Back in the old days, taking pictures and viewing them was a process. You had to buy a roll of film, take the pictures, and develop the film before you could finally see how your pictures turned out. Because taking pictures used to cost time and money, people were generally more judicious about the number of pictures they took.
Since digital cameras came onto the market, I have become, like most people, too shutter-happy – often nonchalantly snapping dozens of pictures of everyday moments and things. On the up side, I love that I can easily and quickly capture cute and funny memories of my children and instantly share them with my family and friends. The down side of the ease of taking pictures is that we often end up with thousands of pictures that are trapped in our phones and seldom seen.
I am not a photographer, but I do love to dabble with taking pictures of people and everyday things that spark my interest. Today I’m going to share a few tips on what I use to take my pictures and how I edit, organize, store, and share them with family and friends.
1. Taking good pictures
To take good pictures, you need to have a good camera, clean lens, and a basic understanding of photography principles. A couple of years ago, I finally abandoned my trusty compact Canon digital camera and switched to taking pictures with my iPhone 6s for general purposes. It is convenient (swipe left from the iPhone lock screen), accessible (who doesn’t have their phones with them at all times?), easy to use with selfie and timer functions, and the quality and resolution of the photos have become so much better with each new model. For special occasions, I will still use my Nikon D90 SLR camera, which takes beautiful pictures of subjects with the professional blurred background look. Whatever device you chose to use, make sure to clean the camera lens so that it is free of dirt, oils, and fingerprints.
To get one good picture, it often takes multiple shots and experimenting with different angles and lighting. I follow these few simple principles when taking pictures:
- Use natural light and avoid flash whenever possible. The lighting at dawn and dusk are more flattering than noon or mid-afternoon, where the sun is sitting directly above.
- Position subjects toward the light.
- Framing is very important. For example, people or things do not always need to be in the center of every shot. In the photo below (taken with iPhone 6S), I framed the shot with my son at the bottom of the photo to better highlight the path and the enormity of the redwood trees.
- Take some candid shots – people tend to be more relaxed and natural looking. For candids, experiment with black and white pictures to highlight people’s facial expressions.
- When taking pictures of children, squat down and shoot from their level.
- For full body shots, take the picture at the level of the subject’s chest level to avoid foreshortening, which makes people look shorter. My husband is about a foot taller than me and for many years, most of my pictures taken by him are foreshortened, until I finally asked him to hold the camera lower. See the difference below?
- For close up shots, shoot at the subject’s eye level to avoid inadvertently creating the double chin effect.
- Take multiple pictures of the same shot so you can choose the “best” one. This is especially true for children who move constantly and can go from a smile to a frown in a quarter of a second.
2. Weed out and delete pictures as you go, only keep the best ones
Go through your pictures on a weekly basis to delete unflattering pictures and weed out similar duplicates. If you have lots of pictures to delete on your iPhone, click the “select” button on the upper right side of your camera roll to select the photos you want to mass delete.
3. Edit and enhance your pictures
I typically use Google Photos or the native iPhone photos to do my basic editing like cropping and adjusting the lighting and color. I learned how to use Adobe Photoshop fifteen years ago, but I honestly have not found the need to use it now with so many free and easy to use apps and programs. For most pictures, I increase the exposure, which makes the picture lighter and brighter. If the picture is taken indoors with florescent lighting, there is usually an unflattering yellowy cast, like the picture below. I usually play with the cast to decrease the yellowy effect.
4. Organize and name your pictures accordingly so that you can easily find them
I like to organize the pictures taken by my Nikon SLR camera by putting them in appropriately named folders on my laptop. The name of the folder always follow this format: year-month-name of event. For instance, for a Carmel family vacation, I may name the folder: 2017-06 Carmel.
For iPhone photos, they are automatically placed in chronological order and there isn’t really a good way to create separate folders for each event (at least not that I know of). To easily and quickly find a specific photo I’m looking for, I can do a keyword search on my Google Photos app rather than scrolling through my Photo app to search for it (see #5 below for more information).
5. Backup your photos to keep them safe
I am diligent about backing up my pictures in case my iPhone/iPad/laptop ever gets lost/stolen/damaged. The last thing I want is to feel guilty about losing precious memories of my family and important life events. I use an automatic cloud-base program as well as a physical external hard drive to backup my photos. I used to use Dropbox to store my files and pictures but have since switched to Google Photos per the recommendation of my software engineer friend. Google Photos is much more user friendly, has basic photo editing functions and allows you to search for a photo by typing in a keyword (like “beach” or “Halloween”). The best part is that it is FREE! Google Photos automatically backs up unlimited photos and videos, up to 16MP and 1080p HD, from any phone, tablet, or computer so that your photos will be safe and accessible. You can even ask it to delete the original pictures from your device (after backing them up, of course) to free up more memory.
6. Share digital pictures quickly and easily
With Google Photos, you can set up shared albums with family or friends so that each time you sync to the cloud, all of the photos taken from authorized devices will be automatically uploaded onto your Google Photos app and shared with the person/group. This way, family members can pool the pictures they take from their phones into one large family photo album.
7. Create tangible prints and photo books
I love displaying pictures of my family in pretty picture frames throughout the house. I use my trusty and affordable Canon all-in-one printer and Canon photo paper for this purpose. I am so impressed with the picture quality that I haven’t printed any pictures from Target or Costco since I got this printer. For special occasions like weddings and newborn pictures, I like to create photo books. I have used Shutterfly for years and they produce excellent quality books that I treasure and give as gifts for the holidays. What grandparent doesn’t love receiving a photo book of their grandchild?
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Laptop Photo by Ewan Robertson