This seems like such an exciting project, as I always marveled at great photos, especially when attempting to “Capture the Spirit of Ramadan”–at least through my camera lens. :-/ So, as I’ve always marveled at dear Amnah’s fabulous photos (mashaAllah, she’s extremely modest and insists she’s not-a-Pro); below are her Top 10 Photography Tips for us Wannabe-not-a-Pro-like-Amnah (mashaAllah) Modest-Mommy Photographers. [Note: In doubt whether you should enter the contest? Note, I definitely will not. However, I think Amnah should, mashaAllah. ]
1. Read your manual. Upon opening up the box of our cameras, we tend to disregard our manuals in our anticipation to start using our new devices. What we don’t realize is that those little books are quite valuable and just as important as the camera itself. It will allow you to appreciate the camera you own instead of longing for the latest and greatest fancy-schmancy one. You will be surprised by how much you will learn and all that you can do once you understand your camera’s capabilities.
The manual will empower you to try settings and features you previously avoided or were confused by. Take your time to go through each setting as explained in the manual and practice until you feel comfortable with that feature or setting. If you no longer own your manual (because you tossed it with the box), many – if not all – manuals are now available online.
2. Be prepared. While it may seem like an obvious tip, it is highly important that your camera is always ready to go. It is quite disappointing arriving at a special occasion only to find that the battery is just about to die or has a full memory card. Ideally you should fully charge your battery a couple of days prior to an anticipated event. This allows you the time to actually remember to place the charged battery in the camera. If your camera uses disposable batteries, be sure to purchase fresh batteries instead of relying on loose ones you may have at home that you think are new. Better safe than sorry. Note that frequent use of the flash will drain your batteries much quicker. If you’ll be shooting indoors, bring additional batteries or your charger.
With your camera charged and ready to record those precious moments, be sure you have the appropriate space on your memory card to hold those images. Be aware of the amount of images your card can hold. A good rule of thumb is to upload your images at least once a week with casual use. After a special event you should transfer the pictures the same night or next day if possible. Once you’re certain that your images are safely stored on your computer, delete all the images from your memory card. A better option is to format the memory card which improves the performance of the card. Understand that formatting the card will erase all images and files including protected ones. While not necessary to format each time, it’s ideal to do this if you use your camera regularly. See your manual for directions on how to format the card.
3. Take many pictures. The blessing of a digital camera is that there is no price for taking a lot of pictures. Our digital “film” rarely runs out. While you may take an image that appears to look perfect on your tiny LCD, it may be quite different on your 15+ inch computer screen. If possible, take multiple images with a few seconds in between allowing the people in the images to relax a bit or for you to be able to slow down to steady your hand. I try to utilize burst mode or the “action” feature which quickly takes consecutive shots which is ideal when photographing antsy little children. Again, reference your manual to learn how to utilize those features. There goes that manual again. Taking multiple images of unmoving objects is just as important. It allows you to pick the one with the best composition and angle. I will touch on the subject of composition later.
4. Manage your images. On the other hand, the “curse” of digital photography is the sheer volume of pictures that we acquire and store. After taking 30+ pictures of your darling little children, how can one bring oneself to erase that sweet little face? While reviewing the images on your computer screen – remember, your LCD is not the best place to judge the quality of the picture- click through and automatically delete the blurry or bad ones. After you’ve chosen your absolute favorite four or five, delete the rest so that you are not overwhelmed when the time comes to print the pictures.
Creating folders on your computer allows you to organize the images that remain, which later helps you access them quickly. I like to make folders according to months, events, and locations. Pick categories that best suit you.
5. Capture the moment. As a mother of two incredibly energetic little girls, I gave up fairly quickly on “Look at Mama”, “Look! Look! Look!”, “Just one more. Please!”. I found myself and the girls getting frustrated and nearly ruining the entire moment. I began to think about what I really wanted to remember instead of forcing fake memories. While getting that head on image of our children smiling directly at the camera is what we may want, imagine a picture that tells a story instead. Where years later that image will invoke the special memories and feelings you felt that day.
Once you’ve captured that moment, put away your camera and enjoy the actual present moment. The picture will mean so much more when you actually lived the memories with your child instead of just documenting them the whole day.
6. Consider your subject. Composition and angle are very important when it comes to producing a memorable image that stands out from the rest. Look through your viewfinder and look beyond your subject. Is the background distracting? How is the image framed? If possible move around to capture a more pleasing image. If moving yourself or the subject isn’t an option, consider your angle or crop out any distracting elements. Utilizing the Rule of Thirds is very helpful. Imagine splitting an image into thirds, vertically and horizontally, creating a nine part grid. The goal is to line up your subject at the points of intersection or along the lines in order to compose an image that is balanced and interesting.
When photographing children, we tend to point the camera down towards them. Instead, come down to their level for a more realistic perspective. Their height and size will be more proportionate to things around them thus helping us look back on how tiny they really used to be. Have even more fun by experimenting with an angle or perspective you may have never considered before. Don’t be afraid to try new things.
7. Get accurate color. Nothing ruins a picture quicker than inaccurate colors. One of my favorite manual functions on my camera is adjusting the white balance. White balance is the way your camera judges and measures the color temperatures of the available light. An incorrect setting can cast a blueish or yellowish tint on your image.
Not limited to DSLR (digital single lens reflex) cameras, many point and shoot cameras have this feature available through the manual settings. Different settings include auto white balance, daylight, cloudy, shade, tungsten, fluorescent, flash, and custom. Through changing the settings, the goal is to achieve colors that are true to life.
8. Flash on, flash off. Whenever the available light allows, try to shoot without your flash. This will allow you to avoid harsh shadows and blown out skin tones. Try to move closer to the available light source if possible. Flash photography is quite frustrating given the available
equipment on DSLR and point and shoot cameras. However, I understand and have been in many situations when flash is a must. If you own a DSLR, I would suggest investing in an external flash that attaches to the camera that bounces the light off of other surfaces thus diffusing the flash. Point and shoot cameras have improved in some cases with models that fire the flash twice for one image, lighting the background and the foreground. Sometimes, if I am sure my subject will remain still, I use the night shot function with good results.
9. When all else fails, edit. The goal of every photographer, amateur or professional, is to produce the perfect image with the camera alone. But rest assure that every photographer, amateur and professional, now edits majority of their images. Whether it’s a color touch up, a fun effect, or even better cropping, chances are the final images you’ve ever seen have been edited. It is not necessary to edit every single image you wish to print, only the ones you’d like to really stand out.
While I own professional editing software, I actually use a great service online. I edit all of my images through Picnik.com. It’s incredibly easy to use and very affordable compared to some of the digital editing software available. It’s perfect for moms that don’t want to spend a lot of time or money editing their images.
10. Embrace the “bad” pictures. As moms, we know that not every moment is perfect. Not every hair will be in place and clothes always tidy. Our kids won’t always smile or look. Our kids will just be themselves. The “bad” pictures or the outtakes will be just as memorable as the perfect images. “Look J, this is the time you refused to take a single picture during our first visit to Yosemite. You were so rebellious back then. I should have seen it coming!” Looking back on our own pictures as kids, we tend to linger and laugh more at the pictures that weren’t perfect. The pictures that told the real story or shed light on our true personalities. Don’t get upset if you can’t get an image for every single milestone, event, or cute moment of your child’s life. That won’t mean that it never happened, each person will just remember it differently.
If you decide to enter the Ramadan 2011 photo contest please blog about it, and link to this post so we can share our support. If you’re interested but have too many pictures to pick from. Blog about, let us know and we’ll help pick what we think you should enter. Are you like me, Ponn, a novice and just grateful, alhumdulilah, that I have the top tips to start learning to capture pictures better, inshaAllah. Either way, please kindly share your thoughts, ideas and comments below.