Project Planning & Tips

Perfect prom pics on the patio

Now is the time to break out the camera as our nation’s youth head out to one of their first formal events. Leverage the light around your patio to capture the perfect pictures of this milestone.

Go ahead: use your phone

“Cell phones have come a long way,” says photographer Andrew Ludewig, EP Henry’s Staff Photographer and Digital Creative Director. “They can compete with and do a better job than a larger point and shoot.” Best to use the cell phone outdoors during the day, Andrew warns. Inside, the cell phone cameras fail to differentiate shadows and simply don’t work well. But for the pre-promenade pictures on the patio, your iPhone or Android phone can do a great job.

Find the reflecting light

Having a subject surrounded by light is a photographer’s dream. While beautiful for aesthetics, earth toned pavers may not bounce up enough light. “Earth tones don’t do much on illuminating a subject,” says Andrew. “Light-colored pavers or tiles, porcelain pavers or clean white pavers work great. White is a photographer’s best friend.” (Remember this when you may be tempted to photograph on a red brick patio. Many other “photography supporting” materials are available.) Patios laid with light-colored pavers bounce the sunlight right back up onto faces. Light-colored home siding can also help illuminate the subject. “All the sunlight is going to reflect upwards in soft, beautiful, studio-like light.” When shooting, seasoned-event photographer Andrew pays attention to how the light is reflecting off surfaces and if it is brightening the subject’s face or casting shadows. “Photography is all about how you handle the light source. The sun’s greatly going to impact any shot. Know where’s the sun’s going to hit. Make sure all the settings are right. If you get the lighting right, it’ll look right.”

Clear out backgrounds

A cluttered background is often overlooked and is the bane of many home photographs. A lovely prom pic turns into a glaring awkward family photo when dirty garbage cans loom behind the young couple. Shoot a photo quickly and review it immediately, concentrating on the background elements. See something that shouldn’t be there? Move the couple or remove the distraction. Shrubs, fields, or even plain walls if nothing else is available are preferable to cars, deck chairs, or an old sun umbrella. Andrew suggests you avoid capturing the pool in your shot. Water reflects a lot of light and can be tricky to shoot. Also, wet pavers are distracting in photos. Unless you are experienced, it’s best to stay away from the pool and stay on the patio.

Get some untraditional shots too

Prom days are often filled with nerves, but if you make a list of typical prom shots, you’ll be sure to have a great record of the day. Make a list on a sticky note of the scenes you want, e.g., the exchange of flowers and pinning of the boutonniere, all the girls and all the guys in groups, the couple together, etc. A trend lately is to shoot a “goofy” pic, with everyone making faces or posing in odd ways. The kids may like one or two funny shots to post on social media. Groups are best presented in varying heights. Steps are a great way to get group shots that don’t look like a line up. Like a band has a set list, the prepared home photographer relies on their shot list. Don’t forget it.

And last, learn to love the clouds

Don’t fret the weather. If you are forced indoors on the count of rain, move your subjects close to the window. Another tip from Andrew: cloudy days make the best shooting light. “Diffused light, like on cloudy days, any phone, any camera, will get a nice light wrapped around the person.” And sending off your young debutants in a halo of light and love is what it’s all about.

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