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Turn off the flash | Family Photography Hints Tips and Advice

Any professional photographer will tell you that if they were designing a camera for family photography, the very last place they would put the flash would be on the camera, right next to the lens.

An image needs light and shade, shadow and highlights to create something pleasing on the eye and this is created by light falling on a subject or scene from several angles and almost never directly behind the camera.  If we were to walk around with a bright light on our forehead we would see the world in the same way as a camera flash does.

Compare these two shots, taken at the same time of the same scene. The first one was taken with flash and second one in the natural light.

Family photographer Surrey-2

Let me tell you why I think this is the weaker shot:

  • The scene is very flat because all the shadow created by the flash is directly behind Elisabeth and so not visible
  • There is some red eye – this is caused by the flash being reflected directly back from the retina in the eye
  • The shot has a cold, blue look – that’s the colour of flash
  • The light has a very harsh quality and is not at all flattering
  • The fire in the grate shows just one flame and no warmth
  • The shot has a “frozen moment” look to it

 

 

family photographyThis shot, on the other hand, has benefited enormously from natural light:

  • Most of the light is coming from the left as we look at it and this has created shadows that add shape, form, detail and subtleties
  • There is also a window on the right of the picture – notice the lovely light on the back of her hair and the highlight that runs down her neck and shoulder. This kind of light helps to separate the foreground from the background
  • The shot has a warm, soft colour
  • The fire looks inviting and roaring – notice how the back wall of the grate is reflecting the rich, warm colour created by the fire
  • the whole shot looks very natural.

 

Now it’s your turn:

Turning off the flash on your camera should be easy – most cameras allow you to do this.

Taking shots indoors without flash does take  a bit of practice. This is because you need to hold the camera very still to avoid blurring the image. It will be particularly difficult if people are moving a lot – just try to wait until they are still for a moment (not easy with a young boy, I know!)

So, grab your camera and a willing subject. Turn off the flash. Setting your camera to Sport mode, if you have such a thing, might help. Ask your subject to stay still while you practice taking shots. Ask them to look towards the main light in the room, as I did in the shot above. Experiment with different positions and different light. Review each shot on the camera as you take it and learn from what you see.

Does that look better?

Did you enjoy the experience? Would you use this in some of your family photography? Do let me know what you think.

And, most of all, enjoy yourself . . .

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This post is a one in a series on Family Photography hints, tips and advice that I will be posting in the run up to Christmas. Please add a comment here or on my Facebook page if there is any aspect of your photography you’d like some help with.

If you would like an email notifying you when each one is published, just complete this form (you can unsubscribe at any time and I promise to be very, very careful with your information):

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Telling a Story | Family Photography Hints Tips and Advice

Whether you are going to use your family photography to create a printed album, a phone montage, a desktop slideshow, a digital picture frame show, an iPad display or something else, your images will work better if they tell a story.

It’s all too easy to take a shot or two of an event. One shot of everyone sitting down to eat, for example. Or one shot of presents being opened. We have already seen in previous posts how changing the angle a photograph is taken from can have a big impact as well as the importance of getting closer. Even if you do those two things, and obey the Rule of Thirds, you still just have one shot.

A series of shots can portray an event or activity far more comprehensively than a single image – and usually more successfully than a video of the event.

Take a look at this series of shots I took of Oscar and Lydia when we were on holiday in America last year. We (well, they, as I was obviously taking photographs) were helping prepare a meal of fresh fish and salads. Some shots are close-ups of details – such as the salads or the fish being dropped into the fryer – some are eye-level shots of intensely concentrating children, one is taken from high overhead. Each image is interesting in its own right but is there one single shot that sums up the whole event? Not really. Would a page in a family album that looked like this portray the concentration, dedication and fun of the event? I think it would. Indeed, it does in our own family photography album.

family photography Family photographer Surrey-2 Family photographer Surrey-3 Family photographer Surrey-4 Family photographer Surrey-5 Family photographer Surrey-6 Family photographer Surrey-7 Family photographer Surrey-8 Family photographer Surrey-9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This also makes the album more interesting for those who were not present. In this case, had I just taken one shot of everyone sitting down at the table, smiling at the camera, much would have been lost for the viewer.

 

Now it’s your turn:

The next time you are covering a family event, spend some time truly being the photographer and focus on coverage just as a documentary photographer would. Create a series of shots that show different views, aspects, emotions, relationships – ideally as they happen naturally.

Review your shots and ask yourself if you have captured the flavour of the event.

Did you enjoy the experience? Would you use this in some of your family photography? Do let me know what you think.

And, most of all, enjoy yourself . . .

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This post is a one in a series on Family Photography hints, tips and advice that I will be posting in the run up to Christmas. Please add a comment here or on my Facebook page if there is any aspect of your photography you’d like some help with.

If you would like an email notifying you when each one is published, just complete this form (you can unsubscribe at any time and I promise to be very, very careful with your information):

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Using a zoom lens to isolate a subject | Family Photography Hints Tips and Advice

Even if you use a modest compact camera for your family photography, you probably have the ability to zoom in (use the camera to get closer) to your subject. Generally, people simply see this as a way of getting closer to what they want to photograph, but you may also have noticed that the look and feel of the shot changes. You can use this these properties to your advantage if you know a few simple things.

family photography

This is Panda (we’re not always very imaginative with names in our household). Panda was a present all the way from China to Oscar just after he was born. Panda is about the size of a two-year-old toddler.

This first shot has been taken the same way you might take shots of a young child – about five feet away with the default lens. It’s easy to understand why so many shots are taken this way in family photography; you can stand close to your child, so why wouldn’t you?

Immediately, you notice a few things: there’s a lot of background and it is only slightly out of focus. Compact cameras are made on the assumption that people want as much to be in focus as possible – and if you were shooting a landscape this would be true.

However, in this case the background is very “busy” and “cluttered” with a lot going on that detracts and distracts from Panda. The shot becomes a bit of a mess because Panda is not isolated from the background.

 

 

 

 

family photographyHowever, by walking back away from Panda (about 12 feet away in this case) and then zooming in so he fills the frame in the same way, notice how different the background now looks.

Firstly, there is less of it and secondly it is far more out of focus. This has the desired effect of separating the subject from the background and creating a cleaner, less cluttered shot.

 

Now it’s your turn:

Grab your camera and position a willing subject or your own Panda in a spot that is at least about five feet from you and at least 10 feet from the background. Initially, you might find it better to experiement outside where you have more space.

Stand close and take a shot using the wide angle (W) setting on your lens.

Now move back at least three steps – further if you have the space – and zoom in so your subject is about the same size as in your first shot and take another shot.

Can you see the difference? Which effect works better for you?

Continue to try several positions and settings until you understand how your camera and lens creates different looks.

Do you feel an improvement? Would you use this in some of your family photography? Do let me know what you think.

And, most of all, enjoy yourself . . .

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This post is a one in a series on Family Photography hints, tips and advice that I will be posting in the run up to Christmas. Please add a comment here or on my Facebook page if there is any aspect of your photography you’d like some help with.

If you would like an email notifying you when each one is published, just complete this form (you can unsubscribe at any time and I promise to be very, very careful with your information):

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Looking Room | Family Photography Hints Tips and Advice

In a previous post in this series on improving your family photography, I discussed the Rule of Thirds and how it was useful to think about where in the overall frame you are going to position your subject or subjects. Today, we’ll be looking at another aspect of positioning within a frame: creating Looking Room.

Which of these three shots feels better to you:

Family Photography

Shot A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Photography Shot B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Photography  Shot C

 

 

 

 

 

For most people, the answer would be Shot C. Let me explain why.

When we are looking or moving around we are more aware of what is in front of us than what is behind us – or even to the side.

We are also concerned about this for other people – how many times have you told a child to “Look where you are going” even though they are walking through an empty park? I certainly have – all the time, it seems! We do it because we feel uncomfortable about possible consequences.

When viewing photography, we get a similar feeling on behalf of the subject – we want them to be able to “see” where they are going. In photography this is referred to as Looking Room.

In Shot A above, Gemma has no looking room and we feel uncomfortable about the shot for this reason. In the second shot, she is centred and so we feel better. But look at it again – does it “feel” to you that there should be more room in front of her than behind?

For most people, Shot C works best. Because we know she can see where she is going, we are not feeling anxious for her and can relaxed and enjoy her exuberance. (Notice how this shot also obeys the Rule of Thirds, which helps.)

Family PhotographyA shot to prove that rain does not have to spoil a shoot. It also beautifully illustrates how important Looking Room is in close ups. Again, you will see that Maria has more space in front of her than behind. Do you agree that it just feels right?

 

 

 

 

A few more examples, covering close up and full length shots:

Family Photography

Even though Freddie is looking into the camera lens and is not moving, we still want him to have Looking Room!

 

 

 

 

 

Family PhotographyThe Looking Room is on the left in this shot because that is the direction Ali’s body is facing – as with Freddie above. It’s a subtle point but important.

 

 

 

 

Now it’s your turn:

Grab your camera and a willing subject.

Start by taking close-ups and experiment placing your subject’s head to both break and obey this rule. Can you see and feel the difference?

Then, ask them to walk for you and do the same thing. Make sure you also incorporate the Rule of Thirds.

Do you feel an improvement? Would you use this in some of your family photography? Do let me know what you think.

And, most of all, enjoy yourself . . .

___________________________________________________________________________________________

This post is a one in a series on Family Photography hints, tips and advice that I will be posting in the run up to Christmas. Please add a comment here or on my Facebook page if there is any aspect of your photography you’d like some help with.

If you would like an email notifying you when each one is published, just complete this form (you can unsubscribe at any time and I promise to be very, very careful with your information):

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Protecting your memories | Family Photography Hints Tips and Advice

family photographyThis is one of my favourite shots of Lydia, my daughter, taken six years ago when she was just two years old as part of a family photography shoot we set up just outside the pretty village of Shere in Surrey.

She does not look like this now; she has changed in many, many ways. The image is important to me for several reasons – all emotional. I remember the fun we had on the day, her super-pretty red shoes, that lovely dress that was her favourite at the time. She was easy to pick up and hug and we both loved cuddles. We had lunch in the lovely White Horse Inn – when it was still independent – and viewed the village church afterwards

Photographically, I was experimenting with muted colours and toning, understanding light and considering the effects of different backgrounds.

All in all, then, this shot evokes oodles of memories and associations. How would I feel if I lost it? Very sad, as you might expect, for I would lose not just the image but a  reminder of the feelings, emotions and associations of the day and the time in our lives.

Part of family photography is about images that jog memories of events, after all.

OK, so I have established why this is important. As you would expect, I have a strict regime for backing up and securing my professional images and I use this for the personal images as well.

You probably won’t need to do all this, but pick at least two that you can use:

1  All images are downloaded from my camera cards, phone, compact camera, etc, after every shoot onto my desktop computer (well, actually it’s a server, but you get the principle).

2  I select the images I want to keep and delete the rest

3  The selected images are backed up onto DVDs and these go to a storage place well away from where I live. A good tip here is to take them into work or post them to a friend or relative.

4  Every night, I run a backup that copies the images from my desktop to an attached portable hard drive

5  My desktop computer is backed up to the cloud (I use BackBlaze which is reliable and inexpensive ) in real time throughout the day.

6  Before periodically removing the original images from my desktop computer, they are backed-up and stored offsite on another hard disk.

I strongly suggest you do at least 1 and 5 – this will give you at home and offsite copies of your images. But mainly, please, do not use your camera cards or phones to exclusively store your images – we all know someone who has lost special shots in this way.

 

Now it’s your turn:

Look at my list again and pick options that ensure you have at least two copies of your images – preferably one offsite. Cloud storage is good for this – check out this review of online storage products.

Does that feel better?  Do let me know what you think.

And, most of all, enjoy yourself  . . .

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This post is a one in a series on Family Photography hints, tips and advice that I will be posting in the run up to Christmas. Please add a comment here or on my Facebook page if there is any aspect of your photography you’d like some help with.

If you would like an email notifying you when each one is published, just complete this form (you can unsubscribe at any time and I promise to be very, very careful with your information):

Email Marketing You Can Trust

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