20 February 2007

Photos That Do Not Suck

Taking a good photograph is not that hard. You just have to stop and think for about 2-3 seconds before you snap the picture.

I am no photography expert, but I enjoy photography a great deal. I like to believe that I take pretty good shots. If that is true, it is due solely to the fact I have spent a fair amount of time reading books, googling websites and looking at the photographs of people who are expert photographers. All with the aim of improving my own efforts.

It only takes is a bit of time and practice.

Which is why I become so annoyed when I see hordes of tourists wasting their time taking gazillions of photographs that anyone who has ever googled "how to take better photographs" could tell you are going to be crap.

Especially when those hordes of tourists taking bad photographs are standing in the way of someone else (i.e. me!) taking a decent shot!

So here it is...

Global Librarian's
Quick Guide to Travel Photography
Subtitle: Taking Photos That Do Not Suck

Tip 1
READ THE MANUAL! Your camera's manual will explain to you the abilities of your camera and how to use it to get the best photos. Each camera brand and model works slightly differently. You will not be using the camera to its fullest abilities if you have no idea what those abilities are. If you have lost the manual or you need a bit more information about a specific feature, go to the manufacturer's website. The website usually has lots of useful guides and tips.

When taking a photograph of a person standing in front of a landmark, let perspective work in your favor. First line up the landmark so that it fills your viewfinder. Then have the person stand in front of you. Ask them step forward or back until you can clearly see them, but the landmark is still visible behind them.

If you put the person you wish to photograph next to an enormous structure, you won't be able to see them in the final photograph.

Tip 3
The built-in flash on your camera will only work if the object you are photographing is about 10-20 feet in front of you. Exactly how far the flash works depends upon your specific camera and what ISO you are using. If the flash is too close, the subject of the photograph appears bleached and the background is dark. If the flash is too far away, your subject will disappear into the murky darkness. Read your camera's manual to find out what the flash recommendations are for your camera.

Another flash tip: on a very bright day there may be sharp contrasts and shadows on your subject. To remove those shadows, use the flash as a "fill-in."

Tip 4
Do not be afraid to get close to your subject. What you are photographing should fill the frame. If you are too far away, too many other things will end up in the picture and others may wonder what you were taking a picture of.

Tip 5
How many photographs of yourself and your traveling companions do you really need? On Saturday afternoon GLH and I sat in the garden in back of Notre Dame and watched a group of tourists spend at least 30 minutes taking virtually the exact same shot over and over again. Meanwhile, some other people were waiting to take their own pictures. Most of them gave up and walked away. It was excessively rude.

Which leads me to my final tip...

Tip 6
This may come as a surprise to some people, but you are not the only person in the world. There are other people who have spent hard-earned money to vacation in the same place and at the same time as you. They would also like good photographs to remember their trip. When taking a photograph from a prime spot, take it quickly and move out of the way. If you see someone else taking a photograph, try not to get in their way.

It's called "courtesy." It's a two-way street, folks!

For a good online guide to basic photography, go to About: Photography.

You can also google the photography topic of your choice or check out the books in your local library or bookstore.


The Big Finn said...

I would add that one should remember the "rule of thirds" since too many photos are center oriented.

Draw an imaginary tic-tac-toe board in the viewfinder. The objects of interest should be where the lines bisect.

Too many photos have a person's head right in the center of the photo. I had a photography teacher who used to refer to it as "lining up the target in the cross-hairs, and then...SNAP...blow their head off!"

Global Librarian said...

Good tip.

Although sometimes I deliberately break that one. Occasionally the straight-forward, direct into the camera look makes an interesting portrait.

Expat Traveler said...

Great tips, looks like a book!

I'll add, the rule of thirds is essential (thanks tbf) and get yourself a 10 neg pixel cam if you want anything to look less than professional...

Also - if you go up to the hill tops, you can avoid traffic and get great views, esp at sunrise and sunset!

But I guess those are my wishes since I see the lack of quality from my D70 and can't wait to get the D200!