Let’s All Give Thanks… for AWESOME Photos!
Hey y’all! Life’s about to get VERY hectic for a lot of you, am I right?? In the United States, Thanksgiving marks the run-up to Christmas and then the New Year. I know most of you won’t be even thinking about scrapping layouts for the next several days, and that you’ll be making a bunch of new memories at the same time. We’ve played with a lot of techniques for editing our photos to make them worthy of scrapping, but why not skip a step (or ten)? I think it’s time for another discussion about taking better photos. I know we’ve already talked about that before, but a few reminders probably won’t go amiss. Whether your photos are caught with a point-and-shoot, a high-end DSLR or a cell phone, there are some things you can do to get great photos.
- Right now, right this minute, make sure your camera battery is fully charged. If they’re replaceable batteries, put fresh ones in your camera NOW!
- Make sure you have an empty memory card (fully formatted, of course!) in your camera and a couple of spares so you won’t run out of space. If you’re using your phone, you should move some photos from your internal storage to your computer so you’ll have room for the new ones.
- Think about how your typical holiday events usually evolve. There will be some traditions that are carried out no matter whose house you’re having the celebrations at, so plan ahead to capture those moments. Make a list, if you need to.
- If you haven’t done it lately, review the manual that came with your camera. Review the settings and modes you’re most likely to use for your shots and remind yourself what each is doing while you’re shooting. I use the metadata from my most successful bokeh and full moon shots to set my camera up ahead of time so I don’t miss the shot.
- Practice a few creative techniques that you can memorize so that when you’re ready to take photos of the candles on your dinner table or that gloriously brown turkey, you won’t have to fumble.
- Refamiliarize yourself with your tripod, if you use one. I have two – an aluminum ball-head one that allows infinite adjustments but takes a lot of room and needs to be set up ahead of time and a Platypod Max, which looks like a little travel iron but is actually a very clever and sturdy tripod that can be set up in minutes on any surface. Why use a tripod? It lets you take longer exposures while keeping the images tack-sharp and it lets you be in the photo! Use the built-in timer and get in FRONT of the lens for a change.
- Keep an eye on the lighting. Natural light from a big window is fantastic, as long as it’s not backlighting your subject. This is especially important for those group shots we all love. You want everyone’s face to be evenly lit, without harsh shadows everywhere. So maybe turn on some lamps so your flash won’t be so startling. Shoot a couple of test shots so you can see what needs to be tweaked.
- Get in close to your subject! Even more so when that subject is a child. Get down on their level whenever possible so you capture their best smiles. Shooting from above should be reserved for those special-effect shots, not photos of kids having fun. For the most natural photos of people though, you can use a telephoto lens and shoot them from some distance. (As long as the light is right!)
- Don’t insist on smiles. You know what I mean… those cheesy grins aren’t going to be your favourite images. Rather than having everybody say “cheese” for your group shots, have them say “family” or “money” or “gotcha”. You could go with a made-up phrase, such as “moldy mozzarella”. Another trick is to tell everyone you’re going to shoot on “3”, then count, “1… 2… (shoot) WHOOPS 3!” then shoot a second shot right after that. You’ll get some natural smiles that way.
- When taking photos of food, again, get in close and vary the angles. Show the flaky texture of that piecrust, the glisten of the done-to-perfection skin on your turkey, the creaminess of your mashed potatoes, the detail of the frosting on your cupcakes.
- Composition is key for any photo. Remember the rule of thirds, but don’t be a slave to it. Decide what your focal point will be and compose your photo to make it so – use leading lines where possible and don’t forget white space. Crop your photos in the viewfinder – so much less work later! And don’t forget the background. Is there anything growing out of someone’s head? Take a step to one side or the other and recompose.
- Take LOTS of photos. Take several of each subject from different angles and distances so you have a choice of which one is best. More is definitely better!
- Last but not least, have FUN!
When we’re all back into scrapping mode, I’ll have some more paper-to-digi techniques for you. This decluttering business is really a good thing!