Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Photography Basics

My cousin Stephanie, over at Wife Mommy Me, just received a new DSLR camera as a gift from her amazing hubby and she asked if anyone had any tips for her. I started to comment and realized that I know just enough about taking photos with a 'big' camera that I could make this into an ENTIRE post. I am no expert, mind you, but I have spent countless hours studying, practicing, and attempting to capture the perfect shot. I thought I would pass on this information to those of you who want to learn a little more about your 'big' cameras, and to encourage you to explore and enjoy all that a DSLR can offer.

Now, I use a Sony so some of my settings and such may be different than your Nikon or Canon, but the jist of it all should be the same!

There are some really basic and easy things to remember when taking photos.

1) To aid in capturing the sharpest images possible, pull your elbows in, take a deep breath, and steady yourself as much as possible as you press the shutter button down firmly. If you are shaky and unsteady on your feet, your photos will reflect this.

2) When shooting portraits, focus between the eyes - this will ensure that the most important features (aka: the face) will be in focus.

Mentioning focus, you can auto-focus by pushing your shutter button half-way down, or you can focus pressing a back button on your camera. You'll find that if you can use your back button, focusing will be a lot faster and easier. I promise. When I learned this, it absolutely changed my life. Seriously! For a lot of cameras, I believe this has to be turned on. Look it up, I promise you won't regret it!

3) Avoid shooting in direct sunlight if at all possible. Shooting in direct sunlight will give you squinty eyes, harsh shadows and photos that are difficult to edit. Find some shade, have your subject face in a direction to where the sun will still reflect in their eyes and shoot away. This rings true for using your flash as well. Unless it's absolutely necessary, turn it off!

There are two times of day that are commonly know and considered 'perfect' for taking photos. Most people call them the golden hour and some call them the magic hour. This is most typically the first hour and last hour of sunlight, with a little wiggle room in there. Try getting out during one of these times and snapping a few photos. I think that just experiencing it will be the best way to explain why it's preferred by most photographers.

4) Be natural. I hate posing. I feel like I get the best photos when I just let things go and snap away as life is happening. Posing usually results in stiff, forced photos that are obviously just that. This is my biggest downfall as a 'photographer' and I'm trying to work on it, but at least I know it's a problem.

5) Try a different angle. Have someone sit in a chair and spend 10 minutes taking photos of them in that same position. Move around them, get up high and down low. Focus on different features. Take a whole body shot, then one of  just their face, their hands... keep finding new ways to capture them. Eventually you'll find that there are certain angles that you like better than others and it will be more comfortable for you to decide HOW to photograph someone.

6) Practice, practice, practice!! Ya know the saying, ' practice makes perfect'? It's true!! The more you use your camera, the more comfortable you will be with it and the better your photos will become.

7) Don't judge. The NUMBER ONE thing I can tell you about photography is that EVERYONE does it. Seriously. Everyone. Don't judge your photography based on someone else's work. You don't know how or what or when or any sort of details about their work and the majority of the time, you're looking at something and thinking 'why can't that be me'. It's horrible for your esteem and it's horrible for your photography. The only person you should compare yourself to is YOU. Go back a month, a year, two years and see how much you've grown.

These are just a few basic, basic tips. I'm going to write up another post on using your camera in manual mode eventually, but in the meantime, just keep practicing!

Doe anyone else have some basic tips for beginner photographers?


  1. These are great tips!!!!! Thanks.

  2. I learned some photography tips when I was in high school journalism. Hard thing though about my full-body pictures is that my husband (not a creative person) take the pictures!

  3. Getting pics of Little Man during the Golden Hour is so hard! He's usually grumpy and cashed out for the day. I'm hoping we'll be able to utilize that time of day a bit more as he gets older.
    Thanks for the great tips!

  4. Wow, Jenn, you have no idea how much I appreciate this post. I bought my DSLR about a year ago and have been trying to self teach myself. My biggest issue is #7 but what you wrote really spoke to me. I always look at other pictures and think "why in the world can't I get there?" But you are so right ... When I look back on my pictures, I can see improvements. Thank you for sharing this!! Really!!


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