Friday, August 2, 2013

Totally Texas -- Vacation pictures you'll cherish

I’m always amazed that people repin so many of my photographs on Pinterest. It’s not because the shots look professional -- far from it. I think it’s actually because they don’t have an air of professionalism that people like them. They’re photos anybody could take -- but seldom do.

And since Totally Texas is all about family outings, I’d like to pass along what I’ve learned the hard way from years as my family’s official photographer. And I’ll welcome any special tips you’ve picked up. This won’t be about exposure, focal length, bounced flash, or anything that involves more than point and shoot equipment. For that, you can read a book or take a class. This is about stuff you won’t get from a book or a class.

(By the way, I use a digital camera small enough to fit into the pocket of my jeans. But most of this advice also applies to any picture-taking device, from phones to film.)

-- Don’t let them stand there. This is the first commandment. Nothing against the documentary-type photos -- “our family in front of the Alamo, August 2013.” But before or after the documentary, let kids, pets, mom, dad, whoever, wander around while you snap unobtrusively. This is what digital photo equipment is made for.

-- Don’t let yourself stand there either. Pictures your family will cherish don’t just walk by. You’ve got to wander to find them, sometimes in places you don’t expect. Also, consider changing your vertical viewpoint. Take pictures while kneeling or sitting to get a kid’s eye perspective.

-- Snap more pictures than you think you’ll ever use. With digital, you don’t have to pay for developing and anything super-bad is easy to delete. I take dozens of pictures in a session and my biggest regret always is not taking more.

-- Start snapping before the moment and keep snapping after it’s passed. This is even more important on those documentary photos. Example -- A friend and her sisters lined up for a posed family portrait. After the initial camera flash, they figured things were over, relaxed and had a laugh. I was still snapping. They cherished the posed photo, but the laughing after-shot was the one that became a Facebook cover.

-- Take full size shots, both horizontal and vertical. Cropping photos with digital software is so easy, I seldom bother doing it in the viewfinder any more. Taking full screen pictures gives more options later. Maybe you’ll even find something in the frame you didn’t see the first time.

-- There doesn’t have to be a face in it. Wait -- family pictures of somebody’s back? Here’s an example -- I wanted a picture of my grandkids enjoying the fountains at Dallas Fountain Place’s gardens, but putting the fountain between them and camera wasn’t working. So I took a picture of one of the boys from behind. The result, which illustrates this post, is as characteristic of him as a front view.

Which brings me to the last tip. . .

-- Be open to the moment. I always plan for photos, but it’s usually the ones not planned that become the most memorable.

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