For many families throughout the world, life in the 21st century can get pretty hectic. There are places to be, things to do, and people to meet. Children seem to grow up and move away in the blink of an eye, leaving parents wondering where the time went. Maybe that’s why many parents today are constantly trying to preserve details about the lives of their children through photos and videos.
“Great photographs tell stories, and careful curation helps convey those stories in simple, powerful ways,” said Rachel LaCour Niesen, founder of Save Family Photos. “I believe photographs play a vital role in preserving world history and family history.”
Thanks to modern technology, almost all of us have phones or tablets readily available that we use to capture life’s important moments. It’s never been easier to snap a picture, write a small description, and post the picture to the Internet, thereby recording and preserving family experiences.
But there’s a difference between taking a picture and creating a photograph.
“There are so many pictures being taken right now,” said Jens Nielsen, owner of Pictureline, in his 2016 RootsTech presentation. “The younger generation uses all kinds of devices to capture pictures. And they’re capturing millions of them. There are so many pictures being taken right now that most of them are not worth my time. I call that visual noise. There’s so much visual noise out there right now that people are getting numb to what a good photograph looks like. People don’t really take their time to make a photograph.”
While many tips and tools can help you turn your pictures into photographs, here are some of the best.
Film or Digital: The Principles of Photography Are the Same
Although you may not be purchasing or developing film for your photos, the principles of digital and film photography are the same.
“It’s important to remember that the principles of photography haven’t changed,” said Nielsen. “Digital photography is really powerful and has come on, but the principles of photography have not changed.”
Inside all cameras is a shutter. The shutter acts like a curtain in front of a camera’s sensor. The shutter is closed until the camera fires. As the camera fires, the shutter quickly opens and allows light to hit the sensor (or film). After enough light has been collected, the shutter closes again, causing the clicking noise so often associated with taking photos.
Great photographers understand how to manipulate shutter speeds and camera settings to capture unique images. Shooting with a fast shutter speed allows you to create photos that look as if a moving object is completely frozen in action. Slow shutter speeds can create a motion-blur effect that will cause moving objects to appear as if they’re in motion.
Understanding the basic functions and tools of a camera will help you create and capture visually interesting photos.
Avoid the Zoom Feature
If you’re someone who loves taking photos on your smartphone or tablet, you might be tempted to zoom in. Don’t. In most cases, zooming in will compromise the quality of your photo, giving it a grainy look. Rather, move closer to the subject. If you can’t get closer, take the photo from a distance and then use the phone’s crop feature later.
It’s All about the Light
Few things are worse than a dark picture. Underexposed photos are not only hard to understand but hard to connect with.
“The technology today is all about the light. Many photographers today carry around a portable flash made by a Swedish company called Profoto,” said Nielsen, as he showed the product to the RootsTech audience.
Nielsen noted that portable flash devices are important because they’re often much more powerful than the flash that comes with a camera.
“If you’re shooting anything past 10 or 15 feet, you’re not going to get a whole lot of flash falling on that person unless you have a lot of power,” he said. “So that’s why this new power comes in, becoming a very wonderful option for photographers.”
Take Pictures of Smaller Groups of People
If you’re asked to be the photographer at your next family reunion, you might think you just need to get one shot of the entire family crammed in together. If you do take this photo, you’ll have to keep scooting back as you try to fit everyone into the frame. The picture might be good to have in some instances, but the more meaningful images you’ll cherish are the ones in which you can clearly see the faces of your family members.
“When you can take a photograph of someone and their face and you can see their lives, that’s a little different,” said Nielsen. “That’s a whole different level. It’s a whole different level of genealogy in my opinion.”
Rather than large group photos, try to take many pictures of smaller groups of family members interacting with one another. Your grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren who see these pictures in years to come will be grateful.
Save Photos in Multiple Places
Because we live in a time when so many photos are being taken, it’s possible that we don’t go to too great an effort to back up our data. Perhaps we figure, “I’ve got those pictures on my iPhone, and that’s good enough.”
Nielsen, however, says this is a dangerous way to think.
“If you want to take pictures to the future—it could be your ancestors; it could be old family photos—you have to back them up,” he said. “You have to do it in more than one place or there’s a big chance that you won’t have them in the future.”
Nielsen recommends storing photos in a few different reputable places.
“Make sure you go with a reputable place when you start storing your images; this will ensure that you will actually have them in the future,” says Nielsen.
What tips do you have for improving the quality of your pictures? Tweet us @RootsTechConf.
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