15 October 2009

basic photography tips

welcome to the first photography tell all by yours truly. i do not pretend to be a professional picture taker. i simply snapshot as i go. since you've shown some interest, i will divulge my tried and true tips. and spill my secrets. by no means are they revolutionary or inventive. simply basic. today i won't be getting into the essence of photoshopping photos. sometimes it's nice to hear a reminder that less is more. this is photography as i know it, just the basics. am here to remind you, one does not need a fancy camera, interchangeable lenses or even photoshop software to shoot a captivating photograph.

the equipment. i've received emails inquiring about which fantastic camera i use. nikon or canon? this always makes me smile. my camera is actually a sony brand cybershot digital camera. it's about six years old and boasts of five megapixels. you heard that right. five. your cell phone likely has a better camera inside of it. the sony website has an updated version of this camera that is sleek and super chic with 12.1 megapixels. however i inherited this little beauty from my dad and therefore it is like gold to me. no one forgets their first. and it takes pretty fine photos for it's old age. i am saving up for a new camera. i long for one that goes click click click in rapid succession (new model suggestions?) but for now i love that this one goes everywhere with me and i don't even mind if benji's fingerprints get all over it. so now you know that my camera is a perfectly plain basic digital shooter. listed below are my top tips and tricks for working magic behind the lens. amateur photographers, here we go.

the basics. turn off your flash. photograph everything in good light; dawn and dusk. experiment with focus and where the main subject is within your frame. off center is always an artistic look. try at least three varied angles for every subject.


this is one of my all time favorite pictures of my sweet little sunshine boy. he turned one month old that day and i needed photos for his birth announcements. we are early risers around here, so i began photographing benji during the morning hours. the sun spills in perfectly at 8 am and i rearrange the furniture around my subject to let the light shine in. i prefer to shoot at all angles to ensure i've made the most of the light and shadows.


this is a no-brainer. snapshot your life. all day, every day. it is in the ordinary details that we understand the extraordinary.


if you read this blog then you already know i love to snapshot things through and out of my car windows. drive by shooting is among my favorite methods of capturing the moment. this photo happened to be taken last weekend while i was driving. the scenic view through my icy windshield took my breath away. the picture is two stories; one of what i am looking at and one of what i'm looking through. it adds another dimension to a simple scenic shot. i like to shoot blind (not looking through the viewfinder) - so i can be a cautious safe driver. shooting blind always leads to an interesting and unique photograph. they always seem to be a pleasant surprise once i upload them, which i love.


benji's great-grandmother, bernice is always one to serve a delicious weekend breakfast with a french tablecloth, fruit, juice, pancakes and a special pitcher of warm syrup. she has been doing this since dan was a boy and surely years before that too. she is at ease whipping up a spontaneous meal with cheerful conversation. always ready with a cold dew for danny in the fridge and jam in the freezer as a take home gift. she is the best hostess ever. practice makes perfect. snapshot the people you love doing what they love to do.


close up shots are not to be feared. they are delightfully telling. i love the close up. intricate details and fantastic facial features and even crooked tooth flaws are vulnerable to the lens. close ups help us know that we are indeed different. each special in our own way. even blueberries.


if you are a regular reader of m.writes then you also know i am a lover of the bird's eye view. looking down from above. since i am a short person, i live my life literally looking up. usually on tip toes. i can't see much of anything if i'm in a huddle, at a concert, peering over a fence, etc. therefore when i get to have my cake and eat it too, i choose the grand perspective of glancing at things from above. you get to view whatever it is in all its glory. which is why i love this vantage point. i often scoot a chair (with the help of my little assistant) into place in the morning sunlight and shoot favorite items just for the fun of it.


the greatest thing about photography is that you can bottle up a moment. one that is fleeting. your child blowing out six candles, the dew on rosebuds after a spring thundershower, the walls after little hands have discovered crayons, the sunset over your camping tent. the clouds do it for me. ever constant yet ever changing. their shifting moods and the way they hold light and shadow always leave me in wonder.


thank you for indulging me in this session of photo basics 101.
i'd love to hear your tips for successful photos.

p.s. in the fall of 2010, i splurged on a new camera, the canon G11 point and shoot. it's an amazing piece of equipment if you're looking for something that is easy to tote along and still wonderful to (take off of auto) and play around with (and make movies with)! still, all the tips above can apply. read my personal review on my new camera here.

43 comments:

gab said...

Ooooh, Min! So good. You know I need these tips. Thanks for spilling the beans.

sonya audrey said...

Thanks so much for this!! :) I am by far an amateur, and from now on will be turning my flash off!

I am also a big fan of the up close + personals. I don't know why. I just love everything big + bold.

::Sylvia:: said...

Thanks for all the great tips Marta! I was never into photography much (always loved photos just not taking them) until I started blogging. Now I really want to learn!

Thanks for some great pointers!!

holtkamp said...

thanks for the great tips! hopefully my pictures can turn out half as well as yours :)

Those Magic Slippers Will Take You Home said...

Once again! i love your Pictures! i can't wait for my weekend to hurry up and get here so i can snap, snap, snap! i might even start tonight while heading out of town! Thank You.

crissy said...

Lovely. Life moments are great to photograph, and I've found, in situations where the life moments are little ones doing things they shouldn't, that it helps me to be more patient with them.
Take a lot of pictures. You're more likely to get a great one that way. (I take millions, my only problem is that I have a hard time deleting some afterward.)
Love close-ups. I always make sure to put my macro setting on so they turn out nice and clear, and pick up every detail.
Always keep your camera with you. You never know when a great photography opportunity will hit, and it's good to always be prepared.

jessica said...

Very helpful. Thank you! I need to take more photos.

Hil said...

Great tips! You are so talented. I'm sure these tricks will help my photos (which are in desperate need of some help!).

whit said...

Mart thanks for the tips..all of your pictures are golden..I'm excited to get started. ps..love the first close up of you simply gorgeous!!!

Donna said...

Thanks for the photo tips...I just got my first fancy camera as a gift (I know, what a great gift) It is Canon Rebel Xsi...I love it...point, click, and I feel like a professional! It gives you the functions of some of those high dollar (I am talking thousands here) at a fraction of the cost...around $500 to $700!

The Panic Room said...

You posted some great tips... but you possess the most important thing that cannot be taught, and that is a natural eye for composition. It is obvious you have that gift. I would love to see what you do with a sharper faster camera.

This post is just another great example that an expensive camera does not make a person a photographer.

Bluebelle said...

Ooh good tips - I totally agree with the light one - I hardly ever use the flash and I'm trying to pursuade my husband not to either. Thanks for sharing. :)

rebecca said...

thanks for sharing.... you are too cute. and i just love the first photos of you and sunshine boy!

christine said...

I don't believe you....your pictures are too great for only 5 px!!

jen byard said...

I can't believe you're using a digital...it gives me hope! Thanks for the great tips and I hope you get to indulge in your dream camera soon!

Cassie said...

Thank you for the fab tips - makes me want to try again when I have been in despair about my photos this week. xx

Sarah said...

I love that this proves you don't need an $8000 camera to take amazing pictures. great tips! Thanks

melissa deakin said...

love your tips, miss m.
and as always, i LOVE your photos.
i would love to know if your camera icon is a dingbat? it is very cool.
hope you are well!
xoxo

Amy Reads Good Books said...

Great tips! I'm totally inspired to pick up camera more often!

Nat The Rat said...

I have an old Sony Pentax too and one thing I learned was that if you just bump the exposure up a notch you can get much better photos. Those Sonys are good cameras. I also have a Canon XSi and I have to admit, it just feels more fun.

Kami said...

I loved reading your tips, one would never know what kind of camera you are using. You do take great photos. Thanks Marta!

Mamma said...

Fantastic tips! I still can't believe you're using a camera that old. They are gorgeous shots.

Tiffany said...

Bravo! I love these tips and will study them well!

Mikaela said...

Great tips!
The best tip I heard was from a photography class that I took for a day (I had to drop the class because it didn't work with my schedule).
Anyways, the teacher said how you stand and hold the camera really is important.
You should stand with your feet far apart and your elbows/arms as close to your body as possible so you can have a lot of support to take a steady and clear picture.
I realized I had been standing with my feet close together and my elbows out which is why I often took blurry pictures.
Learning this one tip makes a huge difference!
I can't believe your camera is only 5 mega pixels!
Your pictures are so clear!
My camera broke almost a year ago and I've been using my husbands old 3.2 megapixel camera ever since.
& a lot of the pictures turn out grainy. But I guess you have to make do with what you have right?
I can't wait to get a new camera.

Katy L said...

You're so right about the flash. It's the scourge of modern home photography! I sometimes wish they had a soft flash setting for just a little bit of extra light. The normal flash is so harsh.

beckie said...

thanks for the reminders, its so easy to forget these simple principles.

my tips would be take lots and lots of pictures so you're bound to get one good one, especially with kids.
And don't be afraid to take pictures of yourself/or have people take pictres of you even if you wish you had better hair or less of a fat face. you'll never regret having the memories captured

Anne. said...

Yay tips! I loved this post, though, mainly for your choice of words. "it is in the ordinary details that we understand the extraordinary." Loveeee that. And the "drive by shooting" blurb made me giggle. :]

Lorilee said...

perfect post. your drive by shots always make me feel like i came along for the ride and i your food shots always make me hungry. i think taking good pictures is about finding creative moments.. which your little creative mind has no problem doing :)

Becky said...

I love these! Thank you so much! I feel like if I turn off the flash my pictures are fuzzy though? Is it true? I also would love to know how you get such vivid colors in your photos. Do you use a photo program to get them that way?

Thank you for all the tips!!

Becky
bgrimnes(at)gmail(dot)com

ALFIE said...

marta: everything you touch turns to gold! your pictures & tips are fabulous!

p.s. i love yesterday's handwritten post as well! such lovely things!

ToLiveInspired said...

I stumbled upon your blog and I am glad I did! You don't give yourself enough credit, you have an AMAZING eye for photos.. I too love taking photos and I have to say that it's really changed the way I live in many ways, I walk by seemingly simple things and see them with a different eye then i used to.. You have given some great tips that I will be using..

Little Gray Pixel said...

Lovely tips. I'm a chronic drive-by shooter myself.

Travelin'Oma said...

Such great tips. I always use my flash—I figured the more light the better—but I'm going to turn it off now. You have an artist's eye for light.

Petit Elefant said...

Marta, I'm really surprised that you just have a point-and-shoot. I've been coveting *professional* cameras for years now. I too have a point-and-shoot basic model from Cannon and it takes amazing photos, but these tips are really helpful! More, more, MORE!

The Kidds said...

I ran across your blog about a month ago- and have never commented- but I check it religiously!! Thank-you for your tips on picture taking- I have never been much of a photographer, but since I started blogging- I feel like I have a responsibility to try a little harder. Thanks again and I'm excited to see what you come up with for your next post!!

amberlee said...

love this. love the part about shooting people doing what they love. and love lots of the other parts too. i will get to work trying all of this at once!

the whytes said...

i've been talking w my professional photographer friend(www.jackiecooperblog.com)and she said she started out with a canon rebel. i've heard great things about them. another person said to get a used or refurbished BODY of the camera(new lenses, though)to help with the cost. he said they work just as well. hope that helps.
i just found your blog last week and it is my new fave!! your traveling photos are beautiful!

Suzanne said...

Beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing. Your little one at 1 month is my favorite.

Suzanne said...

Beautiful photos! Love the little one at 1 month old. Thanks for sharing.

katrina said...

thank you for writing this. i enjoy reading other bloggers' take on photography and i'm going to save this page in my bookmarks.

@MorganDayCecil said...

This is amazing! Absolutely fantastic. You did a great job on this. First time at your blog (@Keileenelise sent me ;) and I will be back more.

Aury said...

These are really wonderful tips!

Top Rated Cameras said...

Wow! This is such a wonderful and helpful post for new photographers like me. I bet that the photos on your post were all taken by you? I really love your shots! :)

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