Please allow me to introduce Heather Lilly, our first BabyLegs guest blogger!
Heather is an accomplished photographer in the Denver, CO area, specializing in wedding and portrait photography. I highly recommend that you visit her website: http://heatherlilly.com to learn more. She also has a great blog of her own, which showcases her work and provides tips: http://heatherlilly.com/blog
With Mother’s Day around the corner, I hope you and your family get the chance to celebrate with your mom. Whether she is your biological mom or just a strong mother-figure to you, it’s time for celebration!
When my husband and I get together with our extended family, we enjoy taking snapshots. I leave my pro-gear in my office and grab our Canon PowerShoot Point & Shoot camera for casual pictures.
While there is a BIG difference between DIY pictures and hiring a professional, I feel these are several tips that will help you improve your at-home picture-taking this Mother’s Day.
Tip 1: Get Snap Happy!
We live in the digital age – so you can get snap-happy and only save the images you want to keep. I realize sorting through over 100 pictures (just from your Mother’s Day celebration) seems overwhelming to some people, but I have an easy way to organize your pictures that will help you re-locate pictures on your computer and also help you keep track of what you’ve backed up.
- Create a folder in My Pictures called “Personal Images” – or if you only store personal photos, you can just skip creating a “Personal Images” folder.
- Inside that folder (either My Pictures or Personal Images), create a sub-folder (that’s a folder inside of a folder) with the year. 2010.
- Then when you have new pictures to download, download them into a sub-folder that has its date (separated by underscores) and a short description of that day:2010_05_09_MothersDay.
- Inside that folder, create another sub-folder called “all jpg” and another one called “favorites.”
- Now you’ll be able to copy & paste all of your pictures from your camera into the “all jpg” folder.
Sorting through your pictures:
The next step, instead of going through and choosing “bad” images to delete, go through and select all of your favorites. Copy those from the “all jpg” folder into the “favorites” folder. These are the pictures you want prints of, want on your screen-saver, or to upload to your smart phone.
If you have never done this before, it’s helpful to set up two windows of the same sub-folder, so you can easily drag and paste the images to the appropriate folder. If this still doesn’t make sense, ask a teenager for help.
Backing up your pictures:
If you are a procrastinator, and you know you won’t start the sorting process right away, you will need to back up your pictures as soon as you download them into your your main folder 2010_05_09_MothersDay.
By having your picture folders dated, the best way to back them up is in the same way:
- If you like backing up to CD/DVD, name the CD/DVD 2010_05_09_MothersDay and write the same thing on the outside with a permanent marker. Store it in a safe, flat place (like a CD binder).
- If you have an external hard-drive, you can simply copy the folder system on that hard-drive and copy & paste your 2010_05_09_MothersDay folder to that hard drive. Then copy & paste 2010_05_15_dogs (or whatever the occasion) when you create new folders with pictures.
- Another way to back up your images is online. You can upload them somewhere like www.KodakGallery.com then be able to retrieve them as needed. For snapshots, their print paper quality is fine.
I personally like to back-up all three ways. I’d rather have too many back-ups than none.
Tip 2: Change Your Approach
So when you get snap-happy, how do you approach your subject? Do you say “STOP, smile, look here… CHEESE!!”? As a professional, I feel the best pictures are unexpected ones. My approach is definitely less traditional, but I feel you’ll see more chemistry or family-love in pictures that aren’t posed. There’s two ways of capturing “a moment.” The first way is just waiting for the right moment. If someone is taking a picture of your laughing and having a fun time – don’t kill the picture by snapping your head towards the camera with a “oops, I should smile for the camera” reaction. It’ll take work to get out of this habit, but you’ll get it. The second way to capture a great moment, is directing. For example: tell the kids to run over to Mom and tackle her with a big hug/kiss. What a fun surprise for mom, right? Keep snapping away as the kids run up, kiss/hug her, and even the moments after that. You’ll be able to decide on your favorite pictures from this series later on.
Posed Group Shots
For those few posed group shots you end up taking, have people all pile together how they find themselves most comfortable. Then re-position those who you can’t see or those who look disconnected. Don’t be afraid to have some people sit on the floor, some sit on a chair and some stand. Varying the heights of everyone’s faces will not only allow their face to not be hidden, but you’ll have a more aesthetically interesting image.
Pass the Camera Around
So often there’s just one designated camera-guru in each family. I’d encourage you to pass the camera around. Have mom, dad, brother, sister, auntie, uncle, and even grandparents click that shutter. Different perspectives will lead to a more interesting variety of pictures. Not only will they be taken for different angles, everyone will end up in the pictures.
Don’t shy away from the camera. Even if you FEEL unattractive, un-cute or not worthy of being in a picture, your loved ones will appreciate having these pictures today, tomorrow and 20 years from now.
Tip 3: Play With Your Camera Settings
If it’s a sunny day, and you are taking pictures outside, have the sun behind your subjects. You’ll avoid nasty shadows that take away from people’s facial expressions and also avoid your subjects squinting into the sun. Go into your flash settings and turn your flash ON. This will fill in any shadows the sun is creating. If that’s not possible, pick a shady spot to take your pictures.
Don’t over zoom. Even if your camera has a 30x digital zoom, don’t use it. In my experience, these images will be very pixilated and I’ve always been disappointed with super-zoomed in pictures taken with a point & shoot. Instead, use your legs to get closer with a combination of zooming in just a little.
For close-up shots of faces, a cake, smaller close-up objects, explore your camera’s Macro setting. It’s usually labeled with a Flower. It will help these pictures be more in-focus. But remember to switch back to the Regular mode (usually labeled with a Mountain) for pictures taken more than 8-10 inches away.
Perhaps the most comment question I get asked is “I want to take action shots and my point & shoot just doesn’t have the right setting. What should I do?” If you switch to shutter-speed mode on your camera, you should be able to play with how fast the shutter reacts to your subject. However, you’ll get to a point where a DSLR camera is the only way to improve your action images. Since DSLRs are an investment, there’s some things you may just want to leave to a gear-junkie professional, like me. But try some test shots in shutter-mode. Say you choose 1/400 for the shutter speed – the camera will automatically choose a good aperture setting to compliment that shutter speed.
Tip 4: Very Important! Charge the Battery!
Charge your camera’s battery the night before Mother’s Day. It’s frustrating to use a point & shoot camera that is low on batteries. It will be less responsive… and even worse: it might die right before a fun, monumental moment you want a picture of.
Hope this has been helpful and that you are inspired to get snap happy! Happy Mother’s Day!