Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lend Me Your Eyes...and don't buy that new camera, yet.

As I've been posting lots of pictures as I attempt to become a better photographer, a lot of you have commented that I have inspired you to take more pictures, edit more, or buy a new camera. Before you go fork over some of that hard earned cash bear with me (the art teacher) for just a few minutes.

I admit I would LOVE to get a new camera...I'm drooling over some Nikons right now but you don't need a fancy camera to take good pictures. Picasso often drew with crayons after all. It's not the tools you have; it's what you do with them. I'm not a great photographer by any means but I do know a fancy new camera won't make your photos better without knowledge of some basic artistic principals.

1. Background and Focal Point
A lot of times we'll click a scene without giving much thought to the focal point; the focus of the photo or to what is behind the focal point.
In this case the people in the cemetary are too scattered, looking different directions and not unified enough to be a strong focal point. The backround church windows and headstones are distracting. There are too many small shapes in this photo which keeps our eye too busy to focus on any one object.
This shot limits the focal point to one figure and one headstone. Even though there are other people and stones in the background, the size of Yahoo and the stone in the foreground keeps our attention without being distracted by the background.

2. Point of View
I know a lot of you are parents and of course we, as parents, take lots of pictures of our kids. How many times do you take a picture of your kids while you are standing?
I took this of the kids playing while I was standing up. It's okay but nothing to write home about.

For this one I climbed up on the seesaw to shoot down on Yip. Nice!

Here I was laying in the grass pointing up slightly at Yahoo. This is one of my faves! Try a new vantage point and you may be surprised at what you get.

3. Balance
There are basically two types of balance in any kind of artwork; symmetrical and assymmetrical. If you drew a line down the center of your picture and both sides of your photo are about the same then you have symmetrical balance.

If I drew a line down the center it would run roughly down the center of Yap's face. Each side would be almost a mirror image of the other.

Personally, I'm a fan of asymmetrical balance. I love to put my subject off to one side with negative space on the other. I find it makes a more interesting photo.
And another example of asymmetrical balance, simple but interesting background, and strong focal point.

4. Take More Pictures!!!
If you want to get better, no matter what kind of camera you have, simply take more pictures. It is amazing to me looking back over the photos I've taken in just the past six months how much better I've gotten at planning my photos before I shoot. Experiment! Break the Rules! Even though I've mentioned some guidelines above they aren't written in stone. Try new things! Maybe you like symmetrical balance..go for it! Don't like laying on the ground? Find your own point of view. One of my favorite photos was one I just pointed the camera at myself and clicked and had no clue how it would turn out.

One of the best things about digital photography is that it is much cheaper to make mistakes while you are learning than the old film cameras. You don't have to develop film now days to find your mistakes, just look at the screen. So keep shooting!! You can always delete it.

Good luck! Keep shooting and experimenting. Remember, it isn't the fancy camera you need...yet. Get everything out of that old point and shoot first. (And there is nothing wrong with editing photos!)


  1. Wonderful tips! It is always tempting to buy a new camera. Technology changes very quickly though! I always say learn everything you can with one camera and when you start to feel limited or cannot produce a piece that you want, start to look for the upgrade. However, the bottom line will always be about the technique, not about the equipment. As the old saying goes "Owning a Nikon doesn't make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner." I love your photos, keep up the good work!

  2. These are really helpful tips. I am just learning (teaching myself) how to take photos and the best advice you can give is - practice practice practice. I learn a lot by jut fooling around with the camera. xo m.


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