How to take the best pictures at your barbeque
If you have a camera, bring it to the party! Everyone likes to see pictures taken when people are having fun, so take some pictures. While you’re taking them, here are a few things to remember to take the best pictures.
The single most helpful tip to make your pictures better at a party is to use your camera’s flash often. Use it almost all the time, even if you are outside in the bright sun.
Take a look at the shot of Grill Guy Gil, which I took at a tailgate party on a chilly May day. The sun is out but it’s a little weak, shining behind Gil’s left shoulder.
By using the camera’s flash, there is natural-looking light on Gil’s face and a sparkle in his eyes. The flash also lights up the grill and the food, making the food look more attractive.
Without a flash, Gil’s face would be dark, his eyes would be dull, and the grill would be in shadows. In fact, I often deliberately try to line up my shots so that the sun is behind the subject, then have the flash light up the front of the subject.
So the number one tip for taking the best pictures is to use the camera’s flash.
Closing the Gap
Going in for a close-up is sometimes hard to do because it can feel intimate, even unsettling. However, when it works, it’s spectacular. My shot of Jessica was taken on a boat with bright light behind her and the flash filling in her face. The sparkle in her eyes (from the flash) helps make this a better shot. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she’s a looker…
Take it Off
Speaking of sparkle in the eyes, nothing is more boring than looking at pictures of people wearing sunglasses. Hey people… take off the dang sunglasses!! I’m infamous for telling people to take off their sunglasses so that the camera can see their eyes. In the "remove the sunglasses" shot, notice that the young lady is holding her sunglasses – because I asked her to take them off. Again, the flash helps light the front of them, or else the shot would be overpowered by the bright sky in the background.
What’s Your Angle?
Look for unusual angles. Hold your camera high, shoot from down low, line up people through a doorway or under trees. In the boat rail shot to the right, Kanwar is standing on the deck of the boat and I’m on the stairs below. Again, the flash helps overcome the bright sky behind Kanwar, otherwise his face would be much too dark.
I Spy… a Camera
People have fun a lot of different ways, so try to catch what you can. If other people are taking pictures, take a picture of them taking pictures. Maybe you’ll get a shot of them taking a picture of you taking a picture of them. However people are having fun and enjoying themselves, take pictures of that. Those are the best memories.
What’s for Lunch?
It’s a barbeque, right? Then show what’s being served. We went to one of those Maryland crab restaurants on the Chesapeake, so I had to get a shot of the steamed crabs heaped on a tray.
Piles of burgers and stacks of hot dogs make for interesting and memorable pictures, and don’t forget to show the side dishes and desserts. Don’t just show the food, however – show people with the food.
Nobody uses film anymore, so you’re almost certainly using a digital camera. If so, take two or three pictures each time instead of just one. Big memory chips are cheap, so get a 2 GB chip and don’t worry about running out of room. Don’t just take five or 10 shots – take 40 or 50, or even 100 shots. The more shots you take, the more likely it is that you will get some real keepers. If you’re like me, I get bored taking the same old pictures and starting thinking about how I can make them different. That’s when I take the really fun shots.
It’s the Process
If I can give one more tip about taking pictures, it would be to pick a photo processing program and take the time to learn how to use it. Whether it’s the latest version of Photoshop or Google’s free Picasa, using software to crop, process and tweak your pictures will make a big difference in how your pictures look.
Yes, it’s time consuming and sometimes frustrating, but the photographic rewards are great. It might help if you try to learn just one new tool per week. For example, the first thing you might want to learn would be how to crop a picture. Once you know how to crop and have used it for a few days, then learn how to adjust the picture’s contrast. There are three things that I do to almost every picture I take: cropping, adjusting contrast and sharpening. Learning just these three will make your pictures pop off the screen.
Bob Kovacs is my photography friend from Virginia. He does freelance work with a number of print and online publications including TV Technology, Radio World and Excellence magazines.
You have Bob to thank for my food photos here at Yes You Can Grill. I started out making some gosh awful food pictures. Really, it's hard to take good pictures of food. Food just sits there. It doesn't do anything at all. I sent some photos over for Bob to look at. He gave me great compostition and editing suggestions. I took everything to heart, and my pictues improved dramatically.
I'm still learning with my food photos, but I'm sure you get the idea and see what foods really look like when done at home. No mashed potatoes as ice cream here. What you see is what you get.
Thanks to Bob or you would be seeing blank photo holes (and may see a few as I get out and get my photos made) or blurry food photos (oh sigh on those). Bob's the max. If you ever need to hire a photographer, check out Bob Kovacs. He takes wonderful photos and has an excellent resume and writing and photo samples on his site.