Taking Your Own Pictures – a VERY Basic Tutorial

I don’t know if y’all have seen this post before, pardon me if you have, but I can’t help myself. It’s full of pictures of my baby :) And, I just wanted to encourage y’all to find your artsy fartsy side and have a little fun. Part of living life on a budget means I don’t get to hire a professional photographer to take pictures as often as I’d like, or in our case, not since we have been married. I know. That’s almost 5 years of no professional photos. As my baby’s Mom, I think he is the cutest thing I have EVER seen, and I’d love to take professional pictures of him weekly. (Yes, this is my first baby.. did I give that away already?) I decided pretty quickly I was going to have to learn how to take decent pictures on my own. I just recently took these photos for his first birthday, and I really loved how the pictures turned out. I didn’t use any special settings on the camera, I shot all of these on “auto.” The trick was the lighting-the sun was out nice and bright, but I had him in a fully shaded area. I didn’t buy any special props, either. That’s my honey’s hat, his own blankey, my guitar, and our boots. I think they turned out cute! I am no professional by any means, nor do I want to be… but I do want to share with you a few things that I have learned through a little googling, asking people who know how to take pictures, and my own trial and error:

LIGHTING: Lighting is important. Don’t take pictures in the middle of the day-the sun is far too bright. Aim for the morning, evening and cloudy days. Be aware of where your light source is coming from, and try to avoid strange shadows on your subject’s face. You can get great pictures if it’s bright outside by finding a shady place where your subject can hide from direct sunlight.

ANGLE: Get up close to your subject. Don’t be afraid to have close ups. If you’re taking a child’s picture, lean down and get on their level. If you are taking a picture of a tall person, avoid being lower than their face, it can cause a double chin effect that no one wants in their pictures. If there is a car or something not adorable in the background, leave your subject in place and YOU move around, see if you can’t angle that car out of the picture.

KIDS: Keep it fun. Don’t take pictures right before nap time or dinner. They’ll be hungry and tired. I wait until my son has just woken up and eaten and is at his best. And then bring treats. Bribe them into good behavior! This isn’t always the time to lay down the law, although that sometimes works for older kids.

EDITING: I don’t have photoshop, but you don’t need it for good pictures. You just need practice taking good pictures. I do have a very basic program called “Windows Photo Gallery.” It’s available for a free download, and it gives me basic tools like cropping and brightening. You can also edit pictures for free if you upload them to Photobucket.com

PRINTING: I just printed over 50 4×6 and 3 5×7 photos for $5.33, including shipping. When I upload my photos, I sort them into ones I’d print and then “The Others.” When Snapfish.com or Shutterfly.com has a print sale I just have to upload my photos and order them. This time I had a free $10 credit to Shutterfly. Costco and Sam’s Club offer 1 hour printing that is quality, fast and readily available to most people if you don’t have time to wait. This weekend WalGreens also had a deal where you could print a free 8×10.

COMPOSITION: What makes good composition? Follow the rule of thirds… basically, if your photo had grid lines, you would want the interesting points (eyes and such) to come to the intersections (click the link above for better explanation). Or more simply, don’t put horizon lines in the dead center of the photo. Don’t have a telephone pole in the dead center of a shot-things like that.  Try to remember not to cut people off at their midsections and leave a giant empty space above their heads… get their at least half their thighs or somethin in there.  Also, if you are taking pictures of people, think how you have them “posed.” Ever see the website for awkward family photos? That’s a good reference of what not to do with them. Instead, try to capture natural postures for people, having them bend at the joints makes them not feel so awkward, like a hand on the hip (bent elbow), sitting on the ground knees to their chest (bent legs).  Also, try not to notice that there are two “Should” in the above photo. Always, always spell check. I will fix this one day, I swear!

There you have it. My completely unprofessional tips on how to take your own pictures! You might surprise yourself on what you can do if you try!

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  1. I’ve just been following your blog for a short time, but have enjoyed the posts. These are some great photography tips. I am also here in Lubbock. I have a few extra copies of a software program I like for editing and organizing photos and would like to give you a copy if you’d like to try it out and tell me what you think. Just email me at dionnemerriott@gmail.com and I’ll send you the link to download it and an activation code.

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