Obsession: Taking Better Photographs, Part 3

My journey to become a better photographer continues. Part 1 here. Part 2 here.

Step 7: Get familiar with basic photo editing software.
Cropping is your friend. Even the simplest of apps – the Windows Microsoft Office Photo Gallery application enables cropping and provides basic light tools. Crop out stuff you don’t want. Lighten up a dark shot.

And I know this isn’t directly related to being a good photographer, but it makes you a good friend: If you’re planning to email your photographs around, learn to create smaller copies so you don’t jam up your friends’ mailboxes.

And learn more about what else you can do with photo editing software. Franklin Habit, photographer extraordinare, recommends The National Geographic Field Guide to Photography. I learned tons from this book about what you can do with photographs once they’re on your computer. Adobe Photoshop is the grand master at this stuff, but there are others.

Step 8: Take your camera everywhere.
I know, this one seems obvious, but just today I walked past an amazing garden thick with daisies, and I didn’t have my camera with me. The worst photo of all is the one you never took.

Other Tips To Improve Your Photography From The Very Wise

  • Buy a reflector Laura says it best. $14 and it’s like you’ve got your own lighting studio!
  • If you’re taking photos of your work, or posed shots, take your time: don’t expect to be able to create a really great posed shot in 5 minutes. Set aside time so that you can experiment. Sometimes, you won’t know if the photo is good or not until you’ve looked at it on your computer, and you may want to go back and reshoot.
  • Play with clever settings on camera I bet your camera has some clever pre-programmed settings. Mine has settings for sports (a fast shutter speed with shorter time between shots), for low-light shots, for shooting in fireworks, for shooting in snow (tweaks the colors so that the white doesn’t blow out the other colors). Play with them!
  • Learn from your camera: when in Auto mode, your camera display should tell you what settings it’s using to take a shot. Make note of those, switch your camera over to manual and recreate those settings. Take a few shots. Then change one of the settings and shoot again. And set the first one back and play with another setting. Take notes as you’re doing this so you know which settings you changed in which order. Then when you’re going through the photos later, you can compare the adjusted settings to see the differences.
Fully automatic mode.

This is a tricky shot. Backlit, and it’s clear the camera wasn’t really sure what I wanted to emphasize more. And then I turned to manual mode and left everything the same but for the aperture, and what results is this:

F-stop 2.8 for shorter depth of field (i.e. blurry background); lets in more light, too.

In the second one, the sock is better lit and I love the way the sunshine lights up the beer.

And Steps 9 through 1,000,000: Take Pictures!
Remember, you can’t get better if you don’t practice.

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6 thoughts on “Obsession: Taking Better Photographs, Part 3

  1. Caroline

    The pictures you don’t get are the ones that will always stick in your memory. The best photo I never took (this was before the days of digital) was of a guard at the Tower of London batting away a balloon. That was nearly 20 years ago, and it’s still sharp in my mind.

  2. Annie Bee

    Re: photo editing software: I got a great tip the other day from my sister: http://www.picmonkey.com.

    You can upload your photos to edit them — with quite powerful adjustments to curves, exposure, etc., as well as all the funky faux-vintage and artsy effects your heart could desire.

    You can also make great collages of the images you have uploaded, which is really useful for blog posts where you want to show a ton of pictures.

    It’s not an image hosting service, but you can save your images (including collages) and post them where you want.

    I’ve used other browser-based image editors in the past (aviary, sumopaint, pixlr) but this has a really lovely clean interface and is intuitive to use.

  3. Julie

    I use Picasa – a free photo-editing and organizing software programme from Google. It does all the basics (cropping, red-eye, auto-correct,retouching, etc.) as well as a lot of fun extras like changing to b&w, sepia, pencil sketch, neon. It really does everything I need. And you can upload to a web album if you like.

  4. Miss Bunt

    Love these photo tips! I referred a friend to your blog, she is in the midst of selecting a camera. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Seanna Lea

    I use picmonkey and pixlr for different things. The neutral color picker in Picmonkey is awesome. It can pull out a lot of the yellow tones that happen in a lot of photos, but pixlr is the best for cropping. It allows me to crop to a specified output ratio. I love it to pieces!

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