Photographing your family, pets and friends at home means adapting your environment to the needs of a photo shoot. Professional photographers rely on in-depth knowledge of their equipment and a thorough understanding of how light behaves, overcoming the challenges of an improvised studio with practiced technique and talent. Studying how your camera works helps you prepare to respond spontaneously to your subjects, as does setting up your scene for maximum impact.
In the Background
Distracting, "busy" backgrounds detract from the subject of your photo. Posed in front of a potted plant, a member of your family appears to have leaves growing out of her head. Professional photographer Marty Davis of the Crown Hill Heritage Foundation warns against starting your photo shoot without examining what lies behind your subject. "The subject should clearly be the focal point, and any distraction, including severe changes in light (bright lights and deep shadows) will diminish the photo," she says, noting that unless you're experimenting or trying a stylized approach, "The background shouldn't be one that creates a backlit situation, thus throwing the family into severe shadows or creating dark silhouettes." To isolate a portrait against a controlled background with enough detail to create interest without distractions, hang an interesting piece of fabric to serve as a backdrop. You can apply it to a wall with painter's tape and remove it when you finish taking your photos.
Use a Tripod
Unless you need to crouch low to photograph a child at her eye level or capture a pet's facial expression, stabilizing your camera on a tripod offers several compelling advantages over handheld shots. First, it helps assure that even in a dimly lit room, when your camera shutter must remain open longer to capture enough light to render a scene, your focus can remain crisp and sharp. "A tripod is a wonderful tool in low light," Davis says. Second, setting up a tripod enables you to trigger your camera in timed-release mode, giving you time to get into the shot and join your family in a group portrait.
Home interiors include multiple types of light sources, each with its own color temperature that produces a different tint to the illumination when you include it in a photograph. "Mixed indoor lighting can be handled by taking a custom white balance reading off of the predominant light source, specifically the light that is falling on the subject," Davis notes. To avoid the color-correction problems that can result when you shoot photography in a setting with mixed light sources on a camera with simpler controls, turn off room lights and rely on natural illumination from a window or door, coupled with fill flash from your camera. Look closely at how the light falls on your subjects. To direct light where you want it to go, use a large sheet of white cardboard as a reflector, or cover it with aluminum foil for even brighter illumination.
Offer your subjects some wardrobe suggestions before they venture in front of the lens. Davis recommends that you "Have your subjects avoid wearing crazy patterns, colors, white or black, or revealing clothing." White and black can make the range of shades in your image difficult to balance. Patterns provide a distraction that you can't simply move out of the picture. Tight or low-cut clothing may prove unflattering, depending on how you compose your shot. To catch spontaneous moments, setting your subjects at ease helps assure that you capture their essence in relaxed poses. Playing music on an audio dock or home theater setup helps set a pleasant mood for photographer and subjects. "Have fun. Smile. Tell jokes to create genuine laughter/smiles," Davis says.
Photo Credits: Describe the Fauna/Demand Media
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