You cherish the photographs you have. As you look through them, your memory lights up with each moment and you feel the joy of puppy adoption, the pride of graduating from the first manners class, the peace of hiking on vacation, the hilarity of the first big mess that you just had to see to believe, and the ease of napping in the sunbeam that hits the living room every afternoon.
Even if you had the budget for it, a professional photographer isn’t likely to capture all of those for you because they are spontaneous. They just happen, and you can’t plan for them all to happen in the same one-hour block of time when you have your annual family pictures. Well, you can. You’ll be really disappointed.
You are the best photographer for your family. The photographs don’t need to be perfect in order to move you – they need to exist. I’ll share a few tips here that will help you improve your photography without getting technical. It doesn’t matter if you are holding a smart phone, a point-and-shoot, or a DSLR. The photographer creates the photographs, not the camera (much like a writer, not the computer, writes books).
The handsome gent in these photos is Rhys, a 10-year-old Great Dane. I used an iPhone 6 Plus for these images, which have not been edited in any way, to prove you don’t need a spiffy camera or processing to create interesting photographs.
Whether you use a zoom lens or zoom with your feet, get close enough to your subject to fill the frame. Get closer than you think you need to. Get really, really close.
Closing in on your subject leaves no mistake about what is important in the photograph. It’s your job as the photographer to direct the viewer to what you want her to see. When you leave no room for distractions within the frame of the photograph, what you want to say with the image comes out loudly and clearly.
Change Your Perspective
Photographs that come from the human’s eye-level are interesting once in a while. What about seeing the world from your cat’s point-of-view? What does the world look like from your dog’s favorite napping place? How much more intimidating does your Chihuahua look when the camera looks up at him instead of down?
Move around with the camera in hand. Stand on something and look down. Lie on the ground and look up. Get on eye level. Your companion looks very different from each of these perspectives.
Look for the Light
I promised I wouldn’t get technical, and yet I wouldn’t be doing you any favors if I didn’t talk about light. Light in a photograph sets the mood, establishes detail, and dictates the intensity of colors. It’s important.
For now, I invite you to look for the light that shows in your companion’s eyes. It’s called a catch light, and it’s the little bright spot that you see that comes from your light source (the sun, the overhead light, a window). A catch light instantly brings life to eyes; eyes without these twinkles look dull.
Here Rhys has a teeny, tiny catch light. His eyes look empty.
The following image is darker and yet because one of Rhys’s eyes caught the light, he looks much more like himself.
Understand Your Intention
So let’s say you don’t remember any of the three guidelines above. Not to worry. You can save the image with intention. What do you want the photograph to say? How do you want to feel when you see it? What’s the story?
In this moment, Rhys approached me in the living room and indicated that he’d like to walk around the neighborhood. He looked at me, looked at the front door, and looked at me again. When I looked down at our feet I knew I’d remember the moment in detail with the help of a photograph.
In the digital age, it’s common to burn through gigabytes of memory in creating images without a thought, and that’s a recipe for crummy photographs. By all means, create many images if you feel you must and do it with intention. When you have in mind what you want to capture and express with your camera, you can’t help but connect with your subject. That connection and your intention come together to create beautiful stuff that will speak to you later.
Written by Shannon MacFarlane from Slobbered Lens