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Digital Cameras: Getting Better Photos of Family and Friends


By Christine Peppler

Taking photographs of the people in your life is simple with a digital camera. We all have collections of images which represent the important people and events in our lives. Some of the pictures are great, but some leave our subjects stiffly posed, lost in the sea of a cluttered background, and often lacking personality as they stare back with the same "posed" face as in every other photograph. So how do we capture the detail and the personality so that the image saves for us a more meaningful record of a moment or a person?

Obviously, professional photographers take control of the background and lighting, direct the pose of their subjects, and use a great deal of creativity with props and camera controls to assure the highest quality image. For the average person however, candid shots are more effective in capturing the true meaning or personality at a given moment. For these individuals, following just a few basic tips can go a long way in obtaining photographs that will become a treasure for many years to come.

. The subject should be the focus of the picture. Avoid a cluttered background so that it does not distract from the subject. Using the viewfinder allows the photographer to determine how the shot will look. If the background is too cluttered the subject can be moved, but in more candid shots of individuals, holding the digital camera in a vertical position sometimes helps to eliminate some of the background.

. Step in close to capture more detail. For an image that captures the true personality and emotions of the subject, a photographer must get facial detail. When taking a candid shot and stepping in closer would disrupt the moment, use of the digital camera's optical zoom or telephoto can have the same effect.

. Some shots don't require posing. Many of the most meaningful shots are taken as subjects interact or are engaged in an activity. From images of children at play, a spouse reading the morning paper, a parent and child talking, or grandma gardening these are the moments that reflect the true personality of subjects.

. Happy is good, but there are other emotions worth capturing. It adds depth to a subject when images reflect other feelings such as humor, concentration, relaxation, or even boredom.

. A relaxed subject makes for a better photograph. When posing subjects, many photographers suggest talking to them to get them to relax and reveal more of what they are feeling or thinking. A natural, relaxed posture will provide a better image than that of a person standing rigidly with their arms crossed. A subject may be seated with their head resting on their hands or standing with their head at an angle and hands in their pockets; posture varies in real life and should be varied in photographs as well as it reflects the subjects mood.

. It is sometimes acceptable for a subject to be looking away from the camera. Just as with expressions on the face and posture, variations in where a subject is looking can work well in capturing a more meaningful image. Whether it is a child daydreaming as they gaze out of a window or simply an attempt to catch the profile of an adult as they drink their morning coffee these images which most accurately capture a subjects personality don't always require that they face the camera directly.

. Use the portrait setting on the digital camera for individual shots. The portrait setting will set the depth of field to focus on the subject.

. Focus on the subject can also be enhanced by framing them. For instance, a subject may pose in a window, an arbor, a doorway, sitting on a swing, or something similar to focus attention in the image on them.

. Lighting does matter. Although natural light outdoors is generally the best lighting for photographs, direct sunlight must be used carefully as it causes harsh shadows. Using the fill flash on a digital camera can help to reduce such shadows. Otherwise, taking shots in the shade, on an overcast day, or in the morning or evening when the sun is less harsh can help alleviate this problem.

For images that truly capture the personality of people that matter to us, photographs taken by family members can offer a dimension that is very difficult to capture in a studio. A willingness to experiment with more relaxed and natural poses or to avoid posing completely will provide a collection of photographs that reflect and record our lives more accurately.

Christine Peppler shares information on home entertainment and home electronics products, including digital cameras, on her website at: http://www.homemedias.info.

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