Tip Tuesday — Great “Pics”

I hate it when people type “pic” or “pics”.  I just thought you should know.  Pictures, photos, shots, anything but “pic”?  I don’t know why that abbreviation grates on me.  It just does.  I’ve tried it a few times.  It seemed like a cool thing to type but once I saw it there on the screen, knowing it had come from my keyboard, I was sickened by the result.

Okay.  So, it turns out that someone noticed I’ve been a tip slacker this summer.  Please feel free to go over and give that someone mad props for bringing back this magical Tuesday tradition or you could just go and burn her blog down if you hate Tip Tuesday and my cutesy blogeriffic alliteration makes you want to hurl.  Either would be appropriate.  (I just noticed she didn’t leave a URL.  Oh well, no internet flames today.)

This portion is completely unrelated to the tip — Magoo frequently wakes up 30 minutes after falling asleep in a state of panic, a piteous wail escaping from the baby monitor.  Sometimes it dies down quickly but other times, like tonight, he becomes frantic in his screaming and one of us goes to check on him.  I was folding laundry while Dan read mommy blogs for me.  I said, “That cry is so sudden and so sad.  Whenever he does that, I think there’s a bug in his crib…or a rat…or one of those worms that crawls in his ear and eats his brains out.”Â  Dan’s response as he went up to check on him?  “Oh come on now.  We all know what that cry sounds like and this isn’t it.”Â  He’s a keeper.

Today’s tip topic is photography.  I rarely claim any sort of authority about the tips we discuss but today is an exception.  I am qualified to lead this discussion because I took a photography class in high school, took several people’s engagement photos in college, including one couple who paid me in the form of a Red Lobster coupon, I took at least one photography class while working on my film major, found a great wedding photographer, and I have many pet peeves where amateur photography is concerned.  I see these pet peeves crop up in my own photography so frequently that I have become an expert on them.

Here are my 4 best tips for beginning photographers.  I hope you like them and add many more.  (Please do not say “pic” or “pics” in the comments section or I may be forced to delete you.)  

1. A little less wall please — When you’re taking a picture of something, take a picture of that thing and not the 10 miles of nothing that surround it.  I refer to all the unnecessary junk as “wall”.  Many times I have asked some unsuspecting stranger to take my picture at an event or tourist attraction and spent 10 minutes explaining to them about “wall”.  Here is an example of too much wall:

pictures bad wall

The remedy:

pictures bad wall fixed

Now sometimes you can break the wall rule on purpose:

pictures good wall

But it also makes a very pleasing close-up:

pictures good wall closeup

2. The magical rule of thirds (which can be broken, but it should be on purpose) –
It’s often beautiful to divide the picture up into imaginary thirds and line up the major elements of the photo along the thirds (eyes in portraits, distinct lines, the major action).  This rule is really important with horizon lines.  I have rarely seen a decent photo where the horizon was right in the center, even if the horizon is only in the background.

rule of thirdsrule of thirds 

3.  Perspective and framing — When you’re taking a photo, just like when you’re writing, you want to think about the perspective you’re taking it from.  There’s no real right or wrong answer here.  Do you want to be an observer?

pictures perspective2

Part of the action?

pictures perspective

An ant about to be crushed by the giant monster baby ?

pictures perspective3

Frame your shots in an interesting way.  This hallway going on and on out of focus is a gorgeous background, much better than if I’d shot it against a plain wall.


4.  De-light-ful — If available in abundance, natural lighting is best, giving the most true-to-life colors.  The very best light comes from a bright overcast day, where the clouds act like those giant umbrellas in a portrait studio, diffusing the light perfectly.  The shot above was taken with only natural cloudy light through an open window.

Here is an example with a flash:

pictures flashfull


pictures flashless

Notice the improved color, depth of field and facial expression when the flash is absent. Some shots do look better with a flash fill, especially if they are back-lit. 

Without the flash-fill:

pictures flash fill

With the flash-fill:

pictures flash fill2

Decide which you like best but don’t forget to remember to choose: pictures think light 2


*Bonus tip — Lay off the antlers -  Look closely at the background of your picture.  How many times have you taken a great picture, only to notice later that the giant tree in the background makes your brother look like he’s got antlers sticking out of his head?  Just last weekend we took this photo of Magoo that looks like he has a great manicure and a sleek cell phone.

pictures antlers

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