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How to Photograph

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Photo equipment today is becoming so advanced and easy-to-use that it’s simple for anyone to learn how to photograph and become a good photographer. Here are some simple tips that can help almost everyone improve their pictures:

• Know your camera and what it can do. That seems too simple, but it isn’t.

• Move in close. Too many people simply stand too far from their photo subjects. The result is the main subject is lost in the picture, overshadowed by other, extraneous subjects. Take your pictures as close as possible to your subject, but be sure not to get any closer than your camera can focus. Also be aware that some people get uncomfortable with a camera stuck a foot from their faces. Be aware of people’s “personal space.”

• Use the rectangle. Most cameras today have a rectangular format which is an important tool for improving pictures. If you’re photographing a basically vertical subject, such as a person or the Empire State building, hold the camera vertically. Conversely, wide or panoramic pictures are usually served better with the camera held horizontally. When you’re lining up a picture, try holding the camera both horizontally and vertically and choose the way that seems to suit the subject best.

• Don’t amputate at the joints. You don’t have to show an entire person in a picture; often just the head and shoulders will tell the story. If you do leave part of a person out of the picture, have the photo end in the middle of a limb rather at a joint like an elbow or knee.

• Watch the background. It’s easy to look through a camera and have selective vision. We see the main subject and nothing else. Unfortunately, the camera records everything. Before you press the shutter button, examine the background. Is it distracting? Is there a tree or a pole apparently growing from someone’s head? Try to use as plain a background as possible to concentrate attention on the subject.

• Vary your position when photographing. If all your pictures are taken with you standing straight up, they’ll have a certain unexciting sameness. Examine some other shooting angles. Sometimes taking a picture from slightly above or below your subject will give you a plainer background. Children are often best photographed from their own level. Flowers may be shot from directly above. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

• Hold your camera steady. Blurred pictures caused by camera movement are not as much of a problem as they once were, but moving a camera can still spoil a picture. Try to hold your camera as steady as possible when you photograph. Keep your elbows under the camera for support, rather than sticking out to the sides. And squeeze the shutter button, don’t jab it.

• Have your subjects doing something. Your pictures will look more natural and your subjects will be more relaxed if they’re engaged in an activity instead of staring stiffly at the camera. You don’t need a lot of action, even holding a newspaper will do. Watch for photo opportunities in day-to-day activities such as gardening or playing games.

• Try shooting out of the sun. Bright, direct sunlight is no longer a must for good pictures. In fact, such light sometimes casts harsh shadows on people’s faces and can cause your subjects to squint. Move your subjects into the shade. An overcast day often offers very flattering light for pictures of people.

• Know your flash ranges. Flash units, whether built into a camera or not, all have limitations. That is, they can only throw their light so far. For instance, taking a flash picture from the top row of a sports stadium is probably a waste of time and battery. The flash just won’t reach to the field and your picture will be nothing but darkness. You can also get too close with flash. Then the result is an all-white overexposed picture.

• Move your subject off dead center. Often photos are more interesting if the main subject is not smack in the middle of the picture. Try moving your subject to one side or the other.

Another thing: If the subject is moving or looking in one direction, set him or her on the opposite side of the picture. Having the subject looking out of the photograph is often distracting. Keep these tips in mind the next time you photograph and you’ll be pleased with the results.

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