Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Little of What I’ve Learned So Far: Tips for Better Photographs, Part 1

I've been blogging for over two years now, and I find it very interesting to go back and look at some of the photographs I took before I had any idea what I was doing. It's not always a pretty picture.

Over these past two years, however, I've learned so much about photography, mostly by studying other people's blogs and websites. I've found that the blogs I most enjoy are the ones that also have the most interesting photography.

And as you may remember from THIS POST, John gave me his awesome Nikon D70 from his pre-me days, and I have been having immense fun with it ever since. And somehow, I can't remember exactly how, I came across a photography site called Digital-Photography-School dot com, a site run by an electronics geek named Darren Rowse, and I have become obsessed with combing through the archives and learning about how to improve my photography skills.

Over the past few weeks, I've put into practice some of the things I've been learning, and I'd like to share some of them for the next few days. The first concept is....


Light is probably the most important element when it comes to photography, to me, anyway. I've learned that using the on-camera flash should be avoided at all costs because it washes everything out and makes photos so one-dimensional. Taking pictures outdoors is always a great option, especially if you shoot within the hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset. This time frame is called "the magical hour", and as I've been trying to incorporate this idea into my photography, I've noticed a vast improvement.

The following are photos I took at a wedding just before the "magical hour"...


...and these, same hour, different day, of some of the local foliage...


I love the gentle light, which shows the texture of the subject, but doesn't at all wash everything out as it would during mid-day. If you don't learn anything else from this post, just remember this, and try it during your next photo shoot!

Lighting can also come from other sources, such as these fire-lit scenes shot during our recent camping trip...


Although the subjects aren't perfectly clear, these photos definitely portray the ambiance of sitting around a campfire. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to use the flash for these because it would have taken away from the cozy, muted tones fire light gives off.

Lighting can also be used to creatively express feeling, such as the following photo, taken of my flashlight lighting the ground in front of me as I made a trip to the outhouse...


This is not a photo worthy of framing, but it helps the viewer get a good idea of what camping life is like!

Now, if you'd like to take photographs at times other than "the magical hour", please feel free, but try to get your subject in shadow. Shooting with the sun overhead often casts deep shadows under the eyes and nose and is just not flattering.

The following photo was taken at about 3:00 PM, as I tried to capture the effect riding in the back of a pick-up had on the 10-year-old boy's hair, and it turned out fine because his back was to the sun...


This photo was also taken with the sun high in the sky, but I was able to capture the 10-year-old boy running in the shade of a hill...


You can also place your subject under man-made shade during bright overhead lighting, such as in this photo of my 13-year-old nephew...


...which also makes a great intro for tomorrow's post about...Perspective!

What have your learned about improving your photography? Don't be shy, share in the comments!

Today on 365 Days of TV-Free Toddler Time: Water Faucet Time!

Today on life in mexico {and other places} a picture a day: {a wedding III}


Jb said...

I definitely learned to turn the flash off! It's automatically set "on" with this camera, so it took me awhile to figure out how to turn it off.

Clutter free background seems to be pretty important too...but that may just be my personal viewpoint.

It's great fun learning to use all the bells and whistles on my camera, but sometimes it's hard to remember how to use the bazillion different features on it.

Mom2my10 @ 11th Heaven said...

Jb, I totally agree with you about a clutter-free background. I'll actually be talking about that in a post later on this week, and showing some examples of what to do and what NOT to do!

alessandra said...

Beautiful idea these lessons, and I love your photos, especially the last.
Besides now that I'm home with my 16:9 laptop, I can finally see your out-house background.
The lesson is, never ever read blogs while at work ;)

Mom2my10 @ 11th Heaven said...

Okay, Alessandra, good! I'm glad you can now see the background!

Angie said...

Lessons learned!
I recently learned that it is best to do a beach photo shoot in the late evening, NOT in the late morning. Especially since we live on the east coast! No matter what direction we were facing, the sun was in the eyes.