8 Tips to Take Better Photos TODAY!
1. First and foremost, get off auto!!! I shoot in Manual mode 100% of the time and wish I had made the switch sooner. When you shoot on full AUTO, you lose all control over your image. When you shoot manual, your camera isn’t choosing for you. You, the artist, are truly making the image. If you can’t convince yourself to go full Manual, try Aperture Priority, or even Shutter Priority. Even small changes like how wide your aperture is or how fast or slow your shutter is can create a completely different image than Auto.
2. Understand light and how to control it. Congratulations! You’ve made a huge step toward taking better pictures! Now that you’re off Auto and shooting manual, you need to understand light. Where is the best place to shoot? In the sun, in the shade, in the dark? When is the best time to shoot? Early AM, mid day, afternoon, evening? It really depends what you are aiming for. I generally shoot late afternoon, early evening in what we call the “golden hour”- the hour just before the sun sinks below the horizon. The sun is softer, golden, warm and gorgeous. If you have to shoot in mid-day when the sun is at it’s highest and hottest, look for open shade. Use reflectors to bounce the light from a sunny spot onto your subject and adjust for the light with slowing down your shutter speed (allowing more light into the lens) and bumping your ISO a nudge or two.
3. Don’t shoot in direct sunlight, but don’t be afraid of it either. I live in Florida on the coast, so everyone wants pics on the beach. And they all want pics on the beach with the ocean behind them, which means the sun is in their face! I never shoot on the beach between 7am and 5pm. I’ll shoot before (yes, before, I am a sucker for the sunrise.) and after, in that golden hour we talked about. That way they can have the sun in front of them, lighting them up, the water behind them and I’m a happy photographer.
4. Get catchlights in the eyes of your subjects. While we’re talking about light, there’s nothing that makes me more “giddy” than catch lights in my clients eyes! You know, the “sparkle” that your light source creates at just the right angle in your eyes? Yes, I love them and aim for them, and you should, too. They draw you in, brighten your subjects face and keeps the eyes from looking flat. I achieve this by facing my client towards the light source, but not directly in it. Just a little light is all you need to form those catch lights! You don’t want them squinting and having “shark eyes”!
5. Get closer to your subject. Fill the frame. Although negative space can truly make the image (as seen with the Calla Lily) it can also break it (as seen with all the extra space surrounding this model). Get closer. Zoom in. Use a prime lens. I mainly shoot with my 50mm. This forces me, the photographer, to move and frame my subject as I see it through the lens, versus sitting back and just shooting.
6. Don’t use your camera’s pop up flash. Nothing ruins your shots like your pop up flash. It’s harsh, direct and can really blow out your images. You need light you say? Invest in a good speed light (yes they can be pricey for the good ones, but if this is your business it is SO worth it), bump up your ISO, use a reflector to bounce the light back onto your subject and make sure you choose your locations and times wisely. If you absolutely must use your pop up flash, buy a diffuser like this one.
7. Use your histogram. I love the histogram screen on my Canon. It shows me with a quick glance at the screen where my highlights and lowlights are. It’s ok to have both, but if you notice either of them are “going off the screen”, you are losing (clipping) data from your images that cannot be fixed in post processing. Too far to the left is under-exposed and too far to the right is over-exposed. As you can see in the image below (a macro os the $20 bill!), the image is perfectly exposed, with the peaks being centered). It’s really hard to judge the image on your camera’s screen when you are shooting in the full sun. The image tends to look darker than it really is, causing you to adjust your settings and in turn, over exposing your image. It’ll take time getting used to seeing the histogram and reading it, but you will have a lot more quality images in the end for doing so.
8. Take your camera everywhere. Those little moments come and go so quickly. Your husband cuddling by the fire with your son, the sunrise on a beautiful morning or your son playing ever so gently with his puppy. All the fleeting little moments you never want to forget.
Laura Jennings is a Wedding and Portrait Photographer in Central Florida. Aside from her business, she can be found with her family. On the sidelines of the soccer field cheering on her daughter, playing cars and Super Heros with her son, fishing, caring for her pet chickens (12 of them), not sharing anything that combines chocolate, caramel and sea salt or in the kitchen baking like a Martha Stewart wanna-be. You can find her on Facebook too.