Tips From a Pro: Be in Control of Your Photo Subjects


Learn how the pros get the most from a sunny summer photo shoot.

Don't be afraid to direct your subject, as you search for the perfect picture.

Ah, the days of summer: backyard barbeques, days at the beach, and wedding celebrations … fun times with family and friends, and a great opportunity to take photos that capture these memories.

Most people think that bright sun is the perfect weather for taking photos, but looking back on your summertime snapshots, you’ll likely notice squinty eyes, harsh shadows on faces, and dark holes where your subject’s eyes should be. These problems all result from the bright, directional light. A nice, evenly-cloudy day actually creates the perfect conditions for photo taking: soft, even light. Since we can’t always photograph under ideal conditions, here are some tips for summertime shooting.

As the photographer, remember that you are in control of your subjects as well as the location. If it’s a bright sunny day, don’t punish people by making them look into the sun. This forces them to squint in order to smile and look at the camera, which results in painful expressions. Often, small children won’t even look at you because the sun hurts their eyes. Instead, find a fully-shaded area for your group. Your subjects will be able to look into the lens with eyes wide open and give you genuine smiles.

During midday, the bright sunlight from directly above your subject’s heads creates dark shadows in their eye sockets. Even if they aren’t squinting, they’ll have dark shadows where their eyes should be, and end up looking like zombies. A quick, easy way to fix this is to simply turn your flash on to light up their eyes, and presto! Your family is back from the dead!

Be in control of your subjects by communicating with them. Give them the old “1 – 2 – 3” before you take the photo so they know exactly when you are clicking the shutter. You’ll save your computer’s trash can a lot of space by removing the blinks, wandering eyes, and strange expressions resulting from poorly-timed snapshots.

Remember that you are in the driver’s seat with your camera, so pay attention to the framing of your photo and what’s in the background: no one likes a telephone pole growing out of his head. Instead of taking the family photo in the parking lot, walk 15 feet to a grassy area, with trees as a background, and snap the photo there. Take time to look around, plan it out, and you’ll be on the road to success.

Enjoy your summer! ❚

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