Tips for non-photographers Beginning photographers would do well to remember three tips: (1) move up close; (2) focus; and (3) avoid backlighting. Those three persistent problems account for about 90 percent of errors by new photographers.
Move up close Photographer Dave Eulitt got an emotional reaction that makes this photo so much more than just another photo of a football game. Action. Emotion.
Beginning photographers are afraid to fill the frame. Even (especially) with a point-and-shoot camera, fill the frame. Get closer. Try getting to close and then backing off a bit. Don’t get so close that you can’t tell what’s going on or that you start interfering with the action, but really work to make the viewer feel like he or she is in on the action. Long lenses may help in certain situations (especially sporting event), but two feet help even more. Make sure your subject is not in the center of the frame – follow the rule of thirds (divide the frame into third both horizontally and vertically and the subject goes at the intersection of any two lines, like a tic-tac-toe board).
Focus & learn the camera Available light looks natural and usually is not as harsh as artifical light provided with a flash. The stage lighting together with the light reflected off the instruments provides all the necessary detail.
Look for repetition, like Beau Russo of Westlake High School did. A break in the repetition really pulls the eye in.
It may sound silly, but practice focusing. Forget putting film (or a card) in the camera. Just go practice focusing. Try doing it manually. Then learn the automatic way. Practice changing the focusing zones. Then learn to use your camera. Most point-and-shoots have a minimum focusing distance. Even highend digital cameras won’t focus if you get too close. Learn what all those fancy buttons do. Learn about aperture priority (you set the aperture, the camera sets the shutter speed), shutter priority (you set the shutter speed, it sets the aperture) and program (the camera sets both) modes. When you’re bored in between classes, learn the f/stops and about depth of field (the area in front of and behind the are on which you focus that is sharp). Learn that faster shutter speeds (1/1000, etc.) stop more action and higher-numbered f/stops (f/16 and f/22) render more in focus. Know that the closer you are to the subject and the longer lens you have, the lower the depth of field will be. And low depth of field (such as that obtained with low-numbered f/stops like f/2 and f/2.8) helps isolate the subject from the background.
Avoid backlighting Photography is painting with light. Know which times of day are best to shoot. Avoid mid-day sun. Learn to tell when you have enough light (quantity), whether it’s good light or bad light (quality) and what direction is best (direction). Backlighting is bad. Sidelighting adds texture to a photo. And frontlighting, while often boring, is dependable.
For a story about police officer graduation, Rob Mattson not only got medium and wide shots, but he shot a tight close-up. Fill the frame for impact.
Bradley Wilson email@example.com North Carolina State University
Get action and emotion After you’ve mastered camera operations, then start thinking about the content of the photos. Explore composition techniques like repetition of shapes, leading lines and framing. Sure, people want to see pictures of other people. That’s obvious. But what they really want to see are pictures of people doing unusual things. Get some emotion in there, not just people staring at the camera. Action. Emotion.
Oh, and did I say move up close? Closer. Get closer. Fill the frame. Come on, a little closer. Use those two feet.