Photography Tips

I’m going to be leading a photography workshop at a retreat this weekend for youth who might want to learn how to take better pictures. I’m going to be talking about framing your shots, paying attention to elements of the subject, light and shadow, etc.

Since I wrote up a handout for the participants anyway, I thought I’d share the tips with you. There’s nothing too fancy here, just some basics. Hope it helps.

  • Have an idea of what you want to get before heading out, but leave yourself open to unexpected opportunities. (Some great things can happen by accident!) Ask yourself these questions: Do I want shots of people, landscapes, still life, or action? Will it be rather traditional or more artistic? Do I want the finished image to be in color or black and white?
    What do I want to say with this picture? What do I want to express?
  • Pay attention to details: Colors, Textures, Lighting, Shadows, Background, Contrasts, Combinations
  • Framing – Finding Balance: Rule of Thirds: Mentally divide the viewfinder into thirds vertically and horizontally. Place the focal point of your image at one of the intersections. Align edges with the 1/3 lines. If you are shooting a group of people, align their eyes with the top 1/3 line.
  • Safe-Action Area: Choose what is important in the image (the subject) and focus on it. Avoid what is unnecessary.
  • Keep the sun behind the camera. To keep the subject from being in silhouette, unless you’re going for a specialty shot, keep the sun (or other light source) to your back so the subject is properly lit. Try to avoid casting your own shadow on the subject – again, unless you’re doing a specialty shot.
  • Be as steady as possible. To make sure you have the best focus possible, try to stay very still as you are hitting the trigger. Use a tripod if possible. If you don’t have one, support yourself with a tree or wall, etc. Take more than one shot of the same thing so you have a choice later. (This is also a good idea as you’re learning how to frame things. Take shots where the subject is framed differently so you can see what looks best.)
  • Give your shots personality. Make it your own. Try to show something ordinary in a unique way. Look for things you normally wouldn’t notice. Look at things from a different angle. Look at things a little closer. Try to capture elements of something instead of the whole thing.
  • Have fun with it!
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