Always the photographer, never the bride?

Have you ever been in the position where everyone knows that you are the ‘keen’ photographer in your family and group of friends? In fact you’re the one that’s always invited to a family occasion or your best friend’s wedding with the additional instruction to not forget your camera. It’s kind of like being the nominated driver after a big bbq, you get all the responsibility and none of the fun.

No doubt you are the willing participant in all of this as well, wanting to increase your skills as a photographer and stretch yourself on an artistic level. But what about that horrible moment when everyone wants to see your photos and you realise that some of them are just really, really bad snap shots?

With most modern digital cameras it is increasingly difficult to take a truly bad photo, but there are several really easy things to remember to do that could make the difference between creating a family feud – “Oh I look so bad! Why did you make me look so old, fat, tired, ugly, unattractive, stupid”, fit in the negative word of your choice here and you’ll get the picture. – and prompting smiles on faces that only great event photos can produce.

So what are the biggest tricks to learn to take the perfect and seemingly effortless snap shot?

Framing a photograph properly generally equals good composition and a winning shot every time. While a lot of modern day ‘snappers’ have a belief that by simply shooting enough pictures that one of them will eventually turn out ok, this is not exactly true. Photography might outwardly appear as a very random art form, but the more thought that goes into making a photograph, the better the image, so learning a few straightforward compositional tricks is a must.

One of the biggest mistakes that new photographers make is in simple portrait work. The most common of those mistakes is not considering where the eye-line of the subject is placed in the frame. This can be cured by turning your camera onto a vertical axis and judging where the top third of the view-finder frame ends. Some digital cameras, such as the Nikon D70 even have grids to guide you as to where this might be. Focusing in on the eyes gives a connection to the subject that shows in your photograph.

Have a look at this legendary portrait ‘Afghan Girl’ by Steve McCurry, an acclaimed National Geographic photographer. The intense gaze of the angry and traumatised refugee girl has haunted the western world for years. McCurry’s composition is almost completely perfect, the girl’s head fitting almost exactly into the middle third of the frame both vertically and horizontally.

Even with such a small manipulation of the camera position you can improve your snap shots by a thousand percent. And of course, given your subject just maybe your best friend’s bride on her wedding day, a nice clean portrait to give as a gift would definitely endear you to her.

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