Let’s face it most people hate having their photo taken.  People tend to be very critical of their appearance or worry about a facial feature that 99.9% of people looking at the photo will never see.  BUT what happens when you look back at photos of yourself in years to come? The reaction will most likely be “actually I didn’t look too bad back then” – we are all our own worst critics.

Photos are important.  They capture the story, a moment in time.  There are huge gaps in my life with few photos of me with my family - down to the fact that I hated being in front of the camera.  Unfortunately after loosing members of my family it’s something that I now regret.  Now, sorry for getting serious all of a sudden, but photos are important.

You don't necessarily need an expensive camera to take great pictures.  Chase Jarvis said - "The best camera is the one you have with you" and for the majority of people probably means your mobile phone in your pocket.  I don't intend on discussing all the types of cameras, as having spent thousands of pounds on equipment, I know full well that it doesn't always mean great pictures.  The majority of my pictures are taken either using my iPhone or a small compact camera that I keep with me most of the time.

I took up photography relatively late in life, but probably the catalyst was the birth of my son.  Ever since I have been

hooked, and now have a great collection of photos of us and him growing up.  This is not to say that my first attempts were any good.  But I have learnt much over the years and hopefully you can learn from my mistakes!

These are my five steps to improving your family photos!

3.  Get down to their level……..

One thing hopefully you have already noticed about my photos is that they are all taken at the same level, or at the same height - this is the level of the child's eyes.  This rule is mostly true with nearly all subjects including pets!  I see lots of photos of children where they taken from a standing height of an adult.  This just makes you feel more distant and less of a connection to the subject.

4. Don't show your clutter

OK, there are a few things to consider here.  Firstly try to keep the background of your photo as simple and uncluttered as possible.  Bright lights, mess, rubbish, shoes, windows and general untidiness create distractions when looking at a picture.  You want to focus on the subject, not showing everyone how messy you are (like me!).

The next tip is don’t get your subject to stand too close to large objects and don't get your subject standing right up against a wall - again this will either create distracting shadows, or in my case don't stand next to a big brown sofa!  Keep a distance from these objects – unless the object is a part of the picture or story you are trying to capture.

5. Apps and Gadgets

There are hundreds of apps out there to help edit your photos.  Cameras aren't as good as the human eye at reproducing a scene.  So find a good App and get editing.  You can make sure that the image is straight (don't take pictures with wonky horizons!) also you can brighten up images or reduce the brightness.  Apps that I have used include Photoshop Mobile, Camera+ and Snapseed - all excellent. Note - I'm an iPhone user, but I assume Android phones have similar.

Two last quick tips...If you have one of the newer iPhones, the volume switch on the headphone when attached to the phone acts as a trigger to take a photo.  Lastly if you have one, use a tripod. It's the one thing that improves any photo.  You can also get adapters to attached mobile phones to a tripod. If you want to get a small tripod, consider a gorilla grip or similar.EDIT

So get out there and get snapping.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask me! 

All images Copyright - David Rice

David is a photographer based in Carmarthenshire, West Wales.  When not with his family, he enjoys capturing images of the beautiful Towy valley.  His work can be seen at www.towyphotography.com and on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/towyphotography or a regular tweeter on twitter @caerwynt_loops.  He can be contacted by email towyphotograhy@gmail.com with any questions.

1.  Find the Light

To me this is the most import factor to consider.  Many people often ask why their photos are grainy or dark - well it’s simply down to poor light.  Without getting into too much detail, cameras do a great job in nice even light situations but struggle when the light is either too bright or too dark.  When faced with a dark scene, a camera (especially a mobile phone camera) will try to guess to what colour objects are.  This often ends up with grainy images with lots of strange colours and tones. Alternatively when you point a camera at a very bright scene, it does the opposite and tries to compensate by darken down the overall photo, often leaving the subject dark and the face unrecognisable.

So what can you do?  Well apart taking years to learn about the properties of light, here are a few things to try out and remember.  If you have patio or large glass doors these will often produce beautiful light especially in the morning or evening.  Avoid direct sunlight as this often makes people squint and leaves harsh shadows on their faces.  The first picture is taken early morning and my son is facing towards a large glass door creating a nicely lit picture with no shadows. The second picture is taken with an iPhone, again in front of a large window in a coffee shop.  Notice how sharp and clear the picture is.  This is down to the fact that when the subject is well lit, then the camera can focus very accurately on the part of the picture that you want to be in focus - the eyes!

2. The eyes tell the story……….

When someone looks at a photo for the first time they notice two things.  The first is the eyes and the second is the mouth (hopefully smiling!).  This is a natural reaction to photos from most people.  Probably an ancient fight or flight reaction where we try to ascertain the mood of a person - happy, sad, aggressive, etc.... This behavior is important to us photographers and leads me to the next way you can improve your photos - make sure you can see the eyes and ensure that they are in focus. When the eyes are sharp and in focus, it draws you into the photo.

Also if you are lucky, and follow the first tip and have good light, you will get what photographers call "catch lights" in the eyes.  This is the little white reflection in the eyes caused by the light coming towards the subject.  This gives the picture and the person an extra spark!

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