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3 Easy Steps To Improve Your Family Photographs

Good holiday pictures should capture you and the destination and both need to be easy to see.

Good holiday pictures can be awesome souvenirs by taking a little care with the framing.

BETTER PICTURES WITH ANY CAMERA | Darrin Henry

Is this how you take photographs of your family on holiday?

You’re at a famous building or historical monument and as the designated family photographer you organise the souvenir picture. First you order your children (or wife or husband or girlfriend or boyfriend) to stand right next to said building or monument. Then you hold the camera up and walk backwards until you can fit the building into the camera viewfinder (or LCD screen). “Say cheese,” and then take the picture?

If that’s you then read on, you may find this useful. Your Facebook Friends will definitely appreciate if you do!

There’s a simple secret that more experienced photographers know will make their pictures better than the average Joe with a camera. And no, it’s not an expensive camera or a particular brand. It’s not a tripod or flash lighting. Truth is it doesn’t cost a penny. In fact, come to think of it, it’s not even a secret.

1. The Magic Word begins with C.

Ok, enough with the suspense, what I’m talking about is: Composition!

What we see inside the viewfinder or on the LCD screen before pressing the button.

I guarantee, if you take just 10 seconds to consider how you organise (compose) the shot, you can turn ordinary snaps into awesome photographs. Here we go.

Let’s tackle the holiday photograph. We’ll go back to the building or monument and try this simple composition technique.

By moving Sharon closer to the camera we have a more intimate picture without losing the 'Great River Road' sign post.

Composition on the left is better. I haven’t moved my position but by moving Sharon closer to the camera we have a more intimate picture without losing the ‘Great River Road’ sign post.

First, set your telephoto or zoom to the widest setting; wide angle, ie the opposite of zooming in.

Next, go back or position yourself so the building or monument or whatever it is you’ve come to see, is nicely framed in your viewfinder (with your wide angle setting).

Finally, direct your beautiful wife or children or significant other(s) to come toward you until they occupy significant space in the frame, perhaps from the waist up.

Click. Voila! Better souvenir photo in an instant.

Lucas and Carol thrilled to visit Liverpool FC's stadium, Anfield. With the wide angle setting we were able to include the open space of the stadium and placing the two fans near the camera we can clearly see the excitement on their faces.

Lucas and Carol thrilled to visit Liverpool FC’s stadium, Anfield. With the wide angle setting we were able to include the open space of the stadium and their excitement by having them near the camera.

You may need to make slight adjustments depending on the situation and the location, but in most cases these simple steps should make your pictures really pop.

2. Fill The Frame.

A photograph of people is a very intimate thing. It can capture a mood; the essence of a moment preserving it forever and ever, amen. But the further away your subjects are from the camera the more that intimacy fades away.

For this picture of Alan and Fuel at the waterfall I've filled the frame even though the waterfall is quite a long way behind them.

For this picture of Alan and Fuel I’ve filled the frame even though the waterfall is quite a long way behind them. This is achieved by framing the waterfall first then having the two of them stand close to the camera.

To keep that connection I would recommend, once again, the wide angle setting and then you moving in much closer. Decide what’s important, what and who it is you’re trying to capture, then fill the frame.

3. Look Me In The Eye.

Shooting at eye level is another ‘secret’ that the best photographers use. It brings a stronger connection with the people in your photographs. Again, set for wide angle, then get in close and fill the frame. With children and toddlers, get down on the ground to their level. You will be surprised at the improvement it makes in your pictures. This technique also works brilliantly with family pets.

When photographing children, get down on the ground with them at their eye level.

When photographing children, get down on the ground with them at their eye level. It also helps if you have two willing models like Kiara and Leromeo in this shot.

Breaking The Rules

Now that I’ve told you what makes better pictures this final piece of advice will come as a surprise.

Sometimes you need to do the opposite of everything just mentioned.

Photograph your family from a distance, crop the building, zoom in, and shoot from weird angles!

Sharon peering into the Mississippi River. Even though there's no eye contact as she's facing away and is also a long way from the camera, the picture works because it gives a sense of scale. In this instance it's good to break the rules.

Sharon peering into the Mississippi River. Even though there’s no eye contact as she’s facing away and is also a long way from the camera, the picture works because it’s all about the scale of the setting. In this instance it’s good to break the rules.

If your husband stands up close to the lions in Trafalgar Square in London you may want to back up in order to capture a sense of scale. You may want to shoot your two year old from above to show them surrounded by the mess they’ve created on the floor. Go for it. Photography composition rules are very flexible; break them when you have to.

Don’t Try This At Home

What are you waiting for? Get the camera out and start testing these easy tips out.

Remember, wide angle, fill the frame and eye level – and it’s ok to bend these rules every now and again. Your family will love the new results and instead of grumpy objections next time you get the camera out they’ll be posing like models for you. Good luck.

Filling the frame with Sharon and the London Underground. Once again using the full wide angle setting.

Filling the frame with Sharon and the London Underground. Once again the full wide angle setting is great for this shot.

There are more photography help posts on the way from What The Saints Did Next. If you enjoyed this or any of our posts why not sign up by email to follow our blog which means you’ll be notified right away when new posts are uploaded.

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