Thursday, October 30, 2008

Photography: What I've learned (longest post evah!)

I feel a little strange writing this post because I don't feel like an expert in this area at all. That being said, people ask me all the time what kind of camera gear I use, how I edit my pictures, and so on. In looking at StatCounter, I've also realized that this here little blog has gathered quite a following of quiet folks who never comment. I'm assuming they came from Flickr because they find my photos entertaining. So here is the photography post I promised.

Brookie's Photo Tips:

1. Get in closer. In the beginning people always make the mistake of trying to get everything (including the kitchen sink) into a shot. The result is a lot of space around your subject and tiny heads where you can't even make out an expression. You are never going to capture a feeling that way. Try not to worry as much about cutting things out of a photo if it helps portray an emotion or feeling. Here is an example:

Too far away,

Up close and personal,

2. For pets and kiddos, get down to their level. Looking down at something is never as interesting as getting down to eye level with them.


Eye level,

3. Color. The number one thing I do when I edit photos is boost the saturation. That, and boost the contrast a bit. Almost every shot looks better with a little "oomph" to the color. You can do this in virtually every photo editing program. Try it, I think you'll like it.

4. Get away from "auto". Try using the other settings such as "portrait", "night", "macro" when applicable. It makes a big difference. If you have a DSLR, take the time to figure out aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc. It will open up a whole new world for you!

5. Never, I repeat never, use the flash. Basically, think of on camera flash as the devil. Using a flash makes your pictures flat and gives them a totally unnatural feel. Indirect sunlight is the best for photographs, but tungsten (lamp) light works, too. Try taking portraits inside next to a window but out of direct sunlight. Some of the most beautiful light there is is in "open shade" Where you find a pocket of a shady spot surrounded by bright light. This makes for beautiful bright eyes with no squinting. Avoid photographing people in bright sun, shady spots or cloudy days are best.

That's it. I'm not giving away all my secrets ;)

Since people often ask about my gear. Here is what I use:

I have been taking photography fairly seriously since my mom and dad gave me a Fuji FinePix for college graduation. That camera is a step below a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera). With the Fugi you can do quite a bit of experimenting and adjusting of settings, but it does not have interchangeable lenses. 2.5 years ago, I bought my DSLR, a Canon 20D off of ebay. The camera was an older model and out of production so I was able to get it fairly cheap (much cheaper than the new 30D I was lusting over at the time). Looking back, I would have been fine with the Digital Rebel XTI which I could have bought new for the price I paid for my used 20D. The 20D sturdier and more professional, but the pictures are the same, so who cares! I recommend the Digital Rebel to anyone who asks me what they should buy.

Primarily, I use my Canon EF 85mm 1.8 for most portraits. It is spectacularly sharp and provides beautiful background blur at high aperture. It is also quite fast in low light, which is important. The only drawback to this lens, is that it is a prime lens, meaning it does not zoom in or out. The image you see through the lens is somewhat magnified, meaning you have to get pretty far back from your subjects to get a wide shot. There are disadvantages to this, such as not being able to photograph full bodies indoors, and advantages, such as being able to take portraits of outdoor subjects while giving people some comfort space. This is my very favorite lens (please don't tell my wide-angle!).

I also use the kit lens which came with my camera (the EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6). It is a cheap plastic lens but it works okay for an all around lens. I use it quite a bit just because versatility of the ability to zoom.

My wide-angle is a Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 super wide. It's a really fun lens to use and you can make tiny spaces look HUGE.

My newest lens is a Canon EFS 55-250mm f/4-5.6. I bought this for nature photography but so far, I have not been too impressed with it. Its not as sharp as I would like. I probably need to play with it more.


I currently use Adobe Photoshop CS3. I used to use Adobe Elements which was is a good introduction to Photoshop where you have almost all of the same features. You can also do much of the same stuff with free web based programs like Picnik.

Now go out and take some photos!

P.S. If you find this helpful, please let me know.


Disco said...

Thanks for posting your tips! I look at your photos and blog quite often. I found it through a link on a friend's blog. I really enjoy your photos. You have a good eye! I recently, well this summer, finally splurged for a DSLR. We take a lot of trips to view wildlife and I have been wanting one for quite some time. Anyway, I am still learning about the camera and composing shots. It looks like you have posted some great tips and I am going to try them out!

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