HomeHome : Monthly Tips : Jun 2011

Take Better Pictures

June 2011 — Tip of the Month

Memorial Day has just passed, which means summer has unofficially begun. That means the unofficial summer picture-taking season has started as well. This summer, take some great photos with the following tips.

  1. Focus first - I'm always amazed by how many people don't take the time focus their shots before pressing the shutter button all the way down. Nearly all digital cameras allow you to focus on a specific object or person before capturing a photo. Simply center the object in the viewfinder and press the shutter button halfway down. This will lock the focus on that object, allowing you to frame the picture however you want, while keeping the focus where it should be.
  2. Focus correctly - Most cameras do a decent job of automatically focusing on the appropriate subject. However, if you casually focus on a general area, your focus might be off enough to ruin an otherwise great photo. Unfortunately, you might not even know it until you import your photos. That's when you find out you focused on the tree between your two friends rather than your friends' faces. When focusing on a person, follow this rule of thumb: always center the focus on the person's eyes. This will ensure the person appears in focus. If your current shot has a shallow depth of field (DOF), even focusing on the person's nose may make the face look blurry. Since we naturally make eye contact with others when we look at them, when a person's eyes are in focus, his of her whole face will appear in focus.
  3. Frame your shot - Framing a photo (before you take it) is crucial in capturing a great picture. This step involves fitting the appropriate contents into the photo frame. It may involve zooming in or out, slightly moving the camera in a certain direction, or changing the angle of the shot. When framing a photo, make sure the entire content of the photo is interesting. In other words, zoom in if there is too much background. If there is not enough background to give the shot some context, zoom out, or move the camera to the side. You might even want to try experimenting with off-centering your subject for a more interesting photo. Just remember to lock your focus first!
  4. Get the whole group - When taking a photo of a group of people, make sure you include as much of their bodies as possible. I have seen way too many group photos where the people's heads are right in the center of the image and the top half of the photo is blue sky. This is a classic example of a horribly framed photo. Taking a good group photo involves putting the three previous steps together: 1) Make sure to focus your shot, 2) center your focus on the eyes of the person in the middle, and 3) tilt the camera down slightly so that you you fill the frame with more bodies and less sky. Try to capture the whole group from head to toe and aim for less than one foot of headroom above the tallest person's head. If you follow these steps, you'll be a group photo-taking pro.

- Per Christensson