1 – Awesome light trumps awesome location
Having both is the dream! We had this totally dreamy location for this engaged couple. There were some HUGE, gorgeous mountains that would have been a seriously stunning backdrop. When I positioned my clients so the mountains were in the background, I realized very quickly that the lighting was no bueno. It was very bright, harsh, and uneven. But alas! I turned my couple around and shot with the sun behind them, creating some gorgeous backlight through the fall leaves. Yeah, no majestic mountains in the shot below… but aren’t their faces just glowing from all that gorgeous light surrounding them? Awesome light trumps awesome location, my friends.
2 – Understand aperture
Well, understanding all the elements of a camera is important. I find that most newbies really just want a camera/lens that gives them “that blurry background” and that, my friends, is determined by aperture. Depending on how you set your aperture, your image may have a very blurry background (a LOW number aperture) or may be completely sharp (a HIGH number aperture). If you want to be able to get those creamy, blurry, background portraits, you’ll need a lens that can drop to a low aperture number. Do your research before buying a lens and learn how to work your settings first! The below picture had the camera set to F/1.4 aperture.
3 – Pay attention to composition
You’ve got the great light, the right aperture, and a killer location. Take a second to examine the scene through the viewfinder to really make it a home-run by paying attention to your composition. I always try to use the elements of the background to FRAME the couple to emphasize them as the most important part of the picture. In this engagement picture below, I positioned the couple so that no distracting twigs would be too close to their bodies. The path and the large bending branch acts to create a subtle frame around them.
4 – Value emotions over posing
It’s easy to ask, “Now come together… put your arm over his shoulder… I want your hand on her waist… okay, smile!” but it is MUCH more challenging to really capture someone’s essence in a photograph. Capturing a photograph with genuine emotion requires that you and your subject are both relaxed and comfortable. It’s about paying attention to those brief little moments and looks. Sometimes they happen quickly and your composition, lighting, or posing may not be at 100%. That is OKAY! Embrace it! Even though this shot below doesn’t have the most perfect composition, look at the smiles on their face. It’s real. Value those moments, especially when taking pictures of your own family.
5 – Take notes on what you learn
I have plenty of things I could tell you and so could 3043810 other websites and blogs, but really, YOU are your best teacher. I have a small, leather notebook where I write down something I learn after each shoot – I’m always making dumb mistakes and ALWAYS come away with a lesson learned. Last year I wrote in that notebook “posing always looks most natural when limbs are relaxed and bent”. Rigid limbs look so awkward! Going into my next shoots, I have that note in mind as I pose clients. Notice in this picture below – no rigid legs or straight arms helps their pose feel relaxed and natural.