My daughter is very used to having her picture taken, and not just because her parents are photographers. Even if parents don’t own a DSLR camera, or even a point-and-shoot camera, the era of the cell phone has brought new accessibility to photography in the home. We can now take snap after snap of our babies drooling, sleeping, and walking, at least until we get the dreaded low storage space message. Even preschoolers are well aware of this, as evidenced when I let my daughter borrow my phone for a game and she returns it with 40 pictures of the cat’s tail and a goldfish cracker. We might have hundreds or thousands of photos in our phone, but that’s quantity. How many quality images are we preserving on that very full device?
Obviously, you can’t have a professional photographer with you every day, when your kids, pets, and significant other are doing those cute things you just have to get a picture of. Well, I could follow you around all day every day, but it might get awkward after a while. So, here are my tips for how you can get the most out of taking photos with your phone, point and shoot or DSLR camera without me awkwardly being your 24/7 paparazzi.
You might have heard the terms hard and soft light. Mid day sunlight is a good example of hard light. It is harsh and unforgiving. It creates shadows that have harsh lines as well. Spot lights are another example of hard light. It is pointed and direct. In contrast, soft light doesn’t create hard shadows. The light is more diffused and even. Sunrise and sunset, as well as cloudy days, are great times to see soft light in action. If you are taking photos outside in the middle of the day, try finding some shade and don’t have your subject look into the sun. If shade is not an option, try placing the subject with the sun at a 45 degree angle to their back. If you are inside, try to find some natural light. Position your subject by a window.
The photos that I’ve taken of my daughter that have worked the best have been when I let her do something she enjoys. Sometimes that means letting her jump in puddles, pick flowers, or wash the dishes. I can’t say I minded the last one. When she has an activity to do, she’s more relaxed and I can get more natural facial reactions than just posing her and making her stare into the lens.
Kids come with a lot of stuff. So, when you’re about to snap that picture, consider what else is in the frame. Clear out the milk cups, toys, and other clutter. It does not mean you have to clean. Just clean out the tiniest sliver for a photo and bam! It looks like your whole house is spotless.
Understanding Depth of Field well is the solid foundation to photography. It is how much of what is in your photo is in focus. When not much is in focus, like in a close up photo of wedding rings, that photo has narrow depth of field. Likewise, when much of what is in a photo is in focus, like in a landscape photo, that photo has wide depth of field. You control depth of field in your camera by adjusting the f-stop, shutter speed, and ISO. I’ll cover those terms in a future post. You can also effect depth of field by your choice of lens, how close you stand to your subject, and how close you place your subject to whatever is in the background. So, even if you can’t change any camera settings, you can control where you put your subject and how close you are to them.
My biggest advice is not to stress when taking photos of your family. Kids for sure don’t always cooperate. It’s okay to put the camera down and wait for a moment when the smiles come back out. Try playing together and come back to it. After all, making the memories is more important than capturing them.
Oh, and back up your phone.
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