Family Pictures – Getting Better Ones!

There are times that you need a Professional Photographer. Family vacations or weekend barbecues are not among those times. For those times you still want good pictures – good enough to share with family and friends and on your social sites. There are some common mistakes I see all the time and they will ruin your pictures. Here are some of them:

1-  Pictures are out of focus and blurry.  You see these all the time on Facebook. The subject in the picture could be aunt Sophie or is it another guest at the barbecue?  Most people look through the viewer or at the screen on the back of the camera or their iPhone and press enter, hoping it will turn out OK.  When using your camera, press the shutter button half way and it will focus on your subject. Staying steady, press it the rest of the way and you will be rewarded with an in-focus picture. If you are using your phone camera, you will usually get a small box overlaying your subject as you hover your finger near the phone. Hold the phone steady and quickly tap the button. For selfies, you may not get this box.

2- Foreign object in your picture.  One thing to be aware of when taking a picture – what is in the background? You may have a lovely picture of your Mom or Dad but your Dad has a tree or a telephone pole growing out of his head or Mom has a spikey plant as a halo.

3-  You have heads cut off.  Compose your picture.  Know what you are taking a picture of. If you are taking pictures of some friends, check to see if they are all in the picture AND you are not cutting off any heads. It is a lot easier to identify people when they still have their heads. If they don’t all fit you have a few choices. Ask them to move closer to each other, form two rows, zoom out or if you are too close move further away but be sure you can still recognize them. Hold steady when pressing the shutter button so that what you see is what you get.

4- The people are so small they are hard to recognize.  Learn how to Zoom. Some cameras have a picture of several trees to designate a wider angle and one tree to show you are zoomed in. Read your manual if you don’t know where the zoom control is. Fill your frame with your subjects. If there is a field or park behind them, focus just on them and a small amount of background.

5- Your subjects are all squinting.  If they are facing the sun, they will have to half close their eyes to look at the camera. You may also get deep shadows around the eye sockets, making their eyes indistinguishable. This doesn’t make for a very flattering picture. Find some shade.

6- Unevenly lit faces. You moved your subjects out of the direct sun and under a tree. This is good IF your shade is even. If the sun is peeking through the leaves their skin may appear to be mottled. Either find even shade or use a flash, but not too close so their faces look natural.

7- Beach pictures look like silhouettes. If you are trying to get pictures of people in front of a beautiful Florida sunset, remember that the light is behind them. Their faces are dark and you can’t tell who they are. This is a time for using your flash. Stand back a little so the flash doesn’t blow out their facial features. You will be rewarded with good pictures of them AND a beautiful sunset.

8- People in group pictures are hidden. When you try to get a nice picture of family or friends, people in the back are blocked by those in front. Stagger them so that shorter people are up front but make sure there is enough room between them for those in back to fit in. Just because they can see you doesn’t mean that their whole faces show. Take at least two shots of each pose. There is always someone who blinks

9- Children have artificial unattractive smiles.  When taking kids pictures, don’t tell them to smile. They tend to put on an exaggerated false “cheese” smile. Tell them to think of something fun or remind them of something they have been playing at so they will relax. You want a natural, happy pleasing smile.

10- Your subjects are looking everywhere except the camera.  If you have several people taking the same shot, take turns so the subjects know where to look. This is especially true at functions like a wedding or special party. When I shoot a wedding, I ask the friends to wait until the professional pictures have been done. Last minute distractions can ruin some very good pictures. Your subjects should be looking at your camera. As you focus on them, they should be focused on you.

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