There’s a little secret that might help the budding photographer or for that matter, just about anyone trying to capture a significant moment with a camera.
This is also for people like me who like to capture insignificant moments too because really, if you capture it, it’s all of the sudden significant after all. And will be for a long time.
This little secret is not foolproof but more likely to make you feel less of a fool than you would if you looked at the pictures you thought you were taking of your son walking across the stage to get his diploma but instead just got brilliantly lit pictures of the back of the row of heads just in front of you.
I’ve done it as much as anyone has, and am only straying away from my usual thinking out loud into giving advice because someone, at some point, suggested it to me and saved me lots of shiny white backs of heads.
The secret, simply, is to turn off the flash.
Just because you’re indoors doesn’t mean you need that blast of brilliant light distorting your subject. And though this too is counterintuitive, there are times you might need a flash outdoors (if faces lit by the sun have too many shadows but that’s another story).
So, Step 1: Examine your camera until you find how to turn off the automatic flash. It might be that you just push the pop-up flash down, it might be that you set your camera on the P instead of the green rectangle, it might be that you find the little symbol with the crossed out circle over the flash and trigger that.
Step 2: Turn off the flash and then turn it on again. Then do it again until you’re really fast. Because you’re not going to believe me at first and for good reason. Sometimes a flash will really help the picture and if you know how to get rid of red-eye it’s not so totally offensive. So you’ll want to try both every time until you get a feel for when it works and when it doesn’t.
Step 3: Practice holding your camera really still. Because in-doors with no flash, if anyone’s moving and especially if you are, your pictures will be fuzzy. Don’t let this stop you. Just keep trying both ways and something will work.
Step 4: Take lots of pictures lots of ways because I don’t want to be responsible for anyone’s non-flash pictures failing so I’m telling you here, go ahead with the flash when you want. Just give the non-flash shot a try too. Even your point and shoot can do amazing things in low light these days.
And while I’m making the world a better place, here’s another idea for the one holding the camera: Turn around.
When you’re shooting a lit bridge, turn around and look at the lights on the sidewalk. When you’re shooting the sunset, turn around and look at the light on the hills. When you’re shooting a missionary leaving, turn around and shoot the family waving goodbye.
But the best suggestion of all is one you may have caught right at the start: Shoot the insignificant. Because really, nothing is.
Louise Shaw will be signing previously published books on family and education at Lamplight Art Gallery, 170 S. Main in Bountiful, on Saturday, June 16 from 10 a.m. to noon Her photographs can also be seen at the gallery year-round.