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.

I'm linking this up at~
Chic on Shoestring, Sassy Sites,

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  1. You made Reid Park look gorgeous! Very nice pictures. Thanks for the tips. Now if I could just get that camera...

  2. I am so logging this away for when we get a nice camera. I like that you made a little pose book. That was a great idea! Again, they turned out so good!

  3. You did a really great job! I recently did some first time pictures for my sister also. I wish I would have thought to print out idea pictures! I will keep that in mind - great idea!

  4. Stopping by from the Grow your blog {blog Hop}! http://queenofsavings.com

  5. GREAT tips! I'm just starting out too (just starting shooting on manual last month) so these are such timely tips! I pinned this because it's such a great reference!

    1. Thanks Jaime! Isn't photography so fun! I love that giddy feeling of shooting a great photo. I took a great photography class at jessicasprague.com a year and a half ago. It was the beginning class on how to take pictures in manual. It was a great class and there's more for intermediate to advanced levels. It's a little over $100, but it's a very good course.

  6. The flip book idea is wonderful!

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Your photos look great. Good job!

  8. Thanks for these tips! Like the flipbook idea!

  9. Wonderful photos and angles, Janny! I really like the black and white one, too. My favorite thing is taking photos outside!!! Thanks so much for linking up :)

    "Kiss Me I'm Irish" linky party now open

  10. I love your "shots". Feel free to link to the Success U Party at TheStuffofSuccess. Have a terrific week. Athena

  11. Just beautiful. I have been shooting with a DSLR for several years, and these are so much better than I have ever gotten outside. You did great! Stopped by from the Stuff of Success link up. I'm a new follower.

  12. GREAT tips. I also am brand new to the DSLR world. This was very helpful! Thanks so much!!

  13. Thanks for the tips. I'm also new to the DSLR world. Love the name of your blog btw! My husband and I both speak Spanish and he does internet Spanish Missions work for a living.
    -Kristen @ Titus 2 Work in Progress

  14. Thanks for sharing these tips- I shared them on Facebook!! Thanks for linking to things I've Done Thursday!!