One of my first friends here in Indiana, Nate, started his own photography business (Nathaniel Allen Photography) with his wife four years ago, in a stunning move of boldness and decision. He is now one of the most popular and talented photographers in our area, and he is only getting better. I asked him for a few of his professional photography tips, hoping that he’d share some wisdom with me and any other mom out there who wants to take pictures of her kids without having to schedule someone else, order prints from someone else’s shoot, and save on some money. I love getting pictures taken, but I can’t do it every month like I’d like to in order to capture my kids as they grow.
Professional Photography Tips from Nate
Me: What’s the best time of day to take pictures?
Nate: I call it “the golden hour”, the hour the sun is rising and the hour the sun is setting are both amazing times to shoot! The worst time of day to shoot is at noon.
Me: Would you suggest indoor or outdoor photography sessions?
Nate: If you are just starting out with a camera and learning to take the camera off of automatic and put it on manual, then outdoor will be much easier. Indoor lighting can be tricky because you deal with various types of light, like sunlight through the windows competing with fluorescent light bulbs in your home. That sort of thing is called “dirty light”. It will be much harder to balance these lights to make them match each other.
Me: If outside, what should I be aware of with shadows or sunlight? Should the sun be facing the camera, or behind the camera?
Nate: This is personal taste. I love to back-light (sun behind the subject) my subjects to add a “rim” light on their hair. Then I “tell” the camera (using the manual settings) to expose so the subject’s face is visible. The downside to this is that it will sometimes cause the background to appear over-exposed or blown out. And again, shooting at high noon in direct sunlight will be horrible lighting and will cause A LOT of unwanted shadows under your subject’s eyes. If I am forced to shoot in bad lighting scenarios I will try and find a shaded area with no direct light at all and tell my camera to expose for the subject using the manual setting feature.
Me: What colors look best on the camera? Muted ones, bright ones, whites and blues?
Nate: This again is personal preference. It all depends what you are trying to portray in your photo. Sometimes a very bright and vibrant outfit will look great, but other times I want a more muted look, so I will have my subjects wear something that will give me that look. It all depends on where you want the picture to end up, and how you want it to look in your own color scheme.
Me: What are some simple props I can use to make my at home photos look more professional?
Nate: It is not a prop as much as it is equipment and it is something that you should AVOID using. And that is “on camera flash”. I NEVER use direct on camera flash and if I do use a flash on my camera that is not the built in pop up flash, it is a separate flash unit that hooks to my camera’s hot shoe mount. And then instead of pointing the flash directly at my subject I will bounce the flash off of a wall in the room to add more dimension and direction to the light. Remember: just because the camera has a pop up flash on it DOES NOT mean you should use it. It creates a very unflattering light on your subject.
Me: In your opinion, should I have posed pictures or just take them spontaneously while my kids play?
Nate: Personally, I like to take pictures that tell a story and I’ve found I can achieve it with posed and spontaneous photos. With little kids, it’s harder to have any posed photos. So you might need to embrace the crazy.
Me: Are there any online editing programs that a mom without an apple can use for free?
Nate: Not that I know of, but I am sure they are out there. Adobe now has a monthly payment plan for Lightroom and a dumbed down version of photoshop creative suite. If you go to adobe’s website you can find more info about the pricing.
Note: picmonkey.com offers very inexpensive and user friendly photo editing with TONS of awesome features!
Me: Where should I take my pictures to be printed? Through a company or at a particular store?
Nate: I would NEVER use Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, or places like that to get your pictures printed! I would even avoid shutterfly. Their printers are very inconsistent and not reliable! Your pictures might come out with an orange tint to them or come out with way too much contrast and overall they can turn out looking cheap. If you have invested the money in a nice camera and devoted several hours to train yourself how to use the camera, the last thing you want is the printer screwing up all of your hard work! Outside of a professional print lab where they have high-end printers and where professional photographers sync their computer settings to the labs printers to deliver top quality images every time, I would recommend www.mpix.com. They deliver high quality products.
So, I think I took away that I never want to use my own camera’s flash, I never want to take pictures at high noon, and I never want to print at cheap places, where I always end up printing.
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this was very helpful