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my objective: help you shoot better pictures immediately.

Shoot Better!

There are 4 things you can do immediately:

  1.)  Get Close

  2.)  Get all the extra stuff out of your viewfinder that you absolutely do not need.

  3.)  Approach the viewfinder like an artist -- don't put anything on it that you don't want on that
         canvas.  Take a moment to compose your shot..

  4.)  Hold Still when you shoot -- squeeze the trigger and hold your breath - lots of great shots are
         messed up simply by moving the camera.
Areas you need to study from now to eternity...

There are 3 main areas of photography that you need to focus on.   They are:

    I. Composition:

    II. Exposure:

    III. All the rest:

Section I

C O M P O S I T I O N :

Of the 3, the easiest one to work on is composition. Here are the tips:

1. Move in -- enclose your subject --

-- this is the easiest way to improve your photography immediately.

-- check out pictures in terms of how close the photographer is to their subject. 

        Note: This includes all subjects, including model, fashion, and advertising photography.

-- check out Cosmopolitan magazine to see how ' close ' the photographers get to their models.

--  you don't have to get the entire subject in the shot to make the picture.  In fact, once you learn
         to work with this principle, your work will improve dramatically. 

2. Approach as an artist painting on a canvas --

     -- put only what you want on the canvas
     -- eliminate what you don't want
     -- on this note, if you want to improve your photography -- study art -- study the way the great
         masters have used the
         space on a square piece of canvas and turn your view finder into your own personal canvas.
3. Over under and through

-- you can break you picture into 3 areas.  Foreground, mid ground and back ground --

-- look for interesting objects to put into each area -- usually putting your center of interest, in
         the mid ground.

-- try framing your shot with an interesting foreground -- or shoot ' through ' something that adds              color in the foreground or depth or an unusual shape.

-- be VERY aware of your background noting that by changing your position, can greatly effect
  the feeling of the picture, based on the background.

--  look for an interesting angle -- look through the viewfinder turning the camera up and down
   and sideways --

-- shoot up -- shoot down -- get a higher angle -- get a lower angle... turn the viewfinder at odd
   angles... look for that extra different perspective so that people get a different view... sometimes
   the best shots are from behind !

-- on people -- for basics -- shoot at eye level or slightly below eye level -- unless you are getting    
   creative and want to try some angles.

4. Don't Put it in the center!

   Static Composition:
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
-- put your focal point in any area but the center unless you absolutely want it in the center.
    Dynamic Composition:
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

-- example: sunsets -- most people put the sun dead center -- now instead, work to put in
  in a different part of the viewfinder and balance it out with the other elements.  Your sunsets
  will then look 100 % better.

-- use this principle for all of your subjects. Sometimes I shoot the first picture with the subject in the      center  then I work on moving it around to other parts of the frame.

Note: mentally -- cut your viewfinder into 3 sections, both horizontally and vertically -- where the lines intersect,  that is where you want to put your subject.  This is called the ' golden mean '.  It will take a little practice to balance out the elements but your pictures will improve and be a notch better than before by using this principle.

5.  Shoot!

-- if you see something that is going to fade away or disappear quickly or if the moment is going
  to pass - SHOOT the shot!  Don't worry about compostion  -- just shoot so that you capture it.

-- even though composition is important don't let it detract from your enjoyment of photography.  If
you do a little study time and look at the basic principles of composition, it will improve your photography -- but don't let it take away from the joy of shooting from the hip.  Sometimes you just
gotta forget all the rules and just take pictures!

Section II


Where's the Light?

1. Most cameras have exposure meters in them so this is usually not a problem for basic shooting.
   However -- the deeper you get into photography the more exposure will mean to you.

2. Want softer colors? over expose your shot

3. Want deeper colors?  under expose your shot.

4. Want to see all the details? with no shadows?  then find even light levels -- traditionally -- artists
   have used ' northern lighting '  since it is softer.  an example is the northern wall of a house -- at midday.  Even though it is bright outside the light on the northern wall is softer and more even as compared to the light on the southern wall.

  Artists usually put their studios in this area specifically to capture this softer light.

5. first - find the light source -- where is it coming from?  the sun? a light? or lights? window?
   reflected light?  Is it harsh? Is it soft and even? Shadows vs no shadows or highlights?  

6. basically speaking - the best place to start with the light source is behind you.

7. traditionally -- the best light for things is from the side -- as that creates a small shadow --
   and provides lighting with a bit of contrast. 

8. a better light source for things is 45 degrees from you and then 45 degrees upward. 

9. People -- basic studio light is a main light that shines directly at the subject -- back light that highlights the hair and a side light that is 45 degrees from the subject.  One ojbective is to reduce or eliminate the shadow under the nose - and even the light out across the face. 

Note: you will see this basic lighting used in the romantic scenes in movies -- especially the use of highlight lighting to create a balanced soft light on the subject's head and shoulders... remember! ( basics ) to shoot from eye level or lower with people.

      --> You can get real creative from that point - but the above are the basics for lighting people.

Note: window light provides a very soft natural setting and is good for both color and black and white when shooting people.

10. Outdoors -- the best thing to do is walk around your subject and find the best lighting or the light
   that you want.  and... you can always use morning or evening light to soften the shadows and

11.  Outdoors -- you pick the light -- as it is the world's largest studio!  Best to use your viewfinder and try to visulize what the shadows and highlights will be.  You can also use a flash outdoors when shooting people if you want more even lighting.

12. Outdoors -- sometimes the best lighting is just after sunset -- especially for landscapes.  Also -- as the sun sets,  turn from the sun and  study the lighting effects behind you as this sometimes provides the best lighting for your subject.   Again -- the light right after sunset on a clear day is great to work with.

Section III

ALL  T H E   R E S T

1. Want to be a good photographer? Study photogaphy

2. Want to be a better photographer? Study art and apply the principles to your photography

3. Want to be even better? Study art, lighting, composition and apply it to your photography.

4. Study and shoot what you like to shoot.   When you see something you like shoot and or if an existing picture, then study it -- find out what it is that makes it attractive to you -- where's the light?  Is it harsh or soft or even? How close to the subject? Is it over/under/perfectly exposed? how composed? static? dynamic? etc... -- what makes it unique?

5.  Develope your own style -- in other words -- seek to impress yourself -- and in doing so, you will develope your own shooting style.

6. Black and White is a whole different world that gets very deep into exposure and tonal values.  Read and study Ansel Adam's and Minor White's material if you want to get into BW. It is a very challenging and absorbing art form to say the least.   Many of the above principles apply but in black and white, exposure plays a very major and detailed part in the picture making process.  After a little study on the subject, you will appreciate it much more than before. 

7. Study the work of photographers that you like -- again -- analyze what they are doing and incorporate that in the beginning until you develope your own style.

  I recommend:

     -- Enrst Haas
     -- Elliot Porter
     -- Pete Turner
     -- David Muench
     -- Ansel Adams
     -- Minor White

8. With digital cameras -- you can afford to shoot a lot of pictures after the initial cost of the camera.  I would recommend you get a good one and then a second cheaper one that you can keep with you at all times.

9.  Now -- go out and Shoot !!!!


Be sure to visit the author's home site for more creative works
     Secrets of Photography
                                             a shooter's guide by mmhall        
The 'Golden Mean'
Less is More...
Don't put it
in the center !
from the sunrise
and under
exposed for
deeper color...
Shadow lighting
adds to
Lots of highlights
and a
bit of
Get Close !
Compose !
Hold Still !
Low Angle
Back lighting
with a bit
of reflected