While I'm at it, I'm going to give you some of my favorite photography tips that may help you when you're taking your own photos. With a few simple tricks, you can take professional-looking photographs of your family without having to pay someone else to do it, or invest in a lot of expensive equipment.
Now, that camera's a bit pricey and has lots of bells and whistles for the gadget-crazy, so if you're not that type, you may want something a little more basic. This is my other camera, a point and shoot:
It's a nice little camera, has lots of cool features (including taking short videos!), and is much more affordable and portable.
You might find this book helpful too - it doesn't have a lot of technical information for your camera, but it does help you know what to do in many different situations to improve your photographs. It has a lot of good examples and photos in it too.
At any rate, here we go:
My Best Photo Portrait Tips1. Read your camera manual. This should be a no-brainer, but I suppose it's like stopping to ask for directions -some people just won't do it. But this should be your first stop. Read through your manual while holding your camera, and explore all of the features as it explains them. The more familiar you are with your camera and its features and settings, the more prepared you will be when the perfect photo op comes along. There's nothing worse than missing an important moment because you can't figure out where the right button is.... OK, well, there are many things worse than that, but you know what I mean.
2. Turn off the flash. In my opinion, this is the tip that separates the professionals from the amateurs. This would be my number 1 tip, but if you haven't read your manual, you won't know how to do this. I cannot begin to tell you how much I despise the effects of flash on a photograph. It flattens everything out, eliminates all shadows (except for the GIANT one directly behind the subject on the wall - not flattering at all), removes all atmosphere and feeling from the photo, and gives people that deer-in-the-headlights look. Not to mention red-eye. Ick.
Flash photographs scream "snapshot." Now there's nothing wrong with snapshots, and sometimes you are forced to use flash if you're in very low light or are trying to stop movement. But if you're setting up a portrait, TURN OFF YOUR FLASH! You'll be amazed at the results from doing this one, simple thing.
3. Use side-lighting whenever possible. Positioning your subject next to an open door or a window gives BEAUTIFUL lighting. When light is coming from the side, it sculpts the subject's face and gives it a 3D quality that head-on lighting (such as a FLASH) eliminates. You can set up your own little studio in your home - next to an open garage door on a sunny day is perfect! Simply add a backdrop, and you're ready to roll! The photos below were taken by an open garage door with a simple black sheet draped across some shelves for the backdrop.
Or, the scaled-down version for non-professional use (all you really need):
One of my favorite features is being able to convert photos to black and white or sepia...
But edit judiciously. I think the photo below loses a lot by being converted to black and white - you don't see those beautiful blue eyes or that stunning red dress!
5. Look for quality-light. The best lighting by far is natural daylight. It gives the most natural colors and is the most flattering. Second best is tungsten (the traditional lightbulb). Tungsten gives a warm, golden glow that is generally flattering, warm, and homey-looking. Then you have fluorescent... in a word, ghastly. And those horrendous corkscrew-looking energy-efficient bulbs??? Also ghastly. Do yourself a favor and get rid of them (they contain toxic mercury anyway - so much for the environment!) - they're making you look seasick in your photos! If you need to use extra lighting inside, position a lamp (with a tungsten bulb in it!) to one side of your subject, turn off your flash, and use a tripod.
And now... the most fantastic lighting secret known to man....
"The Golden Hour"
Twice a day, on pretty days, God sends photographers a special gift - what I like to call the "Golden Hour." It's a brief period of time shortly after sunrise or before sunset when the sun is low on the horizon, and it "side-lights" the world - absolutely beautiful! I call it the Golden Hour because it casts a golden glow on the landscape (or your subject), and long, beautiful shadows. While it's wonderful for landscape or architectural photography, it can be a little harsh for portraits (squinty eyes and such). However, it can give you some beautiful "atmospheric" portraits-in-landscapes, such as the photo below from Williamsburg, VA.
Notice how everything looks as if it's glowing and warm, and the man's shadow is stretched all the way across the yard? That's all from the lighting! Taking photos either in early morning or late afternoon will give you this effect. (Incidentally, prints from this photo and the painting it inspired are available for purchase on my website, click here to shop.)
Adding a favorite toy or dress-up prop can also add a lot to the portrait and can capture some great memories of current interests and hobbies.