Want to shoot like a pro, but save on your dough? The uber talented photographer, Lisa Peirce — Co-Founder of Lisa & Zoe Photography — gives Breezy Mama her tips for capturing that perfect family photo.
The holidays are fast approaching which means it’s time to start planning cards and gifts. Thankfully, digital technology has made photography a lot easier and cheaper, and it has made holiday photo cards very popular. I am thankful for the trend… it makes checking the mailbox fun again, I love seeing pictures of family and friends that I don’t get to see much anymore, and of course, it is a good way for me to keep in touch as well. As my kids get older, however, I am starting to feel the pressure of “what am I going to do THIS year?” Especially as cards seem to be getting more and more creative. After a quick rummage through my cards from the last couple of years, (yes, I save them!) here are a few things that come to mind that might help you create memorable holiday cards and photos…
STEP UP YOUR SKILLS
First, and most importantly, you HAVE to have strong photos. If you don’t want to hire a professional this year, and if your neighbor isn’t a hobbyist, then you might need to take a few minutes to learn some tricks. Here are a few pointers that I hope will give you the idea that it isn’t too hard, and definitely worth the time.
1. Lighting, lighting, lighting!!
Turn off that pesky flash! It is a dead giveaway to amateur photos and it takes away every last bit of emotion that you might be able to capture with your camera. Using just sunlight, find a spot that has something covering your subject’s head so that they are in the shade. A tree, a doorway, or even an umbrella or awning usually makes for nice light. It helps if the background (behind your subject) is a little darker than the foreground (what is in front or to the side of them – you want that to be bright!).
2. Your surroundings are important, but not as much as you might think.
Don’t worry so much about “where are we going to do our photos?” Anywhere is fine as long as the light is good. (besides, it’s a big trend right now to have grungy backgrounds!) I don’t think anyone really cares about what is around your kids or family, they just want to see their cute little faces. So take a few steps closer and just make sure there aren’t too many distractions in the background.
3. “What are we going to wear??”
Another misconception of what makes a good photo. In my opinion, matching outfits are totally unnecessary. Instead of matching perfectly, think about blending. Choose a few colors that are in the same tonal range and mix it up. For example, tan, brown, purple, blue, and gray. Now go to your closets and pull out anything that is in these tones. (Try to keep it in the same season too). Layer them up! Don’t just wear one t-shirt, put something under it, over it, and then add some accessories. The same tonal range is important to remember – do not have some in black and navy, and then some in white – that ends up looking like a checkerboard. Plus your eye tends to go to the lightest part of the photo first – something to keep in mind when you see one person on the lighter side – it works for bringing attention to a baby, but not your mother-in-law.
4. Posing and composing your photo.
If you only have one or two kids in the shot, put their heads together and get up close, this will help lessen distractions in the background. If you have 3 or more subjects, try to avoid stacking or lining up heads. If you are anything like me, photographing my own kids is stressful. Here are a few things that have helped me…. Be prepared; plan the shot ahead of time and bring them in when you are ready. Pose them and instead of “say cheese”, be ready to talk about something that makes them happy. Tell them about a special dessert you are thinking about making – and make it silly. If you have young children, try singing to them. You will know what works for you. Then just hold down the shutter and take as many pictures as you can, this is the beauty of digital. If you are shooting the the whole family, set up the shot and then have someone take it for you, be sure to instruct them to shoot away and you talk to your family like a ventriloquist. If it just isn’t working for you, try doing everyone individually – this is a good way to get everyone looking their best instead of you having to take “one for the team”.
To learn more, I highly recommend the book “How to Photograph Your Family” by Nick Kelsh. If you can see past the slightly outdated photos, his information is very well written and presented. If learning these basic portrait skills is a still a little overwhelming, find a good local photographer that will take the pressure off. Here is a site that I like for finding photographers all over the world: www.napcp.com
GET CREATIVE WITH THE CARD
In my opinion, if you have a good photo, your card is going to be amazing. If you have an amateur photo, it will be just that – no matter how fancy or expensive the card. Choosing a card is also a way get creative and reflect your personal style. There are so many websites that make it easy to upload and order, just take a few minutes to learn the process. Some of the more popular sites are Snapfish and Shutterfly, but if you are looking for cards with a little more style and quality, try www.minted.com or www.peartreegreetings.com. (The “pearlescent” paper at Minted is beautiful!) They have styles that allow for one photo or many photos – and it may be a good idea to find a card that you like first, then shoot the photo with that design in mind. Before you upload the photo, you could take it to a local photo lab and have them retouch it. It isn’t much money and can make a world of a difference. They will adjust the color and contrast and take out anything you want – including fine lines!
Holidays in December aren’t the only time to keep in touch with a card! If you are organized and ready to go, think about sending a Halloween or Thanksgiving card, you will be glad to get it out of the way and be the first to arrive before the rush. If you can’t get it together in time, New Year’s (sent sometime in January) or a Valentines Day card is great too! Whenever you manage to pull it together, it will be enjoyed and appreciated by those who get it in their mailbox. And with all the effort that you put into creating a nice photograph (or two), pick out a few frames and you have great presents for grandma and grandpa too!
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