We recently had a chance to catch-up with Clare Oliver, professional photographer and Nikon expert. Clare is the daughter of renowned Nikon ambassador, David Oliver, and is now the Principal Photographer at the company started by her father.
We thought our Q&A with Clare gives eight great tips to get better photos of our own.
1. What’s the best time of the day to take photographs?
The best time to take outdoor pictures is either early morning or late afternoon when the sun is quite low and soft. Midday sun is too harsh and creates squinty eyes and bad shadows whereas the early morning/late afternoon light can be very warm which is lovely for skin tone. You can also blur the sunrays in the background creating a “bocca” effect or pick up the rays in the lens as artistic flare.
2. How do you get the right mix between being ‘natural’ and everyone looking good just at the right moment?
Interacting with your subject (in my case, a client) always creates the best expressions. When you’re at a shoot, make it more of a fun event rather than have everyone standing still and looking at the camera!
A great way to achieve this is by encouraging the children to play with each other or with their parents. Walking along the beach or in the park is another great way to capture people at their most natural states. If you do want them to look at the camera however, then you can always direct their attention towards you.
3. Do you think indoor photos or outdoor photos work best?
I find that outdoor photos work best if you want images that have a bit more action and movement to them. Being outdoors also allows you to capture the brilliant natural lighting and environmental colours and tones.
4. How do you cope with young kids, babies and favourite pets, e.g. dogs?
Working with pets and young children together can be difficult, though patience is the key. Instead of getting the child and the dog to look straight at the camera (which can be very challenging) I just try to get them interacting and having fun together. I then go very quiet for a while, waiting for the best light (taking some candid photos of them playing), then when everything is perfect I'll let out my loudest dog bark! This usually gets the attention of both child and dog and they eyeball the camera for that amazing picture.
I know it's not very ladylike barking at my subjects but it gets the dog and the child's attention and usually the child will laugh at how silly I sound and the dog will look at me too probably thinking what a silly human … so it has a 99% chance of working! Cat noises are another good one, but that’s another story.
5. When does it work to use black and white instead of colour?
I usually turn my candid photos and images that have a moody feel to them into black and white images. Also when a backdrop is quite busy and distracting I use black and white to neutralise the scene, which allows the people in the photo to stand out. Colour works well when you have simple and neutral tones to work with.
6. With so many ‘instant’ photographs nowadays, what’s a good way of keeping them / displaying them?
Print your images and pop them into an album. Blow your favourite pictures up a little bit bigger and hang them on your wall. You will regret never printing your images, especially if you have a disastrous hard drive failure!
A good way to ensure you print your photos is to set a goal each year to make an album. It doesn’t have to be too organised if you’re time poor, just make a point to print the best photos from that year and archive the album. You can back up your photos on yearly hard drives as well, then mirror those hard drives and pop them in two separate places. This way, each year, you’ll end up with a hard drive of your favourite photos backed-up as well as a printed album of these shots. It will be extremely important to look back on in years to come. Right now you may be too busy and not think it’s so important, but imagine if you lost it all?
7. How can we tell what’s going to work best for a large feature print in the house or for the grandparents?
Check the resolution of the image before you take it to get printed. You can ask the lab to pull your photo up on the screen the same size you’ll be printing it in. They can then zoom in 100% and that will show you whether there is any pixelation.
You must always remember that if you want to take a great photo you’ll need a half decent camera to give you a large enough file so that you can enlarge it and make big prints. It is such a shame when you take an amazing photo on your phone and realise afterwards that it looks blurry when blown up bigger than postcard size!
8. Should everyone wear coordinated clothing?
You don’t have to co-ordinate too much as you want your individuality to shine! Just steer clear of heavy patterns, checks, florals and brand logos.
Ditch any distracting elements that could ruin your photo. Great colours that work well together are primary colours paired with beige, white and natural tones. Try to avoid mixing pastels with primary colours such as pairing red and pale pink together, as this can make the photo look quite wishy-washy. Before taking your photo take a moment to look at what you’re wearing and make sure that when you stand next to each other you don’t clash.
Clare's recommendations for family photography
- The Nikon COOLPIX S7000 is a great value, lightweight but feature-packed compact camera that offers a powerful zoom, easy-to-use portrait effects and movie modes for photos and videos that are instantly shareable online thanks to the built-in ‘tap-to-share’ Wi-Fi technology.
- For adventurous families, another good option is the waterproof, shockproof and freezeproof COOLPIX S33, which offers 13.2 Megapixel images and fine zoom options. The camera boasts a range of Glamour Retouch and Special effects that can be used for images and videos to capture the best moments from family life. The S33 is also designed for little ones to use too – so whether it’s underwater fun or family selfies – everyone can get to grips with point and shoot photography.
- For those looking to develop their photography even further, a great place to start is the Nikon D5500. This DSLR is the world’s smallest, lightest and slimmest – making it ideal for carrying around to any family event or holiday. It offers stunning 24.2 Megapixel images & video and comes packed with fun effect features, built-in Wi-Fi for instant sharing and a handy vari-angle LCD monitor for creative photos no matter what the setting.
- Finding your way around the functions of a DSLR can sometimes be a bit daunting, so try using the Nikon D5500 in Guide Mode. The Guide Mode function is designed to help you develop your photography skills. With demonstrations on-screen, Guide Mode will change your camera settings for you to help you select the right settings for any photographic style – whether it’s for photos of a birthday party, soccer game or beautiful beach sunset.
Check out some more of Clare's photographs below.