How to take great photos – courtesy of Sooz

My photos, like many people’s these days, say more about the camera than the photographer.  I use a Canon Ixus.  It’s red and small. Irrelevant to you maybe. Long gone are the days of chopping off people’s heads and mug shots/line-ups at weddings (like mine!).  My first camera was a Brownie and I loved it.  Took photos at school and have some great ones taken of our English teacher Mr Robinson who we used to stalk, he being one of the few male teachers. They are not great quality: he’s walking to the classroom with his bag under his arm.  But the memory makes me smile.  I also have nuns with shamrock around their veils – St Patrick’s Day netball matches.

Then I graduated to a better Kodak and used to make sure that I was the one that collected them at this pre-digital time.  I tore up the ones I hated and put them in the nearest bin before anyone saw them.  With digital’s delete button you don’t need to do that.  You can take 100s of photos to get 10 good ones.  Anyway Susie, Photography student has some tips below:

  1. Try photographing your subject from different heights/angles (I don’t mean turn your camera on an angle – too cheesy!!) Most people take photographs from eye level, your photo can often be made better if you take it from a lower/higher level.
  2. Try and use black and white sparingly and at the right times. A lot of people think turning any old photo into b&w makes it a better image. A photograph is often ruined by taking the colour out. Use black and white for photographs with mood or where the colours are often dull and unnecessary.
  3. If you have a small compact camera try keeping it in your bag/ pocket wherever you go. Some of the best subjects are the ones you stumble across or pass in the street.
  4. When you’re photographing people, natural is always better. I know it’s obvious but it’s true. When shooting someone (with a camera) take a few photos as you talk to them and get into position. Then take one of their usual forced smile, but try taking a couple when they think you’ve finished. This won’t work at night as they’ll notice the flash!
  5. Most compact cameras/phones have the ability to see what you’re photographing without looking into the viewfinder. If yours is like this then try holding your camera away from your face and engaging with your subject whilst taking the photograph, they won’t feel as much pressure to perform then!
  6. The flash on compact cameras is never great. It bleaches your skin, highlights all your details and gives dark shadows when used at night. Try to do as much as you can before giving in and using it (sometimes it can’t be helped) – turn more lights on, ask your subject to move nearer the light etc. However sometimes it’s good to use flash in the day, natural light can give harsh shadows too, using flash can often lift them.
  7. Get close! Most of the time the closer you are the better the picture (not the case for landscapes etc). Most people worry about getting too close to their subject and invading personal space. If you see someone you want to photograph then go and ask them rather than zooming in from far away. It’ll be a much better image and they’ll probably say yes! I’ve had people say no before but they’ve always been polite.
  8. Think about composition. Don’t always have your subject in the middle of the photograph, you often get a better feel for the environment when your subject isn’t smack bang in the middle. Try having it to one side or only capturing a part of it.
  9. Be creative! Try using props to make your photos more interesting, e.g take a photo through your sunglasses to give it a tint.
  10. Look for lines.  A photograph is often more aesthetically pleasing when you can find lines through it. Make sure your lines are straight, no wonky horizons! Don’t forget the rule of thirds, some people don’t like it but it often makes a photograph visually pleasing. Rule of thirds – this is when your picture has three parts to it e.g. sea at the bottom, cliff in the middle and sky at the top. Try not to get too much sky/grass in so that it is top/bottom heavy.
  11. Finally I (Catherine) would say have empathy with the people you shoot.  My friend Geraldine takes wonderful people photos because she cares. Her photo of my Dad is at my bedside.  It’s like he’s watching over me (in a nice way!)

See more of Susie’s photos at http://photography-at-blackpool.blogspot.com/

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