Every parent I know loves taking photos of their child. Who could blame them? Their childhood is so fleeting and a photograph is a terrific way to remember a special time, day or moment in their lives. Summertime in Chicago, as we all know, is extra special as the city comes to live with boundless family fun activities. There are endless festivals, markets, visits to the parks and lakes, picnics, and so forth. Here are 5 simple tips for creating great outdoor photos of your family with natural light using your compact camera or DSLR.
1. The most ideal times of the day for outdoor photos are the hours before sunset or after dawn as the light is soft, as compared to the hours in between. The other option is photographing on a cloudy day. This is the best portrait lighting as the light is very soft and flattering.
2. Since the first tip is obviously not always an option, an alternative solution is to find an open shady area to photograph on a bright sunny day. Bright sunlight can create harsh and distracting shadows on faces but you can avoid it if you are in the shade where the lighting is more even.
3. If you have to photograph under direct sunlight, make sure your family is not directly facing the sun to eliminate squinting eyes. When the sun is behind their back, however, this will likely create a silhouette image where the faces are dark but the background is light. You can solve this by using a fill flash to lighten the shadows on the faces (but make sure you are within 10 feet or less).
4. If you are taking portraits in a place where the background seems too distracting (i.e. too many people or objects), you might want to consider blurring out the background by using the portrait or aperture priority modes for a smaller depth of field (f2.8 or f4).
5. When photographing kids (and sometimes adults too), let them be themselves. They do not always have to be looking at the camera. You sometimes get the best shots when they are not posing. Ask them to play in the water, throw a frisbee or dance around. The genuine smiles on their faces are priceless.