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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CMDTA’s Photo Tips for the Average Joe

I am by no means a professional photographer. I do however enjoy photography. I never took a class or read a book. I learned how to take decent photos through websites, friends, and studying what other people do. There are some tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years that can really help the average person take better photos.

The point of this post is to inform people of some of the most common mistakes. In most cases these tips are very simple and easy to follow.

1 – Turn off your flash – Listen to me now and believe me later. Your flash has ruined more photos than you can count. I know your camera wants to use it. 99% of the time your camera was designed for taking up close pictures of people. If you are not doing that, TURN OFF THE FLASH. When you’re camera is in flash mode it’s trying to capture what is no more than ten feet in front of you. The flash will drown out anything beyond that. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know this. Have you ever seen the Super Bowl or another major sporting event? It’s true a majority of people do not know this.

2 – Learn your camera – The average point and shoot camera is getting more and more complex as time goes on. Just knowing what your camera can do can open up a whole new range of photo possibilities. I’ll help a little. Most cameras that offer different modes have some in common. Portrait – This one is almost useless for your average user. How often are you taking photos of someone up close and don’t want the background? In some cases it will blur the background. Auto – If you turn off the flash you can use this almost anywhere. It automatically decides what mode to use. 90% the camera is going to be right as long as you turn the flash off. Landscape – This is good for anything more than 20 feet from you. I also find that this is one of the best modes for capturing fireworks without the use of a tripod. Fireworks – If you are using a tripod this is a great mode. If you do not have a tripod, never use this mode. I’ve never met anyone who could stay perfectly still long enough to use this mode.

3 – Research before you buy – I am not saying you have to spend hours going over reviews. I am saying that you at least need to do some research. Go online and just search “best digital cameras.” Avoid the sponsored sites. Don’t be intimidated when you go onto the sites. They normally list three to five categories. You want the entry level or point and shoot. Between two or three sites you’ll be able to determine a good camera that will fit your needs.

4 – Take two of every photo – Thanks to digital this doesn’t cost anything anymore. You might wonder why you would want to take two of every photo. The main reason for doing this is for quality assurance. People shake and move. Taking two photos greatly reduces the odds of you having at least one good photo.

5 – Push your trigger down half way – If you don’t know what I’m talking about don’t feel bad. It took me about a year to figure out that my trigger button had two phases. When you push down your trigger half way if tells your camera to focus but not take the photo. This way you can tell what is in focus and what’s not. When everything is the way you want it push down the rest of the way and you get your photo! Ever take a picture of your family to later find out the background looks great but your family is blurred? This will fix that problem.

6 – Be random – The best photos of people are taken when they are not posing. It’s also true that the worst photos are also taken when people are not posing. My point is: take a bunch of photos when people don’t know you’re taking photos. Be sly about it. You will get some great photos. It’s very hard to pose people. It’s even harder to frame someone who is posing so they look good. Why is that? It’s because posing isn’t natural for most people. They put on a forced face, stand awkwardly, and are not themselves. When you randomly take a photo you get that person in their natural state. That can be good or bad but it’s worth it.

7 – Know your cameras limitations – People tend to have high expectations and then when they don’t get results (for a number of reasons) they blame the camera and think it’s a piece of junk. You will not get the photos you’ve seen of Cinderella’s Castle at night, Spaceship Earth at night, amazing fire works photos, or great shots of the interior of the Mexico Pavilion. You won’t get those photos because your camera just can’t handle lighting like that. Even if your camera is ok in low light you’ll need a tri-pod to get ok photos. If you want those professional low light photos you’d have to spend about $1000 on a camera, buy a tri-pod, take a class on SLR photography, and then practice until your fingers bleed. If you know what your camera can do you can push its boundaries and have fun instead of getting upset.

8 – Your computer is your friend – Both Windows and Mac OSX have some stock editing software. I am not saying you have to learn it inside and out but you do need to use it. Both of these programs have an adjust button. All you need to do is open your photo and click that adjust button. Most of the time, your photo will benefit greatly from that.

9 – It’s not the camera, it’s you – Most of the time crappy photos are the result of someone who doesn’t know about composition or how to take photos. I’m telling you this for a reason. Running out and buying a more expensive camera is not going to get you better photos. It might improve your photos a little but if you really want better photos then read, ask questions, and practice. Knowing how to take a photo is more important that the camera you use.

If you are wondering: What do I use or recommend? I currently use an Fuji S200EXR.  However, you've never seen the photos I taken with that. Most of the photos on my blog were taken with a Fuji F100. Below are also the monopod I use and my camera bag.    

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