Digital Photo Academy

Learn How To Use Your Digital Camera

Children, Family and Pets: Portraits at Home

Be prepared: Have the camera with you, if the kids are doing something cute they wont wait while you go back in the house for the camera. Many professional photographers have a camera with them at all times. Make sure to download the photos to a computer and clear the memory card before a special event – if your memory card is full you’ll be forced to delete images before you can shoot more. Buy a larger memory card than you think you need, or carry a spare memory card. Keep the camera batteries charged up. Batteries will drain slowly even if you don’t use the camera. You should charge them at least once a month. Digital cameras often drain batteries quickly, its a good idea to carry a spare battery.


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© 2008 John Bentham (Taken with Panasonic Lumix L1)
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© 2008 John Bentham (Taken with Panasonic Lumix L1)

Fill the frame: Get closer, many people take pictures from too far away. You don’t have to include head to toe of everyone. Get close enough to eliminate less important objects you don′t want in your picture.

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© 2008 John Bentham (Taken with Panasonic Lumix L1)
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© 2008 John Bentham

What do you see in the viewfinder?: Look carefully at everything you see, the background, the foreground and the subject. Look at the edges of the frame, not just the subject in the foreground. Eliminate unwanted elements by cropping in the camera.

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© 2008 John Bentham

Composition: Make sure you don’t have plants or telephone poles growing out of the subjects head. If so move the camera before you take the picture. Make sure your own shadow is not in the picture. Be aware of things like the horizon. Is it level? Alternatively try taking pictures on an angle.

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© 2008 John Bentham

Take multiple frames of the same thing (3-4). Each one will be a little different and one will be better than the others.  Take a couple posed shots AND a few candid shots of the same subject/scene. You can always delete the rejects. Take photos both in vertical and horizontal format. Experiment with shooting at eye level, and from a high or low viewpoint. Move yourself around to get the most interesting shot.

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© 2008 John Bentham (Taken with Panasonic Lumix L1)
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© 2008 John Bentham (Taken with Panasonic Lumix L1)

Children have a limited attention span,
and limited patience for photos. Don’t try to pose them too much, keep it spontaneous.  Make it fun by having them shoot some of the photos.  There is no wasted film when shooting digital. You can delete some of the less successful shots later, or keep them all on your hard-drive. Mix it up a little, Children with pets, adults with children etc. Don’t forget to include yourself in a few pictures using the self-timer.

Natural/Existing light vs. flash: Use Natural Light instead of flash whenever possible. Shoot outside or near bright window light. Your pictures will look more natural. Flash changes the look of a photo, alternatively try the shot with and without flash.

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© 2008 John Bentham

Flash Tips:

Red-Eye: Sometimes it’s better to turn OFF the RED-EYE feature. There is a delay between the pre-flash which reduces red-eye and the actual exposure. As a result often you miss the shot, especially when photographing children. If you turn this feature off you can fix red-eye on the computer later.

Windows/Mirrors: When shooting through a window or into a mirror, you get a reflection of the flash back into the camera. Avoid this by shooting on an angle to the glass/mirror.

Newborn children: Don’t Use FLASH when photographing newborn babies, their eyes are too sensitive for the first few weeks. (This also applies to puppies & kittens).

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© 2008 John Bentham (Taken with Panasonic Lumix L1)
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© 2008 John Bentham (Taken with Panasonic Lumix L1)
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© 2008 John Bentham

Photographing Pets:

Cats: Catch them when they’re sleeping. They don’t like to pose – Maybe you’ve heard the expression “Like herding cats?”

Dogs are more social, they like to be included, photograph them playing with the family.

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© 2008 John Bentham (Taken with Panasonic Lumix L1)

Pets: Shoot extreme close ups of pets using the Digital-Macro feature available on many point-and-shoots cameras. This allows you to get really close. Make sure the flash is off for these shots or they will be over exposed.

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© 2008 John Bentham (Taken with Panasonic Lumix L1)
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© 2008 John Bentham (Taken with Panasonic Lumix L1)

Mistakes are OK: Its OK to make mistakes. Sometimes mistakes make good pictures. Have fun.

Back Up your Photos: Back up your photos on a hard drive. Ideally you should have 2 copies on separate drives or photo servers. I keep copies on two drives at the studio and another drive off-site, in case of fire. If your computer crashes you will loose all your valuable photos.


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