Before I started my blog, I was a photographer. Well, I guess I still am, I just don’t do it as a full-blown business anymore. It’s a fun skill to have though because sometimes giving away a free family or newborn photoshoot to new moms is the absolute best gift. I don’t think I would ever pass that kind of gift up, considering that one shoot can cost anywhere between $100-$500.
(Notice how in this photo my daughter is placed off to the side and not directly in the center and the background is telling the story in a clear way.)
In my early years of marriage, before kids, I dabbled in photography and then launched my business right before our first move to Idaho. Our first summer in business we had 8 weddings in 8 weeks meaning we were very busy. Most photographers hate weddings. They say there’s just too much pressure and that they can be too time consuming. I have to admit that’s defiantly true. It’s someone’s wedding day so of course there’s going to be a lot of pressure, and for sure it can be time consuming, but it’s just the nature of the job.
Even though other photographers hated it, I loved it. I think this is because weddings were where I started and got most of my experience even before I launched my business. At the time I lived in Texas and had a friend who had been doing photography for a handful of years and she was kind enough to take me under her wing to show me the ropes. A few times I tagged along with her and was her third shooter. This was just a way for me to get experience and see how the photography side of weddings worked. This was a huge help because it meant that I wasn’t walking into my first official booked wedding completely blind.
I also believe that working in the wedding photography industry also helped me advance my photography skills a bit faster than others. Since weddings are fast paced that means you don’t have a lot of time to stage your clients or figure out the perfect settings in your camera before snapping the picture. So, this means you had to work fast, or you don’t get the shot. This forced me to master where my settings were, how light worked in the photos, what kinds of light worked best, and so much more in order to get the shots I desperately wanted.
(This photo was taken in portrait mode but I want you to notice how the background is clean and the focal point isn’t directly in the center.)
If you’re even the slightest bit familiar with a DSLR camera than you know there are a ton of buttons and if you’re just starting out, then it can be a bit overwhelming. Luckily that’s not what I’m here to talk to you about. Most of you out there don’t even own a DSLR camera or if you do you most likely shoot on auto, so the camera does all the thinking for you. No judgment there. I did that for years before I started diving into photography.
What I want to teach you today is more about the basics of photography in general, so you can take better quality photos no matter what camera you’re using, even if it’s your phone. When I talk about phone cameras I’m going to be referencing the iPhone camera specifically since that’s the one I have. Honestly, I use all Apple products because I’m in love with them. So, let’s dive in.
CLEAN YOUR LENS
First things first, you have to have a clean lens. Think about it. That lens on the back of your phone is constantly being touched or rubbed against things, meaning that when you go to take a picture it may look a little fuzzy. So, take a second and use your t-shirt to clean the lens before taking a photo.
PICK YOUR FOCUS
On the iPhone, and I’m sure other phones too, you can actually pick your focal point just by clicking on the screen. That’s when a little box will appear where you touched the screen and that is your focal point. If you need to change it just tap a different area of the screen and the box will move.
If you notice that the picture is too dark you can drag your finger up and the line beside the box will increase. This will make your picture brighter. If your picture is too bright you can drag your finger down and this will make your picture darker.
USE NATURAL LIGHT
If you can help it, don’t ever use the flash on your iPhone camera. This is going to give you harsh lighting and a horrible quality picture. Trust me don’t do it.
Instead use natural lighting. This way the phone isn’t having to make up for the lack of light by changing other settings which will leave you with a grainy picture. If you’re in doors find a big window or glass door to stand near so you can get as much natural lighting in the photo as you can. Make sure the light is in front of the subject. You want it to hit the face or front of the subject for a clear and bright photo.
If you’re outdoors find a place that has a full shadow, think overcast not cave. If you stand in the direct sunlight you will end up with harsh lighting and dark shadows everywhere in your picture. Ultimately this will take the focus off your subject and leave you with a very low-quality photo.
USE THE RULE OF THIRDS
The rule of thirds is in reference to the position and placement of your subject so that it isn’t centered in the photo. Instead you want the main subject to be placed off to one side, preferably falling into the crease of where you could fold the image into thirds. This helps draw the viewer into your photo instead of just glancing at the center.
With square images, like what you post to Instagram, this won’t always work the best. Sometimes having the subject directly in the center will look better with these types of images than off to the side. Play around with this concept and see what works for you.
To help with this you can access a grid through your settings on your iphone that will pop up on your screen when taking photos. This grid divides your picture into thirds both directions, horizontal and vertical. This helps you easily compose your picture to follow the rule of thirds without having to guess where to place your subject.
To access the grid, go to your settings app and scroll down till you see the camera and click on it. On the next screen toggle the switch next to grid so that it appears green.
MOVE IN CLOSER
When you’re taking photos don’t be afraid to move in close to your subject, even if you cut out parts of it. This helps draw the viewer into the subject and makes for a cleaner and clearer picture. Just make sure you physically move closer to the subject instead of using the zoom on your camera. Using the zoom drops the quality of your photo by a lot.
(Notice how just moving in closer and getting the subject out the direct center makes for a better quality photo.)
EDIT YOUR PHOTOS
Once you have the composition side down make sure you edit your photos. This helps bring out the colors that are already present in your photo. Many apps are available and come with a ton of filters you can use. One filter may work for some photos but won’t with others, so you will have to play around until you find a few you like.
Three pretty popular and user-friendly editing apps that I like are A Color Story, VOSCO, and Snapseed. These are all easy to use and come with different filters you can try and even different filter packs you can buy.
(I want you to notice how just changing the angle made this a better photo. It put the subject into one of the
thirds and cleaned up the distractions. Also notice how just a little editing can make the photo pop.)
One of the most stressful parts of taking photos of your kids is when you try to get them to pose a certain way or hold a specific pose for longer than a millisecond. Doing this means you’re either going to end up with blurry photos or a photo far from what you expect or wanted.
Instead just let your kids play and try to capture the fun and candid moments as they happen. As long as you have good quality natural light, this will result in better photos and less stress.
USE A CLEAN BACKGROUND
This can be a little harder to accomplish if you’re taking photos of your kids, but when possible try to have a clean background. Now I don’t mean clean as in nice and tidy, I mean not too busy. If you have too much going on in the background of your photo, then the focus gets taken off of the subject and leaves you with a busy and distracting photo.
Some easy backgrounds that I use pretty regularly is our backyard fence, white garage door, or distance. If I’m having a hard time getting a clean background I will put more distance between my subject and the background. This will help the background blur a little and make your subject pop.
Just because you don’t have a fancy camera doesn’t mean you can’t take nice quality pictures of your kids, especially with today’s phones and all their capabilities. All you have to do is remember to clean your lens, pick your focal point, use natural light, follow the rule of thirds, move closer to your subject, edit your photos, keep it candid, and to use a clean background. It really can be that simple. Now go have some fun and get to snapping!
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