Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tips for Better Portraits from Katrina Anderson

Hi everyone! I'm so excited to be guest posting here at Bloom. Emily and I have known each other since the tender age of four, and I couldn't be happier that she and Anne have launched this new adventure. Now a little about moi... My name is Katrina Anderson, and I am a child and family photographer, with the occasional wedding thrown in for good measure. We recently moved from Chapel Hill, North Carolina to Salt Lake City, Utah. I am also a wife, mom, and step-mom. You can see more of my photography here and find my personal blog here.

I know how important it is to capture your family, especially when quickly changing little ones are around. We all take pictures to record our lives and the people in our lives. We like to have that visual, tangible memory. Like many of you, the people I photograph most often are my family members... especially my kids. People are my favorite subjects to photograph. While it's true I've taken a lot of pictures of my roses this year and enjoy a landscape every now and then, people are still the most interesting... and the most challenging. But they remain the reason why I picked up a camera in the first place, and the reason why I keep picking up my camera every day.

Today I'm going to give you a few tips on how to take better portraits. You don't have to have a fancy camera to take good pictures. (Although I won't lie, fancy cameras do help.) But I hope these tips can help you, no matter your skill level, better capture the people you love.

I'd like to emphasize that I am a mostly self-taught photographer, which means most of this I've just figured out on my own by taking LOTS and LOTS of photos. I bought my first DSLR just over a year ago, so I'm definitely still learning and improving every day. Which brings me to your first tip....

1. Take lots of photos! With digital cameras, you can take 50 photos in order to get a handful of good ones. One of the best ways to get better is to PRACTICE. So take lots of pictures and you'll start to figure out what works and what doesn't. As you improve, you'll find that you start getting good photos faster and won't need to take so many.

2. Get to know your camera. Pull out your manual and read it! There is still so much that my camera can do that I haven't explored yet. Don't get too bogged down with technical stuff, but try to understand the basics of your camera and how it can help you.

3. It's all about the eyes. As long as the eyes (sometimes you can get away with just one) are in focus, it doesn't really matter how soft the focus is in the rest of the photo.

Photobucket
Photobucket

4. Catch the light. The best photos have light in the eyes. It helps people look alive. How does one catch the light? Well if you start paying attention, you'll notice that we almost always have a sparkle in our eyes because eyes are so reflective. Once you're paying attention to the light in your subject's eyes, you'll probably automatically start getting better pictures of it. Try practicing by taking pictures of your favorite loved one in front of a window.

Photobucket
Photobucket


5. Get close. When taking portraits, try getting as close as your camera will let you still take a focused photo. Obviously, you don't want to do this for every picture you take... but try it out. It's nice to really see a face up close. (And this is the best way to capture the light in eyes.) If you have a point and shoot, try putting your camera on its Macro setting. This will allow you to get closer to your subject.

Photobucket

6. Move! Instead of taking all your photos standing in front of your subject, try different perspectives. Get down on the ground. Stand on a bench. Have your subject lay on the ground and stand above them. Shoot from the side. The more you move around, the more interesting your photos will look.

Photobucket
Photobucket


7. Turn off your flash. "Flashy" pictures are no fun. It takes away all the depth and shadow from your photo. Sometimes you don't have enough available light and you have to use a flash, but for the best portraits... get in front of a window or get outside. However, if you are inside and trying to take pictures of your kids playing, you may have to use your flash, or else you'll get a very blurry picture.

Photobucket
Photobucket

8. Early morning and evening provide the best light. When the sun is lower in the sky, you get "magic hour". Everything looks better. I usually always schedule photo sessions for early evening or late afternoon.
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket

9. It's ok to have the sun be behind your subject, especially if its the middle of the day. This way the sun isn't shining in their eyes. And they get a nice glowy light around the edges. The down side to this is that sometimes the subject is too dark. But if you are close enough this shouldn't be too big of a problem.

Photobucket


10. Another option for sunny days is to take the picture in open shade, like under a big tree. This filters the light and evens out the shadows.

Photobucket
Photobucket

11. Remember the Rule of Thirds. Don't get stuck with always centering your subject. Here is Wikipedia's (I heart Wikipedia) definition:

The rule states that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections. Proponents of the technique claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering the subject would.


This is fail proof way to compose your image. BUT you don't always have to follow it. Here is another site I found that explains it well and gives examples.

Photobucket
Photobucket

12. Don't forget about cropping. I've gotten better about composing and cropping my images as I take them. But cropping afterward is perfectly ok too. Think about the photo as a whole composition. Thoughtfully consider how you are filling your frame.

Photobucket
Photobucket

13. Don't ignore your background. Simpler is better.

Photobucket
Photobucket

14. If you want to improve your "eye" study other photographers work and go check out some art books from the library. Pay attention to how artists compose their paintings. Learn about color and line. This is the part that is hard to teach, but the more you expose yourself to good art, the more you will understand what makes a beautiful composition.

I'd love to hear any tips or questions that you might have. Leave a comment or you can email me at redbeanphotoATgmailDOTcom. Now go practice!

Thanks, Em and Anne for letting me be part of Bloom!

-Katrina

Thank you, Katrina! Your work is eye-candy. And these are such helpful tips to keep in mind.

Just a little housekeeping p.s. -- we still haven't heard from the Cozy Rosie's giveaway winners. Erica Wyatt and Rachel (who said "the vintage letter cards are my favorites), please e.mail us with contact info so Cozy Rosie's can get your goodies sent out to you in plenty of time for Halloween. If any of you reading this know either of these gals, please let them know! If we don't hear anything by tomorrow we'll select two new winners.

Also, don't forget to submit your photo for the contest (don't know what I'm talking about? Read about it HERE). We'd love to have lots of participation for this, so help us spread the word by telling your friends! Thanks.

5 comments:

Linds said...

Great suggestions and gorgeous pictures. Thanks!

Joan said...

OoooHHHhhh! What fun! I cannot say enough about the little red headed girl: the crisp green and rich brown colors, her perfectly braided hair, her candid smile, and the bright blue glow of her eyes! WOW. Well done, Katrina.
Thank you for sharing your tips with us. I am anxious for "Santa" to bring me a fancy schmancy camera :) keep your fingers crossed, K?
Ps: are any of those babies your Ascher? (sorry if I misspelled his name).

Katrina said...

Yes, Asher is the baby under #4 and also the baby in the daisies under #8. I could have filled the post with Asher pics but thought I'd have more variety. ;-)

Katrina said...

Oh and he's also the second pic under #3!

families are forever said...

THANKS FOR THE TIPS!