Great family photos and holiday are easier if you take a little time to prepare yourself. Articles like this usually begin with a checklist for equipment, but I’ll save that for the end because I believe that advance thinking and reflection are at least as important as checking equipment. Taking a few moments to think about where you will be, who will be there, and what sort of pictures you want can make a big difference in the quality of your results. Will you have an opportunity to get pictures of people playing games, fishing, boating, sailing, cooking outdoors, or eating together? How might you want to shoot these activities? It might be a good idea to review your camera’s manual with your photo goals in mind, and consider taking it with you if you won’t be shooting at home.
Informal games and activities pop up at outdoor gatherings and I’ll share a few thoughts with you. When I photograph volleyball, softball, or similar activities I track the focus of activity and wait for a moment of excitement. Some digital cameras are slow to respond to a press of the shutter button. Overcome this by tracking the action while keeping the button pressed down far enough to trigger focusing but not far enough to actually take a picture until the moment arrives. Looking upward from a low angle can add excitement to action pictures while keeping background clutter out of them.
Action is part of the fun, and so are the relationships involved. Conversations, cooking, and eating give opportunities for photos to explore them. There is emotional energy along the line between the eyes of people looking at each other that is absent from pictures of people looking at the camera. If people stop talking to look at you and smile, go ahead and get a couple of shots and then ask them to go back to what they were doing while you take a few more pictures.
Bright sun casts strong shadows that present challenges for photographing people. Use fill flash to lessen the impact of shadows in eye sockets, and under chins, hats, and hairdos. Watch out for bright backgrounds and ask the people to move if that’s possible. If not, use flash or a reflector to get good exposures of people instead of only their silhouettes. In general, shots of groups and individuals will turn out better if they will move out of the sun and into shade.
Remember that people gather to have fun and be sure to join it. Pictures of gatherings are for memories and sharing later. The gathering itself is for sharing in real time.
Now let’s turn to the “mandatory” equipment check. Be certain that you have freshly charged and/or spare batteries. Move any previous photos that are still on your memory card (s) to another device so that you have space for new photos and to keep the old ones safe in case your camera is lost or stolen. Clean your lenses according to their manufacturer’s instructions and shoot a few pictures to make sure everything is working right. Find your equipment manuals and consider keeping a tripod nearby. Now return to using a few minutes for thinking about what you want to accomplish photographically. This will anchor the idea in your subconscious. Don’t be surprised if new thoughts emerge.
Thanks for your time and attention.
© 2011, TheDigitalPhotoCoach.com. All rights reserved.