by: Kenneth Cossin
Have you ever been somewhere with friends – on vacation, at a party, or at a family reunion and were asked to take a photo? You hate taking photos, because you don’t know how to use their camera, you just really don’t have a knack for taking photos, or maybe you just hate people? Well, here are some helpful tips to make those slanted, out of focus, dark, and just darn awful photos into decent ones!
Who’s Camera is This?
You’ve been asked to use someone else’s camera to take a picture. Ah! What do you do? Well, my solution is simple. Ask the person that handed you the camera three important questions: One, how do you set the camera on full auto? Two, when I press the shutter button partially, will it auto focus? Three, is the flash set to go off when the shutter is fully depressed? These may seem like no-brainer questions, but how many of us actually think of these questions when we’re put on the spot to take a picture? Oh, and I suggest that you resist the urge to smash the camera on the ground. The people you hate really won’t like you any better.
When taking a picture of a person, or my dog as in the photo above, be sure to frame the individual in the center of your shot. Typically, you do not have to concern yourself with the background. But note, if there are tall objects in the background, make sure that they do not appear to be growing from the subject’s head. In addition, if you have something in the foreground, make sure that it does not interfere with the subject’s face. Alternatively, shooting a photo with the subject off center can make for a great photo, but this option is best left to advanced photographers.
When taking photos of people that contain objects of substance in the foreground or background, know that these objects are key elements that make up the composition of the photo. Thus, you want to be sure to include them in the photo in such a way that is aesthetically pleasing. Allow me to use an example.
Let’s say that you are at a birthday party, and you have been asked to take a picture of the birthday girl and her cake. You could take the photo with the cake centered right in front of the subject or you could offset the cake a bit to the right or the left. Which would make for a better photo and why? The answer is the photo with the cake offset to either side. Why? Because the most important element of the photo is the person, not the cake… despite how you may feel about the person.
Keeping Things Straight
There are many straight lines that you can use as reference points when taking a photo. A table, couch, chairs, floor/ceiling lines, and the list goes on. Incorporate some of these items to line up your camera shot on the top, bottom, or sides when taking your photo. It’s that simple!
Always make your subject stays still. Do or say something to get their attention, and then provoke an emotion, typically a smile, with a word or phrase. Count them into the photo, but don’t give them more than two or three seconds; most subjects do not have the attention span to hold still that long.
A blurry photo may not be at the fault of the subject but of you. How can that be? You’re perfect, right? Well, remember that you don’t have to press the shutter button that hard to take a photo. Therefore, you should be able to hold the camera steady while taking the photo. Remember this – if the picture turns out clear and in focus, the people you hate will love you!
Yes, the camera has a flash on it. Isn’t the flash supposed to be the light source? Well, technically, the flash’s purpose is to additionally illuminate your subject. Therefore, be sure to have additional light sources on either side as well as behind the subject. Even when using ambient lighting, it is helpful to use the flash when in the shade or if the sun is low in the horizon.
Your distance from the subject is very important when you are taking a portrait. Typically, you want to maintain a minimum distance of about five feet but not exceed more than ten to twelve feet. Overexposure of the subject happens when you’re too close, and underexposure happens when you’re too far.
What Happened to My Tan?
Ok, this tip is very important when taking portraits, because you don’t want your subject looking like a whitewashed fence. Point the camera directly at an object that appears the whitest in your field of view. Depress the shutter half way to force the camera and to perform a white balance. Then, keeping the shutter depressed half way, re-center your subject and count down the picture. Don’t forget to provoke an emotion!
You Will Be Loved
Yes, you will be loved by the people that now view your photos once you have mastered some of these basic skills! Try out some of my suggestions to see if you can take better photos. These basic tips on shooting portraits can help even the worst photographer look good!