taking pictures

Expert Advice on Taking Great Pictures This Summer

June 2, 2011 at 4:32 pm , by

Now that weddings, reunions and other summer events are upon us, why not sharpen your shutterbug skills to better capture those moments? National Geographic photographer and expert in the field, Jim Richardson sat down with me to prove you don’t have to be a professional to take professional-looking photos, and offered some advice on how to make your summer snaps, well, snappier…Flint Hills

Don’t invest money in a new camera. Invest time in the one you’ve got. “The type of camera probably won’t improve the picture very much, but your knowledge of how to use it will,” advises Jim. Save your money, and learn the different settings and features on a camera you already own – this way, when a photo-worthy moment presents itself, you won’t be stuck trying to decipher those tiny menu buttons.

Stash your flash. These days, many photographers, civilian and professional alike, are opting NOT to use their camera flash in favor of rich-looking natural light. “There are flash pictures that are done really well, but they are rare compared to the beautiful look of the natural world,” according to Jim. Digital cameras are especially adept at snapping no-flash pics since they can capture images in darker settings than film.

Worry less about lining everyone up perfectly. We’ve all been in or taken one of these shots; it’s an eternity before you get everyone lined up and looking in the same direction, and by then they might be saying words less friendly than “cheese.” While these types of pictures act as a good record of attendees, Jim’s advice is to “include the personality of real life into your pictures – the children running, or your uncle falling asleep, or the champagne spilling. Capturing the candid moments helps to preserve the real memory.”

Practice strength in numbers. One way to sharpen up your photo collections is to simply take a lot more pictures, knowing plenty will get deleted (like that random picture of someone’s shoe or the baby that turned away as soon as you clicked). Digital cameras of course allow you to do this without the added cost of film, but the principle rings true for either format. By saving the editing process for later, you can capture the full scope of the event and distill it into the images that best convey the story.

Think you’ve got an award-winning photo on your camera? Jim is a judge in the 4th Annual Energizer Ultimate Photo Contest accepting entries until June 30th, the Grand Prize Winner of which will receive the trip of a lifetime.

Photo courtesy of Jim Richardson.

Mom-a-razzi: Getting the Shots

October 1, 2009 at 10:31 am , by

Picture 2My brother, an avid photographer, recently turned me on to this term: mom-a-razzi. This is a photo obsessed parent who stalks her children 24/7 in order to take gallery-quality pictures. And I am guilty as charged.

I find the idea of photo studios very intimidating. The concept that my kids are going to be happy, on their best behavior, and having a good hair day when they’re in a strange place, at the SAME TIME (!!!) seems impossible to me. So instead, I always keep a camera with me, in my pocket, at the ready. And believe me, there are a lot of bad pictures taken just to get the one good one but when it all comes together, it’s like magic.

Case in point, two-week old Sophia sleeping with her Daddy (see above)

I had just finished feeding her in bed and she fell asleep. I could see from my side of the bed that it’d be a great shot but only if it was taken from above. So, I quietly sneaked away, grabbed the camera, and then stood on the bed over them.  I don’t think I could have styled the duvet with wrinkles so perfect. It’ll go down in history as one of my favorites.

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Lily on the lounge chair
I love taking a series of pictures when the kids are in good moods. Sometimes I end up with one perfect one, sometimes none, sometimes twenty. This was one of those twenty times.  The morning light was great so I took her outside and sat her on a lounge chair that I had covered with a white towel. I had to stay close because she wasn’t a perfect sitter-upper yet. I got tons of good ones – it was almost too hard to edit!

My tips for taking great pics of your kids:
We’ve all heard the classic tips before (1. get down on their level, 2. get really close, 3. use natural light, 4. make interesting cropping choices, etc.) but here are some more this self taught mom-a-razzi has learned:

5. Make sure you clean their faces. I can’t tell you how many good pics were not great pics because they have a big booger stuck in their nose.

6. Our Photo Director, Clare, who spent 10 years doing shoots at Parents magazine says, “Don’t always look for the perfect smiling picture. Sometimes the ones of them playing quietly alone are the ones you’ll cherish the most years from now.”

7. If you want to get a smile: Rather than asking them to say “cheese”, which usually results in a too-big grin, ask them questions that have answers  with “EEE” sounds in them like, “Who loves Dora?” or “Who wants a lollipop?”. Chances are you’ll hear: “Me!” (I learned this one from the child wrangler who worked on our Jon and Kate Plus Eight cover shoot last December, back when they were still a 10-some.)

8. Make sure you clean up the area that’s in the background. A little imperfection makes it “real” but no one wants to see a pair of dirty socks in the background.

Happy shooting!!!

So, tell me…what great pics have you gotten over the years? Please share!