Taking better pictures...

I'm no photo expert. I have met some and read books or other teachings by some. My advice is usually simple, basic things that might be good for someone starting out. So if you are a serious photographer already doing well, you probably don't need to keep reading unless you just want to add your two cents.

I'm sure most photographers encounter this though. People find out you are a photographer and if they don't want you to take pictures, they want advice on how to take them. And my advice goes out to those that are already working at it a bit. A friend was talking to me the other day and it reminded me of one time an aspiring photographer asked me for my opinion on his work. Now I know that photography is art and the quality of art is based on opinion, so I usually don't get too picky with certain things. And there are always rules in photography, like the rule of thirds, that get broken-- I just think you should know you are breaking them and break them on purpose for an intended "look". I thought this photographers work was fine from an artistic standpoint, we all have to find our own voice as far as that goes, but he seemed to have a great eye. My advice was more technical and his objection is one I have heard quite a few times from amateur/aspiring photographers. Although this is not the only advice I have to offer, it is what I am going to talk about now... The advice the photographer ignored was this:


I'm not talking about all the fancy-smansy stuff you might see that turns a photograph into more of a piece of art than a picture. I'm talking about normal processing. And if you are a digital photographer, you need to learn to use at least photoshop elements or some similar program to do that processing. Downloading them to your computer is not processing them. Unless you are perfect, your picture will need some basic contrast and exposure correction, may need some color correction. The horizon line may need to be straightened. And all digital pictures need to be sharpened after downloaded (thought sharpening depends on the size you are going to display it at).

This person told me they like to shoot more film-like, more natural. Well, I used to work in a photo lab processing film pictures and we hardly ever were lucky enough to process everything someone took on a neutral setting. There is a whole keypad there where we shot the light across the film to expose the paper with your negative, that keypad we used to do all those corrections I talked about above. Color correction sometimes, but nearly every picture needed some sort of exposure adjustment. If we had given someone their photos with the "natural" look of the picture they took, we would have had many unhappy customers, blaming us for their bad pictures. Well, now there is no one processing your pictures but you, so if you care about how they turn out, it's up to you to make the adjustments.

The picture above was taken by a friend and I wanted to spend a couple minutes tinkering with it with those same basic adjustments I spoke of above to see if I could bring out the color, the shadows/exposure and sharpness a bit better. It was taken with a snapshot camera on automatic setting (which can sometimes not work how you want when dealing with sunlight and shadows). There could probably be more done to work on the picture, but I think it shows the difference a little photoshop and a few minutes can make with a picture.