Monday, May 30, 2005

You Can Take Great Photos!

If you are like many people, you may not have a lot of confidence in your picture taking as a whole. You've struggled with red eyes and blurriness. You've cut off the tops of your subjects' heads, and your pictures just don't have much personality. Do you really have to always shell out the big bucks for a professional photographer? Well, that can get quite expensive, and it really isn't necessary. Sure, there will be instances when nothing but the best will do, and you won't want to rely on your amateurish skills to preserve your precious memories. But, there are so many occasions that call for pictures, and you won't be able to use a professional for each of these.

Instead, maybe it is time to hone your photography skills and become a better photographer. Anyone can, if they follow a few simple suggestions. You can take pictures of your children, pets, other family members, and any other subject with confidence.

One of the best ways to become a great photographer is to invest in a good digital camera. Now, with so many digital cameras available, a consumer can become overwhelmed in which one to buy. If you aren't at all familiar with them, however, your best bet is to look for a camera that is advertised as easy to use. There are several of these on the market, and they aren't expensive. Be sure to buy a camera that has an automatic flash and at least three megapixels. The more megapixels your camera has, the better it is, as a rule. Your camera should be able to zoom, also. Of course, there are plenty of cameras out there with lots of bells and whistles, but until you become more adept at using a simple camera, you may want to avoid these. You don't want to become frustrated and confused before you even begin. Keep it as simple as possible!

Once you've made your camera purchase, you want to make sure that you have plenty of batteries on hand. While some cameras are rechargeable, you need to keep in mind that there may be times where you are not able to recharge your camera. Thus, you need to have good batteries as a backup. While many digital cameras can use regular AA batteries, you will soon discover that these batteries will die very quickly. Regular AA batteries just aren't cut out for digital camera usage. You can buy rechargeable batteries, and these will work in a pinch, but they will still lose their strength quite rapidly. Many digital cameras suggest that you buy lithium batteries, and they are typically worth the additional expense. You can usually take quite a number of pictures off of a couple of these lithium batteries. Just be sure to keep extras on hand. You don't want to be in the middle of a great photographic moment only to discover that your batteries are dead, and you don't have any more. That would be tragic!

Now that you have the equipment that you need, it is time to begin your adventure in photography. If you've ever looked at anyone's family photos, you probably noticed a lot of pictures of families lined up in a row or group, all smiling for the camera. You probably have quite a few of those yourself. While there isn't anything wrong with pictures such as these, they really don't hold anyone's interest for very long. In other words, they are boring. What can you do?

The whole idea behind picture taking is to capture the moment, right? Well, what are real moments in people's lives. Do they generally stand still and force a smile towards the camera, or are they typically preoccupied in themselves or each other? Of course the latter answer is the correct one, and once you begin snapping pictures, you'll see what I mean. Try to capture real moments in your loved ones' lives. They don't always have to be smiling. In fact, how much more intriguing the picture will be if you capture your little boy frowning intently as he studies his new puzzles. What about that moment when grandpa is trying to help him take that fish off the hook? Remember when your mom held your new baby for the first time? Remember the look on her face? That is the look you want to capture. It is unstaged and purely real. That is the moment that you want to freeze forever.

Of course, there will be many pictures that you will be infinitely disappointed in. You may have thought you caught the perfect image only to be faced with a less than desirable portrait. However, that is the beauty of digital. You don't have to develop or even keep that particular picture! You can take twenty pictures of the same image, and I assure you that each one will be different in some way. Most of them may need to be deleted, but I bet there will be one that is a keeper. With digital, you don't have to pay for pictures that you'll never place in a photo album. You can simply delete.

Don't forget that the majority of digital cameras come with editing programs. You can actually remove red eyes, enhance images, and brighten or darken the picture. After you have edited the picture, if you still don't like it, get rid of it! It is that simple! Not only are you practicing your photography skills, but you are also honing your editing techniques. After all, isn't that what a professional photographer does?

Now that you have become familiar with using your camera, it is time to focus on when and where to take your pictures. Of course, there will always be plenty of occasions when you will take pictures around your home and other common areas, and many of these pictures will be spur of the moment snapshots. However, you can also get that more professional look by following a few simple tips.

Lighting plays an important part in the art of photography. You can take advantage of light even if you have a fairly inexpensive camera. Early mornings and late evenings offer some of the best lighting for pictures. The sun isn't in full force, giving your subjects a subtly muted appearance. If you are taking pictures of people, the sun won't be shining so brightly that they are struggling to keep from squinting.

While you want to take plenty of unposed pictures, you can also pose your subjects for some fantastic photos. The key to this type of picture taking is to make them look like they aren't really posed. Instead of having them face the camera, have them look away. Alternate smiles with serious looks. Give them time to contemplate the distance, and capture those contemplative moments as quickly as possible.

Take advantage of the black and white or sepia format that almost all digital cameras and programs offer. You know longer have to buy special film and wait as long as two weeks to get those great black and white photos. You can simply snap the picture, then see how it looks once you've downloaded it onto your computer.

If you haven't used the outdoors as a backdrop for dramatic black and white or vivid color pictures, you are missing a terrific photographic opportunity. Although beach and mountain scenes make beautiful backgrounds, you can find wonderful photo options in your own backyard. In the spring, place your subjects in front of that newly blossoming azalea bush for a gorgeous picture. Be sure and focus in closely, so that only your subject and the brilliance of the flowers are shown. Take a ride into the country, and stop by that old, run-down barn. Photograph the barn with or without someone in front of it. If you do have someone in the picture, have them lean against the barn looking away from you, or let them sit across that old wooden fence, and casually smile into the distance. You get the idea.

If you have a baby or small children, don't let them get lost in the background. You want to let your subject take up the majority of the frame. Babies and small children can get lost in a large background. Some of your pictures should concentrate on one area of your child's body. These may include just her face or even a chubby little foot. Don't wait for her to smile, either. Instead, plan on capturing all aspects of her personality, happy or sad.

Finally, the most important thing to remember is to have fun. The more fun you have taking pictures of your loved ones, the more pictures you'll want to take. You can take wonderful photographs, and you don't have to be a professional to do it!

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