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the mommyhood memos: how to take national geographic quality photos (part 3 of 4)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

how to take national geographic quality photos (part 3 of 4)

Ok, not really. Actually, this is a far cry from National Geographic... but I got your attention, right? 


This four-part series is for regular moms, just trying to get some decent photos for the family album.


I love taking photos of all sorts of things... but as of eight months ago, my little guy has been dominating my memory cards. I'm sure you can relate. And although I'm no expert, I have learned a few things about photography that I think can help the budding photographer in any mom... 


The way I see it, in this digital age there's no reason we can't be taking hundreds of photos of our kids (or whatever else you like to capture) in hopes for that perfect shot. (And the rest? Delete!) 


Today we're going to look at four tips related to camera settings and techniques that will help you improve your photos. If you haven't already, be sure to check out the previous posts in this mimi-series on lighting and composition. (Tomorrow we will finish up with some simple editing tips.)




Today's focus: Settings

1. Try putting your camera in sequence mode. Even with fast digital cameras, it’s so easy to miss that hilarious expression or gummy grin. By using sequence mode, you can click several photos at once and later choose the one with the best expression. This is especially helpful with babies and young kids because they don't often sit still for longer than a few seconds.

{using sequence mode will help you capture
those priceless fast-changing expressions.}

2. Experiment with different settings. Don’t leave your camera in “auto” all the time. Even simple point-and-shoot cameras have lots of settings to play with these days. Spend a little time just getting familiar with your camera and seeing what the various settings do. Try taking a similar photo in a few different settings so that you can compare and learn. This is something I'm still working on... digital cameras have soooo many options!

{taken with a simple point and shoot camera.}

3. Use a shallow point of focus. Sometimes it's nice to have what's called a deep range of focus - like in a landscape shot where you want the flowers, grass, trees, and far off mountains to all be in focus. But at other times, try using a "shallow" range of focus to draw the eye to a specific point on the shot, letting either the foreground, background, or both fade into a slight blur. Take some time with your camera and just experiment with your focus settings. (Or if it's a DSLR, put it on a low f-stop and experiment with it in manual focus.) Experimentation is the absolute best way to learn what works, what doesn't... and what you like and don't like.

{try using a shallow depth of focus. for example, focus on 
something close to you and let the background blur out of focus.}

{using a shallow depth of focus.}

4. Use motion to create interest. Try moving your camera along with your moving subject (as seen below in the first photo). This will keep your subject in focus while letting the background slightly blur. If you have a D-SLR, try this a few times while you adjust your shutter speed to get different results. Or, alternately, hold your camera still while your subject moves (as seen below in the second photo). Both of these simple techniques work great for action shots to display movement and/or to help invoke emotion, and can be done (to an extent) on a simple point-and-shoot. (For those that have a D-SLR, "shutter speed" is how long the lense is open allowing light to come through and the photo to be recorded. A fast shutter speed takes a "quick" photo and a low shutter speed takes a "slow" photo... once you experiment with shutter speed a little bit, you'll see what I'm talking about. The lower the shutter speed you use, the more movement you will capture.)

{using motion in this shot actually helps create a sense of 
action as well as the feeling of delight as he swings and laughs.}

{although most of the photo is in focus, his right hand and the turning book
pages are blurred - showing his action and giving a sense of motion.}


bonus tips | And if you want to get better?

Two things I recommend:

{ONE} Look at photos – in a magazine, on-line, or wherever – and identify ones that you like. Do this without “thinking” about it too much… just trust your gut. (Magazines work best because you can rip the photos out that you like!) Once you’ve identified some that you like, go back through them and ask yourself a few questions: What are you drawn to first in the photo? Why do you think the photographer used a certain prop or background? What do you notice about the light? What makes the photo pretty or interesting or unusual? How might you be able to “imitate” what you see?

{TWO} Shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot. Honestly, the best way to learn to take better photos is just to keep shooting. Especially now that we have digital photos and can take as many as we want at no expense, there’s no reason to be a conservative clicker! The more photos you take intentionally, the more you will learn what works and what doesn’t, as well as the nuances of your own camera. {You just have to remember to delete frequently or you’ll be left with a mess!}

I hope these simple photography tips help. Maybe you, too, can have a kid who is “famous on facebook” like mine. {grin}


Dear friends, did you learn anything new today about settings that you'd like to try? Or do you have any other tips to add? If you've taken a photo you're especially proud of, tell us about it in the comments and leave a link so we can be sure to check it out. What makes a photo stand out to you?


filling up memory cards,

P.S. Sorry about the wonky formating in parts of this post. Sometimes I get really irritated with blogger and trying to figure out how to correct the mystery formatting that appears... so I just give up. (Otherwise I might end up throwing my computer out the window... not a good idea.)


Other posts in this mini-series:
  • Part 1: Lighting - How to use light to take the best photos possible. 
  • Part 2: Composition - How background, framing, and placement of your subject effects your photos.
  • Part 3: Settings - How adjusting your camera settings can create different effects and feelings in your photos.
  • Part 4: Editing - How using simple editing tools can help your photos go from good to great. (A guest post by Mandy from A Sorta Fairytale.)




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    adriel booker | the mommyhood memos | 2010 
    do not reproduce without written permission

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    8 Comments:

    At October 9, 2010 at 1:08 AM , Blogger Chelsea Pearl said...

    I really love these simple tips. I just got my DSLR and I'm having SO, SO, SO, much fun with it! I would like to think there is a little photog in us all ;)
    Great posts mama! Looking forward to more...if there are more...lol I have pregnant brain right now... :P

     
    At October 9, 2010 at 1:12 AM , Blogger Kerry McCullough said...

    These are such great tips! I have a plain old digital camera, but I am always confused/ afraid to use the settings since I don't know what they will do or how to use them correctly. I'm so excited to start experimenting!

     
    At October 9, 2010 at 2:50 AM , Blogger cooperl788 said...

    I'm constantly playing with my new camera! I think that's the biggest tip - just to play around with your settings. Take a million shots and see what you like best!

     
    At October 9, 2010 at 5:31 AM , Blogger flyrish said...

    What a great series! I especially love these suggestions because I have no idea what my digital camera can do, but at least I know what to look for now. Totally want to play with my camera like crazy this weekend. Looking forward to the final post of tips!

     
    At October 9, 2010 at 12:35 PM , Blogger Wining Mommies said...

    I love the one of his feet. You take great photos, and your little guy is adorable.
    - Erin from Lamby

     
    At October 9, 2010 at 10:12 PM , Blogger Sorta Southern Single Mom said...

    Great tips... I take all of these photos, upload them so my memory on the camera is clear and then do nothing with them...OY!

     
    At October 11, 2010 at 9:46 AM , Anonymous Viviene said...

    I love the photos! esp the giggling at the swing! thanks for the tips! I will be stopping more often! nice site! =)

     
    At October 11, 2010 at 3:09 PM , Blogger bigguysmama said...

    Wow, do I need to read thru this whole series. I just got the opportunity to use some different settings on my camera. Now to go thru them and wish I knew what setting each one was. =)

    ~Mimi from the Lamby Tribe

     

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