I like to start off the New Year by providing some helpful photo tips for those of you who might have gotten a new camera over the holidays or for folks looking for a reason to get out and use the one they already have. I often hear from clients that they’ve purchased a camera in the hopes of taking great photos of their kids, but don’t really know where to start. I think it’s a common misconception that the camera is responsible for making great pics when it’s really a kind of melting pot of good conditions/techniques that’s responsible. Below I’ve posted my top 3 tips for taking better pictures regardless of what kind of camera you’re using.
So without further ado here they are:
Bump up your ISO
Manually adjust your ISO and shoot in AV mode. – So this is kind of a 2 part tip. When I’m on my big girl camera I’m always shooting in manual, but over the years I’ve had many a point and shoot or mirrorless camera and I always shoot this way. I NEVER shoot in P or Auto. NEVER. Say it with me NEVER. I recommend switching to AV mode (that’s aperture priority) and dialing it down to the smallest number available for your lens. Most of you will be around a 3.5 or 4 if you’re using a kit lens and if you have a prime lens you might be as low as 1.4.
What this does is allow as much light in the lens as you can while also creating the shallowest depth of field as you can. The smaller the number the more shallow and the more bokeh you get which is the effect where one thing is in focus while everything behind it is blurry. For most kit lenses you won’t notice it that much just because even 3.5/4 is enough to really keep quite a bit in focus. Keeping one number constant enables you to have one less thing to worry about in the triangle of exposure. Let the camera adjust the shutter speed for you and then you worry about adjusting the ISO.
If you’re outside and it’s bright you want to be at 200-400. If you’re inside you’ll want to be at 800-1600 or even higher. Don’t be afraid to bump it up to get that exposure correct. If your shutter speed sounds slow or is less than 1/30th of a second it’s time to bump up your ISO. Most people can’t hand hold a camera and not get motion blur at a 1/30th of a second or lower. That’s the one menu item in your camera that you will want to be mindful of and adjust as needed. Noise these days on digital cameras isn’t as much of an issue if you’re exposing correctly so bump it up and you’ll be able to avoid the flash.
Find your best light
Look for the light. I know I know it’s so cliché and everyone says it and you’re like yeah yeah yeah so what does that mean? Here’s the break down. If you’re outside at either sunrise or sunset or the hour before sunrise or sunset. Shoot anywhere you want. Go crazy knock yourself out everything is fair game. However if you are shooting at any other time during day light hours find yourself some open shade. Open shade is an area of shade that’s not being created by a large over hanging object. Look for trees, structures anything that can provide shade that doesn’t require you to be inside of it. This will make such a difference in outdoor photos.
If you’re inside look for daylight. Turn off all the lamps and indoor lighting and use natural light. The mix will give your pics a color cast. Don’t ever put people in front of windows and shoot towards the window. You’ll wind up with shadow people. Always turn subjects perpendicular to the window and let the window side light them. (see above)
Taken around 12pm on a bright day in May. I used the shade from the barn that she’s standing in front of to block the bright harsh sunlight
Edit your photos
Always make sure to edit your photos. Clean them up! I never ever take a photo and share it, print it etc. without first editing it. Whether it’s a simple contrast bump or an advanced action you really need to get in the habit of editing your photos. There are a variety of options out there to do this. Some operating systems have built-in adjustment programs, some prefer Adobe Elements or Photoshop, and others edit on their phone. There are a several great editing apps for mobile phones. There are also a variety of actions that you can purchase specifically for Elements or Photoshop that range from basic tweaks to creative processes that can really help punch up a photo. Next month I’ll do a whole post/newsletter about these as well as a simple editing workflow.
Hopefully these tips will help get you started and help improve some of the issues we can have while shooting. If you have any specific questions feel free to comment below and I’ll do my best to help. Have a great month!
Cat Wilborne is an on-location photographer specializing in child and family photography in Raleigh, Cary, Durham and Chapel Hill.