Britt Anderson Photography » North Shore and Lake County, IL Child, Senior, Engagement and Family Portrait Photographer

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How to Turn Your So-So Shot into a Beautiful Portrait

So I have posted a couple Snapshot Tuesdays. I had a few people mention to me, why don’t my snapshots look that good?

Ok, I know it isn’t really fair…because even if they are my snapshots, I do have some experience that allows my snapshots to be brought up a notch. You don’t need a fancy, professional camera to get quality everyday shots of your children or family though. Here are a few tips that anyone can use to help improve their snapshots.

1. Get down to their level. You may have to crouch down (this is why photographers dress a bit more casual, you never know where we may be laying down to get the shot). This works for adults too…you always look slimmer when the camera is slightly above your subject (can we say double chin?). Besides, do you really want to be looking up someone’s nose when you look at a photograph?

2. Look at your background. Nothing throws off a photograph more than a busy, distracting background. Unless it adds a purpose to a shot (swinging on a swing, holding a flower) try to get rid of anything that doesn’t add to a shot. You may have to move around a bit to ensure that there is nothing in the way. It is ok to take some time to find the right spot.

3. Turn the camera. Yes, turn the camera on its side….take some vertical shots! (They do make vertically oriented frames ;) ) Play around with the angle, see if you can make the shot more interesting by rotating the camera. But be careful…turn it too much and it suddenly looks as if Johnny is falling out of the frame.

4. Focus. This is more than just making sure that the red light goes off and you hear the beep of the camera telling you that it has completed the focusing part of the experience.

What do you want us, the viewer to be focused on? Studies have shown that when looking at a photograph, the eye will not go to the middle of the image first. So why is it that we put our subjects right in the middle of the picture? Imagine there is a tic tac toe board in your viewfinder. Where those lines intersect is where our eyes will go to first. So try and put your subject in one of those four points (more importantly, the eyes since that is what we REALLY want to see).

5. Watch your light. The ideal times to take a picture is first thing in the morning, or right before the sun goes down. The light is just gorgeous at these times, and you are less likely to get those harsh shadows. If you shoot during the day, an overcast sky is a dream come true (again, no harsh shadows and less likliehood of getting squinty eyes). However, if you are shooting where there is a lot of sun, look for some shade! If not, turn your subject and see where the light hits them best. The sun behind your subject is tough because you are likely to have a dark subject and a bright background.

6. Flash…don’t do it. Ok, this is an unrealistic suggestion many times….particularly inside when there is rarely enough light…but I will say it anyway. Go outside. :) If you can’t do that…try and keep as far a distance from your subject as you can when using a flash. It will be less harsh. Also, try and keep as far a distance between your subject and the background…again, less harsh. And oh yeah, don’t use the flash :) One exception, sometimes, when you are outside on a bright sunny day, you may want to use it.

“On a bright sunny day??? Um, hello? Isn’t it bright enough?”

Uh, yeah….actually too bright….so if you were to have your subject turn towards the sun, they would be blinded. So you turn them away from the sun, and suddenly they are too dark (see suggestion 5). So you turn on that flash. It magically will brighten your subject so it matches the background.

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  • Renee Whiting

    Words of wisdom spoken from a true professional!

  • ~Jen~

    What a great post!

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