You Have The Technology, Use it Properly! Shoot and Upload Quality Photos

30Apr10

[Note: This is a re-post from Ploked from 3/22/10]

These days, everyone wants to be a photographer, because everyone CAN be a photographer. Digital cameras are insanely cheap and the optics that power them are getting better every year. Incredibly popular are digital single lense reflex cameras (DSLRs).

Canon and Nikon, two well known camera companies, can attest to this. In the last couple of years, both Japanese companies have seen tremendous success in the entry-level DSLR bracket. Commonly known as “Pro-sumer” DSLRs, models such as Nikon’s D40/60/3000 or Nikon’s XSi/XTi/T1i are cheap, lightweight, and take great photographs that a point and shoot camera could never produce. Coupled with memory cards capable of storing thousands of photos, it’s no wonder that photography will soon become a profession that doesn’t require professionals.

Any person can just grip a camera, press the button and, voila, make a photo. The world doesn’t need another photograph on Flickr, just for the sake of being able to upload one.

Image courtesy of the tsirkus.org Flickr photostream

Photographs should show something without the aid of text or speech. Photography is all about the visual experience. Much like how a well written story “shows” and doesn’t just “tell,” a great photograph is one that doesn’t need to be explained.

Facebook makes it easy to upload albums and albums worth of photos, but how many of them are worth spots in their respective albums? How often do you see people just uploading everything from their memory cards directly to Facebook?

Again, comparing photography to writing, all the “bad” stuff is edited before it ever makes it to the reader. A book isn’t perfect when it goes through its initial rounds of editing, and neither should your photographs.

Here are a few tips everyone should follow:

1) Delete. This function is so simple, yet so many people are reluctant to use it. Great photographers know that for every ten photos, one or two will make the final cut. Even if two photos do get away from deletion during the first round, one of them is usually deleted in the second round. You will never know what photos are good, great, or terrible if you never learn to tell the difference. Good photos aren’t great. Delete them. You can make better ones when you acknowledge that. Because we’re no longer restricted by film, it doesn’t mean that we should keep all the “garbage” on our photos just because we can. It’ll clog your hard drive when you transfer it over and when you’re low in storage, you’ll kick yourself for not deleting all the lame shots in the beginning.

2) A blurred background does not equal great photography. One of the mistakes that many first-time DSLR users make is mistaking the reason an aperture exists. It’s understandable that first-time DSLR users are making the jump from point and shoot cameras and aren’t primed to bunker down and fidget with the dials and settings for aperture, shutter speed, and exposure. However, understanding what these do is essential to taking photographs. Use depth of field to emphasize or de-emphasize something in the photograph. You will put yourself in a mindset ready for better creativity if you aren’t always trying to blur something just because your camera can.

3) Zoom less. All cameras come with some zoom function. It’s easier to just stand ten feet away and zoom in on a subject. Photography is a physical activity. One of my photography teachers once told my class, “If you see a flaming baby carriage flying down Fifth Avenue and you’re standing across the street and the traffic is in the middle; then RUN and capture the shot from up close.” Your photos will look more honest. It takes real guts to hold a camera inches away from a person’s face and your photos will reflect that, showing every pore on that person’s skin. Zooming less will also teach you some basics about composition; what should go in the frame, and what shouldn’t.

4) Use the Rule of Thirds. One of the golden rules of photography, the RT divides the image with a grid. Two vertical lines and two horizontal lines running parallel from each other form perpendicular points on the image. The rule says that if you place a subject on any of these lines or on any of the points, the photos will be look more dynamic. This all works in harmony with look space.

5) Shoot from different angles. Naturally, we tend to place people in front of a background and shoot. Person + background = boring, flat, and post-card-like. I’m not saying these shots are terrible, but they do become stale after awhile. Listening to what I told you about photography being a physical activity, try different angles. Crouch down, stand on a rock, lie down. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to spend the extra 30 seconds scouting different angles from which to shoot your photos. Trust me, there will be a difference in your photographs if they aren’t all looking straight forward.



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