June 28, 2010

Photography Tips - part 1

I've had a lot of photography-related questions roll in lately, so I wanted to do a few posts about taking pictures.  If you're already a pro, then you have the next couple of days off.  If you're interested in taking better photos, then I think you'll like the next few days.  Here we go!

The first part of today's lesson comes directly from a reader's question:

...the reason I am contacting you is for tips on how you took the toy photos for labeling your sons toy bins. I think that using some of them as art work is an awesome idea, but I don't know how you got such great photos of the legos and other toys. Can you please give me some advice for doing this? Did you set them up in a box or something so that there aren't any distracting background images? Any tips you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

First of all, let's talk a little about about lighting.  I only use natural light.  No flash.  I look for a spot in my house that is bright, preferrably with indirect light.  Let me show you what I mean.  Here's a room that is bright right now.  See how the shadows are softer?  They are fuzzier?  That's a great time and spot for photos.

You want to avoid places or times where the shadow appear to be harsh and the sunlight is direct like this.

If you don't have a lot of windows in your house, you can open the garage and sit at the edge, where you're still in the shadow, but it's still bright as well.  Okay, so now you've found a bright spot to photograph.  We want to block out distractions.  Grab a piece of tagboard like this.

You 'll notice that if you put your tagboard on the ground like this and your object on top, you have kind of a limited view.  You can only photograph the top of the object like this.

Or you might end up not getting only tagboard as your background if you shoot the side of the object.

That's why you'll want to lay your tagboard against a wall as shown.  The book is holding it there.

Now you can get down and get a great shot of your object.  Problem solved.

We're not done yet.  Don't go anywhere.  Now let's apply all of this to taking pictures of people outside.  (You can only handle so many pictures of nectarines, you know.)  Enter Rex, sporting his wife beater around the house. 

You walk outside to take a picture of him and this is what you see.  Where should you shoot?

Well, let's try it out.  Here are some totally unedited photos taken in each spot.

Option #1: While you want your photo to be bright, you don't want harsh shadows.  Obviously this is unavoidable at times...you're at Disneyland and she wants her picture taken on the princess ride, blah, blah, blah.  But, if you are trying to get a great picture for a purpose then avoid the noonday sun like the plague.  Let's see our other option.

Here is our picture in the shade.  No harsh shadows on his face and the camera will compensate for the fact that it's a little bit darker.  It will expose the photo well.  (Plus, he isn't squinty-eyed from staring at the sun.  He's just squinty-eyed because he's sporting his cheesy grin.)

Okay, last plug for natural light here.  I took these two photos at the same place and time.  The only difference is that I used the flash on one and not on the other.  See how the flash creates all those dramatic shadows?  (Now I realize that you have a bit of an advantage here if your camera is nicer.  You can take a picture in a dimmer area and still get a pretty good, clear shot.)  This is the look he gives me when I ask him to look at the camera.  Mouth is always dropped wide open.  Very cute and natural, right?

I love talking and learning about photography.  I got my first DSLR when Rex turned 1 and I tried to learn everything I could about it.  I still have lots to learn, but if you have any photography related questions, let me know and we'll lay it all down this week.  Okay?  Tomorrow we're going on a Picnik.  I'm going to show you some tips on using this free software to improve your photos.  I love the ease of this program, plus you don't have to feel left out because you don't have Photoshop.  See you tomorrow.  Thanks for stopping by.


Cranberry Morning said...

This is SO fun! I love learning about how to take better photos. Thanks for doing this this week. I'll be back! :-)


This is an absolute wonderful post! Thank you so much! Will Look forward to the Next days...
But may i ASK how Long it Tool you to Write this One? With all the Pictures and Frames and...
Lots of Love

The Paisley Abbey said...

Great information! I am excited to read tomorrow's post as well! My pictures are rarely stellar, but you have helped me know what I am doing wrong.

Disney said...

I'm astonished. I've been using the tagboard for like a year (which is why I have to Photoshop the stains on it) and I've never thought to bend it up onto the wall! DUH!!

Cheri to the rescue! And have I mentioned how much I just LOVE you?! You make me laugh in every post, I love that. :o)

Taylor Swim said...

That was really great! I love to learn in the brain of Cheri. Great tut! I'd like to sign up for some more classes. See you tomorrow!

Cindy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cindy said...

Thank you so much for your expert wisdom on photography. You have a definate knack for explaining things simply :) I look forward to more!

Megan Smith said...

the editing might help me.. i have a nice camera (still figuring it out) but when i use all the natual light i can get and no flash, i get yellow pictures.. do you know how to MAYBE prevent this?

thanks for these tips.. mucho appreciated dear!!

Unknown said...

Oh my gosh - I love you! I just posted yesterday how I got a new camera (Canon T1i). I LOVE photography, but don't really have a clue what I'm doing yet. I want to learn everything I can!!

This series is perfect for me - thank you, thank you! I'll be back tomorrow :-).

You are a lifesaver!

Carrie said...

Crappy camera + crappy photographer = crappy photos! I'm too cheap to buy a new camera, so I'm hoping you'll at least make me a better photographer! I'll be back, for sure! ;)

Michelle @ Dibble Dabble Life said...

Thanks for the tips! I just got a DSLR earlier this month and have so much to learn! I was trying to take a picture of something my daughter made and I could have used the tip of the paper curved onto the wall! I will remember this from here on out!! Thanks..Michelle from Dibble Dabble Life

Melissa said...

Thanks for that! I am trying to get better at taking pictures. It is so hard when you work so hard on something and can't take a nice picture of it.

renaye said...

sometimes it took me an hour just to get a photo right with the right lighting.


leelea said...

I love this!!! Keep the tips coming!!!

Andrea said...

Thanks for all the great tips, and explaining them in such a way that people with no photo experience as well as those with some knowledge will both understand and not feel dumb, either :)

*Nikki* said...

thank you for this...great stuff!
now i just need a new camera..
any suggestions?

D & H said...

I really want to learn to take better pictures with my digital slr camera we got for Christmas, so this is great! What books/websites/resources would you recommend for learning how to take better pictures?

Alea said...

I'm so glad you did this photography week... You introduced me to Picnik (which I love so much more than photoshop!) I am looking for a new camera and was hoping you had mentioned which DSLR you had on this post. Which cameras and lenses do you have experience with and what are your opinions on them? It's such a big investment, I love to hear others' opinions!


Trina said...

Found you via Homemade by Jill. Loved your vids and these posts are super helpful! Just got a Rebel T2i and need all the help I can get learning how to use it!

Unknown said...

I loved using picnik....what do you use now to edit photos since picnik closed :(

iammommahearmeroar said...

Try pic monkey or ipiccy. You'll love them!


Jillybean the Little Clown said...

Just want to say thank you for this post! What a help!


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