So you got a fancy new camera with a dizzying number of buttons and dials for Christmas and there it sits, mocking you, daring you to take it out of the box.
Or maybe your camera’s out of the box, but you’re discouraged by the shots you’re taking because you’re just not creating the images you envision in your mind.
Don’t let your camera intimidate you. Pick it up and use it, and perhaps along the way, discover a new individual hobby that provides an outlet for your creative side.
You've tried it, you say, but are discouraged by the results? Well, here are some tips that may help you start getting better results with just a few small changes.
Move in closer to your subject. Closer. Still closer. When you think you’re too close take another step closer. Forget the old rules about not chopping off the top of peoples’ heads. Get as close as you can get and still have your subject in focus.
Think a little out of the box. Yes, you’ll want some regular full-body and head and shoulders shots. Sure, you’ll want the standard snapshots of special events. But don’t forget to record the small details.
Twenty years from now, your memories will have faded but you’ll be so glad you captured tight close-ups of your baby’s chubby feet and saucer-sized eyes, your 6-year-old’s gap-tooth smile and freckles, your grandpa’s wizened face and gnarled hands.
Become aware of the light. It’s almost a cliché but light is everything in photography. Learning what light is the most flattering, both indoors and out will instantly bump up the quality of your shots.
When you’re shooting outside on sunny days, avoid taking photos when the sun is high in the sky. You’ll end up with harsh shadows on your subjects’ faces that are not flattering.
Instead shoot in the early morning or evening when the sun is low in the sky and the light is soft and golden. If you can’t avoid the midday photo shoot, look for some protected shade, such as that offered by a tree or a porch or garage or even your car.
Once you’ve found your light, take a minute to look at your subject’s eyes. What you’re looking for are catchlights, the little sparkly glints in the eyes that bring your subject to life. If you don’t see them, reposition your subject until you do. Then snap away.
If you’re shooting inside, place your subject sideways and as close as you can to a window, preferably north-facing. Now, do something radical -- turn off your flash. Use the available light from the window to bathe your subject in lovely soft light and gentle shadow.
Perhaps the easiest way to spot a newbie photographer is where he places his subject in the frame — typically dead center in the picture. Experienced photographers keep the Rule of Thirds in mind when they compose a shot.
You can envision the Rule of Thirds by imagining dividing a standard 4 x 6 photo into 3 equal sections both horizontally and vertically, giving you 9 equal sections and 4 points where the lines intersect. (See the grid above)
Try placing your main subject or subjects, whether human or a landscape element at one or more of the points where the lines intersect. For example, get in close to your subject and when you compose your shot, place the eye closest to you at the top left intersection point.
The off-center placement of your subject creates a balanced image that’s more pleasing to the eye.
Looking for more inspiration and tips? Why not try a camera club.