Obsession: Taking Better Photographs, Part 2

Part 2 of a series documenting Kate’s efforts to take a decent photograph. Part 1 appeared last week.

Step 4: Get to Know Your Camera

My choice, but there are several available for most major models of camera.

The manuals for most cameras are pretty terrible for photographers in my position. They’re sort of like computer manuals – they explain what a button does (e.g. “Av sets the camera into Aperture Priority mode”) without actually explaining what that all means and why I would want to do it.

As soon as I realized this, I bought myself a copy of a guidebook specific to my camera manual: David Busch’s Canon Powershot G12 Guide to Digital Photography. Not only does it explain what all the buttons and dials and settings do, it shows you how to use them, and why you might want to use them.

Step 5: Practice, Practice, Practice

You can’t get better at something without practicing, and it was Caro who suggested a ‘photo a day’ project.  Every day, I make a point of taking out the camera and take some photographs. Easy.

And every day, I make a point of looking at the shots I’ve taken and posting one of them to my ‘Photo a Day‘ page on my blog. They are not all good – in fact, most of them aren’t – but being forced to look through them and choose which one I like best is making me really look at the pictures I’ve taken.

And all the shots have something to teach me. For example, I love this one, except for the edge of the table on the right side, and the stray sunglasses on the left. And if I’d cropped those out, I would have lost the top of the straw.

Not bad - getting better.

However, I like the composition and the colors – the red and white of the straw really pops –  and the light is pretty good.

This is the great thing about digital photography – you’re not paying for film or developing – it costs the same to take 200 pictures as it does to take 2. And as long as you’ve got space on your memory card, you can take as many as you want. Take the same picture from 10 different angles. Take  the same picture with and without flash. Take the same picture on fully automatic mode and in other modes. Take the same picture with different settings.

Step 6: Look and Learn
Caro, photographer extraordinaire, wrote this brilliant article “10 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Finished Object Photography” for Petite Purls. She teaches by example – showing pictures of good & bad photos.

Follow Caro’s lead – look at your own photographs, and look at everyone else’s too. What do you like? What do you think works? What do you think doesn’t?

For example, this one: great concept, but I don’t like the result. Rather than just deleting it, I spent some time looking at it.

Cute dog, nice knitting, but sorta terrible photo. Good learning opportunity!

It’s all very orangey-brown: orangey-brown dog on orangey knitting on orangey-brown floor. And the framing is pretty terrible: there’s a chair leg center left, a corner of our kitchen floor top right, and part of the seat of a chair bottom right. And this was taken at night, so the flash is reflecting off the floor just above the dog.

But it’s a picture, and it taught me a lot about color. Now, wouldn’t that blanket look great against the concrete I used for the background of the picture of the book, top left? Hmm….

To Be Continued
More next week!

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6 thoughts on “Obsession: Taking Better Photographs, Part 2

  1. Maureen

    Now you have to learn Photoshop to remove the elements you don’t like and to manipulate the photos to a place where you are satisfied. Plus its fun.

  2. Cathy B

    Thank you for the inspiration to pick up a camera again. I used to dabble in photography back in the day of film but soon kids/family stuff got in the way and I got lazy. I relied on a point and shoot for years but my eyes have been opened with your posts. Learning to take good photos now seems so much easier in the digital age. Can’t wait for your next post.

  3. Leslie F

    Take notes on camera’s settings so you know what you did when you are analyzing.

    And Photoshop can really help.

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