Sunday, October 24, 2010

Photography Tips for Dummies

Welcome loyal Texan Readers and a very special welcome to Blog-It-Forward readers! Today I’m talking about My Happiness. My Happiness comes from teaching, and from my newest spark – photography. So, when I joined the Blog-it-Forward project, I knew I’d love to combine the two.

Photography Tips for Dummies

Not everyone has a DSLR. Not everyone knows what a DSLR is. Not everyone knows how to work their camera. But I think everyone wants to take good pictures. So, here are a few tips that you can use whether you have a simple point-and-shoot camera or a high-end Digital Single Lens Reflex camera. (see? Now you know what DSLR stands for.)

5 smiling kids looking at the clouds1. Lighting – Natural light (i.e. outside) is best, but not in the direct sun. Ideal would be an overcast day because the clouds diffuse the sunlight. If you’re inside, take your photos near an open window (preferably south-facing) or open the blinds all the way. If you have to use a flash, use some type of diffuser, like putting a tissue over the flash (you can secure it with a rubber band if you like). This will send the light out in all directions, showering your subject with even light (rather than giving them a direct powerful hit of light, dead on.)

2. Angle – get eye level with your subject. So if you are shooting your toddler, get down on his level. If you’re shooting an ant, you might need to lie on the ground. Also, get closer! Make sure your whole frame is filled up with the subject of your photo. And, if you want something a little different, try a fun angle: Shoot from above, or tilt the camera. Be creative!

Jumping Rope3. Use Burst or Continuous mode – EVERY digital camera has this mode, you might just need to read your manual to find out how to use it. This is great for catching kids in motion. Usually, you just hold down the shutter button as long as you want to keep taking pictures and the camera will keep shooting click after click. You can always delete all the ones you don’t like later. When kids are busy and moving, you don’t have time to check the photo on your display, then have them repeat the motion. Usually by then, they’ve moved on to something else and the chance is gone. Don’t miss it!

4. Background – Some folks just LOVE those photos that have a really crisp subject in the foreground but the background is all blurry. That’s called Depth Of Focus, or more specifically, a narrow depth of focus. (Wide DOF would be a photo that’s all crisp and not blurry anywhere, like a landscape photo). The best way to achieve that look is to create as much distance as possible between the subject and the background. So, if you want to photograph your child in front of a tree, don’t have her stand right in front of the tree; have her stand 10 feet in front of the tree. The greater the distance = the more blur. Also, make sure there’s nothing distracting behind you. For example, if you are at the zoo with your kids, don’t take a picture of them while a monkey is dropping a deuce in his cage 15 feet behind them. That’s a memory you won’t want to preserve.

Love those eyes! 5. Focus spot – think about what you’re focusing on. If you are getting a close-up shot of your child, focus on her eyes. Use the spot-focus or single-focus pattern. You can even press the shutter halfway to set the camera focus, then keep the shutter button pressed halfway and move the camera so that you get her entire body in the frame. However, if you’re taking a shot of a large group or a landscape, use a multi-pattern focus so that everyone’s faces stay clear and focused in the shot.

gorgeous moon6. Prevent Shaky Pictures – Cameras work just like our eyes. The pupil (camera shutter) opens a lot to let a lot of light in, or opens just a little to let a little light in. So, if a setting is very dark (like when blowing out birthday candles or outside after dusk) , in order to let more light in, the pupil (shutter) must get very big, and stay open a good long while. The longer the shutter stays open, the greater the chance your hand will shake while taking the photo. Even if your hand is REALLY steady, even the motion of pressing the shutter with your finger can cause some shake, causing your photo to look blurry. Try using a tripod, or leaning against a wall for support. You can even try setting your camera on a surface and using a self-timer, just so that the camera is absolutely still when the shutter actually opens.

7. Take Practice Shots – don’t wait until the last minute to take the FIRST shot!!!! Take a few in the exact setting to see what your photo will turn out like. That way, when you have to take the “important shot”, you’ll be ready.

8. Use a simple editing program – I loves me some Picnik. It is user friendly, it’s accessible, it’s an excellent program, and it’s free. You can crop, correct lighting, add text to photos – all for free. You can have even more options with a premium membership, which is only $25 per year. I think it’s important to use a program that suits your needs and budget. Yes, Photoshop is awesome and can do incredible things. But, it’s not free. And, it’s actually kind-of expensive. Plus, it is not the easiest program to learn. It’s a great program, but it’s not for everyone. However, if you’d like to try it, Adobe (its creator) offers users the chance to download Photoshop Elements or Lightroom 3 (my personal most favorite photo editing program) free for 30 days. So, try it, learn it, and see if you will use it and if you can justify the expense. If not, you haven’t lost anything.

Remember, your time is valuable! If you’re going to click the shutter, be in control of how that picture turns out. Your photo can communicate a thought as clearly as a well-crafted sentence. Make sure your images convey the story you want to share. When people understand your story, then you’re sharing your happiness.

Now, to continue the blog-it-forward, please go check out The Coolest Family On The Block

Texan Mama


Amy said...

Great tips. Thanks for sharing!

Gigi said...

As a very poor photographer - thanks for this, I need all the help I can get!

Jennifer said...

great tips and great photos! I LOVE the group shot of them lying down! I've tried with with only my TWO and I haven't pulled it off yet. The 3-year-old doesn't want to lie still, she kept trying to get up and then eventually they started fighting.

ashley said...

Thanks for sharing! I just upgraded from a point and shoot to a much nicer but less user friendly camera, and am needing all the help I can get! Great great advice for a newbie like me!

Kelley said...

Hi Gretchen! It was nice meeting you at BBC! I am glad we were able to talk at dinner. You had some great tips. Speaking of tips, I love these camera tips! I don't have one of these cameras yet, but hope to have one soon. I will definitely refer back to your site! I am following you now. :)

Jennifer said...

This is great. And if they knew when you put it all together they would be even more impressed!!! Now I must practice my photo taking stuff you taught me.

Anna See said...

thank you! i need all the help i can get!

Swizz said...

I DID learn something! And you included our fun moon conversation...cuz I'm not the only "dummy" out there! ;O)

nicole said...

Thanks for this! This is more helpful than a lot of things I've come across in trying to learn how to use my camera, which is just a simple point-and-shoot anyway. Thanks.

Rachael said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing.

Dianna@KennedyAdventures said...

Darn it -- I have to visit this post again when I am home, since the computer here (at work, shh!) is not showing your pictures!!

I'm going to learn my camera one day, by hecky!

Dianna@KennedyAdventures said...

Yay! I'm home now and LOVE these pictures! Your children could hang out with mine, and look like all a part of the same crew!

More tutorials, please!