The OPPD Arboretum is one of the most popular spots in the Omaha metro for family portraits, homecoming pictures and senior pictures – and fall is its busiest time. We partnered with professional photographer Kiley Cruse of Omaha to offer seven tips for family portraits so they can be their best, whether you’re taking them with your own camera or smartphone or hiring a professional photographer.
One would think shooting outside in the sun provides just the right kind of bright light. But when the sun is high in the sky, obvious shadows are cast on the subject’s face: under the nose, the eyes and the chin. Sometimes if the subject has the sun in their eyes, you end up with a squinting face rather than a candid expression.
To combat the sun, look for a shaded area or wait for cloud cover. Clouds naturally diffuse light, but you will need to get your photos quickly because the light will change. You can also shoot during “golden light,” about an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset. At that time, light becomes “soft,” so much so that your subjects can face into the sun without squinting – and it’s warm and flattering.
When choosing clothing for your photo, choose coordinating colors, not matching. Pick two main colors then add lighter tones to accent. Also think about adding texture: this can be added through accessories like scarves, hats, gloves and belts. You’ll also want to be practical, especially for small children. Make sure everyone is comfortable in their outfits before you start the shoot.
A shallow depth of field means less of the foreground and background will be in focus, making the sharpest part of the picture your subject. With an adjustable camera, set your aperature to be as open as your lens will allow (the smallest number).
Don’t use the auto-focus option that allows the camera to select the points on which to focus. Select the camera option that allows you to choose the focus point. Speaking of focus: Focus on a subject’s eyes. They are the window to the soul and should be the focal point of any good portrait.
Keep an eye on what is behind your subject. Try to avoid power lines, which can be distracting in a portrait. Also, watch that no trees, power poles or other objects are “growing” out of your subject’s head.
If you are photographing children, for example, don’t photograph them from an adult’s eye level. Get down on the level of your subject to make your photos feel more personal.
Not every photo has to be posed. Tickle the kids, have someone tell a corny joke (dad, maybe?), and have fun. This way you will capture the true personalities of your subjects. And those are the moments you want to remember forever.
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