Common Pitfalls of the Family Photographer
In this day and age of affordable photography, you can arm every member of your family with a digital camera. But many of us don’t want to – because then we will have to sit through a slideshow of their horribly taken photographs. Despair not, if people have the same opinion of your efforts, then these simple tips will make you the ‘Designated Family Photographer’ in no time. Here are 7 steps to photographic excellence.
1) Don’t Leave The Wife Behind (Excessive zoom):
Just because your camera features the latest mega-zoom technology does not mean that you need to zoom into every distant mountain, bird and overhead aircraft.
Unless photography is your profession, don’t use the Zoom lens to focus on esoteric subjects and leave your near and dear ones out of the frame. Trust me, if we want to see Ships and Airplanes, we will just use Google Image Search.
As my brilliant Guru Dr. Neeraj Raj advised me, “Use the zoom to capture subjects who will otherwise be disturbed from their natural state.”
Shoot kids, pets using the zoom. Shoot candid. Don’t shoot voyeur.
2) Don’t Give Sister A Flat Nose (Standing too close to subject):
The ubiquitous Point & Shoot (P&S) camera today features DSLR like image quality and features; but the same over-zealous chap behind the camera. These camera’s have a lenses that go from very-wide to extreme zoom in seconds. At their widest, images can have a slightly bulgy appearance. It doesn’t help at all if you get the camera too close to the subject. The bulge exacerbates.
In general, don’t get too close to the subject unless you are trying out macro photography. Broadly speaking, a distance of 4-6 feet from subject ought to produce an image that has a decent composition.
3) Don’t Make Uncle Look Like A Corpse (Using the flash every-time):
The flash is like a matchbox. It can cook your food or burn the house down. Used carefully, flash will remove shadows under eyes, make the image glow uniformly. Used incorrectly, the flash will make your uncle (the one who might leave you something in the will) look pasty and straight out of a horror movie.
In general, when trying flash photography:
- Maintain optimum distance as specified by your flash specification. Try 3-5 feet if you are unsure.
- If your flash has a ‘Fill Flash’ mode or you can change the intensity of the flash, then use a flash of less intensity when standing too close to the subject.
- Use the Fill Flash mode when shooting in bright daylight. This will remove shadows under eyes, chins and in general light up the scene well.
- If you can change the angle of the flash, then point it upwards for a ‘Bounced Light’ effect. This method also lights up the scene uniformly instead of the typical very-bright in front/very dark at back.
- If you cannot change the angle of the flash or have other technical limitations, try and fashion yourself a Flash Diffuser or Flash Bounce Canopy. DIY: Flash Diffuser, DIY: Flash Bounce Card
- If you have steady hands, try shooting without the flash. Read more …
4) Don’t Look Down On The Kids (Shooting at the wrong angle):
How would you feel if someone towered over you and attempted to speak? Would you succeed if you towered over someone and tried to explain them your point? Same rules apply in photography: Maximum honesty is achieved when you communicate with people at their levels. This means that, with kids you need to get on your knees and with your Father-in-law, you need to stand-up on your toes.
As far as possible, shoot subjects at their level. The oohs and aahs are much higher for kids & pets photographs when you get on the ground to shoot them. If your camera has a tilt and swivel LCD display, use it to avoid straining your back or getting dust on your knees. If not, try a vertical view-finder. In a cinch, position the mirror in your wife’s compact at a 45 degree angle to the LCD display to see what your shot looks like.
5) Don’t Emphasize The Vase (Distracting objects in frame):
You know why the Cinema Theatre asks you not point the laser pen at the screen during a movie. Distraction. If you want your image to receive outstanding reviews, then at the time of shooting make sure that there are no distracting elements in the frame.
Glowing light bulbs, mirrors that can reflect flash light, objects in front, bright objects at back – all are typical distractions in a frame. Next time your mother wants you to take a photograph with her wearing the saree that caused your dad to take a PPF loan, position her in such a way she and only she is the subject of the frame. After all, the Rs. 150/- bright red curtain your wife picked ought to be no match to the priceless pale cream chiffon saree that your mother is wearing.
If photographing food, make sure that serving dish is clean. If photographing people, make sure that the TV in the background is off and if photographing your bull-dog, hide the prick.
If your camera allows manual focus / aperture setting for depth-of-field, then use them to blur out the background. A higher aperture setting will require you to hold the camera steady for longer, but blur out the background beautifully.
6) Don’t Use Motion Blur As Effect (Light too low to shoot):
Like it or not, the shutter sound of a Digital P&S Camera is fake. Some camera play the audio before actually shooting, some play the audio after shooting. The bottom-line is that hearing the sound does not mean that image has been captured.
In low-light scenarios, the camera shutter needs to remain open longer than usual and images will turn out to be blurry if either you or the subject moved before the shot was completed. For best results, when shooting indoors or shooting at evening, hold the camera still, allow the camera to focus on the subject by pressing half-shutter (Half Shutter: Gently press the shutter button till it makes contact with the circuit and the camera starts focusing) and then apply slightly more pressure to take the shot. Don’t move till the image has been captured and shows up on the LCD as preview.
7) Don’t Drive On The Center-line (Use the rule of thirds):
It is said by those who know, that when composing a shot, try and keep the subject on the 1/3rd or 2/3rd line.
Imagine drawing a tic-tac-toe board on the camera LCD display. Now try to frame the shot where your subject is always on one of the lines. If shooting the wife, keep her on the left line or the right line. If shooting the sea-sky, keep the horizon on the top line or the bottom line. Avoid half-and-half. Only cops shoot photographs with you in the center of the frame.
Most digital camera feature a ‘grid’ display to aid you in using the Rule of Thirds while shooting.
Photography, like any other art form is defined by a whole lot of rules and un-defined by your creativity. Only follow a few logical ideas and get set to be known as the ‘photographer of the family’.