Friday, September 17, 2010

Top 50 Photo Tips #10 - 1

Well we have finally made it, we are into the top 10 all time greatest Photo tips. It has taken a few articles but upon arrival at the number one, no peeking. You will probably slap your head and say DUHH! Of course that is exactly what it is all about! So without further waiting let's get started on our Top 10 Photo tips of all time.
no flash#10 Flashing someone can be very enlightening....
Ok so you have these different features on your camera, even most of the top end DSLR cameras include a pop up or controllable flash. Why don't people use these? Well the light can be unflattering in some cases but most of the timeflash image the pictures are so much better if you just pop up that flash. If you have a setting on your camera that looks like a lightning bolt, this will allow you to make changes to how the flash is set. It can be Off, on an Automatic setting when needed or just on all the time. This is especially true with point and shoot cameras. Turn this thing on even in BRIGHT SUNLIGHT and use it to fill in the shadows of your subjects. You will be so happy that you have flashed your subject, you just might do it over and over again.

#9 What The Heck Is That?
stuffWhen you are lining up your shot, pay close attention to the background. This is where people's eyes will wander to when they aren't searching for your subject. What you place behind your subject is just as important as the subject itself. Remember you are working with a 2 dimensional medium here. If you put something behind your subject that makes it look like it's "growing" out of the subject, it will totally distract your viewers. Worse yet placing something that is more important than your subject either visually or in content behind them will make your viewer leave the subject of your shot. Avoid very bright objects that aren’t directly behind the subject, i.e. framing them. Avoid strong vertical lines like telephone polesno stuff in pic and trees, avoid palm trees and placing the background too close to your subject. If you follow the guide of looking at the scene first then placing your subject into it, your viewers will never say "What the heck is that?" when they look at your images.

#8 Saving Time In Post Production
When I got my very first camera..... a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away... (that statement should tell you when I actually did get it)  the camera came as a kit with 2 lenses. There was a Normal lens and a telephoto lens. While I loved shooting with that normal lens, I really loved using the telephoto (zoom hadn't been invented yet ). Yea yea I am old. Anyway, I learned right away that if I wanted to get close to my subject and eliminate all that distracting stuff that surrounds them like other people, buildings trees etc, I needed to crop in camera. This meant getting close in some cases but because we were still working with film, you had to plan your shots a little more than people seem to do today with the throw away feature on digital cameras. Take your time, compose your images in camera look at the edges of the frame, most view finders show you 98% or more of what your final image will contain when you press the button. Use all the space wisely. Composing in camera will improve your images and save you tons of time in post production.

#7 Know Thy Subject - Keep Your Viewer Interested
Have you ever looked at an image that has so much going on that you just have no idea where you should be looking? We have all seen these kinds of pictures and they are singularly unremarkable. Your images should always have a focus, a point of interest that grabs your viewer and makes it clear that they are what this image is about. Before you snap that photo, ask yourself what it was that drew you to stop and think "I should take a picture here." Was it the brilliantly painted building, the way the elements of the scene lined themselves up perfectly ... what was it? Once you have discovered your main subject, explore it from other angles and then choose your favorite before pushing that button. Know what the focus of your image will be about before you push that button. I hear you saying .... what about stuff that happens so fast you don't have time set it up. If you find yourself in a fast moving situation that requires you to record it, anticipate what will happen next and be there before it does. Move your camera into position quickly looking through the lens and evaluating the entire scene before the event takes place. When it happens, push that shutter button.  

#6 How Low Can You Go?
One of my favorite things to do is to lower.... LOWER my ISO setting on my camera, that is. Early DSLR camera's couldn't shoot above 400 ISO without getting such a bad photo that photography it seemed, had stepped backwards rather than low can you goforwards. Today’s cameras though seem to be going in the opposite direction. Most DSLR camera's have made their minimum ISO setting 200 but have a great top end of 1600 and more in some cases. I am sad to see the lower end of the spectrum lose its grip on digital photography. I routinely shoot at 100 ISO for the smooth, quality images that can be produced there. Sure you need a little more light to work in but most of the time that isn't a problem. In fact I will change to a lower ISO to be able to achieve more desirable settings like a shallow depth of focus in bright sunlight. Shoot your images on the lower ISO settings for high quality images.

#5 Go Big Or GO HOME!!
When you bought this fancy new camera with its 10-12-18-20 megapixel rating you did it because of the higher quality you could get out of all those pixels. Why would you then shoot everything on the lower quality settings on the camera? Is it because the camera only came with a 1 GB memory card? Or that you never download your pictures to your computer and you are trying to save space? I know, maybe you have decided that because you never make prints bigger than a 4x6 you don't need all that quality?  So why did you spend the big bucks on the camera? Crank it up to 11. Use all those pixels on every single shot, you will be much happier with your prints.... which can be HUGE by the way, not to mention feeling like you are getting your money's worth out of that expensive camera.
#4 Burn Baby Burn
Can you honestly say without a doubt that you have a backup of everything you have shot in the last 6 months, year or 2? If you can then you are among the very few people that can. If you backup your work by never erasing your memory cards, that is great, as long as you keep them in some sort of storage and just keep buying new ones. If you re-use your memory cards like most of us, you should have at least 2 backups of your images BEFORE you clean that card. That means you should have transferred them to your hard drive, and then burned a disk of the files, maybe even printed out your favorites before you clear the card. Burn baby burn.... Disks are cheap and when properly kept will last for a long long time. Hard drives fail, ask anyone whose computer has ever crashed. They lost everything. It has happened to us, 2006 was a fantastic shooting year. Literally thousands of customer files on a hard drive that FAILED. Were we freaked out? Sure. Did it slow us down a little? Yep. But it didn't stop us dead in our tracks. Every single client was backed up on CD or DVD and wesimple simply loaded them back into a new hard drive. Back up your files and if possible store your backups off site. In the event of a fire or other natural disaster you will have a better chance of recovering your work.

This is one of the oldest acronyms out there but it is also one of the most forgotten. Keep your images simple, uncluttered and flowing. Your composition should be easy to follow, with a strong subject and complimentary background. Great light and pleasing lines. Keep It Simple.... Sweetheart is not just a statement, it is a photographers best friend. The more uncomplicated your images are the more appealing they are to your viewer. Keep distracting composition killers out of your shot. If it doesn't belong there... don't put it there. Think clean, clear shot, little or no background distractions, framed subjects that pop off the image at you and you will be living proof that the KISS method of shooting is the only way to go.

#2 What Happens If I Push This?

Have you ever wondered what that button on your camera was for? WHY? Get out the manual and find out. Take a class or two and learn what it is for. Are there things on your camera menu that you don't understand? You paid for this camera and ALL its features, take the time to learn what all the widgets and buttons are for. What each setting does or doesn't do. In the long run you will not only learn what they are for but somewhere along the way you will learn more about your photography. Knowledge is never a bad thing, find out what the heck that button is for. Look it up, ask a camera tech at the store you purchased the camera from or just push it to find out. Don't be afraid, in my 30 plus years of doing photography I have never pushed a button or set a menu selection on my camera that made it self-destruct. Go ahead and learn what it is for, you might actually surprise yourself with a clever new tool.

Ok here it is......... Drum Roll PLEASE........

photography#1 The Definition Of Photo - Graphy
Photography literally means "Light Writing" This seems simple enough but for over 100 years now mankind has tried to master this new art form. We have changed the way we shoot, record, develop and print our Light Writings. There have been those who are considered Masters, those that were simply professionals and those that were the everyday Joe or Jane's taking pictures of their kids in the back yard. All of them have one thing in common and that one thing also separates the truly great ones in each category from the well, not so great ones. The defining factor is right there in the name of the medium. It's all about the Light. Those that are great photographers at whatever level, understand how light falls, plays and can be bent to their will. They look at it, study it and understand why it acts and reacts the way it does in relation to the subject. They manipulate it and bend it to produce a scene that captivates, excites and holds their viewers in a moment that has long since passed. The Number ONE Tip is to LOOK AT THE LIGHT, before you shoot, is it exactly what you want it to be, can it be modified in post production or on site to make it what you want it to be? Is the color, contrast, brightness what you would expect to see? In short control the light and master the medium.

We hope you have had as much fun with this list as we have had researching and bringing it to you. Understand that we by no means believe this is the end-all, be-all of photography tips out there. We are talking about an art form that has changed the face of our planet, from every cereal box we buy to the images on billboards, buses, buildings and in family photo albums. We are a nation obsessed with our images. We capture them with our phones, post them on our Facebook pages and just as quickly replace them with the next image of our lunch. All we hope to achieve here is to have our readers take time to experience their images both before and after they have made them. It is easy to be image jaded with the barrage of images we are struck by every day. Maybe after reading these tips, you will take the time to create something not just capture it, when you do be sure to post it to the web and email us. - Aloha

Top 50 Photo Tips #20-10

We have taken ourselves past the 1/2 way point in our top 50 all time best tips for photographers. For those of you who might have tuned in late, we have had a great run at this and you should really read the other articles and catch up. Before we go way into the next series of tips, it might be best to describe how we got here. After searching online for photo tips during our research, we found there really wasn't a comprehensive list of tips that we could give to folks. There were a lot of similarities between lists, even some contradictions but the one thing we noticed with all of the lists is that they were just too short. So we compiled their lists, some of our own favorites and put together this list for the people. Now we are inside the top 20, we hope you enjoy reading these tips as much as we enjoy bringing them to you.
#19 The Image Killing Disease, Centeritis
This horrible disease is pervasive in photography. It is generally caused by beginning photographers, people who think those small center dots in their cameras are a target that must MUST go on top of the main subject. Knock it off! The center of your camera is just the CENTER that’s it! There is a whole frame above, below and side to side that is just way, way going unused here. Place your subject for the best composition, not because you have a dot on their forehead!
An example of Centeritis. An example of good composition.
Centeritis Good Composition
#18 Leading Lines
A great compositional tool is to use leading lines. They can be as simple as a pattern in an object or as obvious as train tracks. Either way if you have them in your scene use em. They are a great way to direct your viewer around your image. Force them to look in a specific direction. If you do use leading lines be sure there is a payoff for the viewer. There needs to be a place they are going to if you are directing them there. Don’t just have your lines converge into nothing.
#17 Enter CompetitionsAs an amateur photographer and even as a professional, you can enter competitions. Win prizes and accolades for your work if you pass the muster.  These competitions aren’t taken lightly, you will have to bring your “A“ game.  Where ever possible, if your image isn’t selected, review those that were, try to discover why they were “more” than what you had submitted. If your image was selected quiz the jurors if possible, and above all be honest with yourself enough to listen to what they say. Your work will improve simply by the virtue of competition with others. Best of Luck!
#16 What does it look like from up there?
Perspective is a wonderful thing. Everyone has a different one and the use of different angles will totally say different things about even the same image. There is never a time that changing your perspective on a project will hurt it. Look a things from different angles, not just physical ones either. Put on your child glasses, your middle age glasses, your parent glasses, even those goofy glasses with the big nose, every project deserves a different perspective. You maybe be surprised by the results give it a try.
Same scene from three different angles.
  #15 Zoom Zoom
Ok so you basically have a couple of choices, you can purchase a large number of “fixed focal length” lenses and spend your time not only changing endless lenses during a shoot, not to mention trying to make more money to support your multi lens habit.  OR,  you can through each others’ minimum and maximum focal lengths and spend more time shooting with a paid off Visa card.  Yes, you do sacrifice a little, higher minimum aperture speeds, shifting minimum apertures with focal length and some distortion however, these are minor compared to the ease of use, speed in which you can shoot not to mention the number of times you DON’T have to change your lens and introduce things like dust and foreign objects into your camera body cavity.
#14 You can’t have the Zoom without the VR (or IS)
A lens with image stabilization.What?  Most digital cameras today have some sort of image stabilizer in them or in their lenses. In this case we are talking about the stabilization that is contained in your camera lens. This nifty little gizmo will actually assist you in shooting at low light levels by reducing camera shake. You will find this on most upper end Zoom lenses and it is FANTASTIC, to a point.  In those lower shutter speed areas below 1/30th of a second and 1 full second this feature is a Godsend. It will stabilize your camera without… the need for a tripod. Woo hoo. Give it a whirl the next time you go out shooting and find yourself in low light. Keep in mind though that the camera lens is actually creating a mini vibration to offset your movements, these can be seen as actual camera shake in exposures longer than 1 second. So you might wanna turn it off when you get down that low.
#13 I had a 3 legged dog…
You have likely heard of a 3 legged dog named tripod at one point or another in your life, this isn’t about him. It is about getting great exposures  in low light though. When you go out to look for a tripod, don’t be cheap. Remember this thing will be responsible for replacing YOU as the thing that holds your very expensive camera! The latest X-mart special should not be trusted to do that. Companies like Bogen, Manfrotto (same company), Slik, Gitzo. These are tried-and-true tripod makers that have “stood” the test of time even when my dog tripod ran into them.
#12 Spare in the corner pocket
If you are a pro with one camera… I am sorry but you aren’t a pro. Every single photographer that is worth their weight will tell you a horror story about the camera that became a door stop at the wrong moment during a shoot. Redundancy, backups and spare parts are a necessary part of any shoot, pro or not! Would you go out with just one battery? Media card? Lens? If you do, you’re asking for a disaster and hopefully you aren’t charging someone for your time when it happens. Even if you have to bring along an “inferior” camera model as your backup, do it. Save your shoot.
#11 Glass Is God
Image of a zoom lens.Ok, anyone that knows me knows that I am a very spiritual person. They also know that I don’t really believe that Glass is God, unless of course you are talking about the world of photography. There are always time tested truths about every profession. In photography this is one of them. I am a way back Nikon User, I am not militant about it but I do know the reason I have used Nikon for so long. It is unquestionably their lenses. When I started this journey into the world of imagery some 30 years ago I was looking long term. Nikon lenses offered what others couldn’t, not only were they incredibly sharp, but they could be used on any Nikon camera body. Doesn’t matter if I am shooting with a Nikon F from 1972 or a D3X from 2009, I can use the same set of lenses. Long and short, spend your money on your lenses, Nikon, Canon or other. You WILL have the lenses a lot longer than you will your camera body. With today’s camera’s you will likely be changing and upgrading about every 3-4 years. The lenses you buy will last 5 or 6 times that length of time.  Glass is God.

Well Gang we are almost there... Next month we will be hitting our number one tip of all time. Do you think you might know what it is? Any ideas? If you have 'em email us at or check out our Facebook page, become a friend make a guess... All will be revealed next month. - aloha

Top 50 Photo Tips #30-20

We are in the middle of our top 50 Run on the best photo tips of all time.  You will begin to notice that as we move closer and closer to our number 1 tip, they will begin to lean more toward composition and lighting specs that will require you to perform at a higher level of proficiency in order to get the shot that you want and not the one everyone else can do. Put these into practice and you will begin to see a marked improvement in your work. As will your viewers.
#29 - Be Bold
Use the dramatic times of the day to your advantage. When is the Drama? Generally when the sun is low in the sky, but it can also be at High noon. Look for the storm, look for the color, look for the strong light, casting shadows long and strong. These are the Drama times. They are a “Wow” factor and exactly what you are looking for to capture your viewer and not let them go.
drama  bride
#28 - Balance Elements
When you place a subject in your scene you have to be aware of the other items in that scene or lack of items in that scene. Balance isn’t reserved for the playground and the teeter tauter. Balance in an image means front to back, side to side, light to dark, foreground, middle and background, subject to surroundings. When you balance an image, your viewer is captivated by the elements of the image, keeping their attention.
#27 - Framing
When we think of an image and we think of framing, we tend to begin asking, wood or metal. But we aren’t talking about how you will display your image. We are instead talking about the “framing” of your subject within the scene.  When you capture your subject inside of a natural frame that is compositionally positioned within the image, you again are helping your image capture and keep its viewers.
#26 - Move In Close
There is a story that we tell in our classes of a student focusing on color as a subject, who turned in a wonderful photograph of a park. The greens of the grass and trees were amazing. When we as a class guessed that his color choice was green, we were astounded to learn that the color he had chosen was RED. When we asked him how that could be, he simply replied, “there is a cardinal in that tree there”.
Get close enough to cover your subject but stay far enough away to allow your subject to breathe.
#25 - Plain Backgrounds….. Aren’t Boring.
The Kiss principal of photography applies here. Simple backgrounds have the ability to help the viewer focus on the subject. While a plain background can be …… well plain, it can still have character, mood and direction and it all has to do with how it is lit.
Plain  Backgrounds
#24 - Get Down!
Ok your subjects have a size; you need to get to that size when you shoot them. We are not just referring to people; you could be shooting a car, building or flower. Your view will be the view of everyone that sees your image. Make it the view that best flatters your subject.
#23 - If your subject moves, move with them
Panning as your subject moves can totally enhance your image, panning helps show motion in a motionless 2 dimensional image. It adds a flow to your work and creates action where there was none before. Slow down your shutter and have fun with the panning motion. It can make something stagnant, come to life.
#22 - Tic Tac Toe
Ok I just had to call this something other than the rule of thirds. This is likely one of the best known compositional tool in a photographer’s tool kit. By dividing your image into 3 sections (vertical and horizontal) (get it, Tic Tac Toe) you can place specific parts of your scene in these locations to create a more pleasing image. The things you put there are namely foreground, middle ground, and background. Keep your Horizon line out of the center of the image as much as possible.
rule of thirds
#21 - How Deep Is Your Image
Ever since the first cave dweller decided to paint their world on a cave wall, man…. and women artists have tried to show depth in their images. We have to face the fact that we are dealing with a 2D medium that looks best when it is fooling your viewer into believing it is 3 dimensional. Add depth to your images to enhance your images.
vert  or horiz
#20 - Vertical, Horizontal and Everything In Between
If you pretend for a moment that your camera is attached to the world with a rotating pin mounted in the center of your lens. If you could rotate your camera 360 degrees around your subjects, wouldn’t you? Of course you would so do it.


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