Monday, June 1, 2015

Water fun and how I take better pictures with a cheap(er) camera

It's been warming up around here, getting into the mid-80s, so we broke out the ole' wading pool and sprinkler (on separate days).  The girls, of course, had a big time, and I got to take lots and lots of pictures.

I do not have a fancy DSLR camera or whatever they are, so I've been really focusing on ways to create the best photos with what I've got.  My pictures are definitely not perfect or of professional quality, but by keeping some things in mind, I can manage some pretty decent ones.

Here are some things I've learned (in no particular order):

1.  Natural light is best.

My best pictures are taken outside.  I have a difficult time taking good pictures indoors, mainly because our house does not have a lot of natural light filtering in.  I have to rely mostly on artificial lights (lamps and what not) and it's just not the same.  With sunlight, however, I can snap action photos that are usually not blurry.  Indoors, not so much.

Love this pic - they're both jumping.
Her expressions crack me up!

2.  Avoid direct sunlight.

Even though getting outside and using natural light will produce higher quality photos, it's best to stay out of direct sunlight.  Instead, if at all possible, I try to take pictures when the kids are in a shady spot or when it's cloudy.

Notice the difference between the next two pictures.  In this one, the sun is shining directly on the girls' upper halves.  It's still a decent picture, but a little hard on the eyes where it's so bright and the shadows on the girls are a little unappealing. 

In this picture, however, the sun wasn't shining directly on Addy.  There are no unappealing shadows and no super bright spots.  It's pretty well-balanced.

This was a cloudy day.  The picture is a tad blurry and I cut off part of Izzy's head and arm, but as far as lighting goes, it's much better than the first picture.

3.  Get down.

Most of the time when I'm taking pictures of the girls, I squat down.  Getting down on their level just makes for a better picture.

For example, in this picture I squatted way down to take this shot.  I could have just stood there, with the camera pointing down, but the picture wouldn't have been as neat as this one - it makes it feel like you're right there in the action.

4.  Edit.

Of course, the most ideal picture-taking experience would be to center my camera on whatever object I'm taking a picture of, to make sure the lighting is perfect, and to avoid an unnecessary and/or unappealing background.  But most of the time, that amount of planning doesn't happen.  So, after I download photos to my computer, I usually upload them to Picasa, a free photo editing program that is downloaded to my computer.  With this program, I can crop, touch-up, play with lighting, etc.  Many so-so photos can turn into much better ones after doing a little editing.

For example, here are two different copies of the exact same picture, the second one being cropped.  By cropping, I was able to center Izzy in the picture and also cut out the blue part of the trampoline and the yellow water hose.  Although the legs of the trampoline are still in the picture, it's not as apparent as the blue padding was.  Also, it's very subtle, but I lightened up the second picture as well.

The difference in the next two is the tuning.  The first picture's lighting and coloring is a little dull.  In the second, I sharpened the shadowing and color temperature.

For this one, I zoomed in, cutting out the unattractive water hose in the background, and sharpened the color temp.

I usually just play around, but I try to be careful not to make the photos look too touched up.  I want them as natural looking as possible.

5.  Take lots of pictures!

One of the best ways to get a good picture is to take lots of them!  

My photos are definitely not perfect, but who cares?  They're mine and I enjoy them.  Happy picture-taking!!

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