Six Tips to Improve Holiday Photography – Part One

Posted by Jerry Avenaim on November 28, 2009 – 3:35 pm

With the holiday season upon us everyone is trying to give the perfect gift, and what better then the latest digital camera. For many, each year is ANOTHER digital camera.  This one has a larger screen, more megapixels, upgrading to a Digital SLR or a point and shoot that can fit in your pocket, the options are limitless, but the problems seem to be the same. My mother-in-law had this issue when receiving her first digital point and shoot, which is simply how do you maximise the potential of your digital camera.  A few simple steps and words of wisdom and like my mother-in-law, you will be well on your way to taking great pictures!

Here are three tips that every amateur can use to improve their photography and three more are coming next week!

Pumpkin carving, the smile and the pumpkin juxtaposed from one another tell the story.

Pumpkin carving, the smile and the pumpkin juxtaposed from one another tell the story.

1. Get close, then get closer, then get closer still! Fill the frame with the subject and eliminate the stuff you don’t want in your picture. If you’re photographing a person, show me the person, turn your camera vertical I don’t care about the things on either side of them. And as I said, be close!  I want to see their faces, the smile, the color of their eyes.  Most amateurs try to make images from too far away. Don’t just rely on the camera’s zoom to make the object appear closer, just use your feet. You can’t go wrong when you fill the frame!

2. “I’ve heard and read, if you’re photographing outdoors, not to photograph more than two hours after sunrise or two hours before sunset.” Everyone says this but they don’t realize that this only means you will miss the “golden hour” referring to the golden glow from the rising or setting sun. I

Using a fill flash outdoors in overcast or sunlight will always improve the photograph!

Using a fill flash outdoors in overcast or sunlight will always improve the photograph!

love the golden hour, I don’t know a photographer who doesn’t like the light, but there are no photographers I know who will NOT take the picture simply cause he is missing that light.  No matter what the position of the sun or lack of, make certain your subjects have the sun illuminating the people from behind or to the side of them, and then make sure to take your camera off automatic. Let’s set it on P for this (that is program mode) and hit the button that has a flash on it (usually a lighting bolt). Make sure the flash is set to on and not the automatic feature so that YOU are in control and not the camera. Even if you want to capture that beautiful sunset behind the subject you are photographing, they will be perfectly lit by the “fill flash” and the ratio between the two will be just perfect!

Someone here ignored all the rules. Not close enough (we know there is a sky up there), no fill flash, and is that a dolphin coming out of your heads?

Someone here ignored all the rules. Not close enough (we know there is a sky up there), no fill flash, and is that a dolphin coming out of your heads?

3. If anything drives me crazy (besides not following rule 1) it is backgrounds! So let’s say, you apply the above mentioned rules to take better pictures, but the one thing you leave out is what’s behind the subject? Who wants to see a photograph of your friend or loved one with next to (or behind them) a big container that reads trash? Look around you! Here is another example, you get the perfect composition, the fill flash is turned on, the moment is right and you press the button only to reveal the flag pole, tree branch, stop sign (take your pick here) is growing out of your subject head! Not a pretty picture… Either you move, or move your subject over an inch or two in either direction and problem solved!  Most of your subjects have the same ability as you the photographer, move your feet to where you want to be, then like my mother-in-law you can take the picture.

This post assumes you’re just looking for good, basic exposures that reliably convey the scene. You can break every one of these rules and get creative if you know what you’re doing. But if not, start here. You will get better photographs, guaranteed. For better or for worse, family members will be handing you the camera for the holidays cause, “you are the one who takes great pictures.” Happy holidays!

Jerry Avenaim

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4 Responds so far- Add one»

  1. 1. Emily Rhyne Herald Said:

    I really love that you are posting up information and sharing your knowledge with everyone! I am learning a ton of new skills from you, thank you so much. Em

    [Reply]

  2. 2. Jerry Avenaim Said:

    Thanks Em- I’m glad you’re soaking up the information. Happy holidays!

    [Reply]

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