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Take Better Vacation Pictures - Part 1

A year ago, I bought a SLR Canon Camera, a nice upgrade from my previous camera. The first photos I took were from my youngest daughter at her swim lesson: the photos were very average: too much blue and too much light combined with an inexperienced photographer: bad combo. That is how I learned my first lesson in photography: the photographer’s skills are way more important than the camera itself.

So, not undermined by this setback, I browsed the internet for photo classes, to make a long story short, there were multiple sessions on multiple weeks: does not work for a busy mom of two. Eventually, I found Robin Allen, a talented photographer who emailed me the basics of digital photography to read at home. That saved me time. And off I went for a two hours individualized session with Robin, I had picked my topic, my needs and she had created a lesson with these needs in mind. These needs were simple: take good photos of my children on a regular basis and when we travel. I also wanted to take good shots of the places we visit for our vacations.

I did not become a professional in two hours but now I have great shots to look at and print. Now I THINK for a couple of seconds before taking the pictures using the skills that Robin taught me and I go for a great shot. And I can do that with any camera,expensive or cheap (but I am not going to trade my SLR anytime soon, I love it too much)

The photography lesson with Robin has been one of the best things I have done. Mother’s day and Father’s day are coming so here is a nice gift that will last a lifetime! As parents, we all take hundreds of pictures of our family every year so a photography class is a nice investment.

Robin has agreed to analyze some of my pictures: there is a bad one, followed by a good one. Thanks to the skills she gave me, I was able to see what was wrong and correct it right away. I hope you will learn a trick or two from her comments.

You will find Robin’s information at the end of this email and more photos next week.Contact her and mention this blog and you will get a free photo tip!

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy – bad photo

Robin: All of us have had the experience of getting a lucky grab shot where everything works. This is not one of those lucky shots! You can see how good it could have been. The composition is not bad. The children are well-positioned against the backdrop of the famous fountain. The shallow depth of field keeps attention on the subject (the children) while still showing where they are.

However, in trying to capture the moment, both children are caught off-guard.  The older child appears to be talking to someone off-camera. The younger child's eyes are closed and her face is in shadow. And nothing is in quite in focus. The out-of-focus background is acceptable when the main subject is in focus, but that's not the case here. What might have been a great shot just barely misses.

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy – good photo

Robin: The wonderful thing about digital is you know straightaway when a picture doesn't work so you can re-think it and make a better picture. Same scene, much better shot. Here we have adorable children in a charming pose against a world-famous landmark. Shooting the Trevi Fountain at night was a great idea. The way the fountain is lit makes a dramatic background for the picture.  The way the girls are posed works really well to pull your eye through the whole picture. This one's a winner!

Pantheon, Rome, Italy, bad photo

Robin: It's frustrating to have a potentially great shot just not work because of one glaring element. The background of this shot is interesting and dynamic. The wide angle lens does a great job of showing the interior from floor to ceiling. But the viewer can't get past the harshness of the flash on the foreground figure. The contrast between foreground and background is too jarring. In addition, the bright light captures an unflattering expression making the girl look like she's sleepwalking. So, sadly, this picture is destined for the discard pile.

Pantheon, Rome, Italy, good photo
Robin: Awesome shot! A beautiful interior view with celestial light beaming from above. It really captures the majesty of the Pantheon. The unusual ground-level point of view is great for showing scale. The girl in the red shirt is an instant attention-getter, who draws you into the picture. From there you start noticing all kinds of interesting activity in the background. The picture transforms from a mere snapshot to a fascinating visual narrative. The frieze of photographers takes on an aerobics class aura. And why is that man rushing towards the camera looking back over his shoulder? See what I mean? Construct your own story!

You can check the photos I took in Rome to see some of my favorite vacation shots in that beautiful city. I would have never been able to take some of the shots before my class with Robin.

Next week, Robin will explain more on how to take pictures of our children in a crowded environment and how to take a good portrait in a beautiful setting.

About Robin Allen

Have camera, will travel! I am a professional photographer and Photoshop artist.
In addition to shooting, I love to share my expertise with others. I offer Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and basic photography coaching to individuals who want to skip the manual, avoid the hassle of on-line searches to learn specific techniques, skills and principles. You know who you are! I'm here to help.
Photo Services:  Portrait photography, photo montage, fine art prints, assignment work, photo and Photoshop coaching to individuals and groups.

To view Robin Allen's Lifescape Portraits, go to
To view Robin Allen's personal work go to

Please call me for more information and a free photo tip! I will be launching a new website soon with more details about my coaching and teaching services.

Robin Allen Photography
415.215.1622 phone
415.357.1583 fax
690 Fifth Street, Suite 107
San Francisco, CA 94107

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