How to Take Fantastic Flower Photos

Flowers are a popular photo subject because they’re inherently pretty, and they’re easy to make look beautiful in a photo. If you’re looking to take your flower photos to the next level and turn them into works of art for your wall, check out these eight tips for fabulous flower photos.

Turn flowers into art with these tips for fantastic flower photos.

  • Get close: Flowers have lots of interesting, intricate details that you aren’t going to see unless you get up close and personal. Use your camera’s macro setting, if it has one, or combine zooming in with getting as physically close as you can.
  • Use a tripod: When you’re zoomed in all the way or extremely close to the flower, the slightest movement may cause blur or adversely affect your composition. Use a tripod or other support for crisper flower photos.
  • Crop creatively: Keep the rule of thirds in mind — you don’t have to center everything in the middle of the frame. Use petals as leading lines to invite the viewer’s eye to move across the photo or to create interesting negative space.
  • Focus selectively: Get close to the flower and use a large aperture to create a very shallow depth of field and focus on one small part of the bloom. The rest will become a beautifully abstracted blur, which lets the viewer concentrate on the portion that’s in focus.
  • Let your light shine: Sunlight is the best light source, but it isn’t always shining in the direction you’d like. Use your flash or a reflector to fill in shadows. A reflector can be as simple and cheap as a sheet of white poster board, or use gold to add warmth to the photo. Reflectors can also double as a windbreak, keeping the flower from blowing around.
  • Boost saturation: Flowers are colorful things, so show off that color. Increase the color saturation either by changing your camera’s saturation setting or by using a photo editing program on your computer after you’ve taken the shot.
  • Try black and white: On the opposite end of the spectrum, try something different: Convert your flower photos to black and white and let the shapes, lines and forms showcase their beauty without the distraction of color.
  • Add dew drops: Professional photographers don’t wait for that perfect morning dew to shoot flowers; they make their own. Bring a spray bottle filled with water and spray it on the petals to create perfect dew drops any time of day. For bigger drops, mix a little glycerin with the water.

Almost any of these tips can be combined together to make spectacular images and even better one-of-a-kind wall decor. Try a close crop with selective focus and boosted saturation for a knockout abstract image. You are limited only by your own creativity. Before you know it, you will be the envy of all your green-thumbed friends.

Share Life’s Happy,

Andy Warycka

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Image source: Andy Warycka

#HappyHealthySummerSweepstakes Rules

OFFICIAL RULES

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter Open to residents of the 50 United States and DC. Void in Puerto Rico and elsewhere. No automatically generated entries will be accepted. Walgreens server clock is the official time for this Sweepstakes and Contest.  All entries become the property of Sponsor and will not be returned.

ENTRY: To enter the Walgreens Happy Healthy Summer Contest/Sweepstakes, on 7/28/14 to 8/08/14 (“Sweepstakes and Contest Period”), post a photo as noted below on Walgreens Instagram with the following hashtag: #HappyHealthySummerSweepstakes between 12:01am on 07/28/14 and 11:59pm CST on 08/08/14. Daily Winners will be selected by Sponsor daily from 07/28/14 to 08/08/14 for photos submitted according to the following Daily Themes:

Daily Themes that the submissions must follow for the Contest portion are (by day):

7/28: Summer Fruit
7/29: Summer Music
7/30: Summer Fun
7/31: Something Pink
8/1: Summer Sun
8/2: Summer Treat
8/3: Summer Splash
8/4: Something Yellow
8/5: Summer Workout
8/6: Summer Selfie
8/7: Summer Smile
8/8: Summer Style

No submissions that are pornographic, offensive, violent or scandalous or that include the trademarks of others will be permitted by Sponsor and will disqualify entrant. By entering this contest and sweepstakes you, Entrant, warrant that you are the photographer and sole holder of copyright in the submitted images and that you have received all necessary releases from any individuals that may be included in your submission. You also agree to indemnify and hold harmless Sponsor for any claim of copyright infringement or claim of violation of any right of publicity or privacy associated with your submission.

PRIZE DETAILS: Prize(s) are non-transferable except as provided herein.  Federal, state and local taxes on the prizes are the sole responsibility of the individual winner.  Sponsor reserves the right to substitute prize(s) with similar prize(s) of equal or greater value.  No prize substitutions except as provided herein.

12 Daily Prizes: 1 coupon code for 10 4×6 prints redeemable at Walgreens. ARV $3.90

1 Grand Prize: A $250.00 Walgreens Gift Card ARV: $250.00

1 Second Prize:  $50 Walgreens Gift Card ARV: $50

1 Third Prize: $25 Walgreens Gift Card ARV: $25

Total ARV of all prizes: $371.80

AWARDING OF PRIZES:  Daily Contest submissions will be judged by Sponsor according to the following criteria:

•Appropriateness to Theme (40% of total score)

•Originality/Creativity (40% of total score)

•Technique (20% of total score)

Daily Prize winners will be notified by direct message in Instagram the following day. The direct message on Instagram will provide instructions as to how to claim prize. Daily prize codes will be emailed to winners.

Drawing for grand prize will be by Sponsor on or about 08/08/14 from all submissions received. Winner will be notified by direct message on Instagram following the drawing.  The direct message on Instagram will provide instructions as to how to claim prize. In the event winner(s) can not be contacted, the prize(s) will go to alternate winner(s) or not distributed at Sponsor’s sole discretion. Sponsor’s decisions on winning entries are final.

LIMIT:  One daily prize per person or household.

ELIGIBILITY:  Sweepstakes open to legal U.S. residents excluding Puerto Rico, 18 years or older.  All employees of Sponsor and immediate family and household members of such are not eligible to enter or win. Entry onto this sweepstakes/contest constitutes permission for Sponsor to use submissions in subsequent marketing and promotional materials without any further compensation to Entrant/submitter.  Acceptance of prize constitutes permission to use winners’ names, submissions and/or likenesses for publicity and advertising purposes without further compensation (except where prohibited by law).  Sponsor, (including its divisions and affiliated companies), and each of its respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, and all of their respective officers, directors, employees, representatives, shareholders and agents (collectively, “Releasees”) shall have no liability and shall be released and held harmless by entrants for any damage, loss or liability to person or property, due in whole or part, directly or indirectly, by reason of the acceptance, possession, use or misuse of prize or participation in this sweepstakes and contest. Any and all claims, judgments and awards shall be limited to actual out-of-pocket costs incurred, including costs associated with entering this sweepstakes, but in no event attorney’s fees. Offer void where prohibited and subject to federal, state and local laws.

SPONSOR: Walgreen Co.

Instagram® has no connection to this sweepstakes.

- See more at: http://www.snapsbywalgreens.com/hhsummersweeps

Your Child’s First Camera

To a new parent, there’s no such thing as too many family pictures. Every moment is a photo opportunity. But every parent also knows that kids are copycats, and eventually they’ll want to start taking their own pictures. So, when should you give them their first camera?

Luckily, good cameras are no longer major expensive purchases. There are plenty of options out there for parents who want to introduce their children to the world of photography.

Giving your child a camera could start him on a fantastic creative career.

Smart Photos

For many kids today, their first camera actually comes attached to a much more significant first: a mobile phone. Even the most rudimentary handset features a small digital camera, and it is something kids will inevitably play with. Smartphones are especially helpful in this regard because they will also come with in-camera editing features that let your kids crop, recolor and fix problems such as red eye. If your child is too young for her own phone, let her use yours. Mobile cameras are a great way to get kids excited about photography’s potential, and they allow them to spend time practicing.

Budget Cameras

If your child is showing more than a passing interest in photography, you can start them out with an inexpensive budget camera. These disposable cameras have limited capabilities, but they’re cheap enough that it doesn’t matter if your son drops it in the river (trying to get a photo of a passing fish). Their real purpose is to develop your child’s interest and skill level, and prepare them for the responsibility of owning a camera.

High-Quality Cameras

If your kids show a persistent interest in photography, with the ability to care for sensitive equipment, they may be ready for a “real” camera. Start with an ultra compact or even a waterproof camera with a wide range of options for the novice photographer. It should be small enough that it can fit into young hands, and little pockets and backpacks.

Higher-quality cameras, such as DSLRs, typically cater to users with advanced knowledge about photography. Before getting your kids this kind of equipment, you should enroll them in some basic photography classes.

What’s most important is ensuring that the cameras your children eventually use play on their interest in photography. Don’t stifle their interest with gadgets they’re not ready for. Don’t forget to let them choose their favorite images to develop as Prints that they can show to friends and family. No matter what you decide, promote the artform so they can find the right balance of encouragement and personal discovery.

Share Life’s Happy,

Joshua M. Patton

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Photo source: Flickr

Photographing Children: Not an easy feat, but worth it!

Wanting to photograph our dear, darling children and actually getting them to sit still long enough for a picture worthy of a Photo Card — well, sometimes our great ideas don’t match reality.

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To pick up a few pointers (and an extra dose of patience), our crew here at “Snaps!” brought back professional baby and children’s photographer Sher Sussman. Earlier this month, Sher divulged her awesome tips for photographing babies. Now here are a few of her thoughts on conquering toddler and children photography …

On toddlers:
“Toddlers are hard; they might need warm-up time to get comfortable. Bring them to the studio space or the photo’s location beforehand to make them comfortable. Just don’t continuously talk about the shoot in the days leading up to it. It causes a pressure to perform.”

On older kids:
“Parents have high expectations of older kids, but they get tired of smiling after 15 minutes. Older kids look more natural in a comfortable environment — outside or lying on the bed in their room.”

On kids that won’t sit still:
“Let them run around! With high energy kids, use it to your advantage. I have them jump, run toward me, make crazy faces, and then I ask them to give me one serious expression. That’s always a good shot.”

On uncooperative kids:
“If they’re not cooperating, they’re testing you. Try reverse psychology — say ‘don’t show me your teeth!’ Or be silly with them so they feel more comfortable. Sit and talk to them, ask them a few questions. They become more calm, more pensive.”

On getting kids’ personality to shine:
“I talk to them about school or camp. Eventually they start telling me everything. I give them a little direction, but I prefer not to tell them anything.”

 

On lighting kids:
“You don’t want squinting or shadows on their faces. Here’s what you do: Shoot outside from shade and put sun behind you. Try to shoot before 10am or after 2pm — or even later in the summer. Both times of day are great. Morning light is nice and cool, and afternoon light warms skin tones.”

Share Life’s Happy,

Madeline

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Photo Props That Add Pop

Photo props are a great way to add a healthy dose of fun to your photos. It doesn’t have to be hard: There are loads of props that you probably already have around your home. Here are a several great choices to add some pizzazz to your snapshots.

Balloons

Balloons on a string add color and height (with the help of some helium) to photos. If you don’t have helium, a big pile of balloons on the floor still makes for a great seated shot. Use all one color for a more sophisticated look or many colors for a fun shot.

Empty Picture or Mirror Frame

Empty picture frames and mirror frames have been trending as photo props for wedding portraits, but they’re also great photo props that work for portraits of friends, couples, kids and families. The frame within a frame instantly adds a professional level of composition to the image. Pick a size that’s big enough for everyone to fit comfortably, but small enough that the whole group is close together. Be sure to make enough Prints for everyone in the shot.

Umbrellas

Rain should never ruin a photo. Just bring out colorful umbrellas and galoshes as photo props. Let your subjects splash in puddles, and get muddy and wet. You may need a shower afterwards, but the images will be amazing. You can bring umbrellas or parasols as props on a sunny day as well.

Umbrellas are a fun addition to your next photo

Anything That Spells Out a Message

Photos are a popular way to announce news on Facebook, such as “It’s a Boy” or “She Said Yes.” Instead of adding digital type, get creative with photo props. Blocks, handwritten signs and oversized letters are all creative ways to spell out a message. If there’s no news to report, consider spelling out a word like “Love” or “Friends.”

Your Kids’ Favorite Items

If you want to get a smile out of your kids, there’s no better way than integrating a favorite item into a photo of them, whether that’s a Batman cape, a doll, a stuffed animal or a princess crown. It puts them at ease in front of the camera and brings out their personality. You’ll also look back on those images and remember fondly the moment in your son or daughter’s childhood when he or she couldn’t leave the house without that particular item.

There are no limits when it comes to photo props. Just look around your home, see what catches your eye and get creative.

Share Life’s Happy,

Suzanne Klein

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Image source: Flickr

Red eye: What causes it, how to remove it, and how to prevent it

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And … CHEESE!

Perfect! You’ve just taken what may be the single greatest photograph of all time. Everyone is smiling, dressed beautifully, you’re on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation …

Then, disaster strikes. You upload the picture and, oh, the horror. The bane of an amateur photographer has crept up yet again.

Red eye.

Okay, it’s not that bad. But still, how annoying is red eye? And, you might wonder, what even causes it?

Here’s the short version: Red eye happens when light from the camera’s flash is reflected from the eye’s retina on to the film, producing a red color — partly due to the red blood in the back of your eye (gross).

More importantly, it’s good to know a few tactics to prevent red eye:

  • If possible, shoot without a flash. For best results, use a tripod and set your shutter speed to low — allowing more ambient light to enter the camera lens.
  • Ask the subject to avert their eyes from the lens. To avoid capturing an aloof expression, shoot people naturally facing with one another.
  • Buy an external flash and point it toward the subject at an indirect angle to avoid a reflection onto the film.

Too late, red-eye damage done? Fortunately, you can automatically remove red eye upon uploading your photos to Walgreens.com/Photo. All you have to do is:

  • Upload those red-eye pics onto your Walgreens account.
  • Double click on the picture you wish to edit.
  • Click “Edit options,” then “Edit.”
  • Click “Remove Red Eye” under the “Fix” tab and then click on the desired area.

Don’t thank me. Thank technology. Or thank me. You’re welcome.

Share Life’s Happy,

Madeline

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Make a Postcard for Any Occasion

Social media and email are awesome ways to show your latest pictures to your friends, but what if you could make a postcard for each of them instead? Photo sharing is the new norm, but it often doesn’t compare to the excitement of getting a personalized postcard in the mail. Try some of these ideas to help celebrate special occasions with a postcard to family and friends.

You can turn your beach vacation and other memories into personalized postcards.

Vacation Memories

Instead of spending time in the tourist traps looking through racks of photos taken by other people, why not make a postcard from one of your own fun vacation pics? The end result will be more personal, and you’ll love showcasing treasured travel memories with loved ones.

Baby’s First Photo

Showing off your child or grandchild’s first photo is exciting, and your immediate impulse might be to share it with everyone on social media. But most relatives really want a copy of the photo that they can frame for themselves and hang with the family’s other special moments.

Engagement Announcement

It used to be that the wedding photo was the most important reminder of your special day, but now engagement photos are helping to tell the love story of couples everywhere. You can let other people share in your romance by having an engagement photo turned into a postcard announcing the happy news. Whether it’s a candid and personal shot taken by a friend, or a posed shot taken by a professional, a postcard is a quick and easy way to share your love.

Birthdays or Anniversaries

Sharing the joy of a milestone is something the whole family likes, so why not give the gift of a postcard to those who couldn’t be there at the time? A shot of a child blowing out birthday candles, or grandparents celebrating their 50th anniversary are just two examples of celebrations that everyone wants to share in. You can even add a message in various fonts, and use customized borders to help bring the photo to life.

Thinking of You

These cards work the other way as well. Is there an event in your friend’s life that deserves recognition? Maybe you just haven’t seen each other in a while, and usually resort to texts and email to keep in touch. Instead, upload a fun photo of the last time you two were together, add a silly message and make a postcard that will have your friend smiling from ear to ear.

Have any ideas or tips for making your own postcards? Send them along!

Share Life’s Happy,

Kristin

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

How to Take Vacation Photos People Will Want to See

Packing your trusty camera when you go on vacation is as important as bringing fresh socks. You’ll take hundreds of shots, and you’ll want to share them all. But while you find all the photos of your hotel interesting and memorable, your friends and family probably won’t. Travel photography is all about capturing your unique perspective of a location, so here are some tips to take interesting and exciting holiday snaps that everyone will want to see.

Shoot What Interests You

Things will capture your attention as you walk around, so keep your eyes open for special moments. Too often people feel that they must take photos of the major landmarks, but the mark of a great travel photo is a picture of something that others overlook. If you’re in Paris, for example, look at the interactions between people. That way, you’ll be able to capture those unique moments, such as your child’s excitement at seeing a street performer, while everyone else is staring up at the Arc de Triomphe.

A different angle of the Arc de Triomphe

Look for a New Angle

Anyone can take a straight shot, but what about laying down or moving to the side of an eye-catching landmark to get a different perspective? When you’re looking for an interesting angle, you’ll often find yourself standing alone, away from the crowds jostling each other to get the same boring shot of the Eiffel Tower.

There are so many options for interesting photos taken from different angles. You can get right up close, so that you’re framing your subject in a different way, or you can stay further back to get more of the subject as well as the things happening around it. Some landmarks, such as Paris’ famous tower, can be seen above buildings for miles around. Find an interesting vantage point atop a hill or house, and take a photo from a spot few would think to.

Take Lots of Photos

It wasn’t that long ago that we were limited to 12, 24 or 36 photos on a roll of film. Now, our cameras can hold hundreds to thousands of photos. It may seem obvious in this age of social media, but capturing multiple shots of each subject will ensure you end up with at least some some truly memorable photos. And the great thing is, you can simply delete the lousy ones. Don’t regret not taking that second shot of your family watching whales from the beach — the next moment could be the one in which the whale breaches the water.

Day and Night

Nothing makes a photograph better than the right light. The middle of the day is rarely the best light for photographs. Consider taking your photos at different times of day and night for a unique look at a familiar landmark. Photographers often talk about “the golden hour” — that time when the sun is setting and the ground is covered in a beautiful golden shine. First thing in the morning can make for interesting views, and there are often fewer people out with their cameras at that time, so you’ll be able to shoot something unique. Imagine how good the Egyptian pyramids will look when the sun is rising or setting behind them.

Print Your Photos

While it’s great to share your travel photography online, there will always be something special about printing out your vacation photos. Today, it’s easier than ever to put together a travel Photo Book of your vacation for friends and family to reminisce over for years to come.

Wherever the road takes you this summer, capture it in a photo that people will want to see.

Share Life’s Happy,

C.C. Chapman

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Image source: Flickr

What kind of mobile photographer are you?

The images you capture with your smartphone can say a lot about who you are. When you look at all of these mobile photos together, a pattern can emerge, and it may surprise you. Read on to see which type of picture-snapper you are.

The Selfie Expert

Let’s face it, most of your pictures are self-portraits. Your face, your outfit, your shoes or your manicure are regulars in your digital album, while cool buildings or beautiful views feature you in the foreground. You must take pictures of yourself and your friends every time you go out. Oh, and you know what #OOTD means.

What type of photographer is this guy?

The Proud Parent

Your children are your most precious gifts, and your most picture-worthy subjects.

When your phone isn’t in your pocket, they know the drill: Stand together, put their arms around each other, and smile. You’re also an expert at sneaking candid shots at a poignant moment.

The Proud Pet Owner

A variation of the proud parent, nothing’s more important than your furry roommate, and you probably have more than one. You specialize in pets lounging on sofas, chairs and beds. Your pet is frequently on your lap, your head, or wherever else they like to make themselves comfortable — and no photo op has gone begging.

The Budding Professional

You never realized you were a photography lover until that one fateful day: a new smartphone, and an empty photo album waiting to be filled. One shot turned to 50, and now you’re an expert. Instagram is on your mobile dock, and you know all the best apps to make your pics look perfect. You’ve splurged on a few special lenses to get just the right look. You can transform any moment into something beautiful.

The Camera Addict

No day is complete without a photo to remember it by. You LOVE taking pictures, so much that you have no more room on your phone to take any more. Every photo op requires you to shrink your album. You keep meaning to upload your images, but you never get around to it because, yes, you’re busy taking another photo.

The Decorator

You take a lot of pictures, but you photograph with a purpose. For you, snapping mobile photos is about more than capturing your life; it’s about updating your portfolio every day. You order Prints of as many of your mobile photos as you can. You collect frames and are always looking for a new way to set up a gallery wall.

What kind of mobile photographer are you? Tell us in the comments.

Share Life’s Happy,

Jessica Severson

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Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Anniversary gifts by year — and how to customize them!

You’ve probably heard of traditional anniversary gifts, which match a milestone year (say, 5) with a prescribed material (like wood). But sometimes the obvious gift doesn’t best represent the years spent together. To wit: A wooden cutting board.

For a fresh spin, use a traditional gift material while still allowing the happy twosome’s relationship to take center stage. To get your ideas flowing, we’ve matched up our Photo Gift offerings with a few landmark anniversary years.

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Year 1: Paper

A Photo Book captures the year’s many firsts. First pet, first home, first fight (okay, maybe leave that one out). Cover a minimum of 15 pages with pictures, including those quickly snapped yet meaningful images stored on Instagram or Facebook.

Year 5: Wood

Elevate this anniversary’s material — plain ol’ wood — with a wooden Keepsake Box topped with a picture of the happy couple. For those gifting a spouse, fill it with a jewelry item or a gadget. Budget-conscious partners can make a touching gesture by dropping in small mementos from years past.

Year 10: Tin

Yep, it’s one of the odder anniversary materials. But don’t try to come up with a clever use for canned food just yet. Photo by Walgreens can print your pics directly on metal with Metal Panels or a Fancy Metal Easel. It’s an especially enjoyable gift for a photo-wall enthusiast or an artful arranger of photographs.

Year 15: Glass

We’ll skip suggesting the Frosted Stein (still awesome) and offer a more elegant way of integrating the material. Glass Prints feature images directly printed on a piece of polished glass — great for displaying in the home or creating a bragging point in the office.

Have any creative ways to integrate traditional anniversary materials? Do tell!

Share Life’s Happy,

Madeline

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