Better pictures. Better pictures! In 2011, I swear I’m going to take better (and more!) pictures. You too?
With three kids who don’t coordinate their moods or their desire to get their pictures taken — and all of whom are easily distracted — I don’t have a lot of time to set up a shot. I kind of need every release of the shutter to count. Even with fancy-fancy DSLR cameras, a tiny bit of effort behind the lens can vastly improve the outcome of a picture.
Here are 11 tips for better pictures this year.
1. Rule of thirds: it’s what you learn in every photography class and what sets a nice picture apart from something that looks like a mug shot/class picture. Don’t center your subject. In stead, divide the view into a grid of horizontal and vertical thirds (see the grid in the photo on this post). Keep the interesting part of your shot in the areas where the thirds intersect. You’ll see the difference in your photos immediately.
2. Keep bright lights behind you, the photographer, not behind your subject. Kid in front of a sunny window? Next to the floor lamp? Get yourself and the camera between them.
3. Check your background for weird things appearing to poke out of heads or crotches. Look out for imaginary floating heads. Then move yourself and the camera slightly up or down or to one side or the other and that tree that appears to be growing out of your son’s head? It won’t.
4. Life Hacks has this fantastic tip for muting flash glare: a little piece of translucent tape over the flash. Sure, natural light is best but sometimes it just won’t do. The tape will help cut that back.
5. Tamra Lackey, author of Capturing Life Through Better Photography, has the next seven awesome tips, including: make sure the battery is charged, memory card empty and camera is nearby. Leave it by the door if you’re heading out. Or keep it in your car, if it’s safe there.
6. Get at eye level with your subject. Unless you’re trying to invoke an oppressive/oppressed mood in some kind of artsy statement, forget about standing there and pointing the camera up at your tall husband or down at your little toddler. Lift the camera, drop to the floor. Whatever it takes.
7. Forget what Lackey calls the “spray and pray,” where you’re blasting off a series of photos (yay for digital cameras!). Instead, do your best for a few photos and then set the camera down. Capturing memories shouldn’t replace actually having them.
8. Work with natural light, and avoid when you can your camera’s harsh flash. Turn on all the lights for indoor night shots. Move closer to windows and other light sources (but keep them behind you! No. 2!)..
9. This next tip of Lackey’s, I disagree with. She says that if you’re taking a nicely set-up photo that is to endure through the ages, have the family dress in more classic clothes. But eyewear and hair styles mark time better than off-shoulder sweatshirts or high-waisted jeans ever can. I say present the whole bad fashion package.
10. Don’t say cheese. Crack a joke, get your subjects talking, but the cheese just don’t cut it.
11. Here’s my big tip for taking pictures of kids: have an extra junky camera on hand. Because when the camera comes out, everyone under 5 starts running toward the photographer, “Let me see! Let me see!” Hand over the extra and tell them to keep playing/posing. Sure, the junky camera will make a cameo, but it’s better than tears, right?
12. Speaking of tears, be sure to capture your kids in a tantrum or meltdown at least once. I mean, they’re awful now. But there’s a chance in a decade you’ll just laugh and laugh.
13. Some of the best candid photos are taken by kids. They see their baby brothers in a different way, they stand at a different level, the strangest things fascinate them. Don’t invest a bunch in a camera for young kids, but do yourself a favor and let them be the photographers once in awhile.
Happy New Years Pictures! What are your photography tips?