Spending time with your friends and family is one of the more rewarding pastimes you can have. It can be so frustrating when the perfect moment crops up and your picture just doesn't do it justice. Maybe it's come out blurry, or people have glowing red demonic eyes, or it just doesn't feel like it's got the "wow!" factor.
So here's a few tips to help you capture the memories you want!
I saw the light!
The most important thing (and I absolutely mean this) is knowing how light changes the way people look. Best way for me to show you this is for you to watch this video, so go on, I'll be here when you get back!
The first thing you'll notice is that her face completely changes every time the lighting direction changes, even though she's moving very slowly or remaining almost completely still. Direction and intensity of light mean everything in this game!
For instance, capturing a picture of your mates at a picnic on a clear summer's day will leave their faces with harsh contrasted shadows across them, or give them sunken eyes! So as an alternative, get them under some shade; the light will be softer and more even, giving you a far more pleasing look! Next time you're out with friends, keep an eye on the lighting and see what works and what doesn't.
Sometimes, the natural light just isn't enough and you'll have to bust out the flash to sort things out. This opens a whole new book of issues (which I'll elaborate more on in another blog post!) but the most important thing to remember with a flash is that you want nice even lighting on the face. However, firing a flash right into someone's face will give you the dreaded red-eye and make them look more like a startled deer! Your smartphone may have apps that can fix this, but for owners of a cheap digicam what can you do?
The reason red-eye happens is that the light from the flash reflects off the inside of the eye and fires right back into the camera. The solution to this? You want the flash to come in from a direction that isn't going to reflect directly back. You can do this with a makeup mirror or a piece of white card; just angle it in front of the flash so that the light bounces off it and onto the ceiling or a nearby wall. It'll then bounce off that and light your subject up in a rather beautiful way. This video also explains the idea quite well!
Give it a try!
Whatever you're shooting, remember the rules of composition. An example would be the rule of thirds; split the picture into nine even squares, and try to keep your subject on the second line towards the edge of the image, so in this case you'd want your friend's eyes to be along the top third of the image, or for them to be stood on the right or left third of the image if it's a full body shot.
Another thing to consider would be to try framing them in the shot. Got an interesting archway or doorway, or even a window you can shoot through? Try that! If they're in a crowd, try to grab a pic of them between other people. You could even combine this with the lighting tips above to make them really stand out!
Sometimes, no matter how comfortable your friends are feeling, they'll freeze up as soon as you point a camera at them. Instead, try getting pics of them when they're not aware of you. This'll give it a way more natural feel, and you'll get some genuine moments to keep forever rather than the usual "camera face" shots that others get!
Make sure you're fully briefed up on how your camera works and have a good idea of composition and lighting for these moments; there's nothing worse than seeing the perfect shot and realising you left your camera on the wrong mode!
You're loving angles instead
There's an old phrase amongst people of my generation, and it's called the "Myspace Pose". Some of you will know what I'm on about but for the rest; this describes the angle that a lot of social media pictures are taken at for the most flattering results. It's an extreme example but the thing is that it works! For the best results when you're taking a picture you want to be getting either straight on, or at a 20 degree angle above them, This takes the edge off any unflattering double chins and slims the face down considerably! Generally you'll try to avoid lower angles because of the reverse; your subject lowering their face will give them a double chin even if they didn't have one before! If that sort of thing is an issue, you can always get them to slightly raise their chin like in the picture above; this stretches the skin of the neck and prevents it from rolling and looking unflattering.
Rules are for losers!
Okay, so this may not make much sense. After all, I've just told you about all these rules that make a good picture! Here's the thing: rules are there to be broken. Once you understand why the rules are there and how they affect your picture, you'll start to get a grip on which ones to break and when! Maybe you're gonna go for an extremely high angle for a portrait, or even go for a lower one to get some background in. Maybe you'll use a really harsh light from one single direction to see how that goes. Whatever you do, experiment and be creative! That's the key to developing your skills and really getting some wicked shots you'll remember forever!