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Better Photography Tips

I skimmed a book in Barnes and Noble and wrote down quite a few tips. The book was How to Photograph Your Life and the concept was that the author used what amounted to a point-and-shoot camera to photograph the images. He'd usually show you an example of a "bad" photo, then an example of a "good" photo, all based around the things that happen to normal people.

In the end I decided not to purchase it because it's not particularly the book for me, but I wouldn't mind if my wife bought it. Instead, I purchased two other books that weren't the "go through them in a few minutes" type.

Here are my notes. Any commentary I have is in italics. Again, I think that for a lot of people, this book would come in handy. The example photos do a great job of conveying the tips provided. My notes are in no way even a partial replacement, so if the book interests you, go check it out or buy it for yourself. Or your wife. 🙂

Four Simple Rules: experiment, get closer, take lots of pictures, and don't put your subject in the middle.

Flash: Don't use it. It sucks. This advice was repeated several times as sub-tips within other tips.

Time of Day: Avoid mid-day sun. This was basically the same advice for several of the tips.

Child's Birthday Party: Get closeups of your kid's friends, either as staged portraits or doing normal activities.

People Around a Table: Elevate so you can see what's on the table too. No flash.

Wedding: It may be about the bride and groom, but they want to see pictures of their environment, too, not just shot after shot of them. The little details matter - the flower arrangement, the altar, the DJ, etc.

First Day of School: Simplify the theme. Include just enough story telling elements to give the viewer the gist.

Child's First Bike Ride: Tough to focus, so pre-set it if you can. Obviously not so much of a problem with a non-P&S.

A Graduate: Don't need photo of them actually getting diploma. Get shots later. Enjoy the moment.

Christmas Tree: Don't use flash. Use Christmas tree lights.

Black and White: If color is a distraction, go B&W.

The Birth of a Baby: Decide on scene, like "moment mother first sees baby" beforehand and compose. Be ready!

Baby in a Bathtub: Avoid the "adult standing, looking down at baby" shot. Put camera in bathtub with baby. Take photo of bath toys.

Family Meeting a New Baby: Get natural shot, not a posed one. "Avoid posing" is also a central component to several of the tips.

A Hike in the Woods: Cloudy or overcast days avoid splotchy sun.

Landscape: Put the horizon above or below center. Rule of thirds, people!

Landscape II: Nothing says you can't shoot in portrait mode.

Animal at the Zoo: Look for a clean background. A good tip regardless of the situation.

In the Rain: Don't be afraid. Just have an umbrella. And someone to hold it for you. 🙂

A Garden: Closeups or bouquets. Wide angle garden shots are mostly boring green.

A Flower: See "garden" - get a closeup or macro.

Find Picture Inside Picture: Example of a kid on a carousel, takes pictures of carousel horses themselves.

Sunset: Take pictures before and after moment sun actually sets. Also, sometimes you should take pictures away from the sunset, where the sky will turn interesting shades of blue.

Clouds: Sometimes clouds are an abstract composition all by themselves.

Fall Foliage: Cloudy days. Sun = too many shadows.

A Monument: Avoid the postcard shots. Look for new compositions.

Your Vacation: Capture the small things: the sign outside the outhouse, the chef at a restaurant.

A City Skyline: Do it at night when lights balance sky. Avoid mid-day haze. Don't particularly care for that advice. I've seen enough good daytime skylines.

Your House: See tip above: dusk or morning is a good time. Lights balance sky.

Bright Lights (Carnival): Don't be afraid of blur. Can create "otherworldly" quality.

Your Dog: If black or white, isolate against contrasting color.

Your Cat: Think like one. Or just wait by a window sill.

Women: Soft light. Make them look good. Or else!

A Group of People: Forget their legs. Faces matter.

A Private Moment: Have your camera ready at all times. Don't be afraid to take a picture.

A Couple: Avoid posing, or if you must, push their heads together.

A Baby's Face: Don't interrupt their "babyness." Just get pictures of them being a baby.

A Face Close-Up: Face slightly off center, and okay to cut tops of heads off.

Portraits Without Faces: A person walking (riding, etc.) away from you can add mystery.

Portraits Without People: Capture elements that remind you of the person.

A Portrait by Candlelight: You can do it!

A Personal Ad: Don't lie. KISS. Full body if possible.

For an eBay Ad: Show a simple arrangement, not a cluttered one. Multiple Angles.

7 Responses to "Better Photography Tips"

  1. [...] Better Photography Tips | NSLog(); (tags: photography tips) [...]

  2. [...] Better Photography Tips NSLog has a list of very informative tips that he noted when he “skimmed a book at Barnes & Noble”. The book was How to Photograph your life. [...]

  3. i've read every word in that post ...
    now if i could only remember 'em ...
    that'd be great ...

  4. Good tips. "Take lots of photos" and "experiment" are important ones. I sometimes get strange looks with some of the shots I take. And digital has definitely helped with the "take lots of photos part". That was part of the reason I got my first digital camera, so my wife wouldn't get an ulcer over the number of photos I tend to take.

    (I love the name of your blog, by the way... very nice.)

  5. I find that these kind of photography books are usually aimed at people who have had no previous experience with a camera, or people who are just starting out. As a professional, you will be frustrated no doubt with the lack of any information that can actually help you.

  6. I have read the post and overall it can jump-start neophytes in photography. Well done.

  7. I'm no longer certain where you're getting your info, but great topic. I must spend a while studying more or understanding more. Thank you for magnificent info I was searching for this information for my mission.