Taking beautiful photographs

Like a lot of people, I love photography.  A photograph can capture a moment in time like nothing else can.  A laugh, a special exchange between siblings, the perfect sunset, the list could go on and on.  And like most all mothers, I especially like having beautiful photographs of my children.  I’ve been told that I am quickly going to run out of wall space. We’ll see.

I am far from professional level, in fact I have decided to take some photography classes this fall, and I’m going to share everything I learn right here.  Yeah! I am really super excited!  It’s kind of selfishly for my benefit, my retention rate is not very good, I still can’t keep the numbers straight for aperture and shutter speed  (the higher the number, more light or less light????  Why’s it so confusing?).  And I’m hoping that anyone who is much more skilled (which is probably about everyone who reads this) will leave advice/helpful suggestions along the way (please!).

But as much of an amateur as I am, I have learned a few things.  And the number one, most important rule in creating an amazing photograph is good lighting.

And the secret to good lighting is to:

Turn. Off. Your. Flash.  It’s killing your pictures.  I of course still use a flash (daily), for moment catching, but when I am intentionally trying to take beautiful pictures, I turn it OFF.

I like to try to take my photographs in the morning, using indirect light.  We have a large sliding glass door in the back of our house (it faces west) and the light comes in beautifully in the morning, softly indirect and filtered.  But there are other places that work just as well (the light in an open garage can also be really soft and beautiful).

Shot by a large window using indirect light.Shot by a large window, making use of the indirect light.

Shot on covered front porch, again making use of the indirect light.

Shot using a flash.

Shot with the flash turned off.  Even though the lighting is not ideal (with the harsh shadows), it still has more dimension and depth than the one shot with a flash.

Shot in the garage, using a flash.  I feel like this is kind of lame, nothing screams “beautiful photographic moment” like random stuff headed to Goodwill, but I thought it was still a good example of the difference between using a flash and turning it off.

Taken without the flash, much less flat and one-dimensional than before, but still a lot of random stuff, sorry about that.

Lighting will make the biggest difference in your photographs.  Experiment with it!  And like I said, I am still learning A LOT.  Hopefully I will have a ton of ideas and tips to share with you this fall, because who doesn’t want gorgeous pictures of their even more gorgeous children?

For those of you who want a quick (and informative) tutorial on aperture size and shutter speed, head over here.

And for a really quick run down:

Shutter speed: the faster the shutter speed (and higher the number) the more the ‘action’ in a photograph is frozen.  The slower the shutter speed (and lower the number) the more blurry the action will be.

For aperture, the smaller the number, the larger the opening (lets in more light), the larger the number, the smaller the opening (lets in less light).  So the brighter the subject, the smaller the aperture setting will need to be (f/11, f/16, f/22), the darker the subject, the more light will need to be let in (larger setting, smaller number ( f/4, f/2.8).  Also, the smaller the aperture, the greater depth of field you have (f/16 stop will be sharp and in focus, whereas an f/2.8 stop will be more out of focus-good for busy, distracting backgrounds you want to make blurry).

Confused?  Good, me too.  Glad I could help.

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July 16, 2011. Photography.


  1. Jenae {I Can Teach My Child!} replied:

    Great tips! Did you find out when/where the class is? I would really like to do it with you…if that’s okay! :)

  2. Photography Series « Paintbrushes and Peonies replied:

    [...] the photography class I had mentioned here  (kind of feels like forever ago)?  Well, it’s starting tonight.  I’m excited, and a [...]

  3. “Did he say to put the camera in the refrigerator?” « Paintbrushes and Peonies replied:

    [...] Lighting is the paintbrush of your photographs, use it to make or break your pictures.  (More on that here). [...]

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