Had a beautiful time with friends over at the Owen Rose Garden in Eugene, OR last Saturday. There was a little break from the heat and some wonderful cloudy skies, perfect conditions for capturing memorable maternity photos. The colors of the rose garden never disappoint in any season, but especially vivid this time of year with so many spectacular blooms. As I was editing these photos, I was thinking about three simple tips you can implement today that will improve your photography, whether you shoot with a phone or a DLSR.
Creative use of foreground and background: One thing I've learned about photographs is that they will be more impactful if I capture not just a subject (in this case the expecting couple), but also frame the subject using the background and foreground. Notice how I use the blanket fringe in the foreground of the photo above and the beautiful pink rose bushes in the background. Or, in a few of these photos I place rose bushes in the foreground as well as the background, such a pretty way to frame the subject and really gives the viewer the feeling of being surrounded by the garden, just like we were that evening. Notice how in my photos the depth of field is shallow which allows the subjects to be in sharp focus while the foreground and background is in bokeh. This is because I'm shooting with an open aperture (around f2.2-2.8). But even if you don't have a lens that shoots wide open, or you are using an iPhone, you can still use good framing and create more interest to your photos by paying attention to the background and the foreground. Generally you also want to make sure that the subject doesn't get lost into the surroundings. In this case, with their outfits being neutral, worked really well against the green and pink of the garden.
Even Lighting: Photography is all about light. But, you have to remember that the camera cannot see light in the same range as your eye. If one part of the scene is deeply shadowed and one part is very bright, then you cannot expose the photo for both areas. The best way to handle this is to shoot in more evenly lighted areas. For example, open shade, cloudy sky days, or early in the morning or late in the day when the sunlight is less harsh. When I have to shoot in bright open sun, I usually put the sun behind the subject and fill in the shadows with flash or use reflectors, but it's much trickier than using a more even natural light. For this rose garden shoot, it was the perfect cloudy day. I did use a reflector a little bit, but mostly just the beautiful cloud filtered evening sunlight.
Sharp Focus: One of my biggest disappointments when I first started digital photography was not getting a sharp focus on my subject. Nothing worse than downloading a whole shoot and only the background is in focus, or the subject is moving fast and blurred. A few things helped me improve on my focus. First, focus on the high contrast areas. If you are close to a person's face, focus on the contrast between the colored and the white part of their eye, or their eye brow. If you are a little further away, focus on an area of clothing with high contrast. For example in these photos, I'm using a single point of focus, usually on her shoulder strap or his shirt collar, as that is close to their faces and provides good contrast against their skin. The point is the camera will focus much better on a high contrast area. If the camera can't focus because there isn't enough contrast you run the risk of the wrong part of your photo being in focus (like the background instead of your subject). Another mistake I used to make is not shooting at a fast enough shutter speed. If you aren't shooting in manual on your camera yet, try shutter priority. That way, you can set the camera to shoot at least as fast as 1/250 shutter, adjust your ISO up, and the camera will adjust the aperture based on the available light. A faster shutter is going to ensure that your movement and the subject's movement will not blur the photo.
Hope these tips help you improve your photography today! Enjoy these collages of the colorful garden and stylish maternity looks. Let me know if you have any questions or tips to share!