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50 skills to take a good photo
Photographing children and people
Photo tips

 50 skills to take a good photo

  1.Too much is enough, baby Best way to expose color negative film in wrong light, low light, or mixed light: Give it one stop (or more) than the meter reading. Shadows and color will be better, highlights will still be under control.
  2.Conversion experience Get a basic color conversion set: Buy 85B and 80A filters for your most used lens(es). They let you shoot tungsten film outdoors and vice versa, and are also strong warming/cooling filters for any shooting. Shoot a lot under fluorescents? Consider an FL-D filter, too.
  3.Bring your own light show Use a sunrise or sunset filter: Screw it on when you arrive at midday at any location famous for sunrises or sunsets. Want to push it further? Use a red/blue Cokin Variocolor filter.
  4.Be a card-carrying member Take a photo gray card along: It¨s much better for setting digital ^white ̄ balance, for accurate spotmeter exposures with slide film, for a photofinishing reference point for color-print film, etc.
  5.Finder yourself Get an auxiliary finder for panning shots: Scrounge for an auxiliary finder and mount it in your SLR¨s flash-shoe (insulate first with tape!) for panning shots. This gives you an uninterrupted view, without mirror blackout, and lets you pan much more smoothly. Get a finder about the same angle of view of the taking lens, or a little longer.
  6.Try mine, comrade Carry a small bottle of vodka: No, not to steady your nerves, but because it¨s a great solvent for cleaning up smudged lenses and finders (but don¨t use on color LCD monitors). The cheaper the better!cheap vodka is more highly filtered.
  7.Legal slavery Carry a cheap, old flash unit fitted with a slave trigger. Position it behind your subject¨s head for rim light and against a back wall to eliminate shadows. It works fine with point-and-shoots, and it doesn¨t even have to be automatic.
  8.Background check Scout locations: Use a digital P/S at low-res to take grab shots of interesting backgrounds and locales (add a voice clip to remember where they are). When light is good, go back to take real pictures. Also use for a portrait setup and such.
  9.Stash the glass If you simply can¨t keep your subject¨s glasses from reflecting (and he or she really wants to keep them on): Remove the lenses. Best way is to loosen the temple-piece screws with the appropriate small screwdriver.
  10. Be a pod person Always carry a minipod: Take one around in your pocket. The idea is not height, but ready steadiness and the ability to adjust camera position also great for those self-timer shots of yourself on vacation. One of our favorites is the Ultrapod II by Pedco.
  11. Skins game Put darker-complexioned people in the front of a group shot with flash, and lighter people in the back: Flash falls off over distance, so you want darker people closer. It will make for better overall exposure and easier printing.
  12.Cast eyes downward Use swivel LCDs like reflex finders: Swivel it up, and brace the camera against your belly. It¨s steady!
  13.Sneaky tweak Use digital white balance for color conversion: Want a winter/rainy scene to look deliberately colder? Set the white balance for tungsten. Use the custom white balance aimed at something blue to get a ^warming filter. ̄
  14.Just do it Own a camera that gives you no excuse to leave it home: Put a film or digital point-and-shoot in your pocket. Keep it loaded with fast film, or a high-capacity card.
  15.Off the record Always take another shot after the ^shooting gallery ̄ picture: Get the lineup shot at the wedding or birthday party or whatever occasion. Now say ^thank you! ̄ loudly!and resume shooting when people re-engage in conversation.
  16.Semper snappatus Keep the camera ^snap ready ̄: Many P/S¨s, film and digital, have a snap mode for fast shooting. At the very least, keep the setting on program auto!you can always adjust later. With SLRs, set hyperfocal distance, use moderate wide angle, release-priority AF, etc.
  17.On the level Carry a shoe-mount bubble level: Even with viewfinder grid lines, it can be tricky keeping the camera absolutely square to the scene. The bubble level helps keep horizons straight, and reduces keystoning in buildings.
  18. Get hyper about focusing Use hyperfocal focusing: If your lens has a depth-of-field scale, simply set the infinity mark to the scale line of the aperture you¨re using. Use it for deep scenic space, quick people snaps, and such. No depth-of-field scale? Prefocus about one-third of the way to the farthest object you want to keep in pretty good focus.
  19.Ride a rail Get a focusing rail: These relatively inexpensive gizmos are great for really tight macro focusing, regardless of whether you¨re using auxiliary close-up lenses, extension tubes, or a dedicated macro lens.
  20.Tape out redeye Use invisible tape to avoid redeye: Foggy tape, layered two or three times over the flashtube area (not the entire flash lens), can reduce redeye in some instances, and won¨t create a problem with TTL flash exposure.
  21.Stiff body language Be your own tripod: Stand with your feet apart for best steadiness. Hold the camera with both hands, preferably with your left hand under the camera. Keep your elbows tucked as much as possible into your torso. Squeeze the shutter release, don¨t stab at it. Hold your breath or breathe slowly when firing.
  22.Chinning exercise For better portraits, lower the subject¨s chin to make the eyes look larger. Or tilt the camera forward slightly. This also cuts reflections on eyeglasses.
  23.Mirror, mirror in the shot: If you are absolutely, positively, stuck making a flash shot of a group standing in front of a mirror:
  1) shoot at an angle to the mirror
  2) scrunch down low so that their bodies and heads block the flash reflection
  3) move them closer together to avoid reflective gaps.
  24.Reference set Make reference slides: Shoot a sequence of a gray or dull-colored wall (or a gray card) with your favorite slide film, \2 stops in half stops. Put them in a slide sleeve and keep them in your bag/pocket. Spotmeter an important area of the scene you¨re shooting, then pick the slide with the tone you want to match. Use that exact exposure compensation.
  25.Ap lens gremlins For outdoor shots, never shoot a big sky at the first two maximum apertures (to avoid light falloff) or the smallest two or three apertures in backlight (to avoid ghost images).
  26.The unreflector Block unwanted light: Get a folding gobo (a black reflector) and use it to shield your lens from stray light, to cut down glare from reflective surfaces, or to keep the sun out of your subject¨s eyes. Alternative: Carry a big piece of heavy black paper, folded, in your camera bag.
  27.Discover the ordinary Run out of ideas on what to shoot? Stieglitz shot cloudy skies, which he called ^equivalents. ̄ Shoot 36 different pictures of the same tree. Make a collection of interesting manhole covers, hands, feet, mustaches, alphabet letters. Shoot the insides of a piano. Use your kitchen tools for a still life.
  28.Post fact-o Tripod too flimsy to be useful? Employ your own weight: Grasp the tripod collar or centerpost firmly in your left fist and press downward while operating the camera with your right hand.
  29.Holy macro! Force yourself to shoot close: Put your camera on manual focus, set the focusing at its closest distance, make close-ups of items in your house or around your neighborhood without changing focusing distance.
  30.Manual labor Read the fact-filled manual: Yeah, yeah, yeah, the same old boring advice, but once you get the basics of your camera, sit down and read the manual with the camera in your hands. You¨ll be amazed what you learn. Put tabs on the pages with features important to you.
  31.Street beat Don¨t be timid with street photography: Wade into the fray and get up close and personal. Try putting the widest-angle lens you have on a camera and shooting close-up pictures as people are waiting for a traffic light to change.
  32.Observe yourself Practice holding your camera while looking in a mirror: This is particularly important for teeny point-and-shoots. Make sure you can aim the camera quickly without blocking the flash, covering the lens, shading the viewfinder.
  33.Dot¨s the trick Check the steadiness of your camera on your tripod: Attach a laser light to the camera (use gaffer tape), pointing at a wall. Photograph the laser dot at various shutter speeds. If you don¨t get a round dot in your images, you¨re going to get blurry pictures.
  34.Face backward Shoot your friends from the back: Try it with them looking forward, and to the side. Use different focal lengths and try various lighting directions.
  35.Track ¨em down Distance sequence a portrait: Start at full figure, then approach closer and closer, shooting one or two pictures every few feet until you are crawling up inside a nostril.
  36.Regroup the group When shooting a group portrait of your friends or family: Don¨t group them all together! Have some sit, lie on the floor, lounge on the couch...
  37.Monochromania Print casual snapshots (parties, short trips, etc.) in b&w: It¨s much more forgiving of redeye, pasty skin, and other imperfections. Your friends will love you.
38.Orientate orientation Take a vertical photo: Snap one immediately after taking a horizontal. And vice versa. You¡¯ll be surprised how often the second one turns out better. You can get two good shots, too.
  39.Reach for the ceiling Use bounce flash when possible: It makes for more natural lighting in indoor flash pictures. For verticals, try side wall bounce!it usually works quite well.
  40.Spec out your specs Get better glasses: Progressive lenses, such as Varilux, work like bifocals except they offer continuous correction from very close to far distance. You can make all camera adjustments, see LCD screens, and frame and shoot without juggling glasses on and off or extending your arms back and forth. Expensive, but worth it.
  41.Crosswalk fandango Shoot spaghetti headlight trails: Find a busy intersection, set up your tripod just before dusk, set the camera to aperture priority and f/22. Without moving your tripod or changing camera angle or settings, shoot a series of pictures until it¨s totally dark.
  42.That syncing feeling ^Drag ̄ the shutter in indoor flash portraits: It¨s called slow-sync flash, or night flash, and it leaves the shutter open longer to capture more of the background detail than plain autoflash. But hold the camera steady!
  43.Weight watch Pose according to girth: Put heavier people centrally (where they will look thinner) and thinner people along the edge (where the lens fattens people).
  44.Narrow your wide-angle The most effective use of a wide-angle lens: Emphasizing a foreground feature. Place it to the side of the frame (in horizontals) or to the bottom (in verticals) and move in close to crop out other clutter.
  45.Quick pix fix Use 5-minute Photoshop (or another image-editing program: Try auto levels/contrast to add snap and lighten a little, add small catchlights (especially in pet photos), and crop out as much junk in the background as you can.
  46.Beauty in the beasts For easy, charming pet shots: Use available light, fast film, or high ISO capture. Fill the frame with their faces and throw the background out of focus, in warm indoor or soft outdoor light.
  47.A different gloss Try different print options: white border instead of borderless, matte instead of glossy, textured surfaces, sepia, and such. It¨s a subtle but effective way to change the look of a picture.
  48.Sight reading Look at great photography: Open a book, go to a show, browse online galleries. No one ever learned to compose music without listening to music. No one makes good photos without seeing good photography.
  49.Flash dance Great fun while dancing: Hold a small point-and-shoot, set to slow-sync flash, and shoot from the hip or reaching overhead on the dance floor. Wild pictures guaranteed.
  50.In the zone For fast shooting in low light: Use the camera¨s manual-focus mode and scale or zone focus. Practice estimating distances. Hint: Use floor tiles as a guide!most are exactly one foot square.

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