Photography tips for beginners. Lesson 3 – Making your images pretty

Disclaimer: This is meant to be a fun and simple series of blog posts aimed at photography beginners, parents or anyone interested in taking better portrait photos. I do not claim to be an expert and if you see any mistakes please feel free to set me on the right path (politely).

In lesson 1 we talked about: Drawing attention to your subject and away from the background.

In lesson 2 we talked about: Some simple photography rules to follow (or break).

Lesson 3 – Today we are going to have a little look at a few random tips to help make your images beautiful.

1. Golden hour shooting: Shooting in the afternoon in the hour before sunset or in the morning in the hour after sunrise creates softer, “magical” light, interesting shadows and makes your images pop. Shooting in midday sun can give harsh, flat or unflattering lighting if not used properly. There is so much you can do with “golden hour” light – that’s why we love shooting in it! Take a look…

golden hour sun flare brisbane

Golden hour sun flare.

golden hour shooting brisbane

Golden hour partial silhouette, rim lighting.

golden hour shadows brisbane

Golden hour – creating shadows. Same location and pose as last image but shot differently.

golden hour silhouette brisbane

Golden hour – silhouette and sun peeking through the tree.

2. Don’t use your in-built flash if possible. Try to utilise natural light if possible. Put your subject right next to a window for maximum light if you are inside in a darkish room.

3. Adjust your white balance – Even point and shoot cameras these days have the option to do this. The white balance tells you camera kinda what colour/tone everything should be. If it is set incorrectly you could be getting really bad oompa loompa skin tones (orange). If you are shooting in cloudy circumstances, choose the “coudy” setting and the camera will make your images warmer (more orange/yellow), if you are shooting indoors with the lights turned on then choose the “tungsten” setting which will cool down your images. This can also easily be corrected in a simple post editing program… you might already have one that came with your camera. Just have a play around with the settings and try to make the skin colour look as close to normal as possible. Read more about white balance here.

white balance correction example

Example of different white balance corrections.

4. Try not to condition your kids to “smile for the camera” or “say cheese”, you will always and forever get those cheesy unnatural smiles. Unfortunately I have recently realised that this is nearly impossible. I have been actively avoiding saying cheese since my son was born. However recently it is all he says… he even takes selfies with the phone! Now I’m not pointing any fingers but it might be helpful to let your husband/significant other in on this little tip as well. Try sneaking up on your children when they are playing and get some lifestyle type shots. Take shots of their faces when dad comes home from work. Anticipate when they are going to be happy and smiling and have your camera ready. They don’t have to be smiling all the time in photos either… a natural face can be just as cute…

natural face portrait - non smiling

My son Hayden.

5. Shoot from different perspectives or behind things – leaves, trees, bushes, material or other interesting things. Get up high, low, really low, eye level, back, side. Move around and experiment. One of my favourite pieces of equipment I take to shoots is a step ladder so that I can get above my subjects. Lie on the ground and get some of the foreground in the photo. Try to stay away from “shooting up the nose”.

taking photos up the nose - photography taking photos from behind objects taking photos from different perspectives

6. Avoid things sticking out of heads and body’s – e.g. poles, trees, horizons. This one is really hard to get used to, as you have to make sure you look at your surroundings and background each time you go to a new location. Sometimes it’s not obvious until you get the photos home and have a look at the images on the big screen.

tree sticking out of head in photos.

tree sticking out of head in photos

Human reindeer. This is me with my son. Pic taken by my husband.