One of my friends asked me how to take better photos for his Europe trip. He WAS already in Europe and asked me via Facebook messaging. What setting should he use? Portrait, macro, landscape, night or auto? I said auto (lazy answer, I know) and laughed out loud. Seriously, I don’t know how to give a crash course on how to take better images under pressure and through Facebook.
If you are that friend and reading this entry, I really didn’t mean to laugh. Sorry!
I was not born with an eye and talent for photography (or any other talent for that matter) unlike others who excelled at it as soon as they held their first camera. For me, it took years of learning, participating in workshops and practice.
If you are interested to learn how to use a DSLR and rock that big camera, I highly recommend Photoworks Academy by Leo Castillo. I took this workshop three years ago and is my foundation for photography. I was featured as a graduate here and here. Leo is a great photographer AND teacher. There are many people who excel at something but cannot and do not know how to teach it. Leo does both really well. I went into that workshop knowing nothing about using a DSLR.
I took several other workshops but I don’t want to bore you to death with the details. I must mention though that I attended Karen Russel’s workshop over at Snapshots of a Good life. I absolutely loved her online workshop.
First, learn how to use the camera, then learn about light. Photography comes from the greek words photos meaning light and graphe meaning drawing or lines. Photography means drawing with light. I googled that!
If you don’t want to take a photography workshop (I highly recommend taking one though, I promise Leo’s isnt for aspiring pros only), read my blog as I will be sharing tips on how to take better photos of your kids. As I mentioned, I cannot teach under pressure so I will sharing one tip at time with examples. DSLR not required! A camera phone or a point and shoot will work.
If you ask my camera settings, I will gladly share them. I got an email from a blog reader once (a total stranger) who asked how I do my backlit shots. He mentioned that he could not get the same effect. I replied with an explanation and never got an acknowledgement or a simple thanks. Boo! Shame on him and his parents!
I moved past it though and will still share here. If you benefit though from my tips (or even get a good laugh with my writing skills) please leave a comment or send me an email. Just for me to know that my effort isn’t wasted. If you wish to send a photo in which you applied a tip I shared, feel free to share it with me via email.
All the tips I will be sharing in this series of blog posts are not my own and will never claim them to be. These are from different workshops I attended and books I read through the years. I practiced a lot too. These are the tips that worked for me and made my images better.
To start off this series, I will start with mergers. AVOID MERGERS! What are mergers? Mergers are objects or people that merge with your subject. Look through your screen or viewfinder (all around the screen) and identify anything or anyone merging with your subject.
In this photo, Sophia (my subject) has horns sticking out of her head (the cabinet handles). It looks silly and is very distracting.
To improve this photo, I would could change my shooting angle (e.g. shoot from above), move my subject or change the direction Sophia was facing. I could not remove the cabinet handles so I decided to move Sophia to a cleaner background.
These are the cabinets in my condominium unit. Initially I placed her in front of the cabinet handles on the right.
I moved her in between the two sets of handles and this is the resulting photo.
It is so much better right?
Here is another example. The bunny was coming out of Sophia’s head. Note that this does not apply to heads only. It can be mergers with any part of the body. For the sake of simplicity, ignore the lines from the window blinds first (they are actually mergers too). Lets tackle this one at a time.
Believe me I see a lot of these photos in Facebook and I am guilty of this too sometimes. I removed the bunny to get this.
I added back the bunny but let her hold it instead.
Let’s head outside for another example. Can you spot the merger?
If you answered, the pointed lamp sticking out of her head, you’re right! If not, look harder! Is there anything else that looks like a merger?
I simply asked Sophia to move to her right (camera left) to avoid the merger. I could also change my shooting angle but my subject was getting bored with me. The quickest solution was to make her move. These were the images.The thin grassy looking leaves (camera left) still look like mergers though but these look so much better than the previous image. I still wanted to improve on this but my subject was getting impatient.
This simple tip will definitely improve your images even without a DSLR.
Don’t forget to send me your images! Or if you have any photography related questions, I may be able to help.