Posted on June 11th, 2009
It has been the experience of the folks here at 42nd Street Photo that taking pictures is not an art form for everyone, but all of us like taking good pictures, especially of those we love. While photographing your family and friends may not be rocket science, we’ve found that a lot of people are unhappy with the way their portraits and group shots turn out, so we’re here to help with some handy tips that might help.
First off, you need a good digital camera. This doesn’t mean that you need to go out and buy the best DSLR on the market, it simply means that you should purchase a camera that suits your needs and can do what you need it to do.
The first step is to determine how you want to share your pictures:
- If you know for a fact that you will only be sharing your image captures online, then you don’t need to get a camera with a ton of mega-pixels. Anything over 8.0 is more than you’ll really need for digital sharing through email and to put on your personal websites.
- If you plan on sharing these images on a HD television however, check the resolution of the TV to see how large it goes. It’s best to capture these images at the same size as the TV if you want clean and clear pictures to be displayed correctly.
- If you wish to print your pictures and share them that way, it’s best to go with a larger MP count, at least 12.0 or greater – 14.0 is a great resolution, but for 4×6 or 5×7 printouts, 12MP should do the trick.
The second step is to determine what kind of pictures you will be taking. Do you tend to take a lot of pictures at your families sporting events or special occasions, or do you primarily plan to photograph those that stand still, smile and say “cheese”?
- If you only plan to take portraits, a fancy DSLR with a high shutter speed is not necessary. Simple point-and- shoot cameras go up to a great enough MP count that one of these will work for digital or print sharing purposes.
- If you tend to capture images of others in action, such as dancing at a wedding, playing sports, running, etc., you may want to get a camera with a broader range of features. Many POS cameras will tend to take blurry pictures when action is in the scene, so a higher-end POS or a DSLR with a good shutter speed and aperture is the key to sharper action shots.
The next step is anticipating your shot.
- For still shots, you have all the time in the world to tweak the settings on your digital camera, so unless you are shooting in auto all the time, it is best to read the manual that came with your camera to figure out the best settings for close to medium range portrait shots. Frame the shot however looks best to you, keeping in mind the position of lighting around you. Generally speaking, portraits come out best when the flash is not needed, and the camera is mounted on a tripod, so there is no worry to hold the camera steady. Light should come from behind you (or whoever is taking the picture) but at a slight angle, so the facial features stand out better.
- For action shots, manual settings are best, and a DSLR camera is preferred. The great thing about DSLR’s over most POS cameras is that they snap the picture right away, so that you wont get stuck with nothing but a foot or hand in frame, and miss out on the good stuff. Also, many DSLR’s have better auto settings, if you’re not comfortable with manual mode. Still, you should check out the manual and learn what the settings do, and experiment with different types of action shots in different lighting conditions.
When it comes down to it, practice and experimentation helps a lot to ensure better pictures. If you only take pictures when you want good shots, you may not be satisfied with the results. If you get in the habit of carrying your camera with you everywhere you go, feel free to snap away (since you wont be wasting film!) and if you think of it, mark down in a photo journal what the conditions and settings were, so you can make a reference later if you do or don’t like the way it turned out.