In case you missed the discussion about this, I should let you know that this post begins an irregular series about getting the most out of the camera that you already own (which is the cheapest one you can use!). I’m not the world’s most highly accomplished photographer, so there are a lot of people out there who are likely more qualified to teach on this subject than I am. But I’ve learned a lot of things over the past 3-4 years that have been really helpful to me, and I’m sharing them in the hope that my suggestions will help you to make the most of your camera (and I promise none of my suggestions will be the sort that cost a bunch of money. Most, if not all of them will be free).
Using Outside Light
If you have a not-so-great camera, one of the best things you can do is to go outside. Even cameras that are probably better fit to be a paperweight than a camera can usually take somewhat decent pictures outside. There really is nothing like natural light, and it’s easiest to take advantage of it by going outside (as opposed to using natural light that comes through a window).
However, when you are using natural, outdoor light, you need to be a little bit picky about it. Most people think that shooting at high noon under broad daylight will produce lovely pictures. In actuality, high noon is about the last time you want to take pictures(unless it’s cloudy out). When the sun is high overhead, it produces some very harsh light that will cast funky shadows under your subject’s eyes and will sometimes make portions of the picture too bright.
Here’s a picture I took of Sonia in the early afternoon. See the icky shadows underneath her eyes?
I didn’t ask her to make a bad face. She just did that because the sun was so bright. That’s another good reason to avoid shooting under full sun…it makes your subjects squint.
Here’s another picture of her taken just a few minutes later but in the shade. See how there are no harsh shadows on her face now? and you can actually see her tank top, whereas in the above picture, it’s so bright you can hardly see the neckline of it. Plus, since the sun wasn’t so bright, she could actually look straight at the camera. You can see another shade photo of her here.
Here’s Zoe in the sunshine:
And here’s Zoe in the shade. You can see the same thing here…the light is much softer, so the dark shadows are gone.
If you don’t have any shade available, another option is to try to take pictures earlier in the day or later in the day, when the sun is not directly overhead. Usually the light is better before 11:00 am and after 4:00 pm.
Here’s a picture of Sonia in the exact same spot as the first picture. The only difference is that it was taken in the late afternoon when the sun was a little lower in the sky.
And, as I mentioned earlier, an overcast day can provide very nice light for pictures…because the sun is behind the clouds, the light tends to be very even and soft, which is perfect for pictures. I took this picture of Zoe on a really cloudy day, actually (with my old point and shoot, no less).
Unless you’re living in the southern hemisphere, you should currently be experiencing weather that’s conducive to outdoor photography (unlike, say, January weather!). So, head outside, especially in the cooler mornings and evenings (isn’t it wonderful that the temperatures are pleasant while the light is nice??) and see what your camera can do.