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Five tips for taking the best vacation photos this summer

Photo provided by STEVE MITCHELL -- When taking photos of his children on the grass, Steve Mitchell kneeled down to their level rather than shoot from his height.
Photo provided by STEVE MITCHELL -- When taking photos of his children on the grass, Steve Mitchell kneeled down to their level rather than shoot from his height.

Officially, summer is just three months long. But the photos can last forever.

Capturing the beach trips, family vacations and cookouts is easier than ever with the abundance of digital cameras, said Steve Mitchell, an instructor in entertainment technology at Baton Rouge Community College.

Not all pictures are worth keeping. Mitchell shares his top
five tips to create memorable, intimate family photos.

Get on your child’s level

Grown-ups often shoot pictures from their own perspective, which makes for less than memorable photos of children.

“You kind of lose some of that personality that the face can portray,” Mitchell said.

Seeing the world from a child’s viewpoint is usually more interesting. So kneel down, lie in the grass or sit.

“It allows you to capture them in a more authentic way,” he said.

Take advantage of your camera phone’s small size. “People aren’t intimidated by these cameras, especially if you avoid holding it up to your face like you’re shooting an official picture,” Mitchell said.

Try positioning the
camera at new angles

“Just hold the camera out or down into the sandbox with the kids or right at the water level with the kids if they’re in the pool,” Mitchell said. “Get right in their face, which tends to help.”

Ditch the zoom

While zoom lenses help you catch faraway action, they can flatten the image. On a camera with interchangeable lenses, use a prime lens — one with a fixed focal length — to get more intimate shots.

“If you’re really up close, you get some nice depth of field between those subjects,” Mitchell said. “It makes the photograph seem richer.”

Smartphones like the iPhone do not have an actual zoom, and zooming in can actually lower the photo’s resolution.

“You’re not really changing the optics on the camera,” Mitchell said. “All that’s happening is you’re zooming in on the digital image that camera’s capturing.”

Edit on
the go

Digital cameras allow you to shoot thousands of photos and sort them out later.

“We snap and snap and snap, and when we upload them into our computer, it’s almost overwhelming,” Mitchell said.

Instead, delete photos throughout the day. Pick the best shots from each activity and trash the rest.

“When you finally get back to your computer and you upload them, you’re only getting the best of the best,” he said.

Also, critiquing your pictures throughout the day can help improve your photography immediately. See which angles, perspectives and lighting work and repeat them.

Experiment with your camera

For photos that rise above plain snapshots, Mitchell recommends you learn to use more than just your camera’s automatic settings.

“It makes you enjoy taking pictures, too,” he said.

Try to shoot without using a flash and look for natural light sources.

“We can tell when something has had a flash put on it,” he said. “It just looks a little more staged, it doesn’t look as natural.”

Take photos in black and white. Shooting specifically in black and white can change your perspective and allow you to take photos in lower light without using a flash.