Summer is the time of year to take pictures of the family reunion, your child’s first home run of the season, or your vacation. With great weather, family activities and a little vacation time, summer is one of the best times to get great pictures. Using the tips below will ensure those photos are great ones.
Start with the right stuff – For the close-up and portrait shots, use either a moderate telephoto lens on a digital SLR or the zoom setting on a compact camera in the range of 70mm to 105 mm. A focal length of this size will provide a nice out-of-focus background while keeping the subject in sharp focus. On your digital camera, for the aperture, try shooting at around an f/5.6 or f/4.0 or use the portrait mode on your compact camera. This will also help blur the background and create a soft non-distracting look.
Fill the frame – This advice is just as good now as it has always been. Move close to your subject or zoom in on your subject to fill the viewfinder thereby eliminating distractions that can show up by trying to include too many elements in the photo.
Add context – By doing this, you are showing the subject in their environment. That could be Uncle Henry posed in his wood-working shop or Aunt Mabel working in the garden. Doing this adds another dimension to an otherwise stoic portrait.
Shed some light – If you are shooting under a clear sunny sky, pose your subject in a shady area to eliminate that harsh overhead light, but don’t forget to turn on your fill-flash so you can pop some light into their faces and add that sparkle to their eyes. Otherwise, all you will end up with is an underexposed face of your subject.
Take more than one shot – With group photos, it is hard to get one where everyone is looking at the camera or where everyone has their eyes open. To increase your chances of getting a good shot, take several shots while they are posed.
Avoid eyeglasses reflections – This can create a white reflection when using the flash. To prevent this, have the subject look slightly off to one side when taking the photos.
Outsmart the camera – Some summer scenes can fool your camera’s exposure meter resulting in both the white sand and blue pool water looking gray. Cameras are built to read 18 percent gray or in other words an even mix of white and black. In “average scenes”, this concept works great, but in scenes where there is a large expanse of either dark or light areas, the concept does not work well. You can adjust the reading however, by adding light to scenes having a large expanse of white and taking light out from scenes having dark areas. You can do this by either adjusting the aperture or shutter speed. To add light, either use a smaller number aperture or a slower shutter speed. To reduce the amount of light, use either a larger number aperture of a faster shutter speed.
Capturing action – There are three different ways to capture action. One is to freeze it in place. This is usually done by using a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second or faster. The second is to show it as a blur. This is usually done by using a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second or slower. See sidebar.
The third is to use a technique called panning, where the subject is moving in front of you from one side to the other. In panning, you track the subject in the viewfinder and when it is in front of you, click the shutter. The trick to this is to keep tracking the subject when tripping the shutter. Where most photographers fail in panning is they stop tracking the subject when they click the shutter. The resulting photo will have the subject froze and the background blurred. Panning makes a very appealing photo.
Checklist – Below is a handy checklist to use when going out to shoot photos:
• Batteries – Be sure to have at least two sets of fully charged batteries before leaving home. Invariably, batteries give up about the time you are ready to start shooting.
• Memory cards – Download and erase the shots on the card so that you have the full storage capability available to you before you go. Carry an extra card or two in case you see more photo opportunities than you have the storage capacity to hold.
• Camera protection – With summer, comes the chance of wind, dust and rain. Be sure your camera and equipment is in a protective case to shield out the elements. Water and camera electronics do not mix.
• Lenses – Take a look at the lenses you are taking. Will they meet your needs for this shoot?
• Filters – If I could only take one filter with me on a shoot, it would be a polarizer. This filter will reduce reflections on shiny surfaces, enhance colors, saturate the blue in a blue sky and reduce haze.
When you arrive –
• Set the camera to the highest resolution and leave it there.
• Set the white balance to match the light in the scene.
• Check the ISO setting. Use as low an ISO setting as you can to minimize the effect of grain (noise).
• Determine which lens will work best for a particular shot. If using a compact camera, make sure the mode on the camera is set to the proper setting.
In Closing – Summer is a great time to shoot pictures. Using the information in this article will help preserve those memories whether they are stored in your computer, in an album or hanging on the wall. Happy shooting!