This post is for all of you taking photos at your family events that don’t quite warrant spending money on a photographer. I’m talking about birthdays, and holidays, family get togethers, etc. So often in my Facebook newsfeed I see albums for photos taken candidly at family events and it occurred to me that maybe some of us need a little bit of direction so that Aunt Sally doesn’t get made because she’s bending over to pick up a kid in the background of that kinda blurry shot you took of cousin Mark. I thought I’d lay down a few rules for you to consider when you’re shooting these events. Your friends and family will thank you later, promise!
- Stop taking pictures of people while they’re eating. Stop it. Just don’t. Often times we think the shot of everyone at the table will be nice because there are groupings of people but the short answer is “No”. If you want to get the groupings, enjoy YOUR meal and then grab your cell phone or your camera and head over either before everyone starts eating or just after they’ve finished, or better yet once everyone has coffee. Trust me.
- Consider the background. Look, in the example I gave above about Aunt Sally? Yeah, that’s a thing. Noone wants a photo of their bent over bum or face, chewing food in any image. Not ever. If cousin Mark is being funny, or has a great smile, have him turn towards the light or move to the left a little. If he’s a ham, he’ll eat it up. If he’s got a great smile, he’ll appreciate the attention and recognition of wanting to be photographed. Don’t assume that just because it is a candid moment that he won’t move a foot or two. Aunt Sally will give you high fives, too.
- Have your subject turn towards the light. How many times have you taken a sweet family shot in front of the Christmas tree, or in a living room and at the time you think it’s perfect and then when you upload it you realize you have crazy shadows being cast down people’s faces because a light overhead (from a fan or sconce) was directly overhead and now they look like they could be characters on The Walking Dead? Either turn that light off for a moment or find something white (a piece of paper, paper towel roll, a white plate, a piece of poster board, a white blanket on the couch, etc.) to bounce that light shining down back to their faces. It’s a great trick AND when you pull it off, it’s pretty impressive to onlookers too.
- Turn off your flash already. You’re trying to get a beautiful dimply lit shot that has the heart of the moment in it and your flash fires and now everyone’s skin is bleach white and they have devil eyes. Crank up that ISO on your Canon Rebel or slow down your shutter speed (no more than the size of the focal length you’re using) and hold the camera steady. The ambient light you’re hoping to capture there will come to life. It’ll be great.
- Consider your subject. You have 15-20 images and you’re posting them to Facebook and in one or two shots the people you’re photographing aren’t being flattered and aren’t paying attention to you…just toss em. Really. No one really cares about a moment where the main subject is talking to the other person, mouth agape, turned away from the camera, and shot from below. It isn’t flattering. It isn’t a “candid, photo-journalistic” moment. It’s just a bad shot. It’s okay. Even seasoned professionals have a couple of those from events they shoot. Guess what happens to those images? Recycle bin. That’s what.
- If you want to really capture the moment, set up the shot. You can do this candidly. Consider the framing of the moment, move the camera up a little or over to the left. If you’re photographing a conversation between two people, move front and center. The image won’t make sense if the closest subject’s head is turned 120 degrees away from you and the person they’re talking with is out of focus and not paying attention in the first place.