Ten Tips to Better Photos
If you are going to have a portrait done from a photograph there is one universal truth. Although amazing results have been captured from black and white old photos or sepia, for spectacular replication of exacting detail you want to have a great photograph to start from.
There are a lot of graphic programs available that will allow you to edit you photograph and fix defects in your photographs (things such as the dreaded red-eye), however starting with a great picture is always optimal. So here are some general tips that can help make you that master photographer that is just hiding inside you ready to come out.
1. Know where you are
Anything that can get on film (even if it's digital) should be taken into account. Don't get trapped looking through the viewfinder or staring at a digital display. There are a ton of factors out of the shot which will impact the effectiveness of your photograph. Are there moving subjects that could walk or come into your frame? Is there another light source which will overpower your subject? Before you even think about taking a picture take a look around and try to take in everything that could affect your picture.
2. Don't ignore the background
The background of a picture can make or break the entire shot. There are times that the background is actually the focus and the center point (a person or pet or the like) is in the shot only to personalize or to provide scale.
Even if this is the case, try to downplay the background and keep it simple so the main subject stands out easily. You will want to ensure that objects do not interfere and make your subject look out of place. For example, you wouldn't want a tree looking like it was poking out of your subject's head.
3. Get outside if at all possible
Most people don't have all that fancy studio lighting equipment. If you did, why would you be reading this, right? So it is important that your lighting is right for your photograph and 9 times out of 10 there is better natural looking light outside. Skin color as well as hair and eye color will be better captured through natural light rather than forcing the issue by using flash indoors. By using a flash indoors you have the potential of creating harsh contrasts washing out your colors or possibly having your subject too light and putting your background in the dark.
4. Don't be scared of flash outside
Having said all that in the previous tip, bright sunshine can cause heavy shadows sometimes and it can be a good tip to use a flash to fill in those shadows so that you match the lighting in the background. Outside during early morning or early evening are vest times as the sun will not be directly overhead reducing the harshness of shadows.
5. Get to know your camera
No two cameras are the same. Even cameras made by the same company can produce drastic differences. For example the flash range and focus depths will be different or the zoom capabilities will vary. The best way to learn your camera is to take several shots of the same subject or thing several times using several methods. Try taking the picture with the flash, try it again without. Shoot from up close and then back up and zoom in for the same shot. The point is to find out what are the strengths of your camera and then to maximize the potential of your equipment. Likewise find out the limitations of your camera and stay away from those pitfalls. After a while this will all become second nature and you'll end op doing these things instinctively.
6. Don't center your subject
Unless you are taking studio shots, you don't want to have your figures standing in the center of your photographs like a lone wolf. Divide your picture in your mind into thirds. The best place to place your subject is on the 33% or 66% lines. This also is the case for skylines or horizon lines. Never divide your photograph in half. The sky or ocean or landscape should occupy 1/3 or 2/3s of your picture.
7. Get up close and personal
You will know by experimentation your camera's best optimal depth so getting too close shouldn't be a problem here, but for faces you should either get close physically or close enough to zoom in enough to capture all the details of your subject. Some people get nervous in front of cameras so good to have a camera with a decent zoom for the best head shots.
8. You don't have to say "Cheese"
Many times the best results are those candid shots when subjects are relaxed. Forced smiles look, well just that, forced. Many times saying a joke or making a comment like "You're not afraid of little old me, are you?" or something to that effect puts your subjects at ease. Natural smiles are always best.
9. Don't be scared to turn that camera
The landscape picture is fine for scenery but if taking pictures of single or a close couple, turning your camera to the portrait is the better way. The vertical shot is often times perfect for these pictures but don't forget the thirds rule. Don't center that subject either horizontally or vertically.
10. The more the merrier
Seriously consider getting a digital camera. This way you can take hundreds of photos and pick only the best ones to keep. With the powerful yet economical printers now available, you can print snapshots cheaply and with more photos to choose from you will have an album anyone would be proud of.
Follow these simple suggestions and you will soon be taking great pictures and find that special one perfect for transfer to a keepsake oil painting.