7 Ways to Take Better Photos
by Samantha Conner
Photos have always been magical to me. I love how time can be frozen. With a quick click, a memory can be preserved forever. In high school, I took photojournalism. We learned to process actual film in a dark room. Watching my images slowly appear on that glossy white paper got me hooked. Since that time, I have been a ‘documenter’. Our life, our adventures- big and small- they all end up in my camera.
I used to collect all those photos in scrapbook after scrapbook. But the gluing, cutting and stickers became too time consuming. I found myself dreading it. So I started a family blog—a place to preserve the photos and all of our stories. At the end of each year, I print my blog and have it bound into a coffee table book. It’s a great way to ‘save’ memories.
That instant sharing of photos and ideas then led to the creation of my “Crafty Texas Girls” blog. It has become another outlet for me to continue documenting through photography. I think between the two sites, my family blog and my “Crafty Texas Girls” blog, I have taken thousands of photos. But that does not mean I am anywhere near calling myself a professional! Instead, it has been a learning process. Some photos are great, some not so good. But from each photo a little something.
Now, if you are a professional photographer, own the latest version of PhotoShop, or know how to work your camera in ‘manual mode’—this article is not for you. But if you have a decent camera and the desire to capture your family and the moments you hold dear, read on. With a few simple tips, even the most novice photographer can take photos that are ‘frame worthy’.
TIP 1- Turn Off the Flash! Everyone, children, adults, even pets look better in natural light. The flash creates harsh lines and washes out color. Natural light is warm and soft. It illuminates smiles and highlights hair. The best natural light comes just before sunset, around 5pm. But even bright morning sun streaming through a window can look dreamy.
TIP 2- Look Beyond. If you go through your favorite professional photos, you will notice that you actually ‘don’t notice’ the background. No crazy toys, garage doors or distracting cars loom behind the smiling faces. So when it comes time to snap a few photos, take a moment to look around your subject. Can you move a few things out of the way? Or even try moving your subject. Trees, grass, or a simple prop like a chair make for beautiful, interesting photos.
TIP 3- Point of View. Do you usually line your family up and make them smile? Are you always telling your toddler to ‘say cheese’? Then lose the toothy grin and try a new angle. Sometimes only capturing part of the picture can make a big impact. Like a close-up of little hands or feet. Alternately, zoom out. Maybe a ‘larger picture’ tells the story better.
TIP 4- Lose the Color. Looking for a great photo to frame and display? Revisit some photos taken in the past few years. Anything catch your eye? Try having them re-printed in black and white. It is amazing how an average photo can be become artistic just by setting it in black and white. You can do this on any basic photo software or printing labs offer the service too. A wall of black and white framed photos is just about the best ‘art’ money can buy.
TIP 5- Capture the Action. Kids have a hard time sitting still, so why make them freeze for a photo? Instead, grab your camera and just let your kids do what they do best, move! Playful moments in the yard, running on the beach, or splashing in the pool are what childhood is all about.
TIP 6- Rule of Thirds. This is probably my favorite tip because it makes the biggest impact. When you look at your photos, mentally divide the shot into thirds. Choose one third and make sure that is where you put your subject. (Avoid centering the subject of your picture.) If you don’t have a chance to do this while shooting, you can always edit and crop the photo afterwards so it follows the ‘rule of thirds’.
TIP 7- Practice Makes Perfect. The best way to get a great photo is to take a lot them. My computer has over 12,000 photos stored on it. When you take out your camera, shoot a lot. The more photos, the better chance you will capture a good one. We are in the digital age- if you don’t like some of them, just hit delete.
Now go grab your camera and capture some memories!
And in case you are wondering…
- I shoot with a Cannon Rebel.
-I use “Blog 2 Print” to publish my family blog into a book each year.
-My favorite printing lab is MPIX or Costco, because they do not ‘color correct’.
-I like to edit with PicMonkey—it is free and awesome.
-Instagram is my new addiction.
- I back-up my photos weekly with an external drive, crashes do happen!
Samantha Conner: In my “past life” I earned a degree in Education at TCU and taught elementary school. But these days, I am working as a super stay-at-home-mom with a serious craft addiction. During naptime, I am an avid blogger, runner, and nester. My blog is the place where I chronicle my journey in homemaking and sell my fabulous handmade bows, tutus, and hair accessories. Follow my crafting journey at craftytexasgirls.com