Taking Scrapbook-Worthy Summer Photos

Ah, summertime! The weather is warm, the sun is shining and you’ve suddenly got lots of fabulous photo-taking opportunities, from vacations to pool parties to picnics. Grab your sunscreen and your camera—I’ve got tips and tricks to help your take scrapbook-worthy photos this summer!

Tip #1: Zoom in. Sometimes we feel we need to fit the subject’s entire body into the frame of the photo. While there are times you want to capture them from the tops of their heads to the tips of their tennies, don’t forget to zoom in every now and then! Fill the frame with your subject’s face and you’ll end up with a beautiful shot full of personality—and avoid having photos of excess background. Want to capture more than just the face? Zoom out, cutting them off right above the waistline.

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Tip #2: Experiment.
I’ve noticed a really cool trend in photography: Not including the top of the subject’s head. I love the end result—it’s casual, it looks great and it even makes me feel a little artsy. Another look I love is positioning the subject to either the extreme right or left of center and zooming in. And this summer I’m also going to experiment with focusing on just half of a person’s face. Why not? Digital cameras make experimenting easy and inexpensive!

Tip #3: Shoot in the morning and late afternoon. The summer’s bright sunshine means you can easily end up with harsh light and unflattering shadows. If you’re photographing people, you’ll want to do it when the sun isn’t directly overhead. Cloudy days are the best for photography, but stand (and shoot) in the shade if you can’t avoid the sunlight.

Tip #4: Photograph the symbols of summer. Not going on a European holiday this year? You can still capture the symbols of summer. Take close-ups of that favorite pair of sandals, a fresh-from-the-freezer popscicle, sunscreen bottle or sprinkler. (And yes, these things can belong to you—not your kids!)

Tip #5: Change color photos to black and white. Summer wardrobes generally include madras plaid, bright flowered tops, citrus colors and bold patterns. Since people rarely color-coordinate their clothing before coming to the family reunion, it’s likely a few of your group shots will result in some crazy color combinations. My solution is to turn them into black and white photos—not only do you have an easier time choosing background papers, but black and white photos are universally flattering and really put the focus on the subjects’ faces.

Tip #5: Water reflections. Pool parties and sprinkler-dashes are just two typical summertime activities. How to take great water photos? First of all, don’t mind the reflection. You want reflections from the water! Second, try to get down on the subject’s level: Crouch down to take a poolside picture rather than standing over the water, for example. Experiment with perspective to minimize overly-bright water reflection. And oh, yeah—be careful with your camera around water!

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Tip #6: Pass the camera.
In every family, there’s usually one official photographer. In our family, that person is me…so I have to be sure to relinquish control of the camera, especially when we’re on vacation. If you have a spare camera, take it along. And if you’re traveling with kids, pack a disposable camera for them. Lauren had her own disposable camera for a recent trip to Disneyland. She had a great time and took some great photos—including this one of Chris and me!

Tip #7: Talk to strangers. Whenever we travel, I like to get at least a few photos of the three of us together. Rather than packing my tripod, we’ll ask someone to take a picture for us. I’ve never had anyone say no—and often, you can return the favor for other tourists. Can’t find a passer-by? Ask the waiter, the hotel concierge, the clerk at the tourist shop.

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Tip #8: Snap signs.
Whenever we’re on vacation, I always make sure to take photos of signs: Road signs, landmark signs, historical plaques, street signs, the sign for the hotel…Signs make great scrapbook photos because they not only tell exactly where you were, they also can capture the spirit and style of a certain place. You might have street signs in a foreign language or a piece of history.

Tip #9: Shooting people and backgrounds together. Say you want a photo of your husband standing in front of an old church. The trick? You want to see the whole church, and you want to be able to see your husband.

If you shoot your husband standing directly in front of the church, you’ll end up with a close-up photo of your husband with just a little of the church showing. Step back and you’ll have a photo of a very small person standing in front of a huge building.

This kind of situation happens all the time with vacation photos. Generally, I’d shoot a photo of the church by itself. Then I’d ask the subject to stand in front of one particularly photogenic part of the church so I can zoom in. Another option is for both you and your husband to go across the street from the church. You can take a close up, focused shot of the subject with the church in the background.

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Tip #10: Don’t forget the scenic shots.
My father-in-law is famous for this—no matter where we are or what the occasion, someone has to be in the photo. While I love those family pictures, I also try to take plenty of non-people shots…either scenic photos or close-ups. Some of my favorite photos don’t have people in them! For instance, this shot was taken from our hotel room in Disneyland’s California Adventure. I turned off the flash, pressed the lens to the window and took the photo.

My last piece of advice? Don’t forget to take a small notebook along with you, especially on vacation, where you’ll be taking lots and lots of photos. It makes a great place to record why you took a certain photo—and makes it easier to do your journaling later!


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