Project Life: Photography Tips and Tricks

Believe it or not, I’ve actually become a better photographer because of Project Life.  Project Life has an emphasis on storytelling and real life, so I’ve had to really rethink how I shot my pictures.

Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned (and am learning) about photography for Project Life.  Just remember, these are not hard and fast rules.  You can use some of these tips some of the time and mix it up.

  • Take more photos.
    Seems simple, but with our busy lives, this is sometimes hard to do.   You have to make a conscious effort to take more photos and working on Project Life regularly really helps you remember to take photos because you have a place to put your photos in.
  • Embrace the phone cameras.
    I am a professional photographer, so I am used to the quality of photos from my professional DSLR camera.  But, I don’t always have it with me, and it’s bulky to bring and use.  Even at home, it takes me a while to take it out of its case if I want to shoot something spontaneous.  But my phone camera is always there  within reach, I can use it with one hand and the photos that come out of it are good enough for Project Life, especially if I am just printing 4×6’s and 3×4’s.  They might not be the best, but it’s okay.
  • Regularity is key.
    A few photos every once in a while is better than a whole bunch of photos all at once.   Try to spread out taking photos throughout the week so you have a variety of photos doing different activities in different locations and in different outfits.
  • Change outfits.
    As the ever-wise(?) Paris Hilton has figured out, changing outfits helps create different photos.    Paris Hilton is notorious for changing outfits 3 or 4 times a day to ensure that more of her photographs will be usable in magazines.   I don’t necessarily mean change outfits all the time unnecessarily, but if you are changing outfits anyway (for example, if the baby’s shirt got spit up or you are changing from work clothes to house clothes or working out clothes), then that’s another possible photo op.
  • Photos do not have to be perfect.  
    A bad photo is better than no photo.  Your hair does not have to be perfect and it’s okay if your house is a little messy.  Sometimes it’s these photos that are messy and dirty that are more real. When I look at old photos, especially of old places that I’ve lived in, sometimes it is the clutter that tells the story of that time better.  The little details that would have annoyed me a long time ago because they looked messy now become part of the nostalgia, especially if these were old things that we no longer had.  What other people call clutter, I call “production design”.
  • Avoid using flash.
    Use natural light when possible, even indoors.  Even (gasp!) at night.  It looks much better than the harsh light of the flash.
  • Vary your angles.
    Use wide shots, medium shots, close-up shots, extreme close-up shots.  Shoot from high and shoot from low.  Bird’s eye view and worm’s view.  Shoot straight and shoot diagonal.  Shoot horizontal and shoot vertical.   Shoot from the left, the right and the center.  Center your subject or put your subject to the side.
  • Zoom in close.
    Especially if you are using camera phones, it is hard to crop or blow up a photo after the fact without losing a lot of detail.
  • Avoid using the digital zoom in your camera as much as possible.
    Use your phone camera at its widest and just zoom with your feet instead of the digital zoom.  That usually produces the best quality.
  • Use negative space sometimes.
    Putting some empty space or white space in your photo (like sky or a blank wall) allows for a little bit of flexibility in design.  You can write directly on the empty part of the photo, or cut out that part and put a design in that area instead.
  • Switch out light bulbs for daylight light bulbs.
    I switched out some of our tungsten light bulbs for daylight light bulbs and this fixed the ugly mixed white balance issue that I’ve been having.  Now, I just set my white balance to either Auto or Daylight and the photos do not have a yellow overcast.
  • Take more photos of yourself.
    Rock the selfie.
  • Ask other people to take photos of you.
  • Ask photos from other people.
  • It’s okay to cheat.
    Take photos from some other day.  If you need to go back somewhere to take exterior shots or establishing shots, it’s fine.  No one is going to tell.  Shhhh….
  • Back your photos up regularly.
    Yes, hard drives die all the time.  I have all my photos on my laptop, then I burn them to DVD.  I also have auto-sync to Google Photos so it all gets backed up automatically on the cloud.  I also upload photos to Facebook and in this blog.
  • Project Life and photography rules are not set in stone.
    Break them every once in a while.
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