Sunday, 27 June 2010

31 ideas to help you take better photographs!



If you are not nuts about photography like me feel free to just enjoy the photos!!!

I had great fun at the last World Cup match with my new Nikon D5000. I can definitely see that the photos it's taking are superior to what I was able to achieve with my D40. The D40 is a very good basic DSLR & I like having it around still {was originally thinking of selling it to fund a new lens or two...} but {1} having a back-up is imperative IMO. After all, I will need to send my new baby to Jo'burg for servicing & repair every once in a while, so I'd definitely recommend thinking it through before getting rid of your old camera if you ever upgrade.

I {2} take quite a few photos from behind, something I would never have thought of doing a few years ago. I think it has a certain something...and you get rid of that dreaded "camera smile" that people automatically adopt when you point one in their face! The lens I use is a Tamron 28 - 75mm which is about the same price as a longer length Nikon one, but I chose it because it goes right down to F2.8 as opposed to F3.5 on the Nikon, & I gather that {3} the smaller the F stop the more close up detail you capture & the more background blur you achieve - which is exactly the kind of photograph I aspire to take.

I love {4} adding text to some of my photographs. Not the "really great" ones, but the really cute ones that I want to scrapbook. I like to get the journaling out while it's fresh in my mind & I'm really "feeling it" so what better way than right onto the photo? Of course {5} this only works if there is a suitable blank space on offer so bear this in mind when photographing. I also prefer to {6} take "landscape shots" generally, as they can so easily be cropped into portrait shots if you prefer later on, & generally I find landscape shots more "open" & better balanced somehow...

{7} Crop close. Don't worry about chopping off the chin or the top of the head. {8} Focus:- The eyes are the main thing to focus on. Aim to get the auto-focus point you choose into the inner corner of the right eye {learnt this recently on Laura Vegas's blog - see her photog tips} as she takes great portrait shots. I e mailed her & she sent me the link to her old blog where the tips are - sure she would be happy to do the same for you!{9} Check out what is in the background if you have time {you can always blur it out later if not} & get rid of distracting elements but {10}keep pertinent things {like the coke bottle} IN to add to the ambience of the shot. {10} Don't just think "I'll zoom in later" - you introduce noise {graininess} when you do this so learn to get it right {or almost right} first time.

{11} Buy your lenses separate to your camera body. Always buy your camera body alone then add the lenses to it. Don't ask me why. Just do it. Karen Russell says so & she is absolutely adamant. Look at her pictures here & see why you shouldn't argue...Yes, it's going to cost you more, but this photography lark ain't cheap & you can't get the same results otherwise. {12} If you haven't yet comitted to a brand, go for Nikon. Otherwise for Canon. If you are serious stick with one of these 2 brands as they are the DSLR specialists after all. I've owned a Canon & a Nikon. I switched to Nikon after reading Wilna Furstenberg's blog & don't think I'll ever convert.

I love {13} close-up shots with a big scenic background. Try them. If you take them on your makro setting or in A /AV with the lowest F stop {biggest apperture} you get a kinda cardboard cut-out effect that I think looks really cool. {14} Find a "guru" - mine is Karen Russell {see link above} - I want to take photos just like her. I read her blog regularly & do whatever she says because all I want is for my pictures to eventually turn out just like hers {hopefully!} I've seen that there are many different styles of photography, just as there are many different styles of scrapbooking, & I'm glad that I only like ONE photography style because it makes life so much simpler reading just one blog! That said there are of course a few scrapbookers who take great photos that I love too. So go find your "guru" & emulate!!!

{15} Insure ALL your photography equipment separately to your household insurance. I feel soooooo much better having recently done this. It means I can take my stuff with me wherever I go & not stress about it getting stolen. That said, of course I don't suggest flashing it about all over the place & leaving it on your dashboard {not that anyone would do that here in this heat} but it will give you peace of mind & allow you to enjoy yourself more ;-D

{16} Take your camera OUT of the bag! Remember that these are MY photography tips so you may not agree with all of them, but I got this tip from my mentor {KR} & have never looked back. Don't keep it out all the time where it can get dusty {I keep mine in my scrapbook cupboard & grab it whenever} & take it out with me AROUND MY NECK or on the floor behind my feet if I am driving {safety reasons to guard against smash & grabs!}. You WILL use it a lot more if you are not fighting with your camera-bag every time you want to catch a moment, and if you have brought it out with you to take photos, why the bag??? Of course, I don't mean on all day hiking trips & the like, when of course you should TAKE A BAG!!! but when you're going to a match for example. {unless it's the rainy season of course...duh!}

{17} Experiment with interesting compositions. Don't be afraid - you can always delete them straight off the camera if they look horrid. There's a lot to be said for adding depth to your photos. Just remember to focus at the front {if that's where you want} or play around but get the focus on the object you would like first, as it definitely adds interest to have more than one person in a photo, & I love the look of sharp focus in front getting gradually less focused as you look further back into the photo - gives your photographs more of a 3D "alive" look! {don't use "scene" mode for this - works best in MAKRO mode] - {18} until you learn to use your camera in manual mode {or apperture or shutter priority} use the MAKRO mode most of the time if you are after this look {focused at the front & blurry at the back}.

{19} Forget the nonsense your mother taught you about having the sun behind you when taking photos {'cos your kids will be squinting into the sun, their eyes will be watering, etc...} & just {20} take a lot of photos, at all times of the day, from all angles, {22} don't get too happy clicking "delete" on your camera, as you can't really see clearly on such a small screen & if you upload ALL your shots & delete them off the pc you will soon get a good idea of what is good & what is bad & YOU WILL LEARN MORE. that said, {23} a bright, sunny day is not your friend, early morning or late afternoon is usually the best time to take photos but bright, overcast days are great too, basically you want the sun coming in from the side & not the top to avoid harsh shadows being cast on faces, etc.

{24} This hobby will cost you a lot of money & take you a lot of time. Be prepared. IMO it is totally worth it. If you don't agree just do your best with the time & money that you have to spend on photography. {25} Buy a UV filter/lens protector with your camera & attach it immediately. I have had 2 break already {& I am very careful with my camera} but it will happen if you use your camera a lot, and it won't matter. They are very cheap compared to the lens you would shatter if they weren't there...

{26} Remember your subjects {in my case usually my family/kids} will get tired of you pointing a camera in their faces 24/7. Don't do it. Forget about taking a picture a day. Have "feasts" where everyone knows that for the next couple of hours you are after them! Then be happy with what you have {huuuuuuuuuuundreds of photos, some of which haaaaaaaaave to be good?!?} & put it away! Don't take it out for a couple of days unless there is a really irresistible photo op. I really do find that a real "session" every few days works better than constantly springing a camera on your family {especially your teenagers} & you want them to be willing & co-operative so try my advice!

{27} Catch your subjects unawares...calling them from behind {or slightly to the side} works really well. If you have a really fast shutter speed you shouldn't have any blur {why you need a really good camera & a really low F stop on your lens}. If you are after candid, everyday, spontaneous shots, lugging a tripod around isn't going to make your experience any more pleasant. I take 95% of my photos sans tripod {without it!!!} & {28} use anything & everything to steady myself. Even just holding your camera strap taught around your head gives a certain level of stability, as does leaning against a wall {so your support is at the side} if there is nothing like a counter beneath you {using someone's shoulder does the job too} & most importantly, putting your hand UNDER the lens to cradle & support it while taking the shot.

{29} Look for interesting backgrounds. Lines work particularly well if you photograph the uprights straight {parallel to the side of your photograph} but if you are a bit off you can always use your straighten tool to straighten things up. {30} Learn the basics of photo editing but never stop striving to get the best possible image straight out of your camera. {31} Upload your images to your PC regularly & format your card {but only AFTER you have backed up to your external hard-drive}. Buy one JUST for your photographs but don't rely on it 100% as apparently they do crash just as often as internal ones {not that that has ever happened to me thank goodness...} so do back up to disc occasionally {a total pain IMO & I don't do it often enough}. I've read that ideally the best 3rd back-up {as opposed to discs} is to back up to a free online storage facility like Picasa, but I rarely do this, although it is always my intention to start!




9 comments:

tania said...

Enjoyed this post very much Helen! Thanks for sharing YOUR tips, sometimes we are blinded by the experts and forget that we are still learning. The photos of your boy is beautiful.

topkatnz said...

Looking good as always Helen - even coming from me, the 'point and shoot' queen!LOL hmmmmm, not even that if I can avoid it - that's why I've got Glen, right??!heehee

Kirsty said...

awesome tips - thanks!! I am getting the Canon 500D camera as soon as someone brings it back from the UK for me. (Probably Aug) Can't wait. I will be sure to come back for all your tips and links then! Thanks x-x

teacher jessy said...

Thanks for sharing the tips Helen :)

Diana said...

Love this post. LOVE the photos. You are doing so well with the photography! Fantastic!

Andrea said...

cool tips xxx

Helen Tilbury said...

Thanks! Glad you all enjoyed it & hopefully picked up something ;-D

Lynette said...

Great tips Helen...thank you.

Pearl said...

awesome pics here , Helen ! for sure !!! & how wonderful that you've shared these 31 tips ! wow !!!