This is a guest post from my friend David (who’s also married to my oldest friend in the world) and is a talented photographer based in West Wales…
Let’s face it most people hate having their photo taken. People tend to be very critical of their appearance or worry about a facial feature that 99.9% of people looking at the photo will never see BUT what happens when you look back at photos of yourself in years to come? The reaction will most likely be “actually I didn’t look too bad back then” – we are all our own worst critics.
Photos are important. They capture the story, a moment in time. There are huge gaps in my life with few photos of me with my family – down to the fact that I hated being in front of the camera. Unfortunately after loosing members of my family it’s something that I now regret. Sorry for getting serious all of a sudden but photos are important!
You don’t necessarily need an expensive camera to take great pictures. Chase Jarvis said – “The best camera is the one you have with you” and for the majority of people probably means the mobile phone in your pocket. The majority of my pictures are taken either using my iPhone or a small compact camera that I keep with me most of the time.
I took up photography relatively late in life, if I’m honest the catalyst was the birth of my son. Ever since, I have been
hooked and now have a great collection of photos of us and him growing up. This is not to say that my first attempts were any good but I have learnt much over the years and hopefully you can learn from my mistakes!
My five steps to improving your family photos!
1. Find the Light
For me light is the most import factor to consider. People often ask why their photos are grainy or dark – well it’s simply down to poor light. Without getting too technical, cameras do a great job in ‘good, even light’ but struggle when the light is either too bright or too dark. When faced with a dark scene, a camera (especially a mobile phone camera) will try to guess what colour objects are. This often ends up with grainy images and lots of strange colours and tones. Alternatively, when you point a camera at a very bright scene it does the opposite and tries to compensate by darkening the overall photo, often leaving the subject dark and the face unrecognisable.
So what can you do? Here are a few things to remember. A patio or a large glass doors will often produce a beautiful light, especially in the morning or evening. Avoid direct sunlight as this often makes people squint and leaves harsh shadows on their faces.
This picture was taken early morning and my son was facing a large glass door creating a nicely lit picture with no shadows.
This picture was taken with an iPhone, again in front of a large window in a coffee shop. Notice how sharp and clear the picture is. This is down to the fact that when the subject is well lit, the camera can focus very accurately on the part of the picture that you want to be in focus – the eyes!
2. The eyes tell the story…
When someone looks at a photo for the first time they notice two things. The first is the eyes and the second is the mouth (hopefully smiling!). This leads me to my next tip – make sure you can see the eyes and ensure that they are in focus. When the eyes are sharp and in focus, it draws you into the photo.
If you follow the first tip (have good light) and have the eyes in focus, you can achieve what photographers call “catch lights” in the eyes. This is the little white reflection in the eyes and gives the picture and the person an extra sparkle!
3. Get down to their level…
All of my photos are taken at the same level, or at the same height – this is the level of the child’s eyes. This rule can be applied to nearly all subjects including pets! I see lots of photos of children where they are taken from a standing height of an adult. This just makes you feel more distant and gives less of a connection to the subject.
4. Don’t show your clutter
Try to keep the background of your photo as simple and uncluttered as possible. Bright lights, mess, rubbish, shoes, windows and general untidiness create distractions when looking at a picture. You want to focus on the subject, not showing everyone how messy you are (like me!).
5. Apps and Gadgets
There are hundreds of great apps out there to help edit your photos. Cameras aren’t as good as the human eye at reproducing a scene. So find a good App and get editing! You can make sure that the image is straight, you can brighten it up or reduce the brightness. Apps that I have used include Photoshop Mobile, Camera+ and Snapseed – and are all excellent. Note – I’m an iPhone user, but I assume Android phones have similar.
Two last quick tips…If you have one of the newer iPhones, the volume switch on the headphone (when attached to the phone) acts as a trigger to take a photo.
Lastly if you have a tripod, use it! It’s the one thing that improves any photo. You can get adapters to attached mobile phones to a tripod. If you want to get a small tripod, consider a gorilla grip or similar.
So that’s it, get out there and get snapping!
David’s work can be seen at Towy Photography, on his Facebook page and on his twitter page @caerwynt_loops. If you have any questions you can email him at [email protected].
All images Copyright – David Rice
Thanks so much David for all these great tips! I have a lot to learn but am enjoying the process!