Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Photo Session Tips for Beginners...

...by a beginner.

Last weekend I took engagement pictures for my friend, Shaylin and her fiance, Alex.  The whole session went smoothly and the pictures turned out great so I thought I'd share some of the things I did to make it go well.  (You can see those pictures here.)   This was the first time I'd ever done anything like this so as a disclaimer, these tips are coming from a brand spankin' new photographer (did I really just call myself a photographer?!).  I hope this will help some of you extreme beginners like me.


As soon as Shaylin asked me to take her pictures, the wheels started turning and I poured over engagement pictures on Pinterest for days.  Then I emailed Shaylin with several of my favorite pictures and asked her to pick her favorites.  That way I knew we'd be on the same page.  I was most worried about telling them how to pose for the camera so I printed out my favorite pictures to help me.  This way I could show them what I was talking about when my limited experience got the best of me.

I printed several pictures on each 4x6 photo to make a little flip book.

I cut the 4x6 photos in half and punched a hole in the corners.  Then I put them on a ring.  Now I have a reference when I get stuck trying to come up with a pose.

Show up early 

On the actual day, I made sure to get there early and scope out the location even though I'd been there dozens of times before.  I was able to see what places had the best lighting and backdrop.  I was also able to brace myself for the swarms of people at the park.  You can't see it in the picture below, but there was a Quinceanera and a wedding going on in addition to all the people going to the park on a nice day.     

Adjust Camera Settings

I took some pictures to adjust my camera settings.  Shaylin wanted sun light in her pictures and since I hadn't done that before, I needed to practice.

I'll do my best to describe the nitty gritty technical stuff.  To get the sun beam effect, I set my camera to spot meter, ISO 100, and the white balance was set at cloudy.  Even though it was sunny outside, I set it to cloudy to make the image slightly yellow giving it a warmer effect.  Spot meter means your camera will determine the exposure based on just the object in focus.  This prevents the object in focus from looking like a silhouette.  This is where the metering mode is located on my camera.  (I have a Nikon D3000)  You can look this up in your manual.

This display shows that it is set to Matrix metering mode, which means the camera will determine the exposure based on several points in the field (this will make an object in front of a bright background look like a silhouette.)  The spot meter icon is a small dot and it will only meter on the object in focus.  Does that make sense?  I switched back and forth between matrix and spot metering throughout the session depending on the brightness of the background.  If you want to learn more about this (perhaps from an expert), here's a good article to read.  I was amazed by how easy it was to take pictures with the sun beam effect just by adjusting the meter mode.

Many pictures turned out fantastic, but there were, admittedly, many duds.  Thanks to digital photography, I could look at a picture after I took it and adjust my settings accordingly.  I did this often.  I even had Shaylin and Alex look at a few pictures in the middle of the session to see if they wanted me to do anything differently.  This prevented my pictures from all turning out like these~

Give Direction

But not too much.  I found that they looked awkward when I gave too much direction so I tried to let things flow naturally.  It helped to have pictures printed out for them to see what I had in mind.  I recently pinned this great post on how to take pictures with nice poses.

I made sure to take some traditional pictures in addition to the candid, kissing, and gazing into each other's eyes shots.


I played around with camera angles a lot.  Since I'm still trying to figure out my style and what I like compositionally, I tried everything.  I love how a little angle can add a ton of interest to a photo.  Leaving open space on one side can create an artistic look too- especially with lots of bokeh.

Be Patient

With yourself and the whole situation.  People kept walking behind the picture- of course, because there were a gazillion people at the park.  I had to wait sometimes, but it paid off.  And sometimes strangers made cameos.

I went into this wanting to give it my all and to take risks.  I'm so glad I did and I can't wait to learn more!  

Were these tips helpful for you?  Any experts out there have anything to add?  I'd love to hear what you have to say.

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