Ten Tips for Better Mother's Day Photos

by Anna Marie

There are a lot of photos taken over Mother’s Day weekend. Many end up deleted. If you want to take a photo your mom will want to frame, and you can post online, my friend Kacky Fell from Hatcher and Fell Photography in Nashville helped me put together these 10 Tips for Better Mother's Day Photos with your digital camera.

1) REMEMBER POSTURE: If you’re sitting, and someone’s about to snap your photo, scoot forward onto the edge of your chair, so you can sit straighter, and everything will look longer and slimmer. Or, turn the tables and ask MOM to, "sit up straight" before you snap. She’ll be glad you helped her get a nicer picture.

2) PAY ATTENTION TO LIGHTING: If you want to take photos of mom at the restaurant, make sure she’s sitting with her back against a wall or something pretty --- not with her back to a window.
The glass will either reflect your flash or ruin the shot, or the light coming in through the window will make mom’s image look faded and blurry. Seat her where the light is shining on HER face, and to your back.
Try not to take photos in harsh sunlight when the sun is high in the sky. You get really hard shadows in these photos. (Photographers like to take outdoor photos in the late afternoon or early morning. They call that that light ‘sweet light’ because it’s soft and a beautiful color – and makes people look beautiful.)

3) PAY ATTENTION TO ANGLE: Never, EVER kneel down to take a photo. Taking a picture from below your mom’s face puts her neck and chin center-stage in the shot. And if she has a little bit of a double chin, it’ll look especially prominent with you focusing on it, and the light of a flash bouncing off it. NOT a Mother’s day photo she’ll be framing or sharing online.

Instead - and this is a really, really important point! - always hold the camera UP above people’s line of sight if you can, so they have to look up at the camera. Better to get your mom’s photo from a higher angle, which means your picture spotlights her pretty hair, her lovely eyes, and her big smile, NOT her double chin. Some people will tilt their heads up (possibly trying to get rid of their double chins), but that means the shot will be straight up their nose! It’s much better for the camera to be up above.

4) USE PROPS: Some people are more comfortable, and photograph better, if they have a piece of cake on a fork and are holding it as if they’re about to eat it, than if they’re just sitting there, trying to hold a smile. (But don’t take the photo after they’ve taken a bite and are chewing!!)
Consider having mom hold up the card or gift you just gave her, or have her demonstrate how she’ll use it. It makes people have genuine laughs and smiles.
Or try having her hold the flowers close to her face, and take a picture of just "flowers and face." It’s a very pretty effect.

5) TALK TO YOUR SUBJECT: This also makes them feel more comfortable. If you can multi-task, tell a funny story while you’re photographing Mom. While she listens and smiles and laughs at you, keeping snapping photos.

6) STAY CLOSE: A lot of people make the mistake of standing too far away from their subjects, and you can’t see any features of mom or others in the photo. (Although you can crop down the photos - if you know how - before you 'release' them, if you weren't able to get in close enough.)
If you have a waiter take a photo of you and your mom, stop him before he heads off around the table to take it. While he's standing next to you at the table, he’s in the PERFECT position: close, above you both, for you two to lean in and him to shoot from above your heads and get a great shot.
The best photos are the ones where you can see your mom’s eyes and her expression.
Unless you’re trying to photograph someone’s entire outfit, you want to see only the face and shoulders of the people in your view screen.

When someone takes a photo of a group, you often see him back WAY up to take it. But that’s only necessary if you’re at the Grand Canyon and WANT the Grand Canyon in the background.
For group photos that actually show who’s in them, remember this: if you can see ANY ‘scenery’ around the group (walls, trees, other diners), or if you can see the pants or feet of the group, you’re too far away.
Unless it ADDS to your photo, NOTHING extra should be in it. 
If the chair next to mom doesn’t make the shot prettier, move closer or zoom-in till the chair is not visible in your view finder before you press that button. It’s hard to photograph groups – and especially your family – because often no one is really working with you! That’s a time when a professional has the advantage! J Phil always tells everyone that if they can’t see the camera, their face will not be in the photo.

8) ZOOM WITH CARE: If your Flash makes everybody look washed-out during up close shots, back up - so not as much light will hit them – and use your ZOOM feature on your camera to zoom in till you get the right view. Remember to hold the camera EXTRA steady. Take a breath, then hold it for a second as you press the button. Do this especially if you’re using the Zoom feature, because photos taken when the zoom is on will blur with the slightest movement. If you have a tripod, or if you can prop the camera or yourself against something, that will help prevent motion blur.

9) THE MORE LIGHT THE BETTER: Professional photographers use extra, extra, extra lighting. If you’re where you can, turn on the overhead light and nearby lamps. It’ll keep the flash from kicking in, which creates that red-eye effect, and washes people out. If you can get in a lighted area, take your photos there for the best results. Outside can be a good alternative if the temperature is good. You don’t really want people shivering or sweating for photos! Oddly enough a cloudy day is better for portraits than a real sunny day because on a cloudy day you’ll have the light but not harsh shadows.

10) TAKE LOTS OF PHOTOS, THEN EDIT: Professional photographers take lots of photos and then edit ruthlessly before anyone else sees the pictures! Give yourself a lot of chances to get a couple of great ones. Try different lighting, different angles and different compositions, not just one posed shot. Then review all the photos you took and delete every image that isn’t great! Otherwise you'll be digging through photos of people with eyes closed, and pictures of your thumb, to get to the good ones. Toss those that are blurry, the lighting was bad or you got a bad composition. Then take what’s left, post those photos, and show your friends and family what a great photographer you are!

Thanks to my pal, Kacky Fell, at Hatcher & Fell Photography, 1208 7th Avenue North, (615) 255-4420, for helping me put together these tips!
Happy Photo-taking, and Happy Mother's Day!  

Read "Remember All the Moms in Your Life"
by Anna Marie