Taking your camera out for some photos of your sweetie this weekend? In the next minute, discover these 6 photography tips that’ll have you taking better photos overnight.
Something I realized some years ago as a professional wedding photographer was that little tweaks make big differences in how good your photos look. And if you simply do those tweaks with every photo more and more of the photos you take will come out winners.
Start with watching out for what’s in the viewfinder.
Before you take that photo, just look at what you’ve got in it. Is there a garbage can in the background? A light pole or tree branch sticking out from behind the subject’s head? I see this all the time, and many times in photos taken by professionals too! These little things detract from the overall image because when people look at a photo, they can look at it for five full minutes and pick out e-v-e-r-y little bit in it. And they will.
Simply taking a few seconds to scope out what your camera’s seeing and changing your shooting angle can eliminate all those nasty little bits from view.
And tell your subject to stop looking at the camera and forcing a grin. It looks staid and stiff as they tense and wait for their picture to be taken. Have them be involved in something instead. It makes the shot livelier. And different than all those “look here and smile big” shots that tourists take.
Speaking of tourists… what’s with posing people right smack center in front of whatever landmark they’re photographing? Why do photographers stick people right in front of statues, fountains and fireplaces? If you want your photos to not look like the typical, then move the people according to the design of the background to make the compositions more interesting.
Also have them turn a bit from the camera rather than stand off squarely even footed right smack toward it. You know how they say the camera adds ten pounds? This is why. Consider that a photo is two dimensional – it has height and width, but no depth. So everything in it is flattened out. If someone’s photographed facing full front at camera, you’re photographing them at their widest look. Flattened out as it is in a photo, that widest look seems even wider. But angle them a bit turned from the camera and now they’re not as wide. That’s a simple little trick that the highest paid fashion photographers use.
I was photographing a wedding once doing the family portraits when a good intentioned guest came up to me to inform me I was not having the group face the sun and therefore photographing them incorrectly. Actually, by not having them face the sun I was making a better photograph than that guest knew. So it seems to be popular belief that the way to light a group shot is by having people face the sun. The fact is that doing so creates hot spots on people’s faces, with corresponding deep, unflattering and harsh shadows in their eyes and under their noses and chins. It also has them squinting in the pictures, and not to mention if it’s a particularly brutal day, the heat from the sun becomes uncomfortable. Quickly.
The problem is if you turn the group around to place the sun behind them, their faces go into shadow. What to do?
Either use a flash to brighten that shadow – or – open up your aperture and properly expose for the faces. What you’ll get is a way more pleasing look on the faces in your photos as well as a wonderful natural rim light on their heads which gives more of the illusion of depth and separation from the background. remember, it’s a flat two dimensional image but it doesn’t have to look like one.
And where do you focus when you take a picture of someone? I’ve found the best spot to focus on is right on the person’s eye. Which eye? Whichever eye is closest to the camera works best.
When people look at photos, if the eyes don’t appear sharp the whole face seems out of focus. Truth is, most of the face could be out of focus, because we don’t need to see sharpened skin… but if the eyes are sharp, the illusion is that the entire photo is in focus. It’s just the way our eyes work.
And when it comes to focus, you don’t need to have the entire image in focus. That is to say, having your subject in focus is good enough, because the background doesn’t have to be. In fact, if the background is just as much in focus as the subject is in the foreground, then the background “competes” with the subject for the viewer’s attention. Again, blame it on the picture being two dimensional and flattened. So that stuff in the background looks like it’s on the same plane as the person in the foreground when it comes to a picture. Having the background out of focus instead begins to resemble more like how we see three dimensional scenes in real life: the distant background isn’t as sharp to our eyes as is what’s right in front of us. So the viewer’s eye believes it’s seeing a more realistic scene when they look at a photo with the background somewhat out of focus.
This handful of tips alone will dramatically ramp up a few notches worth of oohs and ahhs you get from other people looking at the photos you take. It doesn’t depend so much on what camera you use – one of the things I’ve learned as a pro photographer is it’s knowing what to do with the camera that really counts.
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