Holiday photo tips from a “been-there-done-that” photographer.
These days, everyone has a digital camera, whether it is a camera phone, point and shoot or a DSLR. Unfortunately for my wallet, I am a hard-core SLR photographer with a large quantity of expensive equipment. Fortunately for me, I have learned how to use it to my advantage. During the Holidays, an invitation to me is usually accompanied by the words “and don’t forget to bring your camera.”
There are millions of rules for photography, but only a few really make a difference to the casual photographer. Note:
Make a list! Before you head off to Grandma’s House, make sure you have all the gear you will need. If you are going “point and shoot” it’s pretty simple – a spare charged battery, and a spare memory card, in addition (!) to the camera. If you are shooting DSLR, make sure you have your lenses, flash unit and other accessories, in addition to the items mentioned. Before you leave home, make sure your gear is cleaned and functional.
KISS! No, don’t hang out under the mistletoe, but “Keep It Simple, Stupid!” The typical “snap shot” photographer tries to get too much into too little space. Limit your subject matter to just two or three people, a shot of the Christmas Tree or a child opening a present – don’t try to cram all of it into one shot.
Don’t pose your shots, people tend to look goofy when trying to pose for the camera. Think casual, and your pictures will look more natural. One trick is to set up and be ready and only then let your subject know that you are going to take their picture, just don’t sneak up on the elderly.
Naturally, Aunt Jane will yell out something like “everybody get together for a picture!” Now, you are stuck and all you can do is make the most of it. Pick a background that is as uncluttered and plain as possible. Have your subjects/victims line up as best you can. What I do to get around “posing” is to tell the group that I am “going to take a few test shots.” Your subjects will still be relaxed and usually those turn out to be the best pictures.
Don’t have whine with your cheese. Never have your subjects say “cheese!” Pronouncing the word pulls the lips into an unnatural looking position – have them say “me!” instead. Saying that gives a much more relaxed and natural look. If your camera does not have a “red-eye” elimination function, have your subjects look towards a bright light for a second before shooting the picture. Red eye is a reflection off of the fundus at the back of the eye – looking into a light will cause pupils to contract, eliminating the sinister “glowing eye” effect.
If you absolutely, positively have to take formal pictures, do it right. That means studio lights, backdrops, scrims, tripod, remote shutter release, stands, reflectors, portrait lens. Shooting portraits is not easy in a non-studio setting, especially if you seldom take that kind of picture.
Fire away! You are shooting digitally, so you don’t have to worry about running out of film, processing costs, etc. Check your “work” periodically on your LCD screen, deleting really bad shots as you go. Adjust your settings as necessary. When you get home, you can process your haul with Photo Shop or another computer software program. Even the most basic program can crop, light and color correct and touch up. I regularly remove zits, stains and mud from photos. Recently, I put my granddaughter’s missing tooth back in using PS.
If you are at the office Christmas Party, try to get a shot of your Boss hitting on the lady from Accounting – it may come in handy during your next performance review.
If you are interested, I will be “hanging out” today and tomorrow if you have a specific question. I’ll try to answer promptly to the best of my ability .
William Stephenson Clark