If you're taking photos of your family over the summer, you're probably going to experience the same problem photographers everywhere face. THE SUN.
It creates beautiful colours and makes the scenery glow golden, but unfortunately it isn't the kind of light that flatters faces. It causes strong shadows and highlights, and squinting eyes at best.
Below, you’ll find my 7 top tips on how to capture better photos of your family in the sun, whether at home or on holiday this summer. Some of the tips have been contributed by other photographer friends of mine from around the country and abroad who all do outdoors, natural light photography.
1. LOOK FOR THE SHADE.
Shoot with your subject in pockets of shade. This puts a beautiful, soft light on their skin and means you don’t have to contend with those harsh shadows and patches of unflattering bright light on faces.
2. CAN’T FIND ANY SHADE? THEN TURN AWAY FROM THE SUN.
You can give different looks to your images, just by placing the sun to the side of your subjects or behind them.
If you place the sun to the side, you can avoid squinting eyes as they are no longer looking directly into the sun. You may create what photographers call ‘ split lighting’ - one side of the face in the shade and one in the light, which can look very artistic. Although the shadows may still be quite strong (depending on how high and how strong the sun is), this is definitely a more flattering light than totally front on light.
3. PUT THE SUN IN FRONT OF YOU (THE PHOTOGRAPHER) AND BEHIND YOUR FAMILY (THE SUBJECT).
By putting the sun behind your family you can create fantastic silhouette shots of them (expose for the background if you want them pretty dark). If you prefer to see their faces in a bit more detail, then expose for their faces. If you’re doing this on an iPhone, just tap your finger on the background for a silhouette (and push the exposure (sun icon) down a touch to darken the scene if you need to), or tap on the faces to expose correctly for their face (and push the exposure (sun icon) up a touch to brighten faces up more). If you’re using a SLR or bridge camera - just make sure you’re either exposing the image correctly for the background for a silhouette, or correctly for the face if you don’t want a silhouette. If you find your background is too blown out (too bright) then push the overall exposure down a touch. You can always brighten the faces up afterwards.
(Sun behind subjects, image exposed for the face to be visible).
My friend and Algarve photographer, Henrieta http://www.henrietareisgomesphotography.com, explains this beautifully: "Find an interesting background when photographing at the beach. The Algarve has beautiful rocks so include them in your composition. Keep the sun behind the subject, it doesn't have to be right behind them, if it comes more from the side it floods your images with beautiful golden light."
Photo Credit: Henrieta Ries Gomez Photography. Henrieta is located in the Algarve, Portugal, and is currently taking bookings for family holiday and baby-moon (maternity) beach portrait sessions.
If it all sounds a bit complicated, come along for one of my one to one photography classes where I explain this all in detail and we have a play with your camera.
4. GET DOWN TO YOUR CHILD'S EYE LEVEL.
The summer sky is bright! If we’re making our kids look up at us, they are more likely to squint for the photos as they are looking straight into the bright sky. Getting down to the eye level of our children for photos also makes for much more flattering childhood portraits.
5. SHOOT AT SUNSET.
This is just the most flattering, beautiful light ever. If you can shoot at this time of day. When the sun is low in the sky it is so soft, with gorgeous shadows and beautiful colours in the sky.
6. LEAVE THEM TO PLAY.
Our kids are very used to us pointing a phone at them and saying smile for the camera. But on the odd occasion we whip out a real camera, they have no clue what it is. Then we put this black box against our faces, cover our eyes, and then tell them to look at us! Well, for starters they can’t see us! We’re hidden. And to top it off, we’re hidden by some strange contraption that looks a bit daunting. So, instead of trying to get a professional-looking, eyes-towards-the-camera portrait of the kids, just go for the action shots. Capture the fun of the moment, with you observing it happening. Click away and you’ll find there will be some gems in there, of moments frozen in time, full of fun, frolics and action.
Deb Hall, of Fairy Nuff Photography (www.fairynuffphotography.co.uk) expands upon this perfectly: "Forget sitting still and saying cheese... instead embrace movement and play with your children! If they are babies twirl them in your arms, or hold them up in the air and see how they smile! If they are a little older play music and dance, go on a bug hunt, blow bubbles, play in the leaves. You will achieve more genuine smiles and reactions and it is much more fun!"
7. HIRE A PRO.
OK. So this tip is definitely self-serving, but there really is no substitute. Isn’t that why we hire wedding photographers and newborn photographers? And of course hiring someone to capture the memories for you, means you can be in the image too. Something your kids can treasure as they grow older, and show their children.
Want me to come and capture some some fun photos of your children? Give me a shout.
Got more tips of your own? Please do share them in the comments.