• Carrie and Danielle


Liberating and harnessing the art of self-expression.

Documenting Life: Simple Tips For Taking Better Photographs

Creativity | February 10th, 2010 6 Comments

Photography is such a magical medium, it fascinates me. The ability to capture a moment in time, to re-live the feeling, and share that moment is true gift. Looking back at photographs can bring you peace and be very grounding. When life is pure chaos and your family is driving you a tad bonkers there is something quite soothing about seeing a picture of a sleeping babe, a family holiday or your beloved Fido.

In Art School I did the two years of required photography…of course it was still film back then and all so complicated! Technically inclined I am not, and I could not get my mind around aperture, shutter speed and ISO, I was messy and got fingerprints on the film and dust on the developer. I understood the principles, I bracketed my photos like we were taught, and still my shots were not strong. In desperation I made my assignments intentionally obscure…an homage to Monet where I dripped the developer on the paper…a mosaic where I basically chopped up all my required shots and mixed them up so you couldn’t see my flaws. I got the marks but I didn’t really learn the skills.

These days everything is digital. Last year I invested in a nice Nikon SLR camera determined to nurture my passion and conquer my frustrations. I am no pro but slowly my shots are improving and Photoshop has opened many doors as well. Recently I found a really well done book for those who want to fine tune their lingo and skills, Photographing Your Family – and all the Kids and Friends and Animals Who Wander Through Too. It’s by Joel Sartore (who shoots for National Geographic) with John Healey. It explains everything you need to know about your camera and can be done cover to cover in a couple of evenings. Read it, your photos will never be the same. You certainly won’t have to rely on that evil green square of Auto focus anymore.

I have also learned a great deal from The Pioneer Woman. Ree has a step by step instructions that will take your hobby to the next level. She is also laugh-out-loud funny and shares sinfully good recipes. There are also amazing tutorials on line to help you improve and learn new skills.


Cameras are smart nowadays—super smart—and if you don’t have to go manual to take magazine worthy photographs. Here are a few basic rules of thumb that will make even a simple camera phone picture really rock:

  • Try taking an outdoor natural light portrait using the AV (or AP for Canons) setting, see how the background fades away and how your subject is highlighted.
  • Fill the frame with your subject.
  • Get down to the same level as your subject, or stand above and see how that changes things
  • Practice the law of thirds
  • Be sneaky, the most beautiful emotions are usually captured in candid shots

You will find all of these basic tips deconstructed in Photographing Your Family…it is a guide I reach for over and over as I learn and grow as a photographer. Life is a journey, document it.

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Photo courtesy of Dan Zen

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