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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

{photography with lei rogers}

Hi guys! To start off with today I'd like to show some great examples that were sent to me after our discussion on lighting last month. The first few were sent to me by Lindsey. Lindsey conducted a little experiment, and said she was astounded by the results! Love that a-ha moment! Check these out - the one on the left is of her daughter is facing away from the window, and the one on the right is of her daughter facing the window:

The next day she tried again, with her son, and the improvement is VAST! Check it out:

That is a great image Lindsey! Just look at those catchlights. :)

The next set of images was sent to me by Camille. These images were all taken with a point and shoot on auto mode. Just to show you how great an image you can capture with an average camera:

The lighting is great - a sunny day on the first image, but Camille took her kids to a side of the building where the sun wasn't shining so brightly. Smart girl. ;) It was an overcast day in the second image. So, she was able to take this image out in the wide open.

Beautifully done, Camille!

Today we are talking about composition. It's the second single most effective thing you can do to improve your images (since I already said lighting was THE single most effective thing). How should you position your kids or your family? Where should you take the picture? What's the best angle to shoot from? Should you center your photos? These are just a few commonly asked questions when it comes to improving the composition of your images. Let's answer them one at a time.

How should you position your kids or your family?
Personally, I like to stagger people in group shots. I've seen photographers use more symmetry than I do. I've seen people generally formed into triangular patterns. I primarily use levels and triangles in my compositions, but avoid symmetry. Here are a few examples:

What you generally don't want to do is have everyone on the same plane or mirroring each other or anything. I certainly deviate from this from time to time (such as in the second to last shot). But what you are going for is a warm, casual feel like you see in the photos above. People should be sitting or standing comfortably. And they should look natural! Involve hugging. Give people something to do with their hands... in the pockets, or folded. Avoid over-posing, but these images wouldn't look very good if everyone was just standing in a line with their arms hanging dully a their sides. ;)

Where should you take your pictures? Well, now that you all are pros on lighting, you know half the answer to this question. The rest is decided by your background/setting. Stick with simple. A green park with a few trees. A solid color wall or makeshift backdrop (more on that in a second). Avoid busy-ness. Cars and other people in the background can ruin a perfectly good photo. Clutter (if the photo is taken indoors) does the same thing. The eye needs to be drawn to the subjects of the picture, not what is going on around them. Here are some examples:

The first image was taken in front of a green building in the shade. The second was taken at a park at sunset. The third was taken in front of a simple backdrop I created using fleece.

Fleece comes in vivid solid colors, it isn't too expensive (at least not compared to a bonafide backdrop), and it doesn't get terribly wrinkled. I usually have to go in and smooth a few out in photoshop but it's not bad at all. I hang my fleece from my ceiling, facing a large well-lit window, using a row of mug hooks. Easy peasy! You could also make a backdrop by stapling wrapping paper to a piece of plywood... that would be great for head shots! And would be nice and portable. And think of all the fun patterns you can use... polka dots, damask, stripes. Of course if you go with a pattern you would want to keep your subject in very simple attire. I've even taken a quilt outside and thrown it over my fence and used that as a backdrop. Think outside the box!

What's the best angle to shoot from? Simply put - at or above subject level. Above creates more flattering angles. The picture of Alicia up there (in front of the green wall) was taken from slightly above. In looking up we got nice catchlights in her eyes. This angle also creates a narrowing of the shoulders and overall frame, and it avoids any double chins. Not always necessary (such as with cute Miss Alicia), but who doesn't want the most flattering angle? I like shooting from above especially with one-on-one shoots. In fact, I always do in at least one shot.

A good example of shooting from a bit lower is the image of the family in the green park above. Since they were all sitting, I had to sit as well. In fact, I got pretty low to the ground to capture that image because we weren't on perfectly flat ground. We will talk more about angles next month!

Last but not least, should you center your photos? For the most artistic capture you can get, no. Especially those shots with a single person or object in them. With group shots this doesn't apply as strictly. Or head shots.

The concept is called "rule of thirds", and is best illustrated by imagining a tic-tac-toe grid over your image. The points of interest in your image should fall in one of the outer thirds of that grid. Here's an example for you:

This rule makes an ordinary image much more interesting.

When applied to a real subject:

A less conventional way to give your photos more interest is to tilt the camera. Or place your subject more towards the bottom of your frame. Here's an example of both:

Alicia is more centered, but the camera is slightly tilted and I made her background part of the picture by including a lot of "overhead"in the shot. I think it gives it kind of a quirky/artsy feel.

Now with lighting and composition ideas on your side, you should begin to see some real improvement in your photos. Experiment! Next month we are going to talk about capturing those great, candid moments... which is something moms can especially appreciate! But we'll also touch on photographing in social settings, which requires a bit more artistry and knowledge of angles.

If you want feedback, send me your images! If you want a chance to be featured, send me your images! And if you want to see what I've been up to, visit MY images at my photography blog HERE!

Thanks! Lei




Blogger Cath said...

Just catching up. I'm anxious to apply these techniques. Fleece, now that is an ah-hah moment for me.

April 6, 2011 at 6:00 AM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

I appreciate all the tips. (I need to go back and read the lighting post (guess I missed it).

Thanks, Lei.

April 6, 2011 at 7:01 AM  
Blogger The Allen Family said...

Thanks! I'm going to try and practice these before my baby is born in 5 days so I'll be ready for some good pics. :)

April 6, 2011 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger Lindsey @ Inspiring Creations said...

Love these tips! I am in a photography class right now and the thing I have learned about most is composition! It really does make a huge difference in your photos. I also started a photography blog not too long ago and have realized that it just takes practice to get really great pictures!

April 6, 2011 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger Deanna said...


I'm learning how to use my camera FOR REAL now. LOL! I'm shooting only in MANUAL, and having So. much. fun.

You can check out my pics at my blog at: www.ryandeannapoulsen.blogspot dot com :)

April 6, 2011 at 11:16 AM  
Blogger natalie said...

Great job Leilani. Also, I have to laugh... Camille is my cousin! I saw those pictures and thought, "Hey I know those kids."

April 6, 2011 at 10:08 PM  
Blogger Brooke said...

Great advice...your tips are awesome. Thank you

April 9, 2011 at 5:43 AM  

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