#2 Lighting & Exposure

In #1 composition was discussed as many times I see peoples pictures with a tree, branch, post, sign, or other distracting objects sticking out of the persons head, or other features in the background that drown out your subject. It takes only a second to either move your subject, or you can move, you do not need to be directly point blank in front of someone.  In picture 1 my son had the tree horns sticking out of his head, there was also some lighting and posing issues, when I moved him it eliminated the tree branch giving it a more pleasing composition, however, the lighting issues went from bad to worse. Also notice that I changed his pose to something more casual and natural. The first picture was taken straight on, like a mug shot, and that is exactly how it seems. The image is flat with no dimension, and his face appears fuller, (talk about the camera adding 10lbs.) So part of composition is not only being aware what is in the frame that can distract from the subject, but how you pose the subject even for casual shots will make a difference. Shot 2 is more interesting, has more depth, and is more flattering to the subject. So while picture 2 is a better shot from picture 1 from composition,  the image quality got worse.

In the first picture the exposure was pretty close to correct, but because he was up under shade, the light did nothing for him, you can see that the image just looks flat, his eyes are sunken in and they are just dull black. In this case a flash for fill would have been useful. Flash is not just for dark low light conditions. I use fill flash in  bright sun, to reduce harsh shadows, even out light, and add catch lights to the eyes. When the sun pops back out maybe next week, I will do a blog over day time flash and show some examples.  So  in picture 2 I did use a flash, but my cell phone has a crappy camera on it as it is an old model with no changeable settings other than flash on or flash off. The newer IPhones are awesome in respect to their camera and settings, had I been using my husbands IPhone the picture would have turned out nice. Even though in my case it truly is the cameras fault as I had no camera settings to change, the picture could have failed and produced a similar result using a point and shoot, or dslr,  by not being aware you have different settings and you need to change them for different scenarios. In this case the picture is noisy or grainy looking, because the ISO is not correct. The flash also was not strong enough to reach the subject so it fell short giving off the funky hazy color, and lastly placing him underneath the tree, made for just an overall darker image as the trees overshadowed him and any available light. Lets pretend I took it with my dslr instead of the phone. What I should have done was move him out from under the trees, set my camera on night setting mode, and used my flash. The different modes on your camera will calculate the best settings for you given the scenario you set it on using the exposure triangle.

download.jpg If you want to be a professional, you have to master this triangle to shoot in manual mode. For the majority of people, they rely on auto mode or presets which does all the hard work for you. There are great advantages to shooting in manual mode vs. auto, but again that will take years to get to that level so for the purpose of taking better family pictures learn to use your scene selections and shoot auto.


On your phone, tablet, point and shoot, or dslr camera, you should find different modes similar to the above, each mode sets the ISO, Shutter, and Aperture for you for the particular scene you are shooting. For example if I was going to shoot my kids soccer game, or if I was going to shoot a toddlers birthday party with kids running around every direction, I would pick the sports mode (the one that looks like a person running). This mode will give me a faster shutter speed, so the pictures do not have motion blur and I can capture all the action. Your camera manual will tell you more about the each mode, but practice is what makes it sink in. Locate your modes through your settings, then go out and shoot the same shot using each of the different to see how they vary, then practice with each mode, go out in the evening, put it on night mode. What a difference changing your settings can make.



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