Month: April 2015

5 Ways to Use a Beauty Dish Light for Portraits

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The beauty dish. It’s one of my favorite light modifiers, which is why I’m so excited to share some techniques you can try with your beauty dish. Don’t have one? Not to worry. There are plenty of DIY beauty dish project plans online. I’ve actually made them out of aluminum turkey pans. When you decide to step up to a more professional beauty dish, however, they are usually not as expensive as most light modifiers and you can get them for speedlights or studio strobes.

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Beauty dishes are a niche modifier usually reserved for beauty shots. These tend to be head and shoulder portraits that highlight makeup and hair, and are commonly used in the fashion industry. So why should you try it? Well, it’s fun to see if you can make images like you see in the fashion magazines, it’s also very creative. You really have to plan and construct the entire image. This may include everything from your choice of background, lighting setup, and hair and makeup.

The quality of light produced by a beauty dish is not as soft as a softbox, but it is softer than an umbrella, and not as hard as just using a 7 inch reflector. The light falloff is quite rapid, which helps to sculpt the subject’s face and to show texture in their skin. Beauty dishes often produce nice catch lights in the eyes and shadows under the jaw line. They are versatile modifiers because you can change the quality of light by choosing a dish with a silver, or white, inner surface. The white surface will produce slightly less specular highlights on the subject’s face. You can also control the spill of light by using a grid and even further soften the light by adding a sock over the front.

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When you plan a shoot using a beauty dish, only use it on clients or models with very good skin because the light pattern it produces can show off imperfections like wrinkles and blemishes. It’s also helpful to find a good makeup and hair artist because you will be showing off the subject’s face in detail. If you’re not ready to pay a makeup artist for this service, you can offer them a trade for images so they can expand their portfolios; or, if you’re really lucky sometimes you can find a model that is skilled at doing her own makeup.

When setting up your camera, I recommend a lens in the 85-200mm range. I use studio strobes and an aperture around f/8 or f/11. I would also recommend using a boom arm because it will help you put the beauty dish in just the right spot, without getting in the way of your shot. The beauty dish will give you very nice light on the subject’s face. Keep in mind you often need to spice up the image with a rim (or accent) light, hair light or a background light.

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Let’s get started with five ways to use your beauty dish:

1. One light with a reflector: Clam shell lighting)

This is the typical way you will see a beauty shot set up. The dish is positioned right above the subject’s face, pointed down slightly, so the center of the dish is aimed at the subject’s forehead, right between the eyes. The dish should be close to your subject to produce soft light, usually within two to four feet. When you set this up, make sure you can see catchlights in the top of subject’s eyes. Then add a reflector under the beauty dish to bounce light back up on to their face. This will help minimize the shadows under chin, and add a catch light at the bottom of the eyes. You will have to put your camera between the beauty dish and the reflector. Some photographers also like to add black cards on either side of the subject to help create shadows on the sides of the face.

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2. Two light setup: Clam shell lighting

This is basically the same as number one above, except you use a strobe in place of the reflector. This allows you control of the power output of the fill light. I prefer to use a strip box for this purpose, set one or two stops darker (lower) than the main light.

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3. Add a sock over the beauty dish

The sock is a piece of diffusion material, that looks like a shower cap, which you put over the beauty dish. This softens the light on the subject’s face, and if you are getting shiny spots it will reduce the specularity of the light. Using a sock will produce a creamy look, with less skin texture.

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4. Add a grid to the beauty dish

The grid will focus the light into more of a spotlight type pattern, which can be used to create some interesting effects. Just make sure the grid is pointed directly at the subject or the light pattern will not strike the face correctly. The easiest way to check this is to make sure the subject can see directly through the grid to the light source.

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5. Take it outdoors

The beauty dish is a great light modifier for outdoors because it’s more compact than a softbox, but can be used like one. The light quality will be softer than an umbrella, and won’t catch the wind as much as an umbrella or a softbox. It can be used as the main light source or as a fill light. If you use it as a main or fill light you can set it up at a 45 degree angle like you might use a softbox. When the light conditions are warm in tone such as sunrise or sunset, you may want to add a color temperature orange gel over the beauty dish to help blend the strobe’s light with the sunlight.

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The beauty dish is a bit of a specialist tool that can produce wonderful lighting patterns when used correctly. However, it can also be used in many creative ways to produce interesting shots. I hope you have fun giving the beauty dish a try.

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The post 5 Ways to Use a Beauty Dish Light for Portraits by Gary Detonnancourt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

Photographing Stars Using a Kit Lens

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Pic 01 d5100 18mm f3 5 20sec iso1600

Looking at a starry sky while sitting in the open is always a soothing experience, but shooting those stars is a much better one. Have you seen those amazing starry skies and Milky Way photographs from professional photographers and wondered how to do this yourself but never tried it because you thought you did not have the proper equipment? Let me tell you, “You were wrong”.

If you own a normal DSLR camera and are interested in shooting stars (and the Milky Way), you can do this with your kit lens. I will explain the whole process step by step in the easiest possible way, so that even if you do not have much technical knowledge, you can understand and implement this method.

Basics of star photography

To get started, you need to have following points in mind:

  • A place away from the city lights. The less light pollution you have, the more chance of getting clear stars you will have.
  • A moonless night. Stars can also be shot on a full moon night, but the brighter the moon is, the more light pollution it creates, and the stars will not be as prominent.
  • A normal DSLR camera with a standard 18-55 mm kit lens.
  • A tripod

You can Google your surroundings for away from the city spots (Dark Sky) and moon phases at night. You should know beforehand in what direction, and at what time the moon is going to rise. That will help you a lot with composition of your images. A moonless night is always best to shoot stars.

Additionally, you can also use a compass app on your smartphone (for Android here) to locate the north star for star trails and you can also download an app called Star Chart (for iOS or for Android) or Google Sky just to give you an idea of which stars there are above you. Both of these apps also show you the direction of the Milky Way so you can directly shoot it and get amazing results.

These apps are pretty accurate, and with their help you can also see Mars, even with your naked eye (which I am sure you saw previously but were unable to differentiate it from stars). If you want to plan your shoot for future, or look for appropriate time sto shoot Milky Way in your location, you can download a desktop app Stellarium. Put in your coordinates and it will show you the direction of the Milky Way at a specific time, on a specific date of the year. Using this application, you can know exactly at what time of year, the brightest part of Milky Way will be above your location to shoot.

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Camera settings

Now let’s get to the important part, camera settings. You will need to take control of your camera, keeping it in Manual mode. Change the mode to Manual and tune in the following settings.

Focal length: Set your focal length to the widest you have – e.g., 18 mm in the case of a kit lens. You can choose any focal length you want, but the more you zoom in (the longer the focal length is), the less stars you will be able to capture, and your optimum exposure time before star trails start to develop will also decrease (500 Rule).

Aperture: Setting your aperture to the widest option is key here – e.g., f/3.5 as in a kit lens. By using the widest the aperture, more light will enter through your lens giving you brighter stars and Milky Way.

Shutter speed: If you are only shooting stars and/or the Milky Way, set the shutter speed to 20 seconds or star trails will start to appear, giving the look of larger, unfocused stars. If you are wondering, why 20 seconds, here is the answer. Optimum exposure before you start getting star trails is calculated by dividing 500 by your focal length (also divide the answer by 1.5 if you are using cropped sensor.) So in the example of an 18mm lens on a cropped sensor – 500 divided by 18 = 27.78 divided by 1.5 = 18.52 (so roughly 20 seconds).

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ISO: Start by keeping the ISO at 1600, and increase it later depending on your results. Keep in mind that greater the ISO, more noise there will be in your image. Although it does depend on signal to noise ratio of camera body you are using. High end or even new consumer camera bodies tend to produce less noise at higher ISOs, than do older ones, even three years old.

Shutter release: You need to have a shutter release (remote trigger) to avoid camera shake while shooting. If you don’t have a shutter release remote/cable, just use your camera;s 2-second or 10-second timer. That will minimize any blur in the picture due to camera shake.

It’s also best to switch OFF your “Vibration-Reduction” or “Image-Stabilization”, as the vibration of the motors can cause shake in the picture too.

Focusing the lens to infinity: Next, after putting up all these settings, the next most important thing left to do it focus your lens to infinity. As kit lens doesn’t have infinity marker on it, we will use hyper-focal distance values to focus the lens to infinity. Mount your camera and lens on a tripod, and focus it on any bright object far away at a distance of 20 feet or more. Point a flashlight towards camera from a distance of minimum 20 feet and focus on it if you are in the dark, and don’t have anything to focus. Once the lens is focused beyond 20 feet, its hyper-focal distance will project to infinity and your stars will be sharp. It will also help in getting anything in the foreground sharp too.

Don’t forget to switch your lens to M (Manual) after focusing, or else it will start to hunt for focus again when shutter is pressed.

If your lens is not focused to infinity, you will get the Milky Way but the stars will not be as sharp and will appear bigger. Same can happen if you go for a longer speed than required for not causing stars to produce trails. An example of these mistakes is here.

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Lens was not focused to infinity.

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Lens was not focused to infinity.

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Lens was not focused to infinity.


It’s better to first sit in the dark for at least 15 minutes to let your eyes adjust with the surroundings. This will help you to see a lot of stars, and even the Milky Way with the naked eye and will also help you compose your images better. Enjoying your surroundings for a while is better than just starting to shoot as soon as you reach the site.

You are all set to shoot your own stars. With the help of kit lens you might not be able to get an award or feature your shot on 500px but yes, the shots will be very reasonable to make yourself happy, and impress your friends too. You could even try merging panoramas to get more of the Milky Way in your composition.

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The first part to better post-processing is RAW. Yes! always shoot in RAW as it will give you a lot of room for post-processing without affecting the quality. Secondly, some post-processing is always needed to get optimum results. You can find many tutorials on how to post process Milky Way images but the most elaborate one I found is from Hammad Iqbal Photography who also has a tutorial here on dPS on making star trails in Photoshop.

Star trails:

If you are satisfied with your shots, you can advance further to get star trails. Just locate the north star on the north pole using the Star Chart app and keep the north star (all stars rotate around this star) in your composition. For star trails, all camera settings will remain the same except that you can increase the shutter speed to 30 sec if you want.

You can go with faster shutter speeds (20 seconds or faster, if there are lights in the area and 30 seconds is overexposing). Keep the camera on continuous shooting mode and let it shoot as many exposures as it can shoot. The more pictures you will have, the more clear your star trails will be. Later, you can join all the exposures in Photoshop or use any star-trails software to create star trails. Alternately, you can take one stars shot and make star trails with it using HM Technique.

Pic 07 Star Trails A merge of 18 shots each at 30 sec

Pic 10 Star trail created in PS using HM Technique

Star trail created in PS using HM Technique

Pic 11 Fun in PS

Fun in Photoshop

Once you have nailed the Milky Way, try including foreground objects for better compositions.

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Happy shooting, and keep me updated with your results. Let me know if you need any help.

The post Photographing Stars Using a Kit Lens by Adeel Gondal appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

3 Tips for Getting Great Skin Tones Using Adobe Camera Raw

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Skin tones can be one of the more difficult aspects of a photograph to master. Getting pleasing skin tones will make your image appear more eye-catching and attractive. If you know the right steps to take, skin can be pretty simple to master. Using these three simple tricks, using only Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), your skin tones will appear more balanced and pleasing to the eye.

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Note: working in Lightroom you can do the this as well, because the sliders and options are the same!

White Balance

When trying to get great looking skin tones, the first thing you should pay attention to is the white balance. Correct white balance will set the stage for great skin tones. If the white balance is too cool, your skin will appear gray or bluish. On the other hand, if the white balance is too warm, the skin will look yellow or orange. Neither of these options are very pleasing to the eye, and make the skin more difficult to work with later on.

To see if your white balance is accurate, use the white balance targeted adjustment tool. It looks like an eye-dropper and is located at the top of the screen. It is the third tool over from the left. Click on the dropper, then click on an area of your photo that is white. The whites of the eyes are a good place to start. This should give you a good indication of where the white balance should be set. If your image still appears too warm or cool to your taste, use the temperature slider located to the right of your screen, it is the first one. Adjust this by sliding it to the right or left until your get a pleasing white balance. You may have to adjust Tint as well.



Next, make sure your exposure is correct. Take a look at the histogram located in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Ideally, you want it to look like a smooth bell curve, with the high point of the curve right in the middle. Check to make sure that the curve does not go too far to the left or the right. This may indicate that your photo is over or underexposed, causing your skin tones to either be gray and dark, or too bright and blown-out in some spots.

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If your curve does fall too far to one side, use the exposure slider to fix it. Located three sliders down on the right hand side of your screen, move it either left or right. Watch your histogram. When the majority of the curve is in the middle, you’ve got it! In some photos, there will be parts of your image that are very bright or dark, and cause your histogram to spike on parts of the curve. This happens often when you have a bright sky in the background. If this is the case, your curve will be off the chart on the right edge of the histogram. In an image like this, you would look at where the majority of your curve lies and ignore the parts of the curve that are out of range.

For more information see: How to Read and Use Histograms


Finally, to give your skin tones just a little more brightness you will want to locate the luminance sliders (look for the HSL panel, the L stands for Luminance). You will see a horizontal strip of buttons directly under the histogram on the right panel. The fourth one to the left is HSL/Grayscale, click on that button. After selecting that option, three tabs will appear. Click on the Luminance tab. Choose the orange slider, which is two down, and move it to the right. You will notice that this affects mainly the skin in your photo and leaves the other areas of the image untouched. The more you move it to the right, the brighter the skin will appear. Keep moving the orange slider back and forth until the skin is the brightness you prefer.

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Once you have adjusted your RAW image using these three steps, you can open it up in Photoshop to do any fine tuning or adjustments on the remainder of your photo. Your skin tones, however, should already look great and need little, if any additional work.

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Do you have any other tips for making great looking skin tones using ACR? Please share them in the comments below.

The post 3 Tips for Getting Great Skin Tones Using Adobe Camera Raw by Emily Supiot appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

6 of the Most Essential but Underused Camera Features

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If you are just getting started in photography, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find these six often overlooked features in the menu of your DSLR. While each one can be used to create professional quality results, extensive experience is not required to leverage their usefulness. Best of all, there’s no need to upgrade to a high end model. These settings are now found on even the most entry-level camera bodies. With the ability to take full control of your camera, you’re more likely to get the shot right at the time of the exposure.

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1) Flash Exposure Compensation

The pop-up flash gets a bad rap, and this is unfortunate as it’s actually a very useful tool when set properly. Out of the box, it simply provides too much light, resulting in a bright, washed-out appearance. The trick is to adjust the flash exposure compensation to a reduced output. As a starting point, bring it down to negative two (-2). This creates a soft quality of fill flash that’s immediately more pleasing. Should you need even less light, you can further reduce the flash to negative three. While it’s rarely necessary, you could even add intensity to the flash by raising it towards the positive. Just remember, effective use of flash is meant to soften, not eliminate shadows.

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2) Two Second Timer

This rarely used setting can open up a whole new world of creative possibility for you. It’s typically found in the “drive” menu, along with single shot, multi-shot burst mode, etc. If you’re in a place that doesn’t allow tripods, it’s still possible to take sharp photos, even with long exposure times.

Select the two second timer and rest the camera on a chair, or the ground. You can use the folded camera strap to angle the camera upwards if necessary. When you press the shutter, the camera will move initially. Don’t worry, you have two seconds for it to settle down before the camera actually fires. This is also helpful for tripods that are not as stable as they should be. If you don’t have a cable release, the timer is a terrific wireless alternative.

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3) Histogram

Think of the histogram as a visual cheat-sheet for photographing bright tones. To render a subject as true white, you want the data on the right hand side to be as close to the edge of the graph (histogram) as possible. This will indicate a crisp exposure rather than a muddy, grey appearance. As you change the exposure to let in more light, the histogram will inch towards the right. Keep adjusting your settings until it’s literally just a hair from the outer wall. You are now maximizing all of the wonderful dynamic range of which your camera is capable.

Once the data actually collides with the right hand wall of the histogram, you’ve technically overexposed part of your scene. This means there is no detail in the highlights, but rather a hotspot that is impossible to recover, even with sophisticated software. While this data is valuable, it doesn’t tell you exactly where the trouble spot is in your scene. This is where the “highlight alert” becomes a helpful aid.

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4) Highlight Alert

By default, many camera models have the highlight alert turned off so you’ll need to enable it in the menu. Commonly referred to as “the blinkies”, this feature alerts you to the precise location that’s overexposed. With this knowledge, you can make a quick adjustment to the exposure, or even change your composition to eliminate the unwanted area. That translates to more consistent exposures with no washed-out areas. You’ll also be rewarded with less time in the digital darkroom, trying to fix problems that could have been prevented in the field.

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5) Live View

If you’ve ever struggled to achieve autofocus at night, or desire more accuracy for macro work, Live View will be your new favorite mode. With it, you can zoom in on a tiny portion of a subject at 5x and 10x magnification. This extreme close-up gives you the ability to carefully micro-focus on whatever is most important in your scene. Just note, the enlarged view on your LCD is not representative of your lens’ effective focal length. Upon pressing the shutter, the entire scene will still be captured in sharp detail. You’ll be amazed at the level of precision possible. For the ultimate in control, use this with manual focus and a sturdy tripod.

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Live View is not only useful for focus, but composition as well. For example, if your DSLR lacks a tilt or swivel screen, shooting from ground level can be a real challenge. With a live image on the LCD however, there’s no need to crane your neck for viewfinder access. The same idea can be applied to those crowded situations when you must raise the camera over your head. Instead of shooting blind, you can use Live View to better compose the shot.

6) Single AF Point

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Allowing the camera to automatically choose your focus point is one of the biggest causes of blurry photos. Don’t get me wrong, you can still use autofocus, but it works most consistently when you manually set the autofocus point. Otherwise, the camera will choose incorrectly, leaving the fence post sharp and your subject out of focus. While some cameras offer clusters of focus points, a simpler approach will often work to your advantage. By placing a single active AF point on what you want sharpest, you eliminate the guess work, and your percentage of keepers will soar.

Do you have any other hidden gems on your camera you’d like to share? What have you discovered in the menu of your camera?

The post 6 of the Most Essential but Underused Camera Features by Chris Corradino appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

3 Tips for Capturing Connections in Family Portraits

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Capturing Conenctions in Family Portraits Article for DPS by Memorable Jaunts 01


We’ve all heard the dreaded words, “Okay everyone, look at the camera and at the count of three say Cheese!”. I have been guilty of using this technique too in my early days of as a family portrait photographer. I remember coming home from client photo shoots and kicking myself for not being original, botching up my client’s experience, and getting really mediocre images that lacked any emotion or connection.

Over the course of time, my style of photography evolved and I started investing more time and effort in making my clients feel comfortable before, during, and after their photoshoot. The results were images that were fun, fresh and full of emotions. Exactly the kind of images that I want in my portfolio. My clients love the experience and I often hear words like, “Oh that was so much fun!” or ‘Thank you for making it so easy”, and “I loved how you made us feel at ease”. I realized that if, as a photographer, I was having a good time interacting with and photographing my clients, they were having a great time too.

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At the end of the day, my job as a photographer is not only to take great, meaningful and beautiful pictures for my clients but also to make sure they have a great time and it is a pleasant experience. To that end, there are some things to keep in mind to capture connections among your clients

#1 – Family dynamics

It is very important to understand family dynamics prior to the photoshoot. This goes beyond the typical questions about the names and ages of the kids. Try and understand likes and dislikes of the people involved. If there are young children involved, take the time to understand personalities of the kids as individuals, and with their siblings. Is the family casual and easy going, or do they like formal, traditional posed pictures? Just because they like a particular style of imagery does not mean you have to stick to that. But certainly incorporate what they want first, then feel free to experiment.

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This family made it very clear that their new puppy was their second baby! – Rather than excluding the dog, I made sure to include him in almost all their images.

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Large family groups don’t have to be intimidating. Just engage with them and give them something to do.





#2 – Structure the shoot

Trust me, this is key and will ensure you maintain your sanity during the photoshoot. Have a plan of action. I make it a point to spend the first five minutes of every session educating my clients on what they can expect. The first few minutes is warmup time – testing the light, figuring out the right lens, etc. I let my clients know exactly what’s happening, and many times, I get a lot of beautiful images during this time. Clients are much more relaxed if they think these first few minutes don’t really count.

Then we incorporate an activity like walking along a path, climbing a tree, playing in the park, and I photograph around that activity. Finally we just sit down to enjoy each other’s company. This not only let’s the clients know exactly how we are going to spend our time but also helps keep me in check. Because let’s face it, for most of us, once we start clicking that shutter, it is so easy to loose track of time!

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A simple conversation that was set up resulted in some magical daddy-daughter moments.

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Sometimes just use hands to communicate connection among family members.





#3 – Make it fun

This is a critical part of capturing connections among family members during the photoshoot. For family portraits with little kids, try techniques like tickle-fest, blowing bubbles, rocking out those dance moves and other such methods to get the kids in the spirit of having fun. If kids are a little older, try cracking jokes. Bring some basic props if required and let the kids play. Photograph around the activity and capture candid moments of family interactions. If all else fails, it is okay to setup the shot and work the family into the pose. Make sure to keep clicking so that you can get some candids through out the whole process.

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Capturing Conenctions in Family Portraits Article for DPS by Memorable Jaunts 08

Bride + Bridesmaids + a catwalk pose = really fun images!




Remember that families that play together, stay together. Your job as a photographer is to capture these family dynamics in a fun and pleasing way. If your clients have a great time during the shoot, it is more than likely that they will love your images because they will remember the experience in a positive light.

The post 3 Tips for Capturing Connections in Family Portraits by Karthika Gupta appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

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