Photography: Where to start?

I love photography! As I continue to learn how to take pictures, i thought i’d start to share things that i’ve learned or am learning about the art of taking pictures…and yes, it is an art. It’s an art because not only the most gifted or talented of people can do it but because I believe anyone can take beautiful pictures! One of the great things about art is that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.  If that pictures means something to you…then really that’s all that matters.  Having that said, we probably do feel some pictures are better than others.

So how does one begin taking great pictures? Where do we start? I say start with what you have. Whether you have a digital point and shoot or a digital SLR, you can begin to take great pictures.

(1) Read your manual – you’d be surprised how much better your pictures will turn out if you know how to use your camera.  You’re losing the ability to take great pictures if you don’t use anything else your camera has to offer other than the  “AUTOMATIC” mode.

(2) TURN OFF “AUTO” and use something else. This really ties in with (1) but just has to be set on its own.  Even if you don’t move straight to going all out manual, use the other settings. For example, do you mostly take pictures of your kids (portraits), most camera’s have an icon for portrait (the “head”) that you can turn to. Or are you trying to take shots of someone moving really fast (sports shot), then there’s usually a mode for that (the icon that looks like a person running or playing soccer).

(3) Set your ISO settings (if possible).  ISO sensitivity setting control’s your camera’s sensitivity to light. Do you remember the days you used to have to buy film for your camera.  If you did, you should remember those  rolls of film with the # 100, 200, 400, 800 printed on them.

Basically, the higher the # the more sensitive your camera will be to light. So outside where things are usually bright, you would use either 100 or 200.  Indoors? It’s best to use 400.  You can go higher up depending on your camera. Typically , cameras have ISOs ranging from 100 to 800.  Today, some may go up to 3200.

The one thing  to be careful about is the higher your ISO gets, the more “noise”  (grainy look) your picture will have. I’ll explain this graininess in a future post.

(4) Whenever possible, DON’T USE YOUR FLASH. Of course, there are times a flash is necessary but if I can help it, I don’t use it. Instead, try to use the available natural light in your home. Natural lighting in your home will primarily come through windows/open doors to the outside. I also love taking the pictures outdoors since there is so much more available natural light.  Cloudy, overcast days provide the best lighting for people pictures.  Contrary to belief, the bright sun will usually make people squint and produce harsh shadows on people’s faces.

(5) GET CLOSE – Fill the camera’s viewfinder or LCD display with the subject or object you’re photographing. You can either step in close or zoom in.  Getting close usually emphasizes what’s important and creates impact.

(6) GET DOWN ON THEIR LEVEL – Hold your camera at the subject’s eye level. For kids or pets, that may mean getting down on their level to take a picture.   And don’t worry about getting your subject to look directly into the camera, the eye level angle alone will create a personal feeling.

(6) DON’T say “CHEESE” – “Cheese” always makes for unrealistic, forced smiles (if you can even call it a smile).  Instead, take candid pictures. Let your subject(s) work, play, or do whatever it is they’re doing.  Capturing them in the moment, allowing the subject to express how he or she really feels, makes for a more interesting, true picture. Of course, there’s a time for posed portraits but candid portraits will definitely bring about a subject’s natural beauty.

(7) One last thing … Shoot away! Don’t be afraid to take pictures and lots of them.  The great thing about digital vs. film, you can delete all the photos you don’t like and save those you love and not waste money on developing “bad” photos.  Practice using your different  camera settings and you’ll be well on your way to being your family’s own personal photographer. =)

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