Make Memorable Photo Treasures From Ordinary Moments - 10 Tips: By Dawn Marie Carlson  

Did you ever wish you had photos of the last time you and your Mom had dinner together? Do you remember when you and your grandmother were sitting together talking about her younger days? Do you remember when you and your children were coloring together?

We always remember to bring our cameras and take photos at graduations, weddings, and birthdays, and what about those ordinary experiences that are the source of our richest memories?

Where are those photo memories? Do you find it frustrating when you see other photos from your friends of their special moments? Would you like to be one of those people who always have photos of those daily living moments of the people you love?

You do not need to struggle any longer. Here is how you can successfully photograph and document special ordinary moments with the people you love.

First and more importantly, always carry your camera, charge it, and use it.

Remember, the people you are photographing will act more naturally once they see your camera and you begin taking photos of the surroundings or setting for the scene. Always take more photos than you think is necessary for those less than stellar ones.

While taking photos of the people involved, always take multiple shots of the scene, before during, afterward since many people are light-sensitive and often blink - especially if there are multiple people in the scene. My mother is light-sensitive; therefore, I always take a minimum of three photos with her in the scene for this reason.

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Here are my ten tips on how you can make ordinary photos into memorable photo treasures.

1. Cradle your grandparent, parent, or child's hand in yours and take a close-up photo of only your hands together.

I do not have this type of photo with my Dad before he passed and I do have one with my grandmother and my Mom.

2. Take photos when loved ones are saying hello and goodbye. This makes a loving moment last forever.

For example, recently I took photos of my brother leaning over to hug my Mom and in the series, they were before, during, and afterward and then I chose the best of them; the most tender one with their faces side-by-side and my brother's hand on her back.

3. Take portrait photos of your loved ones capturing their lifelong beauty at different times during their lifetime. It is always nice to look at the changes over time and we always appreciate our photos of our younger days.

Because I am an avid photographer, I have a long list of photos of my Mom from a variety of activities, events, parties, and ordinary times and it is wonderful to see her life unfold through my photos.

4. You can take photos of your family and friends at breakfast, lunch, or dinner anytime to document your experiences. Take them before the meal and in groups of people around the table. Make sure everyone is included (the photographer too!). The cook/chef will feel proud too!

5. You can capture photos of people milling around the kitchen where everyone tends to congregate doing ordinary chores or merely conversing.

The children can complain later when they always had to wash the dishes - there is the photo to prove it!

6. If you snap photos of the family doing ordinary things, such as reading a book, watching a movie or TV, snacking on popcorn together, playing games or with toys, reading the newspaper or a magazine, working on the computer, there will be a document of how they spent their days.

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7. Take photos of people doing their hobbies, playing music, dancing, singing, tinkering, building things, working on things, gardening, painting/drawing, knitting/crocheting/sewing, etc. It is important to document their creation process with several shots. This is the most often overlooked photo of your family.

My Dad was handy around the house and he was always tinkering with cars and he could fix or repair anything, yet, we have only one photo of him working on a car engine.

8. You can make great family memories with photos of someone bringing the food to the table, not only at Thanksgiving, and on ordinary days with favorite family meals from a favorite recipe.

I have several photos of my Mom and my sister bringing great meals to the table, which also documents their cooking abilities.

9. Children playing games outside and with toys in the house are always a fun photo memory.

My Dad took some photos of us playing at the park when we were very young and they are more special than big event photos.

10. Pet photos can be humorous and entertaining even when they are posing, sleeping, begging for treats, playing with other pets and children, walking, and eating. They never complain and are never camera-shy.

My dogs, Fuzzy and Romeo, pose quite naturally and always look adorable to me no matter what they are doing and I am grateful for my photos of them.

Years from now, you will treasure these timepiece memories and you will wish that you had more of them. Begin now; you can make ordinary photos into memorable photo treasures with these tips. Enjoy your memories!

10 Common Composition Mistakes in Photography: By Jose Aires 

1. Subject is positioned in the center of the frame

Sometimes a central subject works, but normally you would better shoot it positioned to one side, as explained in the "rule of thirds". Some cameras, if not many of them these days, are capable of showing a grid in the viewfinder or a screen with a "grid" that can help us split the scene into those thirds, horizontally and vertically. The main subject should be ideally positioned where those lines cross each other or in a full third, and the rest of the elements aligned with the grid lines.

Again, we have to mention that the rules of composition are a great aid to consider as a starting point, trying to move from centrally composed images, but keep in mind that sometimes it is worth trying to break the rules to innovate, to create something more interesting... let your feelings speak with you.

2. Subject is too small in the frame, therefore you ended up including too much in it

Although our brains are great at focusing on a subject and excluding its surroundings on a scene, that almost never happens when you look at an image. When taking a shot, always consider if it would look better if you get closer (or zoom in with your lens) so the subject fills the frame and clearly dominates the attention.

The more you include in a photograph, the more complex and difficult for the viewers is to understand and appreciate the idea that is trying to be conveyed.

3. There is nothing in the foreground

It is always a good idea to have something in the image foreground to give the shot depth, draw the viewer's eye and add scale, specially in a landscape or in a still life image. Do not waste this space telling nothing to the viewer.

Wood logs, rocks, flowers, tide marks in the sand or waves, for example, always add a little interest into the foreground. If you are arranging a still life scene, you should try to put something in the right place.


4. Always shooting standing up or straight on

You must play with perspective! Get down to your knees, move to one side, lay dawn or get yourself to a higher point of view. Many of us get so worried about finding a subject that we forget to think about how we are going to photograph it. If you shoot a subject straight-on you will record its appearance, but you may fail to capture any context or atmosphere. Again, experimenting is key!

5. Including a bad background

We covered that in our tips for beginners, and we are going to highlight it again due to its importance. Always examine your photo background. We should not miss the clutter behind the subject, and it is an easy fix if we move to one side, pick a different angle, change our lens or use a wider aperture (to blur the background).

Get used to the habit of taking a good look around the scene before framing a shot to find the best background and shooting location.

6. Bad use of depth of field

Depth of field is an important and powerful tool for composition as it determines which elements are in focus (clearly visible) in the image, and draw our attention to them.

Shooting with a small aperture creates lots of depth of field, which is often desirable in landscapes and macros (it is needed here because of the shallow depth of field we get being too much closer to a subject), for instance, but if you want your subject to standout from its surrounding, it is usually better to shoot with a bigger aperture to restrict depth of field, specially in portraits or when you want to isolate the focal point from its surroundings.

7. Sloping horizons

We talked about this in the landscape vs horizon line post. A sloping horizon in a landscape or even behind a portrait or an isolated subject can be incredibly distracting so make sure it is levelled. Many cameras have a built-in electronic level that can be displayed in the viewfinder or on the main screen to guide you, but if not, there are some bubble level accessories you can fit into the camera hot-shoe (normally used for an external flash unit).

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Also, many tripods have a level built-in if you are looking into buying one.

It is specially very important to make sure that your water photos look leveled, as a sloping horizon normally ruins a composition.

8. Blurred images due to small apertures and slow shutter speeds settings

We should really pay attention to this one, combined with the depth of field we are trying to get. Sometimes we are so worried about getting everything in focus that we set the aperture much too small, which calls in a need for a really slow shutter speed as a consequence.

Remember the aperture and shutter speed are closely linked to each other, they work together to keep in balance a good exposure. The more you close down the aperture (smaller opening, larger f-number (f/11 and beyond turns things difficult for a hand-held photography) the slower shutter speed will be required to keep the exposure balanced. If the shutter speed is too slow, you can either open up your aperture or increase the ISO, or both, until you reach the correct exposure.

9. No focal point

The main subject in a photograph should be effectively positioned and be the central point of interest in the composition (emphasized). We must draw the viewer's eye exactly to where we want. Size, color, shape and how the object contrasts with the rest of the elements in the image are ways to isolate and direct attention to it.

10. Not knowing where your camera controls and functions are

You MUST read your camera manual. Knowing your camera and all of its buttons and settings is vital. Being able to do that takes practice. As we said in top tips for beginners, you should be able to adjust ISO setting, shooting mode, focus point, exposure compensation, aperture and shutter speed without taking the camera away from your eye. Believe us, it will make a difference in that photo you can not afford to miss!