Category Archives: family

From Oops to Acceptable!

Are you “that guy”?  The one who comes to family functions with your camera?  In our family it’s usually me.  I just can’t help it, and I’ve been at it for quite a while.  If it’s you, you’ve probably heard the same moans and groans that I have.  But, you are also doing the family a great service!  Things change over time, especially kids and grandkids.  You may be capturing those fleeting moments that will never come again, and looking back at your photos most of your family will agree.

I found myself in a family function a couple of weeks ago.  For reasons I can’t explain I got out my trusty old Canon 40D and 50mm F2.5 and new Tamron 70-200 f2.8.  All of this gear fit nicely into my Tamrac medium sized slinger bag.  I could have brought my much newer 60D or Sony NEX3, but just wanted to use the 40D that day.

It was fun sitting back and snapping a few frames without having to intrude in the grandkids play or interrupt conversations.  The faster lens that I had with me also allowed some indoor shooting without flash.  This was a great event to welcome back an out of town family member, an addition to the family, and bring four generations together (offering many photos ops)!  As the day wore on, I did end up popping the flash on, and setting it to fill rather than provide all of the illumination.

For this post, I want to share just one of those moments.  To start off, here’s how my camera was set up:

  • F/5.6
  • 1/200 second
  • ISO 200
  • Auto white balance
  • Aperture priority
  • RAW
  • Fill flash (to soften any shadows caused by high midday sun).

Here’s the original as it came out of the camera:

While it’s not bad, it could also be a lot better.  To critique this, I’d have to say that I’m not pleased with the overall composition.  I like my subjects expression, it’s not one of those kids mugging for the camera forced smiles.  And her hair is a little wind blown, very natural for a kid at play.

Leaning against a tree seems to work, and there’s no look of discomfort here.  I think main problem area is how her hands are cut off.  Unfortunately it looks like she has two long stumps instead of arms.

There’s another distracting element, and that’s the exposure.  It was the middle of the day, no clouds in sight, and very bring out.  Not really the best time for photos, but sometimes you have no choice.  The background is on the verge of being completely blown out, and there are some hot spots on my subject.

Luckily, I had the camera set for RAW.  Shooting in RAW has it’s advantages, and being able to adjust your original exposure by up to 2 stops is definitely one of them.

When I open the file in Photoshop, the 1st thing that happens is Camera Raw starts:

As you can see, there are quite a few adjustments that can be made, including Exposure.  In the next screen shot I made a couple of small tweaks.
You can see by the pointer/arrows where I made my adjustments.  To try and tame some of the bright areas I decreased the exposure by 3/4 of a stop, and increased my blacks by 10.  This seemed to add just enough contrast to the scene without going overboard.
Before opening the image in Photoshop, I’m going to crop it here.  No real reason to do it in Camera Raw rather than Photoshop, it’s really your choice.  I did it because I wanted to see how this would look as just a head and shoulders shot, and I like it much better.  
Now that I’ve finally gotten the image in Photoshop, there’s really only one thing I want to do.  I have a filter by Nik Colorefex for portraits called DarkenLighten Center.  Here’s what it looks like:

The only adjustment I made using this filter is the placement of center.  For this photo, I put the center right on her nose.  Here’s the result:

Personally I like this version much better.  Most of the distracting brightness of the background has been eliminated, and by focusing on a larger head and shoulders shot theres more personality and playfulness jumping out of the image.
For the critics, yes I agree with you, I could have done any number of things differently to make this the perfect image.  But this is what I had to work with and made the best of it.  This shot isn’t going on the cover of a magazine or will probably not win any awards, but it makes me happy!  And I’m sure that the rest of the family and some friends will agree that this shot did capture this little girls personality perfectly in that moment in time!
My intent in sharing all of this is to encourage anyone reading to take your camera to family events.  Don’t worry about the comments or any complaining.  Without being too much of a pain, grab some shots.   Some will be better than others, but that’s ok.  Maybe some of the information above will help you tweak a couple of shots you didn’t think worked into something worthy of your scrapbook or online album!
* Thanks to Andy for giving me permission to use this image, I appreciate it!