It’s very hard to catch him smiling naturally. So, as I did in this restaurant during lunch, I often snap a few photos in a row hoping for that “in-between” moment when he’s more relaxed. I think I got it here! This photo has a nice natural background since I used only the light from the window my subject was facing for lighting, rather than using my flash. And since my ISO was set to 400, my shutter speed was a slower 1/50th of a second (I turned on the anti-shake on the lens to eliminate any blur that might have occurred from hand-shake). That slower shutter speed allows the shutter to remain open long enough to capture the ambient light in the background, also lit by the large bright windows. The result is a nice shot that shows the whole scene. So when indoors, ask for a seat near a window and capture the ambiance of the whole scene.
When the sun is really harsh, you can still get wonderful portraits by placing your subjects just inside a shady area. This might be just under an umbrella (like my example of these gorgeous siblings), inside a garage door, inside your house door, under the slide at the park, under the light of the first tree, etc. The key is to not position your subject too deep into the shade. You want all of the light that is just behind you to spill softly onto your subjects. This will give even lighting across the face(s) as well as great light in the eyes. (65mm -cropped; F/5.6; ISO 400).
A few things to keep in mind when taking a portrait of a person or pet by window light:
ONE: Natural window light usually means wide open apertures and slower shutter speeds, so consider boosting your ISO if necessary, be sure your anti-shake mode is on, or use a tripod to prevent camera shake.
TWO: The closer you are to a window, the more dramatic the shadow on the opposite side of the face will be. Positioning your subject further from a window means softer, more even light.
THREE: You can actually stand in front of the window and position your subject facing the window and it won’t cast a shadow! This results in very flat lighting on the face. Four, shoot by a window even if it is overcast or there are soft sheer curtains. The light will be beautiful.
That’s of course one of the tricks to getting a good photo. Just keep taking pictures! But even when your doing some of the most mundane things, you might just find some perfect light and a child with a great attitude for the day! Here are two shots from our recent overnight in NYC. We went window shopping down in SOHO and while in a furniture store, she sat down while we browsed. When I checked on her, I noticed that the window light streaming in from the high broad windows was beautiful. Her eyes just sparkled when she looked up at me. Of course, I said, oh, you look so pretty, stay right there! The warm tones in the store made it even more beautiful and she cooperated for two or three shots. (32mm; F/5; ISO 400).
My friend CrisDee over at Elementally Speaking asked if I would guest post for her site where she shares with you ideas for creating, capturing and keeping family memories.(see the post below, or at http://elementallyspeaking.wordpress.com/2009/07/06/new-feature-photo-tips-from-stacie-errera/Thanks Cris!)
I am no Photoshop guru. Everything I know I learned from photographers Ken Hubbard and Andre Costantini, two pros who DO know their Photoshop. But I can fix a shot that’s too dark, or the wrong tint. Sometimes sharpen it up a bit. The thing to remember with digital is that almost all images need a little boost. If you send your images out to a lab to make prints (like Shutterfly or any other online processing) or drop them off at a drug store, the images automatically go through processing to increase contrast, correct a little color and sharpen them. But if you print at home like me, it’s worth the little bit of time to take a great shot and make it even better. Software like Photoshop Elements, Picassa and more are a great investment of both time and money. I noticed my shot of her in the pool from Sunday’s aperture post was looking a little blue. So I took a moment to fix it and thought this would be a good post. Here we go…
The light filled the screened porch room late afternoon on Mother’s Day. So I put down my Bellini (a cocktail I’d never had before but thoroughly enjoyed) and picked up my camera before the sun went down. Luckily, the grand kids were quite cooperative. I asked the smallest to sit on Grandma’s lap. The older girl sat on the opposite side on the arm of the chair. And I asked the boys to stand behind Grandma. And just as I asked them to all lean in toward Grandma, and the boys to bring their heads and shoulders in a little closer (to prevent them from dropping out of focus), Kelsey decided she wanted in! Kelsey is a Soft-coat Wheaton Terrier newly adopted by my mother. She just wanted to get in on the action. So she was a fifth “person” in the photo, and mom lifted Kelsey up just a little higher to get her head in good position. Then the kids all squeezed in and we got this lovely picture for mother’s day. I did not use a flash. No? No. The highlights in everyone’s eyes are from the beautiful window right behind me. I cropped out the TV in the background to make this a nice 5×7 for Mom’s house, but you can see me in it taking the picture and the window too. So, be sure to always look for a window. Even on an overcast day you’ll get brilliant looking portraits when you use the window as your light source. Two, get the kids (and pet) on several different levels to make a nice composition. Notice how those beautiful smiles make a ring around their beaming grandma! And three, use the stabilizer feature on your lens as I did to get a blur free shot. And four, go with the flow. You never know who might pop into your viewfinder! (ISO 200; 32mm; F/4; 1/25 sec, Auto WB; Aperture Priority)
I volunteered to take portraits for the Brownies Father Daughter Dance. Turned out to be 53 girls and their dads! Whew. So Angela volunteered as a second camera. We set-up a make-shift studio in the school hallway by tacking up a sheet and using just one on-camera flash. Not like a pro studio, for sure, but hey, this is the equipment most of us own. So with the father sitting in a chair, and his daughter sitting on one of his legs with her legs in the middle, we asked the dad to put his hands in his daughter’s lap and the girl to put her hands on dad’s. We asked them to put their heads together so there was no space in between. Lastly, we tried to make sure that his cheek was somewhere near her temple. This way, their heads were staggered, a key to good group portraits. You never want to have everyone lined up evenly as it makes for a boring picture. There were several cases where dad came with two daughters, so when adding in the third, fourth or fifth person, ask some stand behind or on the side of dad, as this will ensure all of their eyes are on different level s. And be sure to have all of them close the gaps and move in closer to dad to keep the subject area in the middle. Another trick: since we opened up the aperture all of the way to be sure to blur the background, make sure that no one leans too far forward or too far back as then one of them will not be in sharp focus. Then we stood far enough back (approx 8 feet) to make sure we did not get the floor in the photo and we zoomed in to fill the frame. The flash was bounced off the ceiling. I positioned the flash almost straight up and this eliminated shadows on the backdrop. However, the loss of light from traveling up to the ceiling back down to the subject made the photo appear under exposed, so we just moved the exposure compensation to +2 and the image looked great. Last tip? Iron the sheet! Overall, the portraits came out very nice and everyone seemed pleased. (Tamron 18-270mm VC with VC on, Nikon SB800 bounced flash, ISO 400, F5.6, 1/60th sec, +2 exposure compensation, Auto White Balance).
I love window light. In the Italian restaurant where we celebrated this boy’s first holy communion, a bank of windows with translucent shades was near the kids table. I asked him to take a minute and stand near the windows, using the wall treatments as a colorful and classic background that leads your eyes right to the subject’s face. I set the camera to aperture priority and dialed in the widest aperture opening I could (F/4.2). The ISO was set at 400. And since the light was low, I turned on the anti-stabilizer on the lens and was able to get a sharp image at 1/30th of a second (gotta love that VC!). The natural light really lets you see the details in his dapper suit and his beautiful rose corsage. And his dark eyes sparkle from the window light. It took more than a few shots to get a natural smile, and I did it by asking him to close his eyes real tight and then open them. He giggled after making a goofy face and I was able to catch a pretty natural smile.