Summer Smiles: Light, Composition

There is so much in nature to interest a child, making a garden the ideal place for photographs. It is a place where children may stay still for an inordinate length of time to explore everything in detail. This gives you more time to plan your photographs. But, once you have a beautiful backdrop and willing subject, how can you best use the opportunity capture that precious moment in pictures? Setting up your photograph is more than waiting for a children’s lighting smile and then snapping away. In an article I wrote earlier this year, I discussed locations for photographing, appropriate dress, and how to make kids smile. This article focuses on the proper use of light, composition, and point of view.

Light is one of the most important elements in photography and it is the one most often ignored. Professional portrait photographers seek even or directional lighting that softens harsh shadows. Preferring to photograph in the early morning or around dusk when the light is soft and flattering, photographers will use a flash or directional lighting when it is necessary to take photos in the middle of the day. Once you find a location that interests your child or have handed your little one a flower to examine, take a look at the way the light falls on her face. If there are lots of harsh shadows, use a flash to fill them. Or, as a natural light photographer prefers, direct the light so that it is not shining from many directions. Simply put, if possible, move your child under a tree or overhang so the light is shining from the left or right side. Light from behind will make your subject backlit (like a silhouette), light behind you will make your subject squint. Much has been written about light in photography because there are many factors that can “trick” your camera into creating something you did not see.

Another important element to consider when taking a great photograph is composition. These rules apply for any subject, whether you are photographing a person, flower, or landscape. Try not to center your subject and follow the rules of thirds, which states that placing your subject one third of the way into your composition is most pleasing. Also consider the framing of your subject. Look for appealing arcs or elements that draw your eye to the subject. With your composition, consider the background of your picture. Is your background too busy, drawing attention away from the figure or do you have a pleasing background that makes your subject stand out. If you have a fancy enough camera, you may be able to blur your background by controlling your depth of field.

Your point of view can make the most of a particular scene. Do not just stand and snap. While looking through your viewfinder, squat, get on your belly, move a little to the right and then the left to find the best angle at which to take a picture. Should you capture your subject’s image from the side or head on? Consider what an overhead shot may provide to make your subject more interesting and go get a chair if you need one.

Plants and kids offer endless opportunities for great summer photos. Kids examine everything around them with curious expressions and lively gestures. Make sure you are prepared to catch the right light from the right angle to preserve a precious summer time smile.

Award winning photographer Melissa Mannon specializes in garden and nature photography. Melissa’s photographs show a special sensitivity for her subjects. She aims to portray the beauty, innocence, and power of nature standing alone or with human interaction. The strong bond between humans and the environment is the focus of her portrait work. Her childhood portraits capture the playfulness, innocence, and thoughtfulness of children interacting with their surroundings with a gentle and humorous style



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