6 Tips for Creating Photographic Greatness!

A lot of people just press the shutter button and hope for the best.  There has to be a better way!!  So here are some quick tips to help you get the most out of the pictures you take with very little effort!

Breath out as you press the shutter button. It's that simple.  Just like shooting a gun, this helps stabilize and relax you before you shoot!  The clarity of your pictures will definitely improve, especially in lower light situations where flash is not an option.

Adjust yourself to the level of your subject.  Whether you are taking pictures of children or pets, bring the camera down (or up!) to the level of what you are going to shoot.  Adjusting the height of the camera creates a better angle and a more inviting mood.

Shoot at the highest resolution possible.  You paid a chunk of dough for that new flashy DSLR, so make use of it!  Never leave the resolution on any other setting than it's maximum. If you manage to get a fantastic shot(and you probably will), you want to leave the option to enlarge open!  The photo won't have to be scaled up as much, if at all, and if you want to reduce the size of the picture, you will have the best starting point because you utilized every pixel that the image sensor has!

If you have a lens hood, use it. If you don't, get one...and use it!! It is an inexpensive and an invaluable asset to your photographic process!  If you are shooting and the light is to the side, this simple tool will prevent any light from entering the lens at an undesirable angle. This helps prevent lens flare and will also increase the contrast within your image. Using a lens hood helps you get richer, more naturally saturated colors, improving any shot with less than perfect lighting. It also does a good job at protecting the lens from damage. You have a lot of money invested in your photography, so protect it at all costs!

Take more photos! When you are out taking photos, don't be afraid to overshoot! If you have a memory card with a large capacity (and you should), take advantage of it! Take as many shots as you can, because when you look at your photos later, you might find that perfectly lit, perfectly framed gem!!

And of course....Always have your camera with you!..This is the single best tip for taking a better picture, but is the one that is most often forgotten!  Bringing your camera with you allows you to get comfortable taking pictures and lets you develop your ability to frame a shot quickly and effectively.  How many times have you said, "That was the perfect shot, I wish I had my camera with me!" Never say those words again!

Using Focus in Photography

One of the most integral aspects of your photography is focus, and how you utilize focus to convey or alter  perspective.  A simple change in the focus of your photo can dramatically alter the mood in the composition that you are attempting to create, and it can also direct the viewer's eyes to a specific point within the frame,  enhancing an otherwise forgettable image.

The standard methods for controlling focus are the manual and autofocus features on your camera, and adjusting the depth of field.

There are a number of ways to combine the two methods to get the look you are after, but for the purposes of this piece, we will stick to the basics.

Portraits. Focus on the eyes. Generally speaking, this is where you want your camera to be focused when taking standard portraits. Nothing gets the viewer's attention better than eyes that are sharply focused. Now, there are many situations where this is not the case, but like I said before, we're sticking to the basics!

Landscapes. Keeping everything in focus. When shooting landscapes, the general idea is to keep everything as clear and crisp as possible. A numerically higher aperture will definitely work  here...an f/11 is a comfortable place to be.

Macro photography. Love this stuff!! When taking macro shots, your depth of field is going to be extremely narrow...sometimes just a couple of millimeters! The aperture used will be numerically very low...anywhere from f/1.8 to f/1.2, depending on what you are looking to convey in your photo and the type of lens used.

Get Creative!! Use your imagination when you compose your photos! If things aren't working for you, switch it up a bit!!  Little tweaks here and there can make the difference between a fantastic photo and a throw away. Remember, simplicity is key. Keep anything distracting out of focus....or out of the frame entirely! If adjusting your focus doesn't keep distracting elements away from the viewer's attention, remove it completely by recomposing.
Keep the attention where you want it by using selective focus, this keeps your subject clear, and gives the viewer a better understanding of the story you are telling. Because in the end, isn't telling a story what it's all about?

Take a look at my photography blog to get an idea of what I mean with regards to portraits.

 Here some other links to some fantastic photographers with an eye for portraits and landscapes!

 Feel free to comment on my blog, or post links to pictures that you have created!!

Cropping Your Photos

Cropping your photos is easy and it's something everyone should do!  It blows my mind how many basic photos could be improved with this simple skill.  Here are the top reasons why you should start cropping yours!
  • Removing distracting elements from the frame.  Because there is nothing more irritating than posing for a photo to be posted on Facebook with your best friend at a night club, and having some jackass in the background flipping the bird!!
  • Bringing the attention of the viewer to the subject of your photo.  Kind of in line with the first reason, it naturally brings the viewers eyes to where you want them.
  • Changing the aspect ratio of the photo.  Maybe you need to change an 8x10 to a 4x6, or you need a portrait view of a subject as opposed to a landscape .
  • Creative cropping.  Maybe you need to straighten a crooked photo, or vise - versa.  You can give your photo an entirely different mood by simply changing the angle of your borders.
In my opinion, almost every photo could be cropped.  Even the most well thought out and prepared compositions could potentially use this simple and fantastic tool to give images that little boost from good to great!
Here are some quick examples of cropped photos that were took last winter of my kids sledding!


 Feel free to leave comments or post links to your newly cropped photos!!

The Rule of Thirds

Another photography tip, the mighty Rule of Thirds!  Bow to it's greatness!  Succumb to the awesomeness!!  Acquiesce to the sheer....well, you get the point!  I'm definitely stretching things here, but of the more important aspects to framing a subject is using the rule of thirds.

The basic idea is this: your frame is broken down into nine imaginary but equal parts. By placing your subject in the areas where the lines intersect, you create a natural balance in your image, making it easier for your viewers to take in.  According to research, humans are hardwired to view images in certain ways, and our eyes naturally focus on these intersecting points, rather than the center of the frame.

 I placed lines within the frame of this picture to give you an idea of what I mean.

Because of the way that the subject was positioned within this frame, the viewer is naturally drawn to the boy's face, which is directly at one of the intersecting points. 

Creating this frame in your mind while you are shooting can be difficult for beginners, but with a little practice, this skill can become second nature!

As you get better at composing photos, you will come to realize that this 'rule' is a great tool for balancing the elements within your frame, but is to be used as more of a guideline than something etched in stone.

This is the case with most rules of photography, and rules were meant to be broken, right? Some of the greatest photos taken both adhere to this rule and also break it!  If you can create a more visually pleasing photo by bending ignoring this rule, or any other rule of photography, take aim and shoot!