Before I rip this photo apart, I do have to say that I am so glad to have it and it will be framed and scrapbooked regardless of the faults I find in it. However, after loading this up
onto my computer, I sighed and wished I done some things differently. But this is one of the best ways to improve your picture-taking abilities–critique your images harshly to figure out how to make a better shot. If I could take this photo again, I’d do the following things to improve it:
- I would get just a little bit higher instead of shooting at eye-level
- I would have one more level of subjects instead of two predominately same-height rows, allowing me to make the group more narrow to accommodate my desire for a full-length vertical shot
- I would move the boy in the white shirt to either kneel in front, or to a position behind grandma in blue
- I would make more organized rows of turned shoulders, instead of all facing forward
- I love the open shade, but I would changed our position slightly to eliminate the harsh lines of shadow in the foreground and background top right
- While I purposefully picked F/8 as my aperture to be sure I had enough depth of field for both rows to be in sharp focus, I think stopping down to F/6.3 or 5.6 would have blurred my background more
I do love the lighting, though. Open shade is so flattering (see previous post for more) and in most instances, can be easily found when you take a look around your location. As you see, they are all standing just inside the shade, not in the harsh sun. If they were further back into the doorway, I might not have gotten the sparkle in each of their eyes from the open shade situation. The sun bounces around and lights my subjects evenly as if you held a big sift reflector in front of them, thereby eliminating harsh shadows under chins and brows and giving you highlights in the eyes.
So while I will look for a similar location next time I shoot a group like this, I will a) get higher, b) watch how the subjects are arranged more closely, and c) look more closely at what’s in the edges of the frame and zoom in, change position or change composition to eliminate anything distracting from the frame.
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).