Back to basics – 2 simple steps to improve your photography

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Can you believe it’s already June? We’ve had a lot of visitors recently and we’ve been busy busy busy. Time’s flying and it’s not always easy keeping up. When it gets like this, I find the best way to cope is to simplify everything. Find the essentials and just let go of the rest.

So I’m on this mission to go back to basics.

In photography, the best back to basics tips that I can give are to:

1) simplify what’s in your image
2) simplify your light source

To simplify what’s in your image, find an angle that cuts out the background. Go in really close or turn your subject around to include as little clutter as possible, in the background. A wonderful trick, if you’re photographing children, is to go in slightly from below and use the blue sky as a backdrop. The opposite is to get them to lie on the ground, you stand on a chair and use the lawn as your background. In that way you simplify everything in your shots and the main subject really stands out.

Simplifying your light source, makes it easier for you to see where the highlights and shadows are – and makes for a more natural looking image. If you’re outside, it’s quite simple – the sun or overcast sky is your single main light source. Sometimes this light can be a bit harsh, though. Try sitting your subject on a light neutral coloured blanket. The light that comes from above will bounce back up into the shadows, making the shadows a little lighter and your image softer.

Inside things can be a little trickier, so simplify.  Switch off your house lights and switch off your flash! Try using natural light. Choose one window as your single light source and get your subject right up close to it. One article I read suggests that you place your kids’ table or play area right near that window. Then they’ll generally be in the right sport for you to take pics. A favourite chair in that spot will also work! Then try taking your shots with the main light source to the side of your subject. That way your image will have a balance of light and shadow.

Here’s a quick and basic photo challenge:

Get your child to sit in that chair that you’ve moved right near the window or glass door. Now you squeeze up right up to the window, so that the light source is coming from the side, but you’re seeing the slightly more of the lighter side of them. Switch off your flash. Get them to show you the latest Lego toy they built and tell you about it. They don’t have to smile, just sit and chat to them and click away. Or even better – get granny to sit there with them and read them a story…

I have a lovely series of photos where my children were sitting in some white couches, right near the window, where lovely soft light was streaming in. The light bounced up off the white couches, (under their chins and into their darker eye sockets) and created a lovely soft glow. My longer lens allowed me to come in close, without disturbing them – so that only the couches and the plain white wall got into the background of the shot. Then, I simply captured their expressions while they were watching TV.

Simplify and I can guarantee you’ll get some good shots!


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