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Can you give me a couple of basic tips for shooting portraits? We do a school yearbook each year, and the woman that did our portraits before is about to pop with a baby and won't be able to do them. I had the idea to have the kids (middle school age ) take each other's pictures. We'd be using digital cameras, and probably outdoors. My husband is good with a camera, but he will overwhelm me, lol. I'm looking for basic, simple tips to help these look cute. Obviously they will NOT be professional quality, but I think it will be fun. Any thoughts?

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Outside will probably be best if the kids will take the pictures. You will want as much light as possible. Kids are wiggly amd you'll want the camera to snap fast. The darker it is, the slower the camera will snap and the blurrier the pictures will be. Cameras are all about capturing light. if there isn't much light, the camera will open it's eye longer to let more light in. You want lots of light so the camera blinks open quickly, before anyone moves and blurs the picture.


If the day is super sunny and everyone is squinting, head into some shade.


If you can control the time of day, go in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun's rays are more slanted and not right overhead. Overhead creates ugly shadows under the eyes.


If these are meant to be portraits, zoom in to 45 or so mm if you can see that on the lens. Look for the numbers on the lens and turn it to 45 or so. If it's at a lower number (18) it can do some subtle distorting that makes people look bad. It's not overt, but enough that the pictures look slighly off.


Once you're at 45 or so, get close enough so that the person's face is filling the picture. It is OK if the top of their head is cut off. Believe it or not, that actually makes the picture more interesting because the face fills the picture. So...from about mid-chest to the top of their forehead would be good. Feel free to break that rule, but just know that cutoff heads are ok.


If the camera lets you choose the focal point, focus on the person's eyes. Portraits are all about the eyes.


Position your subject slightly off center.


If you are using auto settings, put it in portrait mode which probably looks like a person's head.


People look best when they're slightly turned to the side. Straight face-on pictures makes you look fat even if you're skinny. If you can, turn the head enough for a little cheekbone structure to show. If they are girls, then can also tilt their head down in a somewhat coy pose.


Right before the shot, remind them to stand up straight.


All that is if you take the pictures. If the kids do it, then the only advice is to have lots and lots of light. Well, if they're old enough you can tell them what I told you and maybe they'll remember to use the tips.

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One more thing: if it's a rainy day and you have to do them indoors, use window light. Have the subject stand perpendicular to a window so that there is light on half of their face and a bit of shadow on the other half. Those make for nice pictures, too. Tell subject and photographer alike to be as still as they can be.

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As the head of our co-op's yearbook and having taught photography to said yearbook kids, I wouldn't let the kids take the pictures of each other. Unless they have used a camera before, you will end up with a bunch of blurry photos. Even if they have used a camera before, they'll get caught up in the fun and silliness of it all and will be moving around and it will be hard to tell if everyone has gotten a picture taken. And they will get caught up in the silliness lol! Even my 18yo dd and her friends get caught up in the silliness. Also, depending on where you get your yearbook printed (we use Blurb), you will need the images to be as sharp as possible because they do lose a little in the printing.


My best advice would be to use the nicest camera possible and put it on "happy mode" or "green smiley face" mode, basically auto so that you are not overwhelmed by the camera stuff. Portrait mode "the head" is fine if you are shooting just waist up. What Garga said is right...focus on the eyes. I usually find at least one spot where I get a few pictures of every kid (kind of like an assembly line, only more chaotic), then if time permits we browse around for an alternate spot. Good spots to look for: a cool rock to sit on, a bench, a gazebo, the side of a barn, a cool tree. Last year we found an old train station with a train sitting there...that was fun. Get silly with the kids, some will have the forced smile. And just have fun!

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A simple thing that can help to improve photos of people is the way people stand. Even if you are only doing head and shoulder shots. Turning them slightly side on with the weight on the back foot.


Also stretching the chin forward and down slightly so you are elongating the neck helps. It feels wierd but looks good. Smoothes out any double chins and wierd neck crinkles.


If you have to shoot in bright midday sun and can't find shade put the sun behind them and stand in the direction of the shadow. But as you are using a point and shoot you might want to do a few test shots to check the exposure, the camera might expose for the wrong part of the image.


Watch out for creepy claw hands.


Also for people who are feeling awkward. Ask them to fake laugh. People almost always do a real laugh or smile immediately after a fake laugh.

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