Saturday, March 7, 2009


I take a lot of photos, not only for my blog, but also for work. Now I'm no expert, but I've noticed a few things about how they turn out and what makes better pictures. We all want to take better photos, right? So this evening after work I got this tea cup and took a few photos to demonstrate. None of these photos have been altered; they are all straight-out-of-the-camera, shot in Automatic mode.

The human eye is an amazing thing, and I'm glad I have two reasonably good ones, but having two is what messes up a lot of our photos. Because when we look at something with our two eyes, we focus on the item and that's all we see. But the camera only has ONE eye and unless you manipulate the depth of field, it picks up all kinds of junk in the background that you didn't even see. So rule number one is put the item against a clean background. And here's a little trick; before you take the photo, close one eye and you will see what the camera sees. Then you can move the junk or shift your position to make a better photo.

I like to think I'm careful and reasonably steady when I take a photo, but the truth is I'm not. And that shaking makes lots of blurry photos, so always steady the camera somehow. It also helps to use the timer because just depressing the shutter moves the camera. The first photo below was taken freehand. The next photo was taken using my elbows on the table as a tripod. You can also used chairs, walls, or poles; any item to steady the camera will help. The third photo was taken using the timer and a real tripod. All the pros, and lots of the blogs you love the best, take their photos with tripods, so if you want to take photos of that caliber, use a tripod.
So we've cleared the background of clutter, attached the camera to the tripod, set the timer, and now we pop up the flash, right? Not here Amongst The Oaks! I think it makes harsh shadows and washes out the colors, so I hardly ever use it. The photo on the left below was taken using ambient light; I didn't even turn the on the lights in the kitchen. I just had low afternoon light coming in that western facing window and look how nice it turned out. Try to take your photos during the day near a window, but if that's not possible, try using a full spectrum lamp or craft light for softer, more realistic lighting. Or you could take the item outdoors like I did for the fourth shot.

Now let's talk about framing the shot. Your readers want to see your treasures up close and personal, so get in really close. You don't even have to get the whole item in the photo. See how this photo cuts off the top and right side? Who cares, because see how it highlights the flowers and gold rims? That's what we want to see. And you don't necessarily have to use macro, this photo wasn't taken using macro, and it's pretty nice.

Here is another trick that takes some fiddling, but is well worth it. Have you ever noticed that when you get real close to something it gets distorted? To eliminate that distortion and compress the depth of field so you get a lovely blurry background, put your camera far away and zoom way in. You have to use the tripod and the timer too, otherwise it will be blurry, but you're using that all the time now, aren't you?
So just remember; clean the background, steady the camera, back away from the subject, zoom way in, and crop tightly for great photos. And now I'm going to go take some of my own advice here Amongst The Oaks. And we'll have nothing but fab photos from now on, ok?


Lorri said...

thanks so much for the tips. Now if I can just figure out how to turn the flash off!

Neabear said...

This is great! Thank you for the information.

Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to show us all this! Some things I'd figured out...some I hadn't. Your explanations and advice were great! I realllly need to get out my tripod!
:-) Susan