5 Ways to Make Better Photos of your Pets...Family...Vacation...

 
 

Sometimes we look at a scene - our dog, our family, a cafe in Italy and think “that would make a fabulous picture!” So we click. And then we see the photo and think “huh maybe not”. But whatever you were looking at MUST have inspired you enough to try, right??

Back in the day (a really long time ago, before the invention of the internet) I remember seeing a scene or a moment and thinking of how I wanted it to look in a picture. BUT I didn’t know HOW to make that happen. I didn’t have a decent camera much less know how to use it.

Fast forward a few years and a few advances in technology and we have digital tools to make our visions come true. Here are a few tips for creating photos that actually reflect what you are seeing, and want others to see.

#1 - Figure out the “hero” of your shot.

When you see your sweet little dog doing something adorable, what exactly is it that draws your attention? Her cute little scrunched nose or her paws outstretched or the beat up toy she is playing with? Focus your shot on that. I’m not saying cut out everything else, but think about that “hero” when you are shooting. That is what we want the eye to be drawn to in the photograph.

There was SO much going on here…little sister, little brother, parents, table full of stuff. But I think you can see exactly what my vision of the hero was. That’s right pupper, clean up that mess!

There was SO much going on here…little sister, little brother, parents, table full of stuff. But I think you can see exactly what my vision of the hero was. That’s right pupper, clean up that mess!

 

#2 - Get closer.

The best advice I got early on is you can never be too close to get the photo that you want. Although not completely true (cameras can’t all focus when you’re right on top of your dog’s little pink nose - true story), the biggest problem that most people run into is being too far away from the subject. Then the photograph is full of extraneous objects and your eye has no idea what to focus on.

I am all up in Freeway’s business here. But he didn’t seem to mind.

I am all up in Freeway’s business here. But he didn’t seem to mind.

 

#3 - Think about aperture (don’t abandon me now, you can do this!)

I know the technology can be challenging, even intimidating. BUT aperture can be a game changer, so hear me out. Aperture is a hole that allows light into your camera. The bigger the hole the smaller the number. I know, I know this all gets so confusing. And if you’re like me, I don’t think in terms of technology, I think in terms of what I want my photo to look like. So look at it this way. If you pick a small aperture or f-stop (what aperture is referred to as) like 2.8 or even 4 (which makes it a big hole), then the focus is only on your subject, and the background is out of focus. If you pick a larger number like 16, or even 22 (a smaller hole), then most or all of the image is in focus. Using a small number (big hole) is a great way to draw the eye to your hero. That small number (2.8 or 4) means the focus is right there on sweet puppy’s eyes, but not on the chairs behind her. Or on the handsome Italian gentleman sitting at the cafe and not the cars behind him. Practice using your camera in aperture priority mode (often indicated by an A on the dial) to give this a whirl.

You can see how the statue is completely in focus and that’s exactly where your eye goes first. The background is still there, but since it’s only softly in focus, it’s more just an accessory to the hero. This is an aperture (f-stop) of f4.

You can see how the statue is completely in focus and that’s exactly where your eye goes first. The background is still there, but since it’s only softly in focus, it’s more just an accessory to the hero. This is an aperture (f-stop) of f4.

This one, on the other hand, is a scene where I wanted to capture the whole path, from beginning to end. So with an aperture of f18, you can see that pretty much everything is in focus. And  BONUS  with the smaller hole / larger f-stop number, you also get that lovely little sun flare. The eye here is drawn down the path, so composition comes into play. More on that in another post…

This one, on the other hand, is a scene where I wanted to capture the whole path, from beginning to end. So with an aperture of f18, you can see that pretty much everything is in focus. And BONUS with the smaller hole / larger f-stop number, you also get that lovely little sun flare. The eye here is drawn down the path, so composition comes into play. More on that in another post…

 

#4 - Move around.

So we take one shot, then we judge it and stop. But maybe, just maybe, we take one shot and then try for another. And another. Think about it this way. I see my adorable kitty playing with her toy mouse and I love it so much. I’m going to take a photo from where I am standing. Now change the angle and get lower - crouch, squat or even lay down. Now walk around to the other side of the scene and take it from that side. Now stretch up and take it from the top down. Are you following me?? (and yes this can count as your daily workout) Suddenly a sweet little moment has multiple different interpretations. And when you look at them later, you’ll be surprised at some that you think “wow I thought that seemed like a stupid idea, but it’s gorgeous!” So is that my secret? Follow your stupid ideas? I suppose it is.

This shot from the top while standing didn’t give the full impact of the high five action. But squatting down to eye level, now we can really see what is going on here…and it’s adorable.

This shot from the top while standing didn’t give the full impact of the high five action. But squatting down to eye level, now we can really see what is going on here…and it’s adorable.

 

#5 - Practice and try different settings on your camera.

One problem with getting the “right shot” is that we only get our cameras out when we are on vacation. Or when we get a new pet. There are lots of ways to practice with your camera so that you are better when that crucial time comes (like Scruffy just graduated from training school). Get your camera out every day, every week and just shoot something. Not inspired? Then you’re not looking. With a new perspective, and camera in hand, walk out into your back yard. What do you see? Flowers? Trees? Snow? Sunshine? Bugs? How about walk down your street. Anything? Go to your local farmer’s market - always a plethora of good shots there!

Don’t limit yourself - I think that’s a common practice for most of us. Tell yourself that you are going to create 3 or 5 or 10 pictures every day, or every Saturday, or every second Sunday. And don’t judge yourself! Experiment with different camera settings and don’t be afraid of breaking it - you won’t.

My back yard with morning dew. See? Anything can be inspiring if you let it be!

My back yard with morning dew. See? Anything can be inspiring if you let it be!

 

Let’s summarize. You don’t have to be a technological genius or a professional to take better photos. If you want to have better pictures of your dogs, family, vacation…there are a few simple ways to make that happen. Also, don’t get overwhelmed or give up when you can’t figure out how to use your camera. It takes practice. Lots and lots of practice. AND don’t ever think an idea is stupid - try anything. I mean anything. And please, please, please, share the results of those “stupid” ideas!

I LOVE to help people improve their photography skills, or find motivation in the mundane (THAT sounds like another blog post, eh?). So if you are ever interested in talking to me or working together to practice some things, let me know.

Happy shooting! (in the nonviolent, creating pictures kind of way)

 
Diane Evans2 Comments