You have family visiting from all over and you want to capture that moment forever. Time to bring out the camera, but how can you make it look like a professional portrait that you would be proud to hang on your wall?
There is no one big secret to getting it right, but here are 15 tips that will set you on your way for turning a snapshot into a special memento for everyone to enjoy.
Do not use your camera phone. Yes, there might have high megapixel count but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be nearly as good as a dedicated camera with true glass lenses. You will especially see the value of a camera when you make large prints.
Use a tripod. It will make steady your camera, thereby reducing blur. It also allows you to be in the photo as well. Find your timer/delay feature, which allows you to start the picture taking and then have time to get into the photograph.
If you are photographing outside, make sure the sun is not in the picture or behind the camera. The first will cause the exposure to be incorrect and your family will be in shadows; the second will make people squint with the sun in their eyes.
The best is to have the sun behind them and to one side.
Use your flash even in daylight. Find your flash control and set it for “on” rather than auto. This will help prevent faces and eyes being hidden in black shadows.
Most cameras with built-in flashes can only light subjects up to eight feet away so get closer if you need more light on their faces. If you have an external flash that attaches to your camera you can shoot from much further away.
Use your flash when photographing indoors, as well. If the room is well lit, take photos with and without the flash to see which is better. A combination of room lights and window lighting can sometimes create wonderful soft highlights and shadows for stunning portraits.
When posing your family, have them turn their bodies slightly away and turn their head back toward the camera so they are not standing square to the camera.
This will help make the photo look more interesting while at the same time making people look a little skinnier (and who doesn’t want that)!
Try a couple of poses: some serious, some smiling and maybe a silly pose. When photographing young children, getting them to make a silly face gets them more relaxed for the later photographs.
If babies or toddlers are involved, have some toys by the camera that might get their attention. A stuffed animal works wonders sometimes.
Have a hairbrush and mirror near by so everyone can check how they look.
Try using the portrait setting on your camera. This mode uses a wider aperture to produce a blurry background. If you wish to control the amount of blur yourself, set the camera in the “A” mode (Aperture priority).
The wider the aperture (the smaller the f/stop number used) the greater the blur in behind and in front of your subject.
In “P” (program) Mode, learn to use the exposure compensation. It looks like +/- and adjusts the exposure to make your photos darker or lighter. It is a valuable control to learn about and gives you a lot of creative control while using program mode.
The background counts a lot. People don’t like to move and be bossed around by the photographer, but try to make them stand in front of something nice like foliage or the ocean rather than in front of a busy background dominated by a lawn chair or a table full of the usual stuff.
Don’t forget to get your pets in those pictures; they are part of the family too!
Be prepared to get the grab shot. When people are not expecting the picture, you can usually get a more natural shot where they are not as stiff and posed.
Have fun with it! The event should be a bonding experience and then every time you look at the photo you will remember the time everyone got together for the photo.
Hopefully these tips will help you take your photos to the next level. Once your photography reaches that level, keep in mind that photos are much easier to enjoy once they are printed.
With photos printed on canvas, you can truly make a piece of art for your walls. Lastly, practice and more practice makes for better photographs!
For more information on prints, cameras, classes and event photography, Cathy Churchs’ Photo Centre at 949-7415.