Visual Triangles

Whether you’re working with one, two, five, or even ten people, always try to create visual triangles as you pose your subject(s). The movement the triangle creates will add interest to your photo. With a single subject, try different stances, such as having them place their hands on their hips or sit with their knees bent. With a group of people, arrange is a staggered form, such as having some people higher or lower than others.

Fill the Frame

Even when you think you’re close enough to your subject, get closer! This tip is especially true when you’re taking pictures of people. You want to focus on the eyes while getting as close to them as possible. The impact will be much more dramatic and engaging. It’s often said that the eyes, when captured successfully, are the heart of any image.

Write (and draw) with Light Using Sparklers and a DSLR Camera

This technique, known as “painting with light,” is a very fun way to capture unique outdoor images after dark. It requires a camera with a manual mode option, a tripod (optional), a flashlight (optional), and, of course, sparklers. Oh, and a helper who will be your sparkler holder/light painter. Try this out, adjusting your camera settings as you go, until you’ve got the perfect, sparkling picture.

Step 1: Position your camera so it’s stationery, using either a tripod or a flat surface that is level with where your subject will be standing.

Tip: Avoid any bright lights in the background, which will come out over exposed and interfere with your overall design.

Step 2: Set your DSLR camera to manual mode and apply the following settings:
Shutter Speed: Between 11-30 seconds
Aperture: Anywhere from f/11-f/22
ISO Speed: 100 (if your camera doesn’t go this low, simply set it to the lowest setting it will go to)

Note: All cameras are different and all lighting settings (your environment) are different, so you’ll want to adjust these and play until you’ve found the right formula for you.

Step 3: If you have a remote shutter, you may want to work with it in place of actually pressing the shutter, as it will help keep the camera steady.

Step 4: Position your subject in front of the camera and focus your lens. If it’s too dark for your camera to focus, try shining a flashlight on your subject. If you want your subject to remain in the shot, keep the flashlight on them when taking the picture. If not, ask them to wear black so they aren’t as visible.

Step 5: With your camera set and your subject ready, light your sparkler and set to writing.

Note: When spelling words with a sparkler, you’ll want to write backwards for it to read correctly in the image (or flip the image using photo-editing software).

Tip: Use a longer sparkler to allow enough time to write. Short ones will run out too quickly.

Tip: Try drawing shapes as a nice entry point to this technique.

Try Bulb Mode!

If you’re familiar with Bulb Mode, this is another option for photographing writing/drawing using sparklers:

  • Set your camera on a tripod
  • Set your aperture as low as it will go, and set your shutter speed to Bulb mode. Blub mode allows you to control how long your shutter stays open. (If you don’t know how to set your camera in bulb mode, refer to your camera’s manual.)
  • Push the shutter button and hold it down for the entire time the person is writing with the sparkler. When they are done, release the shutter button. TIP: Just as before, you need to have the person either write their name backwards, or you can flip it later using photo-editing software.

For additional tips from Elisha Snow, see her article “Step Up Your Snapshots” in the summer 2015 issue.

Basic Filtered Light

Camera Setting for this Image: ISO 200; f/3.5; 1/200 sec

What: A photo taken in the shade of a tree, building, etc., or with overcast skies.

Why: This indirect, natural light is the easiest type of light to use because it’s completely even on your subject. No matter where your subject faces or turns, they’ll always look good.

When/How: The biggest benefit to placing your subject in the shade is that you don’t need to worry about where the sun is in the sky. Even if the sun is directly overhead, you will still get beautiful even light simply by finding a small amount of shade.

Advanced Lighting Tip

Learning how to use additional lighting aids, such as reflectors and external flashes, will allow you to enhance whatever lighting situation you’re in. You can fill in unwanted shadows, manipulate and expose for bright sunlight, and add an extra boost of light to your photos.

For additional tips from Elisha Snow, see her article “Step Up Your Snapshots” in the spring 2015 issue.