Tag Archives: photography tutorials

Cranky Photography: Get Great Halloween Photos

Posted by: Maggie

I love Halloween, but it can be challenging to shoot, right? First, your kids are so excited (or sugar-filled) that they won’t hold still for a photo. Second, most of the holiday takes place in the dark!

Well, I have a few tips for you that will help you to get a few great photos to commemorate the holiday.

Dealing with the Kids:

1. Start out early and get them at their first door. It’s easier to shoot candid photos of your kid, than it is to get them to pose for you.  Get them both knocking at the door and then their happy face as they walk away with their first goodies of the night.

2. Get a few semi-posed images. To get some good posed photos have them sit on your front porch steps or curb and show you their goodie bags! Don’t ask them to smile! You know you’ll just get that fake grin, so instead ask them questions to draw out that real smile, “How much candy are you going to get tonight? Do you think we’ll see any really spooky houses?”

Dealing with the Dark:

1. Take some pictures before it gets dark. The best photos of your night will be in that perfect light in the hour before sunset. Make sure to get your best costume photos and first door photos before the sun goes down.

2. Use ambient light. There will be some light during the night, so use it if you can. Turn your flash off set your camera to it’s widest aperture and a high ISO setting (if you know how to do that) and capture the light that is there.

3. Use your night portrait mode. Most cameras have a night portrait mode, it will usually be a face with a crescent moon or star next to it. This mode will give you those settings I mentioned above, a high ISO, and a wide aperture, but it will give you a slow shutter speed to capture the available light and then fire your flash to make sure faces are in focus. Remember, to hold still through the slower shutter. Don’t move until you the flash fires and the you hear the shutter close. This one is only going to work with mostly still subjects.

Don’t forget the most important part of Halloween: the CANDY!

Make sure to get that camera out again at the end of the night to capture your kids delight as they sort through their treats!

Hope these tips help you tonight! Have a Happy Halloween!

Cranky Photography: Using Window Lighting for Great Portraits

Posted by: Maggie

If you’ve read my ebook, How to Shoot Your Kids, you know that, in general, I am not a fan of flash or artificial light. To me, natural light always looks best.  One of my favorite lighting sources is window light. In general, as long as the sun isn’t shining directly into the window, light from a window will give you the very best lighting when shooting indoors–soft, even, indirect light.

There are three ways to position your subject when using window light: 1) Directly facing the window, 2) Facing away from the window, and 3) At a 45 degree angle from the window. Each of these gives you a different lighting effect.

1. Directly facing the Window

In this position your subject is directly facing the window while your back is to the window as you shoot.

When your subject faces the window they are evenly lit. Depending on your personal preference and style you might really like this position. But, I feel like the lighting is a bit flat for my taste. It’s nice and even, but not as interesting as it could be.

2. Facing away from the Window.

In this position your subject is between you and the window.

This is perfect for silhouettes! Because you have to love that cute slope of her nose! In a brighter room you can get a backlit portrait that’s not a silhouette, which can also be nice. But this is still not my favorite way to use window light.

3. At a 45 degree angle from the window.

In this position, your subject should be facing the window at a 45 degree angle. You should stand next to the window, so that the light is coming from over your shoulder and your subject is also facing you at a 45 degree angle. Basically you are making a little triangle, with you, your subject and the window at each of the points.

This position is my favorite because it creates some shadows which add depth to your subject’s face. I think it makes for a much more interesting portrait.

Here are the first and third side by side:

Which do you prefer?

Have a question for me or a suggestion for another photo lesson? Comment below!

Cranky Photography: The Color of Light – Learning Your White Balance Settings

Posted by: Maggie

Today’s photo tutorial is one that is pretty simple to learn and use and will make a big impact on the images you take!

When we look at a white object our eyes adjust to the lighting conditions, no matter the light, we still recognize that object as white whether we are indoors in lamp light or out in the bright sunlight. Our eyes are excellent at making this adjustment, but camera’s aren’t and the same object will appear different depending on the color of light in the scene we are shooting. This can leave our photos with a blue or yellow tint to them.

Luckily, our cameras have a setting that helps to fix that problem! The White Balance setting allows us to tell the camera what color light is available so that it can reproduce the whites in our photo as they should be. Once it gets the white right, all the other colors are adjusted accordingly, and we’re left with an image that is close to what our eyes see.

So, it’s important for you to set the white balance in your camera before you start shooting. That way you’ll get images that look fabulous straight out of the camera, without having to fix your colors with photo processing software. Using the right White Balance setting means more time shooting and less time behind that computer. If you don’t know where the white balance setting on your camera is at, now is the time to get out your camera manual. If you don’t have it anymore, you can usually find a PDF online from your camera maker

Here are some of the basic White Balance settings you’ll find on cameras:

  • Auto – this is where the camera makes a best guess about the available light. You’ll find it works much of the time,  but to get the best color I recommend choosing the setting based on what your eyes see.
  • Daylight – for using in bright sunny conditions, this will slightly cool a warm, yellow image.
  • Shade – shade is usually a little cooler, more blue, than shooting in direct sunlight so this mode will warm your image.
  • Cloudy – as with shade, this setting warms your image.
  • Tungsten – this mode is for shooting indoors, especially under tungsten/incandescent light. It generally cools down the warm, yellow color of bulb light.
  • Fluorescent – this compensates for the blue light of fluorescent bulbs and will warm up your shots.
  • Flash – the flash of a camera can be quite a cool light so flash mode will warm up your shots.
  • Custom – Many cameras also allow you to manually adjust your White Balance setting. This allows for the most accurate reading. You will need to check your camera manual on how to do this, and shoot a grey card to set the custom setting. (A grey card is a fantastic little tool that is just what it sounds like: a grey card! It is used as a neutral reference to help determine both the correct White Balance and Exposure for your shot. As great as it is, I rarely use one, it’s just one more thing to carry with you.)
  • Color Temp/Kelvin – The color temperature of light is measured in degrees Kelvin and can range from cool to warm casts of white light where candle light has a temperature of approximate 1900, tungsten photographic lights 3200, and overcast sky 6000. If you know your color temperature numbers you can set your camera by degrees of Kelvin. But honestly, I don’t know who uses Kelvin settings, I certainly would never remember what setting was for what light.

Now, that you know what to do, go forth, use the white balance settings that best describes the color of light you are shooting! I personally, have found that Auto does a fantastic job for me and gives me one less thing to think about as I’m shooting. But I’ve also found that the better the camera, the better the Auto White Balance. So give your camera’s settings a try and see what works bets for you!

Have a question for me or a suggestion for another photo lesson? Comment below!

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