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What Makes A Good Photo

Aug 18, 2007
Your goal as a photographer is usually to grab the attention of the viewer, and communicate an idea, or share an experience. What photos do this best? Usually the strongest photos are those that are simple and present the subject in a clear, uncluttered way.

Photographers work with line, shape, texture, color and pattern. Lets take a look at a few pictures and see if we can identify the visual elements that make them work, or not work.

Always have your camera with you. The biggest reason people miss a good picture is because they do not have their camera. You never know what you might miss when inspiration strikes, so make it a habit to have your camera handy.

Shoot more pictures. If you think you shoot enough, you probably do not - especially if you have a digital camera. There is no added cost to taking more pictures, so why take just one picture when you can take several? Even the most day to day scenes can be memorable in a few years, so shoot away!

Trust your eye. Studying the laws of composition we gave you above is fine, but ultimately trust your own vision and feelings when it comes to taking your pictures. When you frame the shot, move the camera and explore the scene. Find an angle and composition that feels right to you and take the picture.

In reality, its not the camera that makes a good picture, its the photographer. You can buy the most expensive camera on the market, but it does not guarantee you will not take better pictures. What you need is a few suggestions to become more experienced and be able to find the greatest shots.

There are many ways you can take memorable pictures without spending tons of money on expensive accessories. Consider the following tips:

1. Warm up the tones of the picture. This will make the picture more aesthetically pleasing and not as harsh. This applies to outdoor photos. If your camera has a cloudy setting, use that to lessen the harshness. If not, you can use a simple pair of sunglasses to filter the shot.

Place the glasses as close to the camera lens as possible, then check their position in the LCD viewfinder to make sure you do not have the rims in the shot. This will enhance the colors and deepen the sky tones in outdoor photos. For the best effect, position yourself so the sun is over either your right or left shoulder. The polarizing effect is strongest when the light source is at a 90-degree angle from the subject.

2. One of the great hidden features on digital cameras is the fill flash or flash on mode. By taking control of the flash so it goes on when you want it to, not when the camera deems it appropriate, you have just taken an important step toward capturing great outdoor portraits.

3. In flash on mode, the camera exposes for the background first, then adds just enough flash to illuminate your portrait subject. The result is a professional looking picture where everything in the composition looks good. Wedding photographers have been using this technique for years.

After you get the hang of using the flash outdoors, try a couple variations on this theme by positioning the subject so the sun illuminates the hair from the side or the back, often referred to as rim lighting.

Another good technique is to put the model in the shade under a tree, then use the flash to illuminate the subject. This keeps the model comfortable and cool with no squinty eyes from the harsh sun, and this often results in a more relaxed looking portrait.

Remember, though, that most built-in camera flashes only have a range of 10 feet (or even less!), so make sure you do not stand too far away when using fill flash outdoors.

4. Remember as a kid discovering the whole new world beneath your feet while playing on the grass? When you got very close to the ground, you could see an entire community of creatures that you never knew existed.

These days, you might not want to lie on your belly in the backyard, but if you activate the close up mode on your digital camera and begin to explore your world in finer detail, you will be rewarded with fresh new images unlike anything you have ever shot before.

Even the simplest object takes on new fascination in macro mode. And the best part is that its so easy to do with digital cameras.

Just look for the close up or macro mode icon, which is usually a flower symbol, turn it on, and get as close to an object as your camera will allow. Once you have found something to your liking, hold the shutter button down halfway to allow the camera to focus. When the confirmation light gives you the go ahead, press the shutter down the rest of the way to record the image.

Keep in mind that you have very shallow depth of field when using the close up mode, so focus on the part of the subject thats most important to you, and let the rest of the image go soft.

5. For some mysterious reason, most human beings have a hard time holding the camera level when using the LCD monitors on their digicams. The result can be cockeyed sunsets, lopsided landscapes, and tilted towers.

Part of the problem is that your cameras optics system introduces distortion when rendering broad panoramas on tiny, two-inch screens. Those trees may be standing straight when you look at them with the naked eye, but they seem to be bowing inward on your cameras monitor. No wonder photographers become disoriented when lining up their shots.

What can you do? Well, theres no silver bullet to solve all of your horizon line problems, but you can make improvements by keeping a few things in mind.

First of all, be aware that its important to capture your images as level as possible. If you are having difficulty framing the scene to your liking, then take your best shot at a straight picture, reposition the camera slightly, take another picture, and then maybe one more with another adjustment. Chances are very good that one of the images will feel right when you review them on the computer. Simply discard the others once you find the perfectly aligned image.

If you practice level framing of your shots, over time the process will become more natural, and your percentage of level horizon lines will increase dramatically.

6. Invest in a large memory card for your camera. If you have a 3 megapixel camera, get at least a 256MB card, 512MBs for 4 megapixel models, and 1GB for for 6 megapixels and up. That way you will never miss another shot because your memory card is full.

One of the most important reasons for packing a massive memory card is to enable you to shoot at your cameras highest resolution. If you paid a premium price for a 6 megapixel digicam, then get your moneys worth and shoot at 6 megapixels. And while you are at it, shoot at your cameras highest quality compression setting too.

Why not squeeze more images on your memory card by shooting a lower resolution and low quality compression settings? Because you could be missing out on a great picture and the quality will suffer. And if you take a beautiful picture at the low 640 x 480 resolution, that means you can only make a print about the size of a credit card.

On the other hand, if you recorded the image at 2272 x 1704 (4 megapixels) or larger, then you can make a lovely 8- x 10-inch photo-quality print suitable for framing. Just in case you were able to get as close to the action as you had liked, having those extra pixels enables you to crop your image and still have enough resolution to make a decent sized print.

The point is, if you have enough memory (and you know you should), then theres no reason to shoot at lower resolution and risk missing the opportunity to show off your work in a big way.

7. Use the self-timer function. Theres no reason why you can not be in some of the pictures you take. Its often helpful to invest in a small tripod to make this process easier, but you can also set the camera on a table or other place and jump into the photo.

Line up the shot, activate the self timer, and get in the picture. This is usually a good time to turn on the flash to ensure even exposure of everyone in the composition (but remember that 10 foot flash range limit!). Also, make sure the focusing sensor is aimed at a person in the group and not the distant background, or you will get very sharp trees and fuzzy family members.

Self timers are good for other situations, too. Are you interested in making long exposures of cars driving over a bridge at dusk? Once again, secure your camera on a tripod, then trip the shutter using the self timer. By doing so, you prevent accidental jarring of the camera as you initiate the exposure.
About the Author
For several years now, Jason has been reviewing hundreds of online products and services. Many consider his reviews to be very insightful and reliable. Visit his website bestcamerabargains.com
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