Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Few Photos and Unsolicited Photo Advice.

I've decided to learn 'full manual' mode with my camera, meaning I'm using the 'M' on the dial and no longer using any automatic settings, and as long as the photos are taken in my back yard in the early evening, they turn out beautifully. Any other location or lighting, and it's a gamble. The other day I photographed an entire soccer game on the wrong setting, and every shot was completely blurred. Go me.

A few years ago, I checked out a book from the library on photographing your family. I don't remember the title of it, but it was something along the lines of 'Photographing your Family'. Anyway, it was written by a professional photographer who used a regular point-and-shoot camera to photograph the book, just to demonstrate that beautiful photos can be taken with an average camera, if you just know how to use it. I loved the book. There was a noticeable improvement in my photographs after I read it.

Here is the basic advice as I remember it:

* Read your manual. Try out the different settings and try to get a basic understanding for what your camera is able to do.

* Get close to your subject. Now get even closer. I'm a big fan of this one. In fact, I've noticed that the tops of my children's heads are hardly ever in a photo.

*Avoid using the auto flash at all costs. It looks harsh and washes out the colors and natural shadows of the photograph. I've mostly stopped using the flash, but it is very challenging for me to get non-blurry pictures in darker situations. Still working on that one.

*Use and pay attention to natural light. This has made the biggest difference in my photographs, probably more than any other advice. Good light is indirect light and can be found next to windows, on porches, in the shade, and most importantly just before and after sunset (or sunrise, but I wouldn't personally know about that one.)

I used to take a lot of photographs in full direct sunlight, but I learned that was a big no-no, as it makes everyone squinty and washed out. The best light in my house is on my back porch in the afternoon, when the sun is bouncing off the side wall of my house, making a nice glow just under the porch and inside the back door. That's where these came from:
The only downside of that location for me is that the back porch is also the land of broken toys and Little Tikes crap, so I really have to get in close to the kid so no one can see the clutter that is surrounding them.

*Also good advice: remove clutter from the background of your photo. This is a difficult one for me, for I live a cluttered life. For instance, I let Tommy hold my camera the other night and he took this photo of me:
Notice anything distracting? I've got to give him points for the creative angle, though.

I'm thinking about taking a community college photography class this spring, which is exactly what I said I was going to do last spring, but I chickened out. If I do end up taking it, maybe I'll do some more posts like this one. What about y'all? Got any other photo tips?


  1. I have always wanted to take a photography class. I need help. And a better camera.

    Thanks for all the great advice. This was actually my 1st photography class. :)

  2. Oooh. Ooh. Oooh. If I only lived closer we could take it together. Thanks for the tips. The lighting thing is the problem for me. I can take good pictures if I arrange perfect light but that makes it difficult to photograph say, any family or holiday or school event at all. Because they refuse to schedule these things around good photographic lighting.

    If you do take the class I would love to mooch off or your new skillz.

  3. i suck at good pictures. though every now and then i get a good one. though now that you mention it it is probably because they were taken with natural light.

    thanks for the tips!

  4. My living room has EXQUISITE lighting for about 20 minutes a day, so that's the time when I take my pictures.

    Hey, it's yoU! IN my yard, apparently!

  5. That's a very stylish 'slide hat' you are wearing ~:0)

    Photography tips? Hmmm...I like to use Photoshop filters to make 'garbage' photos into a work of art. And right now, my fav. setting on my Fujifilm camera is, the flower along with and stabilization. I think that is the only setting a person should use with this camera!!!

  6. Great pics. Thumbs up to Tommy on a great shot of you. I took basic b/w photography back in college as part of my art degree. I really enjoyed that class, I just wished I had more time to expand on what I was learning. Graphics was my major, I really didn't get a chance to concentrate much on the technical aspect of photography. We learned a lot about the lighting though since it was b/w. I have been interested in taking another class. To bad we are in seperate states. That would be fun. You should go for it, you have a great talent for it. I know you'd do well. Your pictures are always great. Good luck!

  7. That picture of Tommy is cracking me up. He looks so excited! And Grace! My gosh but she is growing up! Love the tips and I totally think you should take a class next spring.

  8. Is there anything you're NOT good at? I love the pics and I love you're writing...I'm with Joy...move back here and take a photography class with us!!!!!

  9. Hey, that shot of the babe is fabulous--it's so warm and nicely framed.

    My wife's an amateur photographer and the advice she always gets from the courses she takes is to take A LOT OF PHOTOS.

  10. You should do it! (DO IT!!)

    I think I read the same book. My favorite photos are always the ones in natural light without flash, but those windows are so small, I settle for less than stellar shots quite often.

  11. these were great tips, particularly as I am starting to play with our cool camera more. I'm working on the getting in closer and natural light things, and paying more attention to the background.

  12. Your children are beautiful! Thanks for the lesson. I am trying to transition from A to M mode.


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