Tips for Taking Good Photos

Telling our F&M friends about events is easy, but showing them how much fun they can be requires a bit more effort. Fortunately, in the smartphone era where many of us have cameras readily accessible in our pockets and purses, taking photos has never been easier.

Taking good photos, however, can seem somewhat more challenging. So, here are some tips for taking event photos with your smartphone that you wouldn’t mind sharing on Facebook.

Many of these same tips apply for short videos as well. One special note when shooting video is to pay attention to audio. If interviewing someone, consider ways to minimize the ambient noise (move to a quieter location) or get close enough that your phone’s mic will pick up more of the subject’s voice.

  1. Be bold in asking attendees to pose for you. But don’t forget to say that you’re shooting photos to share online. Also take unposed candid shots of attendees acting naturally, where they are not looking into the camera. Avoid shots of eating and drinking.

  2. Shoot now, post later. You are hopefully there to enjoy yourself, so save the uploading for another time.

  3. Take more photos than you think you need. Inevitably, in a group shot, someone will be looking away or blinking.

  4. Use your phone’s remote shutter. Pushing the virtual button on your screen can result in a shaky image. On the iPhone you can take photos by using either of the volume buttons.

  5. Use diffuse natural light whenever possible. Don’t shoot with the sun directly behind your subjects, but don’t make them squint by facing harsh light either. If possible find a bit of shade or use the light filtered through a curtained window or door.

  6. Avoid using the flash. Most smartphones have harsh LED flashes that can wash out the detail in your subject.

  7. Avoid zooming. Almost all smartphones have cameras that digitally zoom, which affects the amount of detail in those images. If you want your subject to fill more of the frame, move closer.

  8. Shoot faces. When taking shots that include people, get close enough so that your frame is mostly filled with heads and shoulders. The only reason to see more is if they are wearing an F&M shirt, holding an F&M banner, standing in front of a landmark or really fabulous shoes.

  9. Shoot horizontal. Many of the frames with which we now view photos (our monitors and tablets) are oriented horizontally (smartphones are the exception). There is almost never any good reason to shoot video with your phone oriented vertically.

  10. Try your camera’s burst mode. This can be useful for shots where there may be movement and for taking multiples of groups. On an iPhone, holding the shutter down will take multiple shots that share one thumbnail in the album.

  11. Try your camera’s HDR mode. Most smartphones now have an option called HDR, which is short for High Dynamic Range. When you take an HDR photo, your camera actually shoots three photos at three different exposures: low, standard, and high. Then, your phone stacks all those photos to create one composite image that's super sharp and looks closer to what the human eye sees.

    1. When to try HDR: Landscapes (you'll notice bluer skies and richer details in trees and buildings) and direct sunlight (where the sun is right behind the subject you're shooting and there's no way around it).

    2. When to avoid HDR: Action shots (moving subjects will result in a blurred composite image) and portraits (enhancing the detail on an old barn is great; enhancing the wrinkles on your old mom is not recommended).

  12. Take unconventional close-ups or unexpected angles. One way to give a feel for an event is to showcase your surroundings. In addition to wide shots of a venue, look for smaller details: signs, logos, menus, artwork, flowers, etc. Don’t forget to show off the delicious food you’re eating….although avoid shots of people eating it!

Tips adapted from these sources: