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How to Tell a Story with Candid Photos

My parents were over this weekend. I didn't take many pictures total. But it was raining/snowing/sleeting outside! One thing I always challenge myself when I am taking everyday pictures is to show candid moments and beautiful things happening in ordinary moments. With a little editing, creativity and vision, your ordinary photos, can be something amazing!

1. HAVE A VISION

I have a series of photos here to show you what my thought process was. My dad set up a tent for the kids to read in, while it was raining. I set up a little reading lamp to one side to create a nice focus point. Remember, "Where there is light, there is a photograph." With out light, these photos would be too dark. I didn't want to use my flash because it would take away from the mood of the photo.

This first photo, the focus landed on my dad. I would have preferred it to land on the reaction of my son. You can adjust your focus point manually with more advanced cameras, or do it manually on the lens. My eye sight is terrible to do it this way, but it's still good to know how to do it:

I had only my 50mm 1.4 (the 50mm 1.8 is cheaper) at the time (Here is where you buy it for nikon:) So I could not ZOOM! I had to physically scoot my bottom back a foot or so to get my son and dad in the picture with his reaction more in focus.

Then I got this shot. It not only told the story of my dad reading to my son, but it also told the story of my son interaction with the book. I even got a really cool flair from the light with my lens! (I personally like it, some photographers would say that it's not good technique.)

This is another reason why I shoot with NO FLASH, But I also know how to shoot MANUAL (meaning I control everything on my camera, so that my vision is almost exactly what I need.) If you need help shooting manual, look here:

I thought to myself: "What would this image look like Black and White?" So I played with the settings (see below) with Lightroom (buy it here for only 9.00 a month, or try it for FREE for 30 days...)

Here are my settings on lightroom on how I editing this image with only the first section of toggles!

2. DIRECT YOUR SUBJECT

It was raining outside, so we had to get our wiggles out someway. So I set up the blankets and pillows to have my kids jump into them. Then, I pumped up the music and had my kids moving!

After 20 or so shots, I got this one. It's okay. My son was moving so fast (notice the blur on my daughter) that editing this image would really bring out what I needed.

This is the edited image from above. I just slightly brightened it to see his face. But something was still lacking! Sometimes turning the image black and white is the best way to go to get the story without a lot of distracting elements. My daughters pants are pink, there was red streamers all over the way. These elements make your eye look around the image, instead of at the story that you want to tell.

So I changed the image black and white so that your eye catches just my son jumping.

Here is the After and Before of black and white and the original.

3. SHOOT MANUAL and BE QUICK!

Sometimes, I don't have time to adjust all my settings while a moment is happening. This photo was taken at night! The only light was the light in the living room. But there was NO natural light coming in from the window. I could have used an external flash: (How to use it here:) But... I didn't have one on me! This is why I SHOOT RAW! (What is that? Well, here is a little video). I have so much more flexibility in the editing room with my images. Shooting RAW has saved me SO many times that I didn't have enough light, but I want to have a good quality image.

This is after I edited the image in lightroom. Wow, what a difference! And, I didn't lose much image quality because my files are HUGE!

Here is the before and after! (My exposure is pumped all the way up!)

4. SEE THE LIGHT HAPPENING

My mom was just sitting near the beautiful afternoon light with my daughter. I saw the light coming in and my daughter sitting on my mother's lap. This was a beautiful moment. But I needed to capture it. I could have done a better job, not cutting my mom's foot off on the bottom, but I didn't have time. Here are some interesting rules on composition with "Limb Chopping" if you are interested in watching more about it.)

I think turning this image black and white make you see that there bodies make a heart in the middle and it matches the hearts all over the window.

Here is the before and after of this shot with the settings on lightroom for those that are interested.

5. SHOOT! YOU WON'T WASTE FILM!

Back in the old days of film, you really had to know exactly what you want. That is why good photography was SO expensive. But with digital, there should be NO excuse to waste shots. DON"T be afraid to be picky with what you want. If you don't tell the right story with each shot, then try AGAIN!

Also, I always empty my memory cards every week (I edit every week too to get the photos off of my camera.) So I usually have 200 plus photos to take on each memory card. That doesn't seam like a lot, but I shoot RAW remember. Each file takes up 15-25 MBs!)

The focus landed in the wrong place here, so I TRIED AGAIN:

HAHA! My son's foot got in the way!

Another foot!

My daughter's eyes were closed!

I am not sure if she was picking her nose or not, but getting closer!

BOOM! I got it! I sat there for at least five minutes to get the story I needed. (I probably could have left more room on the bottom for my son's face. But still, not bad).

People might be embarrased to have me take a lot of pictures of something happening, but that is why I have great photos, I am so critical of my own work. If it's not what I want, then I keep going!

6. LET YOUR AUDIENCE FEEL SOMETHING IN EACH PHOTO

I wanted to tell the story here that my dad was playing with my son. I see him look right at my camera. He was being tickeled at the time. I love the soft light on his face. It was really dark in the room and at 9:30 at the night, so I had to really know how to shoot manual! But I think I was pretty happy with this photo.

This is the edited version of it! I love how it turned out, but the little colored dice distracts me.

I think the BW version (black and white) is my favorite.

Here is the before and after.

Here is another example of it. I had my dad tell my daughter a joke and she looked right into the beautiful window light. Her eyes, catching the wonder of talking to grandpa.

Here is the enhanced version. It tells a better story of her face brightened with the light coming in the room.

Of course the BW version is my favorite because you don't see the toys in the background.

This is another reason why a prime lens is my favorite then a kit lens. Having a buttery creamy background is SO important to me: (here is a little video to show you what a prime lens is and why I use them:)

Here is a before and after of the image. The color version is a little brighter.

Here is the before and after of the BW and the color version.

7. TAKE SOME POSED PHOTOS TOO, JUST FOR FUN!

Here is a little posed on to close out with (that my daughter took!)

And here is one that I took:

They look pretty much the same, because I had the settings the same and I edited them the same!

Go get some candid moments this week!

Christal Marshall

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