I Ask: How Do I Take A Good Picture?

I know. I know. YOUR PICTURES ARE AWESOME, ALEX!

It’s either my finger or The Blob is taking over Virginia. In a lovely shade of pink
My children consider this posing. {sigh}

And there are like seventeen thousands posts on photo-taking. Which I find completely intimidating. Oh and I need REAL LIFE tips. Not blogging tips. Because my kids are cute but all my picture make them look… well…

E goes back to school. All three of him.

I have the Sony Cyber-shot and I don’t understand how to do ANYTHING on it.

It has an Intelligence Mode which means it can detect when people are SMILING. And maybe looking. And definitely when they’re judging you, but then it takes a REALLY REALLY bad pictures.

So I pretty much rely on my iPhone camera. Which sucks. Because I have a lot of these.

E is always moving. Where’s the iPhone camera with the tractor beam?

Or I should just rely on my children being immobile?

So I ask: How do I take a good picture? Mostly with my iPhone, but, if you insist that’s impossible, I will start carting around my Cyber-shot.

An official dada pose

PS. If you’re in Richmond, you can swing by ‘Buckle Up Baby.’ No, it’s not when you get in the Jeep Wrangler with a cute, slightly cheesy guy. On Saturday, September 18th from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., Virginia Farm Bureau Insurance teams up with the Virginia Department of Health to have certified child safety seat technicians, who will check and/or install car seats for free, at the Farm Bureau Insurance Headquarters, 12580 West Creek Parkway, Richmond, VA 23238

 

I included this PSA because people blow-off car seat installation. And that’s not cool. Or safe. (Trust me. Scott and I read the data. We’re paranoid and lazy so we only do what we must, but we do it with GUSTO.) And Farm Bureau Insurance agreed to give out my business cards to people who stop by as a thank you. Does that mean I’m doing a PSA every week? No. But hopefully they will continue handing out my business cards FOREVER.

Answer that was thoughtful and helpful and I’d like to think that I’m a good enough person to reciprocate but I’ll probably just wish that I was and settle for just taking her advice. Tracey writes: A good camera makes a HUGE difference, so I’d be using your Sony & not your iphone. You don’t have a chance using that. I googled the directions quickly & you’ve got some neat modes on that camera that should help. If you’re inside, I would try to change the shooting mode to “Anti-blur” or “Handheld twilight” & see which one gives you better results. Theoretically, they both sound like good options. If you want to go really crazy, switch the ISO to a higher number – somewhere around 800 or so should help. Before doing any of this, turn on lights & open windows or curtains to get natural light into the room. I know this seems unrealistic, but I basically decide if we’re having a picture day or not. If we are, lights go on, blinds are opened & the camera comes out. If you’re just trying to catch a “I can’t believe they did that moment” inside, make sure the flash is going off & try changing the ISO to a higher speed. It should help to flood the camera with light & give you a better chance at getting your little ones in action. If you’re outside or inside in a brightly lit room, try using the high speed shooting mode. That probably naturally increases the ISO & you have less to play with. The number one way to get better photos is to take more. Number two – play with your camera.
Once I stopped shooting with the automatic setting, I got WAY better photos. The biggest change, however, was when I switched to a DSLR but that is a much bulkier camera. If you don’t like dragging along that sleek little P&S, you would hate the DSLR. But wow! The pictures you could take! Make friends with a photographer & plan playdates.

Answer that made me want to start a contest because I could WIN it. The Sweetest writes: i might be the world’s second worst picture taker. I have cannon powershot and can barely use the automatic setting. i am of no help.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

31 thoughts to “I Ask: How Do I Take A Good Picture?”

  1. Duct tape can be used to keep a child in position for a photo. Or in his carseat. So it can take care of both problems at once. Truly the mom’s multipurpose tool–I never understood how the guys got control of this necessity.

  2. Candy and bribes…and no, I’m not kidding! I can’t do the phone pictures…no idea. And, the regular camera. Go outside and catch them in action on the playground.

    Good luck!

  3. 1) Hold the camera still
    2) Hold the kids still
    3) Use your third arm to adjust focus

    No, no, I’m kidding. The best picture giving tip my husband ever gave me? Take one step closer than you think you need. Otherwise you end up with people who are too far away or too grainy bc of digitial zoom. And since I’ve been walking since my first birthday, this was a picture taking tip I could use.

    1. Ooh, I like the get closer tip. And I probably could use it since I also like my personal space. SEE THOSE SPECKS. THEY ARE MY ADORABLE CHILDREN DOING ADORABLE THINGS. (although it’s a great cover for when my children are NOT doing adorable things)

  4. A good camera makes a HUGE difference, so I’d be using your Sony & not your iphone. You don’t have a chance using that. I googled the directions quickly & you’ve got some neat modes on that camera that should help. If you’re inside, I would try to change the shooting mode to “Anti-blur” or “Handheld twilight” & see which one gives you better results. Theoretically, they both sound like good options. If you want to go really crazy, switch the ISO to a higher number — somewhere around 800 or so should help. Before doing any of this, turn on lights & open windows or curtains to get natural light into the room. I know this seems unrealistic, but I basically decide if we’re having a picture day or not. If we are, lights go on, blinds are opened & the camera comes out. If you’re just trying to catch a “I can’t believe they did that moment” inside, make sure the flash is going off & try changing the ISO to a higher speed. It should help to flood the camera with light & give you a better chance at getting your little ones in action. If you’re outside or inside in a brightly lit room, try using the high speed shooting mode. That probably naturally increases the ISO & you have less to play with. The number one way to get better photos is to take more. Number two — play with your camera.

    Once I stopped shooting with the automatic setting, I got WAY better photos. The biggest change, however, was when I switched to a DSLR but that is a much bulkier camera. If you don’t like dragging along that sleek little P&S, you would hate the DSLR. But wow! The pictures you could take! Make friends with a photographer & plan playdates. 😉

    1. I’m going to totally try some of those new settings! This was THE GREATEST COMMENT. On Wednesday I’m totally messing with my camera. I also need to figure out WHERE all these things are in my camera. And charge the batteries. (I REALLY need the basics ;))

      1. I’m The Greatest! I am so telling everyone I know this! Yay! I hope it helps. I know those manuals are, hmm, dense reading to say the least… But perhaps more importantly, I hope you can find your battery charger. I always lose mine. As in, I now just buy an extra any time I get something that requires one… Good luck Future Annie Leibovitz!

  5. I had an SLR camera before the digital age … back when we used this little thing called film … I know shocking … I had various lenses and all sorts of accessories including the little button clicker thingy, so the camera could be on a tripod and I could run up and straighten my kids and then back up real quick and click the trigger … yeah well, I can’t waste money on film for it right now and haven’t invested in a DSLR yet, so I use a cheap little Sanyo digital camera … my best advice comes in three tips …

    1. Take A TON of pictures so that you can choose the best few …. I actually put my camera on sports mode (where you hold down the button and take continuous pictures) to get pictures of my kids in front of the Christmas Tree … I took about 150 pictures, between the three of them together and individually, and got about 2 good ones of each of them and 5 good ones of the three of them together …

    2. Take pictures in well-lit areas and force the flash when in doubt, don’t rely on the “auto-flash” to know for sure when you need it

    3. Get good photo editing software, if you don’t have any, I use Picassa, I used to use one by Kodak … they let you adjust everything … I turn up the fill light on a lot of pictures, but not all of them ..

    Good luck 🙂

    1. I used Picassa but it’s kinda a pain on Mac so I’ve been using iPhoto which sucks.

      The ton of photos is SUCH a good idea. I try but I’m easily distracted by shiny things. I need to use that sports mode that you suggested.

  6. Alex, I could talk about picture-making all day long. But you are getting good tips and clever shortcuts around here! So I will just say that: my mother-in-law takes even BETTER pictures than the ones you’ve highlighted here. Often I am in them. Then she prints them out and loves them, mails them, shares them – sometimes in a larger-than-life format. And it is good for the ol’ laugh muscles.
    Way to go on the PSA, btw. It is important. And I may or may not have resisted doing it all by myself until my son was two…

    1. As the blow up bad picture. Framed for your house? AWESOME.

      And I may email you to pick your brain when I get stuck attempting to implement these tips!

      I hope they got a good turnout. I wanted to blow off the email but I just kept thinking how important it is even though it’s my blog and my space. My space is supposed to help others too. I’m glad it didn’t come off as obtrusive or annoying though.

  7. Okay, you need the Hipstamatic app for your iPhone:
    This app is all sorts of awesome. I took the photo that I used for the header on my blog with it and I get more comments on that than my writing. Hmmm…

    1. I do have hipstamatic on my phone. and i have gotten more complements on those pics than any others, but it’s so SLOW and I don’t know what have the lenses MEAN!
      (btw i didn’t know that’s what you used for your header pic. it IS lovely. but not as lovely as the YOU in your blog!)

  8. (cringing in agreement) all I can say is that I’m (not joking) already thinking about trying to take a Christmas card photo now… b/c last year’s December attempts were so bad that I didn’t even send out a card!
    …three extra months of excessive photo attempts should grant me one or two decent ones of two kids together, right? – although, even as I type (i hear a faint “yeah right” echoiing in my brain), it totally still seems like the impossible dream!

    1. For Christmas, we put aside an entire day. I enlist my sister to help. And then I chase after the kids yelling BE CUTE and usually end up cropping some picture from two months before the “photo shoot” to make it LOOK like E is wearing pants.

  9. I’m a bit late on this one and everyone has give such great advice, but did want to say kudos for your PSA. I’m a freak about car seat safety. I’ve watched one too many crash test dummy videos that made me shudder, then have nightmares, then get paranoid about taking my children out of the house, then have to seek psychiatric help. So. Yeah.

    1. Thanks for the kudos on the PSA. I felt a little weird including it, but I’m like you and just think that people blow off paranoia to easily. Oh I mean car seats. That’s what I mean. (shh, did you hear that?)

      Also, I’m a bit late responding so we’re all good 😉

  10. I was searching for a way to lock the screen on the iPhone when playing videos for my daughter. Didn’t find anything helpful about that but did find a tip for focusing the camera. Tap on the screen on what you’re focusing on and then snap the pic. I’ve gotten better moving pics this way so far.

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