5 Tips for Taking Great Family Snapshots

With cameras so handy on every phone these days, the opportunity to capture that special moment is almost always within arm’s reach. How do you take advantage of this convenience and make the most of this opportunity? Here are 5 things to consider as you pull out your phone to snap the unforgettable moment.

Hard Shaows on the wall behind the subject create by flash.

1. Flash – If possible don’t use the flash. There are 2 problems with the built-in flash on your phone’s camera. First, it’s small. When the light source is small and bright it creates hard shadows or shadows that have crisp edges. Ideally, you want soft shadows or shadows that you can’t tell where their edge is, they fade in softly. To get soft shadow you need a large light—the bigger the light is compared to the subject, the softer and more flattering the shadows. So, because the camera has a very small light, you will always get those undesirable hard shadows. The second problem is that the light is right next to the lens, so the light comes at the subject straight on. This is an issue because if you are taking a picture of your child, the flash will create those undesirable hard shadows in the most undesirable areas, for example, under the chin, and nose and creates a hard shadow on the wall behind. It also will create the effect known as red eye; this is from the light shining straight into the eyes at the same angle as the lens lighting up the inside of the eye. Most phones and cameras have features to reduce this effect, but if it is not turned on or the camera does not sense it, you will still end up with red eyes. So, if possible, find natural light to use, such as light from a window, or just the room lights.

2. Get Closer – often times if you are in a room with a lot of people, or outside in a big open area, we try to capture too much at one time and it is hard to tell what you were looking at because there is so much in the picture. If you are in a room with a lot of people, choose one or two people together and get close, fill the frame with just them. You can still let some of the people or the landscape in the background in the frame to give the sense of the moment, but make it clear who the subject is by letting them fill most of the space.

3. Zoom – my previous point was getting close; it is important to accomplish that by physically getting up and moving in close to the person you are taking the picture of, rather than depending on the zoom in the camera. The zoom in phones and most small point and shoot cameras are digital zooms. They simply crop the amount of the picture that it shows, and it uses fewer of the pixels. The result is a low-pixel or low-quality image that looks fuzzy. So, remember whenever possible get up and physically move in closer to get the highest quality picture possible.

4. Keep the camera straight – keeping the camera straight is a small detail with a big impact. Lines that the mind thinks should be straight but are not create an uneasy felling or imbalance to the picture. This is most overused indoors with windows, door frames, corner lines of rooms and ceilings. This is also noticeable outdoors with the horizon line and buildings. One trick to keep things straight is to go into the settings of the phones camera and check the option for gridlines, most cameras have the option. This will make it easy to line up a window frame or horizon line to keep your photos straight.

5. Off center your subject – In photography terms, this is called the rule of thirds, most of the time the picture has more impact if the subject is not in the center of the picture. By simply moving the camera so the person is off to one side will normally look better. This works because the brain naturally does not like disorder and at the same time it looks for patterns. The off-centered subject creates an imbalance, we immediately look for the pattern to balance it. That balance comes from the pattern that is created by dividing the picture into 3 equal sections and the subject filling one of the outer thirds.

Next time you reach for your phone to snap the quick picture of your kids, take a moment to try some of these simple tricks to get the best shot possible.

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