Posted by: Zsuzsanna | September 16, 2007

Photography 101

Although I am by no means an expert photographer, I have listed below some very basic and simple things that I have learned over the years. Small changes can mean the difference between a good picture and a great one.

* Backdrop: Make sure that you have a nice backdrop. For example, if you are taking pictures at home, make sure that there are not piles of laundry, dishes, or the like in the background.

* Edges: Do not cut the top of people’s heads off, but also do not leave too big of a gap between the top of their head and the top of the photo.

* Portraits & Close-ups: It usually works best if the person’s body is turned slightly sideways, but their head is turned to the camera. Bear in mind that most people look much better from one side than from the other. It’s often best not to have the person in the dead center of the picture, but rather off to one side a little.

* Zoom: If you are using a digital camera, try not to use the zoom function even if your camera has a great resolution. You will always lose quality when using the zoom. Instead, if it is possible, step closer to the object you are photographing.

* Scenery: Make it a rule NEVER to photograph scenery without a person in the picture. Years from now you will not care about a picture of monkeys at the zoo or a deer in the woods when there’s not also a person in the photo. If you love the scenery, buy a postcard instead – it was taken using top-of-the-line equipment and in perfect weather and lighting conditions, something that would be very hard for you to recreate. On the other hand, try to keep strangers out of the picture as much as possible, something that is not always easy at crowded tourist stops.

* Lighting: Personally, I think that this aspect is mostly overrated. Ideally you would have soft, indirect light from the side or from behind the photographer, with no shadows on any of the people’s faces. Unless you are photographing directly into the sun, you will rarely have problems with this. If you are trying to get a great portrait and there are shadows on the person’s face, you can reflect additional indirect light onto their face by holding a white piece of paper close to their face (but obviously out of the picture!). Avoid using the flash, which means that you will have to create/utilize as many other sources of light as possible.

* Shoot, shoot, shoot: Don’t be afraid to take lots and lots of pictures. If you take 20 and only 2 of them are worth keeping, at least you will get a shot you like. This is especially true for digital cameras, which allow you to quickly delete pictures you don’t like without spending money on getting them developed. Also, you should try to bring your camera with you everywhere you go, since you never know when you might need it for a great shot.

* Sit still: Teach children from an early age to follow your instructions when posing them for pictures. Older kids should not be allowed to be goofy, play around, or distract the younger children. Try to get your husband to understand that this is not the best time for him to be wild (good luck with that one!). The larger your family, the harder it will be to get EVERYONE to look good in the same photo, so start early. You will be glad you did when you go to have professional portraits done and your children know what to do and how to act.

* Equipment: The best cameras on the market (digital or not) are made by Nikon. Unfortunately, this puts them out of most people’s price range. My favorite digital cameras in the lower to middle price range are made by Kodak. They are very user friendly, sturdy, and take great pictures even in less than ideal conditions, i.e. if there is a lot of movement in the picture or the lighting is poor.

This is by no means a conclusive list. Experiment on your own, and have fun!


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