The holidays are a perfect time to practice your portrait-taking skills. Bring out the best in your subjects and take memorable family portraits with some expert instruction! Because we at SmugMug are big fans of photo education, we’ve asked author and professional photographer Kirk Tuck to reveal his top five tips for successful family photo sessions. Learn the essential skills for capturing beautiful family portraits in Kirk Tuck’s FREE online class, Professional Family Portraits, over on Craftsy.com.
1. Bring Out the Best in Mature Subjects
Try adding fill light with flash, or even a cheap piece of foam core. Use off-camera flash as your main light and use umbrellas (cheap and easy) to modify the light. Or situate your couple in their living room for stunning environmental portraits.
2. Capture Toddlers
Toddlers are particularly hard to pose and it’s typically difficult to maintain their attention; make the best of the small window you have with them by limiting their distractions. Get down on their level, and use simple items like a lit match to capture their attention (and get that wonderment-look).
3. Set Up a Studio in Any Home
In a few simple steps you can transform any garage into a studio. When you lift the garage door you have great ambient light that comes in! If the house or garage is cluttered, bring a gray seamless backdrop. Be sure to consider the color of the walls and ceilings when bouncing flash, too, because colored walls can tint your images.
4. Success with Posing Larger Groups
Take the time to thoughtfully choose your location, for example look for hills, walls and contours. You want to shoot in the shade so you can have even light. When it comes to arranging and posing groups, odd numbers are best, form triangles and have the family members slightly face each other to show a connection.
5. Get the Best Results with Your Digital Editing
No photo is complete until it has been taken into the digital darkroom: Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Use the healing tool to remove scars and soften wrinkles in Photoshop. And, use the sliders in your layers to make believable changes in skin blemishes, like wrinkles.
In the FREE online Craftsy class, Professional Family Portraits, Kirk will cover:
- Advanced strategies of family portraiture as Kirk shares his best techniques for lighting, posing and composition.
- Fail-proof ways to take adorable shots of even the most impatient little ones.
- Using foam core, umbrellas and bounce flash to create ideal lighting in any setting, and explore broad and short lighting for warm, engaging portraits.
- Quick, effective strategies for transforming any room into an uncluttered studio – even a garage!
- How to select a location and direct poses for a large group photo.
- Step-by-step post-processing strategies to remove blemishes, soften wrinkles and adjust color cast to ensure your portraits have professional polish.
- All the benefits of an in-person seminar from the convenience of your home.
Kirk will critique your photos and answer any questions you have, and since you’ll own your class forever, you can learn at your own pace and revisit techniques before your next shoot.
Sign up for Professional Family Portraits for free now, and take natural, high-quality photos that preserve precious moments in time.
What are some of your own favorite tips and tricks for photographing your families? Share your ideas in the comments below!
Commercial photographer Kirk Tuck has photographed many extraordinary people, from President Bill Clinton to Academy Award winner Renée Zellweger. He’s also authored several books including Photographic Lighting Equipment: A Comprehensive Guide for Digital Photographers, Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography, and Commercial Photography Handbook: Business Techniques for Professional Digital Photographers.
Can’t quite capture Fido’s charisma? Keep snapping the backside of Senior Pussyboots? Yeah, we know. As puppy-loving photographers ourselves, we understand the unique challenges that come with photogging furry friends. When your subject shakes at the first sign of a squirrel, chases it’s own tail, and can’t smile worth a darn, you might wanna declare animal photography an art for the dogs. But there are definite secrets to snapping pet pictures so good, they’ll make you drool.
SmugMug pro Kira Stackhouse, throws us a bone and let us in on her top tips for taking animal photos. Because, after all, dogs can’t learn new tricks…but photographers sure can.
About Kira Stackhouse: An award-winning, San Francisco-based animal and pet photographer, Kira’s modern, colorful images of animals have been featured in books, magazines and websites nationwide. She has photographed more than a thousand rescue dogs and cats, helping them find homes in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kira is the creator and author of Project DOG, an online movement to promote responsible pet ownership. In her free time, Kira hangs out with her dogs and cats, and competes in triathlons and half marathons. She loves egg sandwiches, french fries, a good cappuccino and pizza that does not flop.
Kira shared her best business tips and let us know which SmugMug tools she loves most.
Read the full interview with Kira, and plan to include your pet in your holiday portraits this year.
As we roll into another joyous (and tasty) holiday season, we’re ecstatic about sharing our latest how-to by one of our very favorite food bloggers and writers, Brooke MacLay! Brooke is the master chef and mom extraordinaire behind Cheeky Kitchen, and she’s also a word wizard for us here at SmugMug. She whipped up a delicious behind-the-scenes look at how she juggles her deadlines, shopping, baking, styling and her hungry kids to produce some of the most scrumptious-looking photos in a timely manner.
Bloopers most certainly included.
Read the full writeup over on our education site, and start taking your food photos to the next level this holiday season!
We’re not kidding. It’s finally here! We originally built the original Camera Awesome app for iPhone in 2012 and received such a huge wave of responses from mobile photographers all over the world. Since then, Camera Awesome has been downloaded by over 20 million iPhone users, but Android users asked us every single day when we’d have something for them.
Today’s your lucky day, Android!
What’s the deal? Why should I use it?
Camera Awesome is your ticket to taking great photos at any moment of the day. It’s a powerful, easy-to-use camera app perfect for photographers (but easy enough for non-photographers). It’s for creative people who love capturing their everyday memories and sharing them with those who matter most.
Unlike other camera apps, Camera Awesome combines
- a powerful, easy-to-use camera feature that helps you take fabulous photos and videos,
- a creative suite of editing tools – including the one-tap Awesomize button
- tons of filters, textures and frames
- an integrated share function that lets you save or send your photos.
You don’t need a SmugMug account to use Camera Awesome. But we recommend it because we’re all about backups, archivability and peace of mind.
See what our friend, photographer, educator and Android user Colby Brown from the Giving Lens has to say about it!
Will it work on my phone?
To hit the most popular phone models of the many out there, Camera Awesome works on the following:
* Samsung Galaxy SIII, S4, Galaxy Nexus, Note 2, Note 3 (UPDATE 11/13/13: The Galaxy SIII is now available in the Google Play Store. Go wild!)
* Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, (Nexus 5 coming soon)
* Sony Xperia Z, HTC One, LG G2 (UPDATE 12/3/13: Support added for LG G2)
* Moto X, Motorola Droid Razr
* Kindle Fire HDX 7″, 8.9″ (UPDATE 11/27/13: Now available on Amazon Apps!)
Since each phone and tablet is a special snowflake, we’ll keep adding to the list as time goes by. You can get the most up-to-date, detailed specs on our store page right here.
Where do I get it?
Right here, baby! It’s ready and waiting for you on the Google Play store.
Wait, it’s not free?
The initial (AKA iPhone) version of Camera Awesome was free to download and use, and we got a lot of feedback from users who wanted – and eventually purchased – the many premium filters and effects. With the Android version we decided to keep it simple and bundle the goodies right into the app, resulting in an easier process for you… and lots more to play with right from the start, for $2.99.
New to smartphone-ography?
Our very own world traveler, Michael Bonocore, shares his Top 10 Travel Photography Tips with Camera Awesome .
What if I have problems?
Our support heroes are standing by to lend you a hand, as always. You can also refer to our Android help page here for a basic overview of what the different symbols mean and how you can get started.
Hey, what’s this SmugMug thing?
If you’re thinking about opening your own SmugMug account to store and archive the photos you shoot on your phone (or your DSLR), you can get started right from within the Camera Awesome app. It’s totally free for two whole weeks, and when you start your account from the app we’ll even throw in a 50% discount automagically.
Thanks to all of our Android fans who waited for this! We hope you love it as much as we do.
With the holiday season right around the corner, you’re likely starting to make your gift giving lists. There are many great ways to create gifts from your photos, including making beautiful photo books with them; yearbooks, cookbooks, daily planners, portfolio books, history books: there’s a book for every story that you want to share. Our friends at Blurb.com have shared their best tips for building books and we are delighted to feature them here.
Here at Blurb, we truly believe in the joy of books—reading them, making them, sharing them, and selling them.
But making a book—particularly a photography book—can be daunting. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few things to think about when making a book of your photos. We think the best tool to use is our free program, BookSmart, but the tips below apply no matter what tool you use to make your book.
Before you start your book, there are four really important things to consider:
1) Start with a great body of content. There is no substitute for quality content, whether it’s photos, illustrations, text or whatever.
2) Editing is an art form. When it comes to editing, the old cliché holds true: “Less is more.”
3) Sequencing can decide whether your book sails or fails. Sequencing is simply determining the order of your content, start to finish, front to back. Start strong, end strong, and remember, your cover image can make it or break it.
4) Go look at books. If you want to create a great photography book you MUST look at great photography books. Think about fonts, sizes, colors—decide what feels right for you and for your project.
Part One: Be prepared
Get organized. Decide what images you are going to use in your book, name them so you can identify them easily, and do your editing before you make your book!
Color is important. Make no mistake: treat your images with respect, and prep them for print. Color management is important, and Blurb provides a wonderful tutorial section here.
If your book has text content—even if it’s just a collection of captions—create a single document with everything in it, sequenced in order of placement in your book.
Part Two: Make your book
The cover can wait. Design the rest of the book before completing the cover. When you’re ready, design three or four different covers and live with them for a bit before making a final decision.
Take a deep breath. Let the beginning of the book (or “front matter”) breathe. Title pages, half title pages, dedications, essays—all of these things can all help ease a reader into the project.
Consistency is your friend. Be consistent with your templates. Try not to use more than two different templates for an entire book. BookSmart has lots of templates to choose from and you can always make your own.
Take another deep breath. Let the end of the book (or “back matter”) breathe. Your book is a journey, so make sure you give the reader a chance to ease out of the project. Elements like an index, dedications, or a closing essay let you provide critical information and end the book definitively.
Justify your choices. When your book is “done,” preview the book page-by-page. Does every element belong? Does it add to the story or is it a distraction?
Part Three: Publish. Celebrate. Repeat.
Check your spelling. Run spell check. We’ll repeat that: Run spell check.
Order up. When the book is complete, edited, sequenced and ready to go, sign in to Blurb and upload your book.
Share it, sell it. After the book has finished uploading, you can add information such as tags, titles, and a brief description. Blurb gives you a Personal Storefront that you can share on your social networks. If you want to sell your book in the Blurb Bookstore, it’s easy to do so. And you get to keep 100% of the markup.
Have fun. Above all else, making a book should be an enjoyable experience. So enjoy it. And get started on another book soon. Like anything, you’ll get better with practice.
SmugMug account owners can build beautiful Blurb photo books from the Add to Cart menu in each gallery on their site. (more info)
Next in our holiday print lab series are our neighbors just over the hill: Bay Photo. As the first pro-only lab that we introduced at SmugMug, Bay Photo has earned the trust of pro SmugMug photographers since January 2009. Remember that anyone with a Portfolio and Business account can set your own prices and sell all kinds of print products direct from your SmugMug galleries. At Bay Photo, your clients can order Photo Extras like mats, frames and more. Perfect for making a little extra money this holiday season!
Today we’re getting the inside scoop about ThinWraps, one of Bay Photo’s most lightweight mounting options. If you’ve never seen or ordered one for yourself, this is your chance to see just how these special prints are made.
Where does Bay Photo find its inspiration?
We listen to our customers! Our customers are professional photographers and creative artists and we get amazing ideas from them. We do what we can but some ideas are just too unique to add to the line up. We also listen to our employees. Our team members have a ton of experience in their specific area of production. They come up with awesome ideas for how to modify an existing product or for completely new ones. Again we wish we could implement more of the ideas that come from our team members.
What do Bay Photo employees think?
They take pride in producing a product that is of a higher quality than what can be found elsewhere. We make products for professionals and we don’t skimp, often doing by hand what other production facilities may use machines to do. We have true artisans in the lab who refuse to put out an inferior product under the Bay Photo name. Plus, it’s fun!!
How did ThinWraps get their start?
ThinWraps actually have a very interesting beginning. The idea came about one night, late at night, when Larry, the owner, and Polo, one of our production department leaders, were making sample books for our trade show booth. We wanted to show all the different materials we could offer on our books, but didn’t want to use regular swatches and didn’t have the space to have a book of every type of material, so we decided to make the front covers only and mount them on the wall of the booth. When they were prepping the different materials they wrapped one of our photowrap covers, added a block to the back and a light bulb went off! Why not wrap prints on board add a mount block and hang that on the wall? It makes a unique, beautiful finished product ready to hang right out of the box and very contemporary looking.
Once we put it into our ordering system we knew ThinWraps were really a great idea because soon customers were asking for more options and sizes and competitors were starting to offer them too. Our original ThinWraps were the same as what you can order now, but we have added more options; Glossy and Satin laminate over lustre or metallic photopaper or canvas all wrapped around a board and finished with a nice back and your option of a mount block or an easel. You can also choose the original ThinWrap or a padded SoftTop ThinWrap!
Why would you recommend pro photographers give ThinWraps a try?
It is a clean looking product and is very easy for the end customer. It’s ready to hang on the wall right out of the shipping box. No framing or additional service needed. It’s contemporary looking piece and that is playful enough for a kids room or professional enough for an office.
How would you recommend keeping ThinWraps looking great?
The ThinWrap is very versatile and is well finished to last a long time. Like any photographic product it should not be put in direct sunlight, but it is also a product that can put up with a little bit more abuse; if the kids have sticky fingers, the laminate protects the image and can be cleaned off! Our favorite ThinWrap option combo is the metallic paper with satin laminate. It has the awesome metallic sheen without the glossiness which adds depth and a touch of something special to just about any image!
Thanks again to Bay Photo for this detailed look at an innovative product we love! Once again, if you’ve never before turned your images into beautiful prints at SmugMug, you’re missing out. You can easily turn your favorite photos into prints and gifts by opening any gallery and clicking the Add to Cart button. If you’ve disabled printing to visitors, the button will read “Owner Buy.” See how to print at SmugMug.
Halloween is upon us! What better time to announce our latest inspiring Success Story with Todd Atteberry from History Trekker? Todd’s beautiful, haunting photos of historic northeast locations echo classic, timeless Dutch paintings. He talked to us about how he got into the art of photographing haunted buildings and how his SmugMug website helped him find a firm foothold in the historic community.
Todd is also the man behind Green Man Studio, one of SmugMug’s Certified Customizers. You can tell that his creative skills reach well beyond simply digital art in his beautiful and thoughtful website designs.
Read the full interview with Todd, and don’t be surprised if you hear something go bump in the night.
Have a safe, happy and haunting Halloween!