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My 5 Favorite Photo Tips

With new technology, it seems like everyone is a photographer these days. Maybe you shoot just for social media or for your company’s newest marketing campaign. While we would recommend hiring a professional to take those high end shots..we realize you will probably be manning the camera at the next company picnic or for the intern’s head shot  While most people do take decent photos, I see more of the same type of issues. So, I have gathered what I think are 5 simple rules to follow for any photographer. If you can think of more, please add a comment! My goal is to see better photos, help you take better photos and improve my image taking as well. Read on…

Intro: Before I get to my tips, I will share with you a tip from our photographer, Pierre Vreyen, who advises to shoot the light, not the object. Very elegant when you realize that photography is all about light. Your camera does not know what you are pointing it at…just that there are light areas and dark areas. And while your eye can adjust very quickly from light to dark, your camera can only see a small range at any one time. So..

TIP #1 – Be aware of the Light. What is the light source? Where is it coming from? Is your subject back lit, over lit, under lit? If you take the time to set your subject in the best light, it will make all of the difference. Before a photographer takes a shot, they will automatically make decisions based on the light. And if the light is low (inside or at twilight) and you are not using a flash, be sure to hold your camera still, especially if your subject (or you!) are moving.

TIP #2 – Be aware of your Framing. So many times, a photo we take will have unintended guests…the people in the background, a stray hand, anything besides your subject. Take into account not just your subject but all of the elements in your frame. If you have to move around (or move your subject) then do so. Get down if your subject is small (kids, pets) and don’t be afraid to ask people to move (hey, it’s your photo). Watch out for things (like trees or lamp posts) growing out of peoples heads. Sometimes it just takes a step to the left, or a step to the right, to make a much better photo.

TIP #3 – Know your camera. I hear this all the time, “I just can’t figure out my camera!”. Well, if you want to take better pictures, you better! Because the greatest camera in the world can still take a crummy shot unless you are comfortable with how to use it. When you get a new camera, read the manual. The first 3 things you should learn: how to turn your flash on, how to turn your flash off, and remove the date that shows up in the corner (no, really, do this.  The info embedded with the image file has the date..which you should also set up when you are reading your manual). If you can do those 3 things and are able to work your smart phone, tablet and computer…then you can figure out your camera. And if not, go to the local camera store and ask every question you can.

Tip #4 – Take Lots of Photos! (And look at lots of photos, too.) By taking lots of photos, you will get more comfortable with your camera. Test it, set up different lighting conditions, shoot inside, outside, any scenario where you expect to be taking photos.Before a big event, take sample shots in the room to get the lighting right.  Also, when you are taking photos, take A LOT especially of action & groups. If I shoot a person, I take at least 2 shots to account for eyes closed plus I move a little in each shot, I may have a better background in one or the other. By looking at lots of photos (good and bad) you will develop your “eye”. See if you can tell what’s wrong in a picture or what you would do differently. And if you really want to geek out, “practice” your photo skills even when you are not shooting. Quick, what would make a good photo of where you are sitting right now?

TIPS #5 – Manage Your Photos. You can take the best pictures in the world but if you lose them on a drive somewhere because they were named DCS_45738 like 300 others, you’ll never find it. I have 4 basic rules for image management:

  1. Take your photos off the SD card, this is not to be used for storage.
  2. Have a file folder system where you store your photos, not just in one big folder. I have a set up by month for my personal work. In my company we do it by the date of the shoot.
  3. Rename your images with a date. It is so easy, you can just select all, right click and there is a rename option which gives sequential numbers. Or you can use many of the free photo management software options out there.
  4. Back up, back up, back up. You should have at least one other copy of your photos (3 or 4 is nice!) on other medium like CD’s, external hard drives, the cloud…your images are priceless and hard drives will crash.

While these might be overly simple, they are rules that can be used on any photo shoot, amateur or professional. If you would like to add your tips, please comment. Now…go take lots of photos and remember to have fun!

Wendy Whittemore; Flight Commander, Aerial Innovations of TN, Inc.