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Top Ten Tips for Taking a Better Picture

While I have said in the past that it is pretty hard to take a bad picture in Belize – anyone who takes pics  knows that you end up shooting a lot to get a few pearls and many end in the recycle bin. klcman has provided a tacogirl Top Ten list  drawing upon his background in photographic education and working with others in the field, many of whom ascribe to the same ideas.

1. Direct eye contact. When photographing people, Try holding your camera at the subject’s eye level & unleash the power of eye-to-eye contact.  Just as in all real life situations, this is important to release the power of those mesmerizing eyes and engaging facial expressions. Just remember, too, that the subject does not always need to be staring at the camera.  It’s the eye line we are looking for.

2. Backgrounds. Plain backgrounds will highlight the subject.  Plain does not necessarily mean one void of texture but merely distraction fee.  Force yourself to study the surroundings for distractions.  This will help  avoid that flagpole coming out of the top of the grandma’s head (we’ve all done it at one time or another).

3. Flash outdoors! Yes, even outdoors the flash can be your friend. Bright sun can create deep shadows.  Eliminate those and lighten up your subject’s face by using your camera’s flash functions. Many cameras have  “fill-flash” or “full-flash” modes.  If the subject is within five feet, use fill-flash to lighten up those shadows.  Beyond five feet, full-flash may be called for.  On overcast days, fill-flash will brighten up faces and make them stand out in the soft light..  Sometimes, however, an image made without  the flash on an overcast day, can have great results, too, as the soft light creates a quite pleading result.  Experiment.  Digital photography gives us such flexibility and instantaneous results!

4. Get close! Fill the picture area.  Setup as you normally would, then move in a step or two.  A good friend, who is a professional photographer and educator, tells his students to “ Fill the frame and concentrate on the  edges, the center will take care of itself.”  Getting close will give you more detail, like those cute freckles or that arched eyebrow.  Don’t get too close!  Many cameras will not focus within three feet (check your manual) in most modes.

5.  Go off center. Many people think they must place the subject center stage.  Perhaps true if one is a stage performer, but often not so with photography.  Move your subject off to one side.  Think of your viewing screen as a tic-tac-toe board.  Place the important subject at the intersection of one of those lines.  Caution:  if you are using auto-focus, you may need to lock down the focus (tip 6) as most cameras will focus on the center of the viewfinder.  Many newer cameras will also offer a variety of focusing options.  Again, check your manual for your camera’s options.

6. Lock the focus. If your camera is using center auto focusing, you may need to lock down the focus from time to time, if shooting off-centered subjects.  First, center the primary subject. Then, press the shutter half-way and hold. This will lock the focus.  Then, recompose your image, still holding the button half-way down.  Once you are satisfied with the composition, press the shutter the rest of the way down.

7. Flash range. Know the range of your camera’s flash.  The biggest mistake many people make is shooting outside the effective range.  The result? Images will be too dark.  For many camera’s the maximum range is fifteen feet.  Your mileage may vary, so check the manual, or try to stay within ten feet.

8. Photography is all about light. Successful photographers learn how light affects their subjects.  Taking a picture of great-aunt Fanny at a family reunion?  That harsh sun may enhance those wrinkles and you may not live to shoot (no pun intended) another day.  Soft light will subdue those wrinkles and make you her favorite grand-nephew/niece.  For landscapes, early mornings or late afternoons, The Golden Hour, are usually the best times to capture those awesome colors raking across the land and sea.

9. Get vertical. All sorts of things look better, or at least more interesting,  in a vertical format.  Next time your are shooting, try some verticals of the same subject and see how pleasing they can be.  Think Eiffel Tower, or a lighthouse on a craggy cliff.

10. Become the director. Take charge of the image-making process, don’t be a passive shooter..  Stronger images will be made this way.  “Allright, everyone out to the yard.  Girls, put on your sunglasses.  Boys, put the frogs down”  Most pictures are not that involved, but you get the idea.

I came across Il Cantone recently on twitter and think his 2 posts on 10 ways to boost your creativity are a nice compliment to klcmans list.

Creative Thinking: 10 Ways to boost your creativity – Part I
Creative Thinking: 10 Ways to boost your creativity – Part II

Boat Gast Station San Pedro Belize image

Diving San Pedro Belize pictures

Belize barbecue

Belize picture

6 comments

  1. great post TG…..just what I have been looking for.

  2. I thought your posts were a nice compliment to klcmans list David, glad I found them.

  3. What an amazing list! I love photography and these are great tips. klcman is right: light is the key to obtain a wonderful photo.

    Thanks for linking to my posts.

    Regards 🙂

  4. Thanks Jesse. klcman takes great pics so I was glad he was willing to share his knowledge.

  5. Good blog today!

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