I've been wanting to write some simple photography tips for a while, and since I think some of you might be interested here goes nothing. Now, I am not an expert yet...yet, give me a few more months. These are basic, very simple things you can do to make your photos better. It is not meant to be a comprehensive guide, more like some fun tricks you should try. Oh, and they are meant to pass the Mom test. There aren't so complicated that my mother couldn't do them. Love ya Ma, but you know what I mean.
1. Take lots of pictures. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, takes bad pictures. Some people get lucky and take a few good ones in between the bad ones. The more you take the better. You think you have the shot of your sister holding her baby? Take an extra to be sure. Most of us are using digital now, and cost is not an issue like it was with film. People move, things can change, take another shot to be sure.
2. Get closer. Do you think you are close enough? Wrong, get closer. Don't get up people's noses, but make sure your subject is taking up the majority of the space in your image. In 5 years no one is going to care what Aunt Petunia's wallpaper looked like, but they will want to see Aunt Petunia. Get closer.
3. Get level with your subject. Are you shooting kids? (hehe) Get on their level. Squat down, get on your knees, whatever you have to do but try to look at things from their perspective. Same with dogs. Just mix up the way you look at things and you never know what you might find. Do you have bad knees? Get the kid to stand on something. And what kid will pass up the chance to stand on your furniture?
4. Use the basic settings on your camera. I know, I know, you shoot in auto, point and click and have no idea what all those little pictures mean. I am not leading you down the road of aperture settings and shutter speeds, remember this should be Mom proof. Go get your digital camera. Go ahead, I will wait. OK, got it? Cool. Now most point and shoots, and entry level SLR's, will have built in settings that will allow you to specify what kind of picture you are taking. These are often on your dial, and are mini pictures. You may see a face, a flower, a mountain, a bright sun, or someone running. If they are not on your dial they may be somewhere on your interface. Try menu, or scene selection. On my $100 Nikon Coolpix, there are 13 different settings, and they are under the menu button. Obviously each camera is different, but these setting are all very similar. The best part is, they could not be more obvious. Gee, I am shooting my friend Sally, do I choose the face or the moon?
Without getting too technical, these setting will change the way your camera looks at your subject. By choosing the face, Sally with be much clearer, and the background will be slightly blurred. For example:
See how Jack's face is the focus of the picture? This was taken in the face setting. Also, see how close I got? If you want everything in your photo to be in focus, say for a landscape, or a photo of your house, choose the mountain setting. For a narrow focus on something close up, choose the flower setting. Make sense? This is a very, very simple thing to do once you find it and get used to it. It will really jazz up your pictures, I promise.
5. Take an extra second and think before you click. Is my finger out of the way? Am I close enough? Does it look like that lamp is coming out of Uncle Jimmy's head? Am I close enough? Do I like the background? Am I close enough? Is there another angle that would look better? Are people looking at me? The questions could go on, but the point is to think about what you want your final product to look like. The other day at lunch I was taking some shots of my friends, and realized after the first shot that there were dirty plates and soda glasses in the picture. We stopped, took the extra second to move the stuff, and now I have pictures of my friends without all that extra clutter. Sometimes that little bit of extra thought is all you need to make things better.
6. Use your editing program. I don't care which program you like, there are so many out there, but you should be using it to make basic changes. Picassa is the most user friendly program I have found, and will allow you to do the simplest tasks with ease. Now, I am not expecting you to master Photoshop, but you should be able to figure out how to crop and get rid of red eye. Perhaps it is because in pictures it often looks like the back of my brain is on fire, but nothing irritates me more than red eye. OK, A-Rod irritates me more than red eye, but that is about it. Get rid of it! It takes about 30 seconds, and your pictures will look so much better.
7. Bring an extra battery. You never know when you will need it.
I could go on, but this is a good start. Let me know how it works out, or if you have any questions.