Darcy’s Top 10 Tips for Better Photos

You know a great photograph offers a priceless way to capture a moment in time. Did you consider that skilled photographers don’t take photos–they make them?

To improve my ability to create unforgettable photos, I’ve been taking various classes this summer from a professional photographer in central Iowa. Here are some top tips I’ve learned that may help you, too:

1.      Stay focused. When photographing a person, always make sure his or her eyes are in focus. When photographing a group of people, especially groups of two to three rows of people, focus on the eyes of the person in the middle of the group towards the front.

2.      Use a telephoto. Ideally, do not shoot at 50 mm. It “swells” your subject’s head and makes people look a litter wider than they really are. A better choice is 70 mm. Best yet? 120 to 200 mm. Also, I have found that the further back you are from the subject (it’s easy when using  a telephoto lens), the more relaxed and comfortable the subject will be.

3.      If it bends, bend it. (Have a person tilt their head slightly, or bend their arm by putting their hand on their hip, for example.)

4.      Follow my hand. Rather than try to verbally direct the subject on how to turn (do you mean your left or my left?), hold up your hand vertically and move it the direction you want the subject to turn.

5.      Hold that pose. Always position women at a 45-degree angle for the most flattering look. Men can be posed within the 45-degree range, left or right, with good results. Also, if your subjects are standing, have them shift their weight to their back foot for a more natural, relaxed look.

6.      Avoid weird cuts. When composing the photo, don’t cut the image at the person’s joints, including their knees, wrists, elbows, or fingers, or the person will look like an amputee.

7.      Mix it up. When shooting a group, don’t have the heads lined up in a row. Mix up the height for visual interest. Also, try to move heavier people towards the inside of the group, rather than having them on the end. This will create a more flattering picture.

8.      Loosen up. To capture a more natural smile on your subjects, talk to them, and watch for facial expressions. Start with simple, basic questions about their hobby, etc. to get them to loosen up.

9.      Adjust the flash. If you have a light-colored wall behind you, try tilting the flash at a 45-degree angle and pointing it towards that back wall. This will bounce a softer light towards your subject. It also helps minimize glare if he or she is wearing eye glasses.

10.  Try some new gear. Consider an inexpensive, mini softbox to attach over your flash. (I bought my mini softbox off of Amazon.com.) The mini softbox works well if you’re shooting a subject outside around noon or mid-day, for example, when harsh shadows and harsh lighting can create challenges.
** Bonus tip: If you’re indoors, look for ways to position your subjects by a window that provides natural side lighting. This can help you create more flattering, better-lit shots without harsh, distracting shadows.

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