What’s the best way to celebrate Dad on his special day? Shoot pictures and videos that create timeless memories!
People typically honor their Dad on Father’s Day, expressing their undying affection by showering him with gifts large and small, taking him out to dinner, throwing a big family party, and giving them lots of hugs, kisses, and big smiles all of which are entirely appropriate and much appreciated. But one of the very best things you can do for your Dad on his special day is to take photographs of him that create lasting memories, images that will be treasured for years to come. Here are some ideas for taking the kind of pictures that tell your Dad’s story, capture his individual spirit and convey those things that makes him special, along with suggestions on the specific photographic equipment that will make it easier to capture the shots you want and to take them to a higher level. We hope they help to make Father’s Day 2014 the best one ever.
1. Shoot a great portrait of Dad
Shooting a formal or informal portrait of Dad is a pretty straightforward undertaking, but here are a few pointers: 1. Decide on the composition beforehand—generally a head- shot or a head-and-shoulders portrait is less challenging than shooting a full-length portrait.
2. Make sure Dad’s face is evenly lit with no harsh shadows—directional lighting is OK if you want to bring out facial textures and create a “character portrait,” but deep shadows on the face of clothing can be distracting. Window light is one of the most effective and easiest ways to illuminate a portrait, but you can also shoot outdoors in shaded areas or use a fill-in flash or reflector to tame harsh shadows. Diffuse lighting that is not completely flat but has some directionality is the key to good portraiture.
Suggested Equipment: Single-focal-length (prime) lenses in the 85-105mm focal-length range are called portrait lenses for a reason—they give a pleasing perspective and minimize distortion. The best portrait lenses for DSLRs and Compact System Cameras also have fast apertures in the f/1.8-2.8 range, and shooting at the widest apertures throws the background attractively out of focus and makes the subject “pop,” a classic portrait technique. If dad has a lot of lines and wrinkles in his face, you may want to soften them a tad by using a moderate soft-focus filter over the lens, which lets you preview the effect. Optimal lenses: Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro, Nikon 85mm f/1.8G, Canon 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro. Filter for subtle soft focus effects: Tiffen Black Diffusion Special Effects (FX) Filter #1.
2. Picture Dad doing his thing
Some of the most telling and memorable images of Dad show him pursuing the hobbies, pastimes, and sports that give him the most personal pleasure. A portrait of a proud motorcycle enthusiast astride his Harley-Davidson, a car buff at the wheel of his sleek BMW, a basketball fan in his sports duds holding the ball, or a golfer getting ready to swing at a ball on a tee are all examples of images that say something definitive about who your Dad is. And the possibilities are endless. Essentially, these are environmental portraits that show not only the person but also his activities and interests, and that’s why a wider-angle lens is best suited for the job. The standard short 18-55mm zoom (28-82.5mm equivalent) can certainly be pressed into service for this kind of shot, but a wide-aperture prime (single focal length) lens or zoom will make it easier to separate the subject from the background if you shoot at a wide aperture, and a fast telephoto zoom will allow you to frame and capture such moments as they occur, which always look more natural than posed pictures. Here are some great lenses for the job: Sigma 28mm f/1.8 EX DG Macro, Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD, Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 USM IS. Flash trigger for off-camera flash options with your existing accessory flash unit: MicroSynch VM2TR wireless transmitter-receiver set.
3. Put Dad at the head of the table
Shooting a family picture with Dad at the head of the table is a great way to visualize his vital role in the family and pay homage to his contribution and status. The setting is often a family dinner, a Father’s Day tradition, and a nicely set table with a fancy tablecloth, candles, flowers, etc. really helps to make it look like the special event it is. When photographing a meal, the best times to shoot are just before everybody digs in or after dessert. Pictures showing partially eaten food, dirty dishes, and people eating are far less attractive. Here are some specific ideas: Take a picture of everybody toasting Dad with glasses raised, Dad holding up the first slice of Father’s Day cake, standing at the head of the table with his arm around Mom, or just a close-up of him seated at the head of the table beaming in appreciation. Lenses for optimal framing flexibility: Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di-II VC PZD, Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM.
4. Show Dad enjoying his family
Since Father’s Day is an archetypal family holiday and families are, after all, what make them Dads, make sure to take some picture of Dad surrounded by his wife and kids. Some variations on this theme: Dad and Mom standing close to one another and exchanging loving glances, Dad surrounded by all his children either in a formal group with everybody facing forward or in a “group hug.” Much will depend on the ages of the children, and there is nothing quite so eloquent as the “First Father’s Day” picture of a loving dad holding his new son or daughter. Many families also throw a ball around the backyard, have a picnic or cookout, or take a dip in the pool on Father’s Day, and documenting these activities will usually result in some memorable and amusing images that will become treasured family memories. Lenses: See item 3 above.
5. Capture Dad in action
If Dad has an active lifestyle take advantage of it by taking some action shots of him riding his bicycle, working out at home or at the gym, jogging, playing golf or tennis, or just chasing the kids around the yard. If you don't have lightning reflexes it helps to have a camera that can shoot continuous bursts at 3 frames per sec or faster to capture magic moments, but fortunately most current DSLRs meet that standard. You can get into the action yourself by setting the self-timer and placing the camera on a tripod, and so long as your camera is tripod mounted, don't forget to shoot a few video clips, preferably at Full HD 1080p and at a fast framing rate such as 60 fps. Selected high-value video tripods: David & Sanford Magnum XG Grounder with FX-13 Fluid Pan-Tilt Head, Manfrotto 700RC2 Mini Video Head and 055 CXV3CF Tripod.
6. Photograph Dad at the beach or pool
For all practical purposes Father’s Day is a Summer holiday and that means that many people, including Dad, will be at the beach or pool. Both locations are replete with countless picture opportunities, from Dad splashing or getting splashed by the kids, to Dad doing the backstroke or cavorting in the pool. If you have one of the many cool new submersible point—and-shoot cameras you can even capture Dad snorkeling, skin-diving or swimming underwater for a truly unique memory. And even if Dad is more of a couch potato, a shot of him sitting serenely in a beach chair or poolside under an umbrella enjoying a cool drink can be a priceless memory. Submersible point-and-shoot cameras: Olympus Tough TG-3, Ricoh WG-4 GPS, Panasonic Lumix DMX-TS5. Perfect filter for adjusting exposure and using wider apertures and/or slower shutter speeds in beach and bright light environments: Tiffen Variable Neutral Density (VND) filter 2-8 stops light control.
7. Don’t forget Granddad, and a shot of the whole family
Grandfathers are by definition Dads, so be sure to include them in the festivities and take pictures that capture their unique role in the family. A double portrait of Granddad and Dad, or a picture of Granddad surrounded by his grandchildren, both have the potential of becoming timeless family classics. And if you have a real family reunion on Father’s Day with people attending from far and wide, don’t forget to commemorate the event with a group portrait of the entire family—everyone will want copies. If you’re lucky enough to have a front porch large enough to accommodate everybody it’s a great location and an American tradition. Backyards with grass and trees, houses of worship, and local historical buildings also make great backdrops. In most cases you can get everybody in with a lens of 28mm or wider on a DSLR, but also consider shooting in Panoramic mode if your camera provides this function. It goes without saying that everybody’s face should be clearly visible in the shot. Take a test shot and go over the captured image carefully using the camera’s magnification function to be sure you can see everybody’s face before you “break the set.” And be sure to take several pictures to avoid closed eyes and odd expressions. Your relatives with thank you. Ultra-wide lenses for coverage of large groups: Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di-II LD IF, Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Kit.
8. Make Dad a movie star
The vast majority of cameras in current production, from DSLRs to point-and-shoots can capture Full HD 1080p video and pretty decent sound right out of the box. However, you’ll get cleaner, smoother, more professional looking videos that people will actually want to watch if you use a video tripod with a fluid-effect pan head when following the action or an image-stabilization device such as the Steadicam when shooting handheld. Both of these virtually eliminate camera shake that results in jerky amateurish movies and help create videos that become a precious archive. Any of the scenarios described above can also be captured in video, and it’s a good idea to mount a second camera on a strategically positioned tripod to create a simultaneous video while you’re shooting stills. If you can designate someone as the videographer who can move a tripod-mounted camera to the best position as the scene changes, and make sure to avoid strong backlight that can fool your camera’s metering system. That old saw about putting the sun (or other strong light source) behind your left shoulder has an element of truth to it. Video Stabilization Devices: For iPhone and GoPro: Steadicam Smoothee. For DSLRs (can also be used as a monopod): Steadicam Solo.
9. Take a shot of Dad on the job
It’s amazing how few people have pictures of their Dads at work, engaged in the activity that often supports the whole family. While you probably won't be able to shoot such pictures on Father’s Day itself, such images can add a truly meaningful touch and considerable depth to any Father’s Day picture portfolio by conveying a clearer sense of his life. In short, pictures of Dad at his desk in the office or shop, at the drawing board or computer, on a construction site, working on a car engine, or driving a semi rig can complete the visual picture of your Dad, commemorate his contribution, and convey his identity in a unique way that is too often neglected. The methods and equipment used will be similar to the Portrait and “Dad doing his thing” sections above.
10. Create a Father’s Day book and a framed portrait of Dad
Once you’ve created, in essence, a documentary commemorating Dad on his special day, what do you do with all these memorable images? Of course you can share them on social media, send hi-res image files and videos to your family, friends and relatives or even take the traditionalist approach and send everybody post-card-sized prints via snail mail. However among the most heartfelt and satisfying things you can possibly do with all the Father’s Day still images you take is to select, edit, and crop them, create a hard copy Father’s Day photo book. With the intuitive templates available this is easier, quicker, and more economical than ever, and these books may well become treasured family heirlooms. You can also take your best portraits of Dad and make them into framed exhibition prints, one to hang in his office, another to place over the mantelpiece. Print options these days are virtually infinite and every one of them is a great way to honor Dad on Father’s Day and all year long. For a complete list of Adorama’s extensive range of top quality printout options including photo books, teeshirts, etc., please go to: http://www.adoramapix.com/app/products/prints.