Mental Notes on Taking Good Pictures

-5 Degrees at Niagara Falls, Canada

In anything you do in life there is a natural progression of expertise that comes with experience and practice. The same is true with beginning photography. Always remember your goal is to be able to print out or view exactly what you see or envision. How many times have you seen a great shot, taken the picture only to be disappointed by what comes out of the camera? As with any new experience taking good pictures takes patience, practice and study to get good at photography. The majority of camera toting people do not yearn to be professional photographers; they just want their photographs to look professional. Beginning photography, just like learning anything else, requires basic skills and knowledge. Through perseverance you will be taking good pictures soon.

Wright Brothers Flyer in Hong Kong Airport

Wright Brothers Flyer in Hong Kong Airport

Know Thy Equipment

Taking good pictures are a lot like firing a rifle. That is why you have terms like point, aim and shoot. A hunter must know everything about his rifle. What is the best way to hold it, to load it, fire it and take care of it? The same thing applies to cameras. You may think it amusing to say, “Know which end of the camera to aim at your subject”, but I blew a great shot for not knowing how my camera worked. In this case it is the camera in my iPhone. I was not aware that you hold it differently when you take pictures than when you use it for calls.  It was not that way with my previous phone. I just assumed that they are all the same and that is never good.

Summer Day in Canandaigua Lake, NY

Summer Day in Canandaigua Lake, NY

No matter what camera you have, you need to spend some quality time with your owner’s manual. I know, I know. I hate manuals too but they are packing in more features and chips into one camera now than they had on all of the Apollo space capsules. Get to know your camera and you can avoid having your loved one remind you, “Hey genius, take the lens cover off!” Just start with the basics:

  1. How do I turn it on and off?
  2. Where do I look and how do I focus?
  3. How do I take a picture?
  4. How do I get the pictures out of the camera?

If you can just master those issues and get started taking pictures then you can learn about the rest of the bells and whistles that came with your camera later.

Santa Monica Pier, California

Santa Monica Pier, California

Step Into the Light

As I have mentioned in my home page, light is everything when it comes to taking good pictures. The word “photography” is derived from the Greek word “photos” meaning light and “graphe” meaning drawing with lines. So photography means “drawing with light”.

The first cameras were merely boxes with a pinhole at one end to allow light to enter and project onto a light sensitive chemical coated plate. Where there is no light there is no picture. It may also means you forgot to take the lens cover off (again).

Learning about light and where it originates from as it relates to your subject is important. Generally you never want to shoot into the light or it will wash everything out of your picture. Like a good aerial dogfighter, you want the sun (light) at your back to illuminate your subject. The amount and direction of your light source will determine the depth and angle of shadows on your subject as well. Types of light are also important to know especially if you have manual exposure settings to deal with.

 Composing is Not Just for Orchestras

Learning Photography

Proper composition of your photographic subjects is the difference between a “keeper” and a “delete” photograph. Are your subjects centered or are you pointing at their shoes? Is someone’s head cutoff? Is the real beauty of your subject only half in the frame? Could you have the group stand in front of a flowering bush instead of a garbage can? These are only some of the little details you want to keep in mind when composing a good photo. You are the artist and your camera is the canvas.

By learning some basic concepts your photography will progress to a point that you do not need to take 50 photos to get one good one. Soon you will know what you want and see it in your mind long before you and your subject meet. You will be proud to show your work on any refrigerator door anywhere!