Creative Child

Better Family Photos in Seven Easy Tweaks

by Erin J. Bernard on Dec 11th, 2015

More Photo Tips

Stop tilting. Tilting your camera forward, backward and to either side to cram every desired element into the frame feels efficient, but in truth, it distorts objects and people in often-unflattering ways. Capturing pictures at odd angles might strike you as artsy, but it rarely produces a high-quality photo. So watch the wild and wacky angles, move your body instead of the camera, and keep those horizons hewed to a flat, even plane.

 Stop Tilting

Ditch the flash. Yes, flashes are a necessary evil in very low light situations. And yes, professional photographers use them to fantastic effects. But when unnecessarily or improperly, flash leads to shiny, washed-out faces and faded background details. As your skill improves and you upgrade your equipment, you might consider taking a basic photography class covering the principles of flash photography. Until then, use natural light when it’s available, moving your subjects into better lighting whenever practical, and engage the flash only when absolutely unavoidable.

Learn to watch light. Light can create an incredible variety of photographic moods: low light is mysterious and subtle, while early morning and early evening light bathes subjects in a soft, flattering glow. Bright daylight is shadowy, strong and sometimes harsh. When you’re out shooting photos or even just taking a walk around the neighborhood, study the light around you. Note how quickly it shifts and changes, note what those changes do to people’s faces, and keep what you’ve learned in mind next time you decide to schedule some family photos.

Learn to Watch Light

Become a human tripod. Frustrated by consistently blurry photos? It’s not entirely your fault. When a scene is low lit, a camera’s shutter stays open longer to suck in every bit of available light. And as it’s very difficult for the human hand to remain perfectly steady, this creates wobble and blur. Mitigate this effect by using your body as a tripod when light is poor: brace yourself against a sturdy object, then tuck your arms against the sides of your torso and chest, elbows in, holding the camera close to your body. Your curves will create a natural “shelf” that minimizes wobble (women have a special advantage here). How to get your squirmy subjects to hold still in the meantime? If only I knew!

To see some of Erin’s portraits, visit www.erinjbernardphotography.com.

Related Articles: Parenting: Documenting Your Child's Life with Instagram

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Erin J. Bernard is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer from Portland, Oregon. Before becoming a writer, Erin worked as a nanny and an ESL classroom teacher. She taught English at a Montessori school in Mexico and then ran an after-school language program in South Korea. Erin is the editor of the parenting guide, “Instructions Not Included: A Pediatrician’s Prescription for Raising the Best Kids on the Block,” written by Irwin H. Berkowitz, MD.

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