The summer months invite us to bring out our cameras to capture fun times with our families. Here are some solutions for common problems parents encounter in photographing their children at play in the yard, in the park, or at the beach.
- My photos never look the way I expect. Every time you take a photograph, look carefully at what is in your viewfinder or on the LCD screen. Is your subject too far away? Is there clutter in the background? Is there a pole growing out of someone’s head? Is your child’s face in shadow? Sometimes all it takes is moving to your right or left to get better composition, moving your subject to a different location, or zooming in to cut out unwanted objects.
- How can I take good photos on a sunny day at the beach? This is a tough one! The beach in bright sun is one of the hardest places to photograph because of harsh lighting that creates strong shadows and “owl eyes.” The best times to shoot outdoor portraits are in the first or last hours of sunlight (known as “the golden hour”). At these times the sun is low on the horizon and casts a soft, warm light and avoid the overhead shadows from the midday sun. But to get passable results during the day, try turning on your camera’s flash to fill in the shadows. Also, look for any available shade, such as a cabana or umbrella.
- My photos always look the same. Little changes can shake up your photography. Try photographing from new angles. Get down to eye level with your toddler, or point the lens skyward as your six-year-old climbs the jungle gym. Tip your camera sideways for an edgy look. Come in close to photograph just a part of the face. Experiment with capturing different emotions and special moments. Let yourself go! With digital cameras, all you need is the “delete” button if your creative attempts fail.
- My kids always have silly grins on their faces when I take their pictures. Up until your kids hit the age of four, it’s relatively easy to get nice candid photos, as they will ignore the camera after a minute or so and go back to playing. After the age of five however, the mugging begins! If your child seems perpetually aware of the camera, practice patience. In my experience, just telling them to wipe that grin off their faces never works, and they will keep doing it just to bug you. (Note: They are probably doing this because adults have this misguided urge to tell their kids to “Say ‘Cheese!’”) But if you wait long enough they will need to relax that clown smile just for a moment, and BAM! You are ready to open the shutter. Also, the more photos you take in candid situations, the less attention they will pay to you. That’s the key to relaxed, natural expressions.
- How can I photograph a running child? The key to stopping movement is a fast shutter speed, ideally on a bright day. Dial your camera to the Sports setting, or, if your camera allows it, set it to Shutter Priority at 250/sec or higher. A higher ISO (400 or above) will also help you get a faster shutter speed. Another tip: try “panning.” Set your camera to continuous focus, focus on the subject and then move the camera along (with a gentle sweeping motion) in the direction in which she is moving. Keep the camera moving for a few feet even after you have released the shutter.
- Faces are too dark in a lot of my pictures, even when it’s a sunny day. This is a common problem, and is most apt to happen when the subject is in front of a bright background. That’s because the camera meter is trying to balance skin tone with the brightness behind. As a result, any skin tone can end up looking grayish or muddy as the camera struggles to find the right exposure. Solution: Look for areas to photograph where you don’t have extreme lighting conditions. If possible, move your subjects in front of a background that is a similar tone or darker than your subjects’ faces. Is there a bank of trees nearby that can serve as backdrop? How about the side of your home that is in shade? The key is to avoid a bright spot in the viewfinder that can skew your exposure results.
I encourage you to have fun with your photography this summer. Experiment with lighting, mood, and composition. Shoot lots of frames, and analyze what works and what doesn’t. Your creativity may surprise you!
As a portrait photographer, I find that the landscape is changing for business headshots. People are successfully using more casual photos on sites like Facebook, while sticking to the more traditional business portrait for LinkedIn. Twitter can go either way. Depending on your profession, today’s headshots can be taken in a studio, at your place of business (environmental), or even outside. (You can check out a variety of business headshots on my site.)
These days there’s plenty of room for whimsy and creativity, especially on sites like Facebook and Twitter. But we want to see your face, not an underexposed grey blob or a grab shot of you at a backyard barbecue. Like it or not, people will judge you and your business by the quality of your photo.
Do you need a professional photographer, even for a “casual” photo? Of course, I’m biased on the “yes” side. The key is to have a photo that makes a statement about who you are personally or professionally, and does it with class. That means a well-posed, well-lit, well-exposed image that has attitude and personality. A pro portrait photographer is specially trained in these areas, can give you advice about a makeup artist, will have the ability to retouch your photo, and will provide you with the an image that is the correct file size for your needs.
How often to change your photo? No rule of thumb. If your face is an important part of your brand, you don’t need to change it until YOU change. If you have a creative streak, it’s fun to mix it up fairly often. Just do it with an image that is a strong and positive representation of you and your business!
I got a wonderful surprise today when I was in social networking mode. In perusing my contacts, I saw that client Joy Johnson, marketing guru, had written a fantastic blog post about referrals, and mentioned me! The “me” part aside, it is an excellent article about the true nature of referrals. Check it out at http://tinyurl.com/yzurdum.
Here are some of the headshots that Joy loved (makeup by Lori Johnson):
Great post on publicity headshots by PR guru Sandy Beckwith.
Top Ten Hot Tips for a Great Business Portrait!
1. Get one! If you haven’t been asked for a professional headshot, you will be. It’s just a matter of time. You will need one for your web page, as well as for newsletters, news releases, articles, profiles, brochures and speaking engagements.
2. Hire a professional to photograph you. Office mates or spouses with new cameras don’t count. Fancy cameras and lenses do not a professional make. You have to know how to use them!
3. Recognize the components of a good headshot: A neutral backdrop; A well-fitting simple top/jacket; Professional makeup; Good lighting; A relaxed expression that shows your competence and approachability; A flattering pose.
4. Choose a well-fitting suit and/or blouse that is multi-seasonal with a simple weave. Textures such as tweeds are distracting, and can create an undesired phenomenon of digital artifacts called “moiré”.
5. Wear a solid color. You have a wide range of choices here: Gray, blue, green, purple, red, pink, or beige. Deep grays or navy blues photograph better than blacks. Avoid whites or very light pastels.
6. Have your makeup applied by a professional who understands studio lighting. Strobes can wash out your features, so extra enhancement is important. For both men and women, a good foundation powder can smooth the skin and reduce glare.
7. If you bring a friend, have him or her wait in another room. An extra pair of eyes may distract you during the session. The relationship between you and the photographer is a key element in making a successful portrait.
8. When posing, turn your body a quarter turn away from the camera. Then gently turn your shoulders and head back towards the lens. This pose avoids the straight-on mugshot look. Leaning forward slightly from the waist will elongate your neck and give you a welcoming look. Both good things!
9. Imagine that the lens is your best client. Welcome that client with your eyes. Think of the relationship you have with this person. This exercise will make your energy become outer-directed and add approachability and warmth to your portrait.
10. Recognize the value of a communicative, beautifully lit business portrait. You deserve the best when it comes to your professional image!
Contact Gretje Ferguson Photography at 781-461-9202 to schedule your business portrait session.
I’ll be speaking at a meeting of Women Attorneys Network of the South Shore on May 7 at the boutique clothing store Lyn Evans for Potpourri Designs in Hanover. My topic will be Putting your Best Face Forward for Business Photo Ops. Sharing the program is my buddy and colleague Lori Johnson of Your Best Image, who will discuss dressing for court, client meetings, and after-hours gatherings.
Want to know more about the business portrait process? See my article on business headshots, which was just accepted by E-Zine.com.