So before I move into specifics - ISO, white balance, shutter speed, food photography, kid photography, what have you - (and I WILL go into specifics, I promise) I thought it might be pertinent to cover some tips of the photo trade that will ultimately benefit anyone, no matter the camera, no matter the scenario. Tips you may have heard before, but tips that really help in almost any photography situation. I call them:
Pretty all inclusive, right?
Okay. This is like a David Letterman style top 10 (except only 5, not 10) (and not nearly as funny, because I'm not a professional comedian) ("Darn it, Derek, I'm a coal miner. Not a professional film or television actor!" ntm for 5 Kim points.) (So... not like Letterman at all. Sorry.) I digress...
5. Simple doesn't have to be boring. So, you need an awesome photo to display a particular item. You don't want anything to complicate the photo and take away from the focal point, especially a busy background. Where does your mind go first? Plain white, right? It's the most used, the most versatile. It bounces light, so that's good. It can also be... well, a little bit boring right? Take these two photos as an example.
Plain white is... ok. Add a little prop along with your focal item, and it can make it pop. Same goes for portraits. School photos with the plain gray background? Boring. Bring a prop in? Fun!
4. This goes hand in hand with the last tip. Add interest to your plain Jane background: try blankets or sheets. Textiles add, well, duh, TEXTURE. Say, a furry background for example:
Or use scrapbook or wrapping paper - or even brown kraft paper for a change.
If you use something that has a print or pattern, just remember these key elements:
Stick with a color palette that enhances or complements the item you're photographing - don't match it completely or the item with disappear into the background.
Stick with just a few colors - they don't have to be all neutrals, but you don't want to overwhelm the background, either.
Stick with larger patterns so they don't distort on camera. Ever notice that a shirt with skinny stripes looks kind of wavy and weird in a photo? Go with larger stripes that won't play tricks on the eyes. Use large polka dots instead of tiny ones that could get lost in the photo or worse, be mistaken for lint.
3. Only take a picture of what you WANT to be in the photograph. Sounds ridiculous, right? What I mean is that if you are trying to show something SPECIFIC in your photo, you need to guide the viewer. They weren't with you while you were snapping away, so they don't know what you're intentions were. Your intentions with the shot need to be clear and concise just by looking. The focal point needs to be the central idea of the photo - I don't necessarily mean that literally. If you're showing a tutorial for how to make something and you're photographing a specific step - say "tie this end in a knot" for instance - then you will show a picture of the end tied in a knot. You will not take a picture of the end tied in a knot surrounded by scissors, some spilled glitter and two fat markers. Make sense? If your focal point is a sentiment like "these two love to have fun" then zero in on that during the photo shoot - like tunnel vision.
2. Don't be afraid to overshoot. We aren't using film anymore (ok, well, maybe YOU are, but for the purposes of this list WE aren't) and the beauty of digital is that you don't have to set up that ONE PERFECT SHOT - one chance, that's it. (or 24, whatever.) Get yourself a decent sized memory card, then go to town. You can delete what you don't want. If a few are horrid, no one has to know! BUT if you only snap one or two and think you got what you need, only to realize in retrospect that one of them is blurry and the other cut someone's head off, well, you'll just be beyond bummed, right? I like to put my camera on multi-shot mode almost all the time (if you're camera has one, I highly recommend taking advantage of it). Case in point: I did a little maternity shoot for myself with my last baby and took about a bazillion pictures (alone in my backyard. Because I HATE posing.) Out of those bazillion photos (ok, there were literally about 800 photos, no joke) I'd say I got maybe 20 that I liked.
(Mostly because I can't pose worth a darn and I always looked like a crazed lunatic or like I had 5 chins.) But that's the point. Take a ton of photos, even if you think you're taking forever, even if you think you don't need to, even if you think you won't want them. Because inevitably, you will. (PS, to see the ridiculous outtakes, go here)
1. Lighting. Lighting, lighting, lighting, lighting. Everyone's talking about it! So, let's talk about it some more, shall we? Lighting can simply make or break your photos. That's just all there is to it. Natural lighting (aka SUN) is the bestest friend a photographer could ever have. Now, of course there are some caveats (like: avoid direct sun, don't take portraits at high noon, cloudy days are awesome for people photos) that we can go into later. And there are some tricks you can pull out of your silk top hat along with a fuzzy bunny in the post production arena - which we can also go into later. So if you live in a place that pretty much doesn't see the sun for about 9 months out of the year like me, you're not completely hosed. But in all honesty these tricks make bad lighting only slightly better. Nothing can compare to natural light. Here. See?
Natural Light = GOOD
Not Natural Light = BAD
(And those were from the same tutorial, yes. Yikes.)
I'm not a professional. (I just play one on TV) But I think it's actually not difficult to up the quality of your photos by paying attention to some fairly simple things.
These are my 5 simple tips for better photography. What are yours?