“Great photography is all about knowing how to set yourself up for success. When I was a newbie, I assumed professional photographers were like magicians. Their cameras were their magic wands able to capture the most amazing photos at any time of day or night. Years later, I know better.”
– Me Ra Koh
Her first piece of advice every single time? Turn off the flash.
Whether you’re using a point-and-shoot camera or a DSLR, author and photographer Me Ra Koh listed that tip in almost every chapter of her new book, Your Family in Pictures.
It made me smile. I’ve been hearing this the past few years from my daughter Jenna who is a professional photographer herself. She could look at a picture I’d taken and disappointingly say, “Mom, you used the flash again.”
So I’ve stopped using my automatic flash (except in really dark places). And I’ve started looking more for natural light. It’s all about the light, right?
I only take pictures for fun and for memories. I like pictures with people in them the best, but I also love taking nature photos. So although this book is geared toward family photos, there are tons of good tips for photography in general. Me Ra Koh shares a lot about lighting and other factors that go into better pictures. She writes in clear terms, gives practical suggestions, and of course, uses great photos for illustrations.
She’s big on lists (I am, too), so you get a lot of this:
- 7 spots in your home for great light
- 10 steps to set up your photos for success
- 3 ways black and white can transform so-so photos
- My top 10 times to take candid family photos
- 5 tips for photographing everyday life
And she does follow through with providing those tips.
For example, under “5 tips for photography family portraits,” the most common question (“What should we wear?”) is answered with this: “Have Mom wear what she feels most beautiful in, and everyone else’s clothes should complement hers.” We all get that . . . because if Mama’s not happy, etc.
She breaks the chapters into these categories. (See the full Table of Contents here)
- Setting yourself up for success
- Developing a photographer’s eye
- Everyday life
- Family portraits
- Tweens & teens
- Family vacations & travels
An appendix helps you decide what kind of equipment to buy. I found it helpful information to form my wish list. Koh has also written Your Baby in Pictures and Your Child in Pictures. And if you’ve seen her pictures, you know she knows what she’s talking about.
Here are a few more general tips from Me Ra Koh for photographing most anything.
- Keep a camera out. The beauty of everyday life most often happens when we least expect it. Keep a camera out at all times and within arm’s reach. This also helps desensitize the family to having their photos taken.
- Use the camera you have. Don’t have your DSLR nearby? Don’t worry. The iPhone and other smartphones take remarkably good photos. The best camera is the one you have with you.
- Pretend you only have thirty-six shots. Even though you may have a huge memory card that holds a gazillion photos, do you really want that many photos of an afternoon at the swimming pool? Pretend that you only have thirty-six shots to take, which is equivalent to what one roll of film used to be. If you only have thirty-six shots, you’ve got to pause and ask yourself how you are going to use them.
- Let go of perfection. A successful photo of cousins ranging from age six months to six years isn’t about capturing perfect little smiles. Not every face may be looking at the camera, but the overall story–that allows for a little bit of chaos–is the family pictures that you will all adore when they are grown and have kids of their own.
* * *
Do you love to take photos too? What’s your favorite thing to photograph? Please share in the comments.
Thanks to Blogging for Books for the review copy of this book
- Books I’m reading – January ’15
- On the blog – January 2015