Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Photographic Secrets

Yesterday's post about the new zip line at my daughter's house seems to have hit a popular nerve ... I don't often get ten comments on a single post. I thought about sticking with success and writing about zip lines again today, but I guess I should probably move on. Let's talk about one of my favorite topics ... photography.

I come from a long line of ... well ... a line of ... well, actually, I'm the son of a professional photographer. My father was (and remains) a well-known and respected advertising photographer. Dad preferred to describe himself, though, as an "illustrator" rather than a "photographer" because his work involved much more than just taking the picture ... he found the models, scrounged the props, dressed the sets, invented special effects in the days before digital manipulation, developed the pictures (to this day his hands are a mess from being bathed in developing chemicals), and hoofed packages of completed prints from place to place (no e-mailing digital files back then). It was fascinating work, but involved long hours and a lot of creativity and imagination.

I love photography, but I'm far from being in my father's class. He's forgotten more about the subject than I'll ever know. Although I am generally considered to be a pretty good photographer by people who don't know better, it's only because I have absorbed a few critical lessons from The Master. And because I'm such a good guy, I'll share four of them with you. Write these down ...

1. Take as many pictures as you possibly can. This is a lot easier in these days of digital photography, when we don't have to pay for developing of all the prints. Most of the pictures you shoot will be no good for one reason or another (out of focus, subject's eyes are closed, flash failed, forgot to take the lens cap off, etc), and so you throw those away and show everyone the good ones. They'll think you're a great photographer.

2. Fill up the frame, especially when you are taking pictures of an individual or group. If you look through the viewfinder and your subject is a tiny figure in the middle of the frame, you're too far away. Get closer or zoom in until your subject dominates the picture. Of course, this is a flexible rule ... if you want to show your subject in the middle of a landscape vista, for example, you'll naturally want to show more of the background.

3. Compose your picture carefully. Don't just point and shoot unless you see the opportunity for a one-of-a-kind Kodak moment (grandchild doing something unbelievably cute, for instance) ... whenever you can, take the time to study the subject and take the photo from the best angle and in the best light. If you take your time and think the picture through before you shoot it, you'll end up with fewer things like overhead wires or trash on the ground that your eye edited out of the picture when you took it.

4. Use a flash diffuser. The built-in flash in most cameras, and most external flashes, will give you a very bright flash that results in hard, dark shadows, especially at close range. Using a diffuser will soften the light and give you a better result with fewer intrusive shadows*, which is especially good when you're taking portrait-style photos. This is a "puffer-style" diffuser that slips over the hot shoe of your camera to diffuse the built-in flash ...

And this is a "light sphere" diffuser that fits over an external flash** ...

So there you have three common-sense and one equipment suggestion for better pictures. Someday, you'll thank me.

Have a good day, and may your frames be ever filled and your pictures well-composed.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* The added bonus of using a diffuser is that it looks really cool, and people will automatically assume you're a professional. 

** Some external flashes come with a built-in diffuser that pulls out of the flash body and folds down over the flash. They're better than nothing, but not as good as a snap-on diffuser.


Amanda said...

These are tips that I definitely need. I find that I take very few 'good' photos. First time I've heard about a diffuser so I've learnt something new today.

Thanks for sharing your tips.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I appreciate those tips. I was not familiar with diffusers, either. Composition is a big challenge for me.

I reallylike digital cameras! They allow for photoediting processes tha could not be done before.

Duckbutt said...

Great photographic tips.

Mike said...

'snap-on diffuser'

Say these words by themselves and people might assume your talking about a different subject.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

You're right -- being close to the true subject makes the image less busy and more detailed. By being close that eliminates distractions.

Big Sky Heidi said...

I find those tips to be helpful.