Tips for Taking the Best Family Photos: A Q&A with a Local Expert Photographer
MetroFamily sat down with local professional photographer Randy Taylor to find out how parents can make the most of family snapshots, how to get the best smile from kids and what you need to be doing to preserve your family’s history.
MFM: When parents are taking photos of their families out and about, how can they best compose a photo that help capture that special memory?
RT: The best place to take photos is any place that is special to you. You want to remember the experience—you want to have a good time. If mom and dad are taking snapshots, there shouldn’t be that much structure to it and it should be fun.
When you are trying to pick a place to photograph, pick a place without a really busy background. It will help the people really pop out of the photo. I always say when I take a photo, if you notice the background, I didn’t do my job correctly. As long as the lighting and posing are good, you can take a good photo anywhere.
Focus on the fun times and don’t overly structure the situation. Just say “Hey, look here!” and take the shot. Don’t worry about getting it perfect—just capture that moment. You just want to capture that memory. Leave the perfect ones to a professional.
One practical tip: The most important thing you can do is gently push the button to release the shutter on your camera. Don’t punch it with a lot of force. Put a finger on the top and a finger on the bottom of your camera and that will help you not to move the camera while taking the shot and accidentally cutting off the top of someone’s head.
MFM: How important is it to take high-resolution photos and how do you make sure you are?
RT: If your camera has resolution settings, you can set it at the highest resolution to get the best photos. You won’t get as many on your memory card, but you can get a better print from it. You will just have to download your memory card more often. When you are looking at your camera’s settings, always pick the highest number, which is the pixel count.
If you are looking at a photo on your screen, it is at 72dpi and will look very sharp. To get a good print, it needs to be 300dpi. If you have it set on a lowest setting and order prints from Walgreens, they will be blurry. Higher resolution is always best.
MFM: For parents that like to take photos of their kids playing sports or being active outside, what tips can you share for helping to capture motion?
RT: It is always best to shoot motion outside where it is light. It is hard to shoot motion in a dark area. Then, anticipate the motion and shoot where it will be. Move (pan) your camera at the same speed that the person is running and that will help minimize the blur.
MFM: Any tips for getting good smiles from kids?
RT: It’s really about making sure they are relaxed and comfortable. When I take photos of a family, I spend time getting to know the child and making them feel comfortable. When you are taking photos of your family, just concentrate on having fun and know that you can’t force a kid to smile. If you do try to force it, the smile you get will look like fake. Just allow them to enjoy the moment and capture that natural expression.
MFM: Do you have rules of thumb you can share about getting the best lighting?
RT: Kodak used to say that the sun should be behind the photographers right or left shoulder. That will give you the best lighting on the person’s face and give you a good exposure. Open shade is good, where the sun lights your children without being directly on them. It’s important to be sure that the sun isn’t behind your subject. A bright background will make for a dark foreground in most automatic cameras. Avoid really bright or really dark spots in the background so you don’t have issues with over or under-exposure.
MFM: What do you recommend for getting the best photo of multiple kids, when everyone is often wiggling and moving?
RT: It’s really hard to do that, even for a professional. I have trouble doing that with my own four granddaughters. The biggest problem with multiple kids is that you often have lots of adults standing around and the kids’ eyes are looking everywhere. If you are trying to get multiple kids to take a good photo at the same time, have all the other people around stand behind the photographer so that all the children’s faces will face the same direction.
MFM: Why is it important to take both snapshots and professional portraits? How can you find the best professional photographer for your family?
The photograph you take with you own family at events and activities are snapshots. You may get some that you like, but it won’t be the best quality exposure and background that a professional is trained to do. You should focus on taking photos that will help you remember family events and the neat times in your kids’ lives. Don’t concentrate on making them look professional or it will turn your kids off and make taking photos together a miserable experience.
For photos that you will treasure forever and be proud of, use a professional. They know how to make your kid look best and are trained to compose a photo so that it is pleasing to the eye. It becomes a piece of artwork on your wall. That’s part of the training for a professional photographer—to work with people, get the right emotions and compose the photo well. When choosing a professional, look for photographers who are members of the State Photography Association. Look for people with initials after their name and make sure they have a legitimate business. Most good photographers will belong to several professional associations and have credentials. They will be actively seeking ways to better their understanding of the fine art of photography.
MFM: Once you've taken all these great snapshots, what do you do with them?
RT: The first thing that everyone should do is get prints of all your photos. Keep them in a photo box or album. It will be fun to go through them all later when you can just look at them and enjoy. Get a print made so you can stick them on the fridge and enjoy them.
Also, buy an external hard drive and download every photo that you have to that hard drive. That way you have one dedicated hard drive (for less than $100) that has all your photos on it and a designated place to store all your cherished memories. But, be sure you stay up with technology so that you can always access them down the road.
Just in case you lose your cell phone, laptop or external hard drive, make sure you have lots of backups and copies of your photos. It is crucial to protect your memories and protect your history.
Randy Taylor is the president of Taylor Made Photography, which specializes in Family and Senior Portraits. A professional photographer for over 30 years, Randy is a Master Photographer, a Photographic Craftsman and a Certified Professional Photographer and a member of Evidence Photographers International. For more information, call 405-341-5088 or visit taylormadephotography.com.
MetroFamily’s Top Places to Take Family Photos in the Metro
With our readers’ help, we’re starting a new section in MetroFamily. The following “Top Places” and “Top Ideas” are provided in large part from our readers and social media followers. With many families taking holiday photos soon, we thought we’d start with the best places to take photos in the area. Smile pretty!
- Metro area parks, particularly Hafer Park, Edmond (east of 9th and Bryant); Will Rogers Park, Oklahoma City (3400 NW 36th); Martin Park Nature Center (5000 West Memorial Road); and Lake Hefner Park (3301 NW Grand Blvd).
- The Oklahoma City Zoo (2000 Remington Place)
- The Spring Creek shopping center at 15th and Bryant in Edmond (they have beautiful holiday displays and lighted trees and landscaping; just be aware some interesting areas for photos are near a busy street.)
- Myriad Gardens (particularly with all their new exhibits and play areas; 301 W Reno in downtown OKC)
- The University of Oklahoma campus (Beautiful flowers in the north oval, great sculptures around campus, in front of Bizzell Library, or at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art)
- Lake Overholser area (off old Route 66 between Council Road and Morgan Road.)
- The State Capitol building (2300 N. Lincoln Blvd)
- Chesapeake Boathouse (725 South Lincoln Blvd)
- The Chesapeake Energy campus (SE corner of 63rd and Western)
- The historic buildings and areas of Midtown, Automobile Alley, Bricktown and even Kerr Park (sculptures/waterfall/urban setting; Broadway and Robert S. Kerr). Take advantage of the interesting painted and/or brick backdrops that are prevalent in those areas.
Our appreciation to Judy H., Jennifer S., Lara G., Paula C., Amanda D., and Jennifer L. and Twitter followers @stephaniebice, @TravelOK and @MediaDivaOK for the ideas above!