Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thursday Thirteen 100: Basic Photography Tips

Friday, March 27, is National Photography Day. Though friends will attest to the (sometimes annoying) fact that I always seem to have a camera with me, I am by no means an expert. Still, here are a few basic tips I have learned in taking better quality photos.

1. Try to hold the camera as steady as possible. If you don’t have a tri-pod, prop the camera on a ledge, on top of a fence or pile of books or, using both hands, rest your elbows on your chest and stay loose. Press the shutter button in one fluid motion.

2. Simplicity is best. Instead of trying to capture an entire canvas, or all the people in a large room, zoom in and pan with the camera until you find the perfect shot. Don’t be afraid to switch to a wider angle, or from horizontal to vertical pictures.

3. Get close to your subject. Too many people are afraid of zooming in, or moving closer to the subject of their picture. Unless an outfit or item they are holding is important, concentrate on head and shoulder shots, particularly facial features such as eyes and mouth.

4. Get down on their level. If photographing pets or children, rather than taking pictures looking down on your subjects, stoop/kneel/lie down at their level, or take photos looking up at your subject.

5. Note the position of the sun. When taking pictures outdoors, you should stand so that the sun is behind you and to one side, and so that people are not squinting into the sun. Ask subjects to remove hats or tilt them so that you can see their faces.

6. Work by the rule of thirds. When looking through the lens, imagine the frame divided into a grid like a tic-tac-toe board. Try to align your subject so that it is along one of the lines or intersections, not dead center of the frame. This will allow you to pick up the landscape or other background details as well as your subject. Also consider the horizon. Never place the horizon dead center of your photo. Use a low horizon (horizon at bottom third of the grid) for photographing the sky, and a high horizon (top third of the grid) for landscapes.

7. Variety is the spice of life. Mix up your photos to include people and landscapes, different types of weather, and different angles. Take pictures of interesting signs, buildings or people, experimenting with different angles and close-ups.

8. Add detail. Look for the interesting in a mundane world. Instead of a far-off photo of a popular landmark or monument, focus in on the little details—the iron work of the Eiffel Tower, the marble detailing of hands or chiseled face of a statue, or the texture of bark on an unusual tree…

9. Consider form. Don’t just snap random pictures, study the subject of your photo from different angles and light, and decide the best angle from which to photograph it. Instead of shooting a statue straight on, consider photographing it from the side, or getting down on your knees and shooting up.

10. Avoid motion in still photography. If taking pictures of a stationary object, any amount of movement in the frame will detract from the photo, resulting in blurred photographs or poor lighting. Make sure nothing moves inside the frame.

11. Color contrast. The best photographs have shades of black, white and gray in them. The contrast between bright colors and these neutrals can be phenomenal. Also, don’t be afraid to alter a color photo to gray scale. The black and white image produced can speak volumes more than the original color photograph.

12. Read the manual. This may sound pretty simple, but you’d be amazed by how many people never open the manual that came with their camera, or bother to learn about all its functions.

13. Practice. Even the most accomplished photographer had to start somewhere. Don’t be afraid to get out there and take a lot of pictures, playing with the different tips outlined above. With a bit of time and practice, you’ll be rivaling Ansel Adams or Annie Leibovitz in no time!

As I said, I am by no means a professional photographer, but if truly interested in seeing some of my pics, simply click on the “Photos” label at bottom of this post. Now, get out there and take some pictures of your own!

(Please leave your link if this is your first visit!)

Stephanie Adkins * Alice Audrey * Adelle Laudan
Mel * RJ LeBeau * Angeleque Ford * Clara
Janice Seagraves * Lauren Murphey * Jamie Babette
Ms Menozzi * Shelley Munro * Hootin' Anni * Cassandra
Jennifer McKenzie * Brenda ND * Lanie Fuller * Janet
Nina Pierce * Paige Tyler * Jenna Bayley-Burke

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things.


Lanie Fuller said...

Ooh. I used to love photography! These are great tips.

Great, TT! Thanks!

Ms Menozzi said...

The best part is, if you practice enough, this will all become second nature!

Great reminders, though - we all need a refresher course, now and again. ;)

Ciao! Happy TT!

Shelley Munro said...

I carry my camera everywhere too. These are great tips, especially the one about changing color photos to greyscale. Black and white photos can be very evocative.

Hootin' Anni said...

That very first tip is one I have trouble with...I always move when I snap the camera...

Appreciated your tips very much.

Mine are posted now...hope to see you there sometime if you can find a bit of your day to stop by! happy Thursday.

Cassandra said...

Really well done, Heather. Makes me want to get out my old Leica and take some pictures.

Our T13 is at

Jennifer McKenzie said...

These are awesome Heather! Thanks! Do you think it's the same whether you're using old style or digital?

Brenda ND said...

It's great to have a hobby you love and these are good tips.

Janet said...

Oh, great list! I had no idea there was such a day and I've been shooting pics for years LOL!

Adelle Laudan said...

My girls are both, snap happy. LOL Seriously, how many pictures of oneself does one person really need? lol Happy T13!

Heather said...

Lanie - Used to? Is it time to wipe the dust off your camera? ;)

Ms Menozzi - Exactly! I sometimes have to remind myself to look at things from a different angle or light, but I think the basics always stay with you.

Shelley - I'm glad I'm not the only one. I've lost too many "Kodak moments" in the past to take chance now. I'd rather have the camera with me and not use it than leave it behind and wish I had it.

Anni - To be honest, I sometimes have trouble holding the camera steady, especially if excited about something I see. I keep telling myself I should get a tripod, but haven't done so yet.

Alice Audrey said...

My pictures got so much better when I got a tripod - but I blame the camera. When I have a good camera, it will work fast enough that I don't HAVE to have the stupid tripod. In the mean while, this seems to be working.

Heather said...

Cassandra - Thank you! I hope this does encourage you to pull out your camera, no matter how old it is!

Jennifer - Thanks! Yes, I do think the basics hold true for 35mm or digital, though I think you can do a lot more "playing" with a digital. They seem to have more functions, plus it's a lot easier to upload them to your computer and play with different Photoshop techniques.

Brenda - Thank you. The problem is, I seem to have too many hobbies, LOL.

Janet - Don't you know there's a day for everything nowadays?? Go forth and celebrate with your camera! LOL

Adelle - LOL... To be honest, I get in trouble from people for not having enough pictures of myself. You'll note I haven't updated my profile picture in ages. ;)

Heather said...

Alice - ROFL... Of course the fault always lies with the camera. The photographer is never at fault. ;)

Seriously, a quality camera can make a huge difference. While a cheap point-and-shoot will get the job done, sometimes spending a bit more money is worth it.

Paige Tyler said...

Great tips!


My TT is at

Mel said...

These are great tips. I loved taking pictures. Haven't done a lot lately but I still enjoy it.

Lauren Murphy said...

Those are excellent tips! You make me want to yank out that camera I paid all that money for and take a trip to the park.

Anonymous said...

Photography is one of my favorite hobbies, and these are great tips.

Janice said...

Great tips. I love my digital camera, when I take a bad picture I can delete it.

Happy TT,