express themselves for your shot. In many cases, especially when photographing children, it is best to take pictures of your subject when they are not posing for you. Some professional photographers will tell their subjects that they are just taking some test shots with their camera, so that the person does not feel compelled to give you that, “oh, there is a camera pointed at me” smile.
Tip #7: You set the tone. They say that “the camera sees both ways.” This means that your subject’s attitude and demeanor may reflect how you, the picture taker, are feeling and acting. If you are relaxed and having a good time, chances are, your subject will reflect that in the images you capture, too. [d1] Is this closer to what you mean?