Beginner Photography Tips

Tips for beginner photography: Learn the right way to get started.

With the exception of home videos there is nothing that preserves the moments of our lives like photographs. They freeze the wonderful moments we have in our lifetime and preserve them for our kids, grandkids and others to enjoy.

Photography is one of those rare hobbies that anyone at any age can undertake. There really is no trick to taking good photographs but there are some things to consider in order to make your pictures wonderful.

The most important item on your tip checklist is to be well acquainted with your camera. Whether you have an automatic focus camera or a self-focusing SLR with all the latest bells and whistles it is very important to know what all the buttons are for. This may sound silly but it is a good idea to read any documentation that comes with your camera. You'd be surprised how many folks I know that try to take a picture by just pushing buttons. Imagine their surprise when they push a button and the film door pops open exposing the film to the world before its time. If you ever want to ruin a Kodak moment, that is a good way to do it.

Before you try your hand at preserving posterity, invest in a roll or two of film and take some pictures around the house and yard. Take several photos of the same thing but do it at different distances, under different light conditions. If your camera has a flash, try a flash photo and non-flash photo. A very helpful thing to do when beginning your foray into photography is to keep notes on each photo you take. Note the light conditions, flash or no flash, distance from the object, type of film you are using and any camera settings. When you review your photo's you will develop a good idea of what works and what doesn't. After a while, you will automatically know how far away from an object you should be and when you need to add artificial light or not.

Unless you are aiming for a family portrait, the best photo's are the ones that are unplanned and unstaged. Once the subject of your photo knows the camera is about to click, they suddenly become the object folks think they want to show instead of being themselves. The animated, unknowing subject of a photograph is far more appealing and interesting than a posed subject.

A suggestion for taking these kinds of photos is to sit the camera on the edge of a table or arm of a chair. Every so often push the button to take the photo. Nobody "see's" the photo taken. Folks don't feel as if they are "set up" for a picture. Everyone is relaxed and the photo's come out much better.



If setting the camera on the table isn't an option, take the picture from off to the side. Don't announce "I am going to take my pictures now." Just quietly do it. Unless others are paying attention to your every move, they will think you are off to get a drink or talk to someone on the other side of the room or yard.

If you are outside, watch the sun. If the sun is behind the photographer rather than the subject, the picture will come out with the subject property lighted. Shooting into the sun will "blind" the camera lens and obliterate the subject rather than enhance its image.

If there is no sun to light the subject then an artificial light must be introduced into the picture. This comes in the form of a flash. The trick to flash photography is to coordinate the amount of light being used with the opening of the camera lens. Since the flash and click of the camera take milliseconds, there is no way to tell if you have the proper light/lens opening coordination. It may seem like they are working properly in tandem but the photograph will be the test of that. If the coordination is not correct your pictures will either look like they have melted and all the colors have run together or half the picture will be dark and the other half will be fine.

Most automatic cameras with a built in flash will make the proper adjustments when the flash is activated. All you need to do is to push the "flash on" button. A self-adjusting camera usually has a "hot shoe" plate and requires a flash attachment. Once the flash is attached, the settings must be manually (or womanually) set. The setting is related to the distance and artificial light available. The documentation that comes with the flash unit will note guidelines for settings necessary to get a properly lighted photograph.

When you look through the lens of your camera you will see a box. That box represents the outline of your photograph. When setting up a photograph, keep your subject or the focal point of the photograph centered in that box. If the subject of you photograph is moving, for instance you want a picture of Aunt Martha walking to the grill to get a burger, you will have to move with the subject in order to get the picture. To do this successfully it is important that the camera is not moving erratically. Hold the camera with 2 hands and keep your arms tucked close to your sides instead of with your elbows sticking out to the sides. This keeps your camera stable and eliminates as much camera movement as possible. Twist your body without moving your feet and follow the subject with your camera, keeping the subject centered in the box until you snap the picture. If you have too much movement and camera shaking as you take the photograph your picture will look like it is "quaking". If that is the desired effect, you have a winner. But if what you want is a nice picture of Aunt Martha walking to the grill to get a burger, you will be so out of luck.

As you take more and more photographs you will develop a "sixth sense" for what works and what doesn't. You will "just know" what the right flash setting should be and how far away from an object you need to be. As you become better acquainted with your camera you will know its limits with out having to take a picture to find out.

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