Lighting is everything. You can easily tell a professional photo by the quality of the lighting. Paying close attention to lighting will greatly enhance your photograph. Plan to take your picture outdoors, or use professional photo studio if you must be indoors. Avoid taking a picture at night. If you are inside your home, take a picture during the day in a well-lit room.
Outdoors, look for even lighting-overcast days actually work the best if the sky is not an important element in your photograph. If the sun is shining, make sure it is not behind your subjects-it should be lighting them as directly as possible in their faces.
As you look at the shot through the viewfinder or LCD monitor on your camera, pay attention to odd or unflattering shadows on your subjects. It’s perfect appropriate to use a flash outdoors to “fill in” harsh shadows. If you want to take a picture like a pro, bring along a mylar sun shade for your car. Place it at the feet of the cameraman aimed back at the photo subjects to “bounce” light and fill in shadowy areas in the frame.
Good, bright, even lighting will do more than any other single factor to make your photo look great. Good lighting also brings out the most beautiful, bright, saturated colors for your photo.
Close-up and centered. The camera should be relatively close to your subjects-no more than 5-7 feet away. Avoid the temptation to stand way back and “zoom in.” The less “zoom” you use, shorter and wider the camera’s focal point will be, and the higher the quality of picture you will get. Remember, most “point and shoot” digital cameras are designed to work best less than 10 feet away from the subject.
When “composing” your shot, the professional photography experts will always suggest putting your subject to one side or the other-never center-frame. However, specifically for photo cards, you will find that centering your family, children or other subjects in the frame will look the best. This is one instance where a centered shot will look much better than off-center. Nearly every photo card design available will best accommodate a centered photo.
Looking through your camera viewfinder, check to see that there is equal spacing on both side of the subject, and that there is no distracting background directly behind them. (Often seen mistake: If you are taking a picture with trees in the shot, pay special attention to the background-make sure it does not appear that a tree limb is “growing out of the head” of one of your family members!)
Faces first. Nearly all of the emotional expression of a person is conveyed through the face. Occasionally a photo in silhouette is dramatic and captivating, but beautiful faces, smiles and expressions-especially where the eyes are clearly visible-nearly always make good pictures. Be sure the faces of each of your family members is clearly visible in the photo. Remember too that a photo card is often a keepsake of your family for the recipient. Genuine smiles and friendly demeanor wear better in a photo album over time than odd and silly expressions.
Steady as she goes. The photo-taker will always get a better picture taking the camera out of his or her hand and placing it on a tripod. An inexpensive tripod will do wonders for your photo taking quality level. And since most cameras have a “timer” function, a tripod works great if you don’t have an extra person to take the picture. You can set the camera on the tripod, press the shutter release, and have time to run into the shot before the shutter snaps.
Shoot liberally for choices. With digital cameras there is no film, hence no additional cost for taking lots and lots of pictures. Be sure to give yourself plenty of choices. If you rely solely on the tiny camera viewfinder or LCD screen, you might miss a pair of closed eyes or other photo problem that can’t be corrected later. On average, a professional photographer will expect one “excellent” shot out of every 10 taken. Taking 10-15 choices might take a few minutes longer, but you’ll be glad when choosing on your computer screen that you took the time to get that “perfect shot.”
Which comes first, design or picture? Should you choose your photo card first and take the picture to match it in color and style, or should you take the picture first and choose a photo card to compliment it? It’s the old chicken-and-egg question, and there’s no best answer. With so many great photo card designs to choose from, you’ll do well in either case.
Getting the photo on the card. If you’re planning to use a “digital photo card” option with your stationery manufacturer, you’ll want to provide the highest resolution digital photo possible for the best reproduction. Generally a 6×4 photo at 300 dpi resolution (or measuring 1800 x 1200 pixels) is adequate.
Go pro? Studio photos work very well for photo cards. However, be careful of copyright restrictions-most studios will not allow you to reproduce their photos on your own, preferring that you buy prints from them instead. If you would like to use a studio shot for your photo card, be sure to discuss this intention with the photographer prior to shooting the photos there, and ask if there is an extra charge or restrictions on the use of the studio’s photos for your holiday greeting.