The world has enough pictures of the tops of kids’ heads. Adult perspective pictures are boring because they’re common. I have a rule that the camera lens must be level with or below the eyes of my subject. The resulting picture gives the subject a dominating presence and with photos of kids this alone can make a compelling shot.
I have over 32,000 photos on my phone (or in the cloud, or whatever). For every one shot I’m willing post on this site, I have at least 100 duds. Trying to take a single shot and have it be the “one” is almost impossible. For a given scenario I will snap 20 shots hoping to get one good one. And for many scenarios I don’t get any usable shots. The process of editing and selecting is, at times, more challenging than shooting.
I’ve tried many of the third-party camera apps for the iPhone like Camera+, ProCamera and Minimal. They’re each great in their own right, but they aren’t right for me. The multitude of options and controls makes it hard to capture something in the moment. For me, the best option is the tried and true iPhone camera app. The one option I use frequently is the exposure option. You can tap the screen in the area of the image that you’d like the camera to expose to. This is especially good for blowing out windows or shooting in back-lit situations.
I’m a graphic designer, so photography has always been a secondary element in my day-to-day work flow. When I look at a photograph, the first thing I think is, “Where would the headline go?”. In other words, where is the clear space where type could be placed on the image and still be legible or read easily without busyness behind it. I find myself using this measure to compose photos in my camera (phone). I tend to leave a generous section of the photo blank — not by mistake, but crafted that way. The more considered the empty space looks, the more effective the composition of the photo will likely be.
If you’re shooting a horizon or a photo with a lot of lines in it, it’s worth using the crop/edit feature in the iPhone camera app to straighten the horizontal and vertical lines. You can use the grid for reference to help you see what true straight lines are.
Why is this important? Straight lines keep the viewer’s eye on the photo and more importantly the subject of the photo.
Ordinarily, I avoid symmetry (the act of perfectly balancing a composition left to right or top to bottom). From a graphic design point of view symmetry is static, which is why it works for wedding invitations and financial institutions — symbols of lasting stability. With photographs, however, symmetry can be quite dynamic. Perfectly symmetrical images can evoke the beauty of nature in the viewer’s mind.
Photography is all about capturing light, in fact the word photography means drawing with light. Therefore the better the light, the better the resulting still image will be. The low, golden light produced at sunset reduces harsh shadows and enhances natural colors. Car commercial photographers have been using technique for decades: “shoot the car at sunset.” Same philosophy applies to kids.
It may sound simple, but you have to give your viewer something to look at. Ideally, you would give them one thing to look at. And the surrounding elements of the photo support that single focal point. In the example here, my daughter, Rachel’s, face is the focal point and note how the dark line acts almost like an arrow leading the viewer into the photo right to the focal point.