So You Want to Step Up Your Picture Taking Game… – A Guest Post by Jim Hayne

I’m honored to feature a post from a guy that has been my photography mentor/teacher for many, many years.  In fact, for as far back as I can remember, he’s had a camera in his hand ready for whatever moment that needed to be captured.  For that, I am thankful because he’s my dad and I have countless moments captured on film to look back on and share with my family.  So, get your cameras out and take a few pointers from the expert!   

10 Steps to Taking a Better Picture

You’ve got your digital camera. And you’ve got an idea or two. Maybe you want some cute shots of the kids for this year’s Christmas cards.  Maybe the family pet(s) are just begging to be photographed (yeah, right). Or there is that long awaited vacation coming up and you just know that those mountains and lakes have never been photographed just the way you will photograph them. And, heck, you’ve got just the camera to do it. So what’s the problem?

Pictures not coming out very well? Subjects too hard to photograph? Intimidated by your camera and not sure which adjustment(s) to make on the camera? And so on and so forth…

Let’s go through a bit of a checklist first. The following list may not be in the order of importance, but hopefully one or more of these helps will hit home for you.

1)    If your camera uses AA batteries, make sure they are rechargeable AA NiMH (nickel metal hydride) batteries of at least 2000 mAh rating. Do not use the standard Alkaline AA batteries as they are not long-lasting. The NiMH batteries will pay for themselves over and over again. You can buy 4 NiMH and the charger all together for less than $20. If your camera uses the newer Lithium battery pack, you’re all set. I like using AA because if my batteries should ever die, I can find AA’s anywhere.

2)    Familiarize yourself with your camera. Sit down with your owner’s manual in one hand and the camera in the other and locate things as you read about them. Don’t hurry this process of familiarization.

3)    Take the camera off AUTO mode  and move it to one of the other modes. Only put it back on Auto when you hand the camera to someone to take a picture of you, etc. We’ll talk about those other modes a bit later.

4)    Know how and when to change the orientation of your camera from horizontal (landscape mode) to vertical (portrait mode).

5)   When shooting outdoor (daylight) pictures, pay attention to the overall hue called white balance (WB). It may be best to change the WB setting from Auto WB, to the
Cloudy WB setting for better rendering of a cloudy scene.


Auto

Cloudy

Tungsten

Flourescent I

Flourescent II

Custom



Note that the Auto WB setting is close, but just a tiny bit too cool (bluish) looking. This was a cloudy day so selecting the Cloudy WB setting warms the scene up just enough to bring it back to what it really looked like. The other odd color WB settings are just there to illustrate what they do and should not (unless for special effect) be used in daylight situations.

6)    Don’t be afraid to use your flash outdoors. If the sun is casting harsh shadows over your subject’s eye sockets because it is directly overhead, manually turn your built-in flash on. This will help eliminate those eye shadows and other facial shadows too. This will work if you are relatively close to your subjects, say 10’ or so. The little flash will not fill those ugly shadows if you are standing off some 25-50 feet though!

7)    This relates to #6. FILL THE FRAME! Yes, the #1 bugaboo that new shooters commit is to stand off and fire away. The resulting image is seen by the eye as confusing because nothing in the frame holds our attention. Practice filling the frame and you will be rewarded with those “oohs and aah’s” that we all crave!  You can do this by moving closer or by zooming in on the subject with telephoto zoom or by using the Macro mode to come in closer.

8)    Join online photo groups like dpreview.com and look into the forum(s) that interest you.

9)    Consider using a tripod. This will benefit your photography in several ways. It will allow you to be in the photo. It will allow you to take better photographs because none will be blurry from shaky hands holding the camera. Night photography becomes part of your digital skills when using a tripod. Consider what is called a “table top” tripod initially. This is a miniaturized version of a full size tripod. Look for one of these with flexible legs. A good one is branded “Gorilla-pod”, but the one I show here is a no-name cheap one that probably cost less than $5.00.

Battery displayed for size comparison only

   10)  Dare to be different! Try different angles, different exposure levels, different coloration and so forth. Remember, the “film” is free in digital photography!

See you next time for a few more advanced tips!

JIM

Then, when you have taken all those fantastic pictures using these great tips, send them to VistaPix Media to create a custom photo slideshow!  Our September Facebook Friends promotion is 25% all our photo slideshow packages!  Visit us on Facebook here, “Like” us, then contact us to order.

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