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Creating at Cline Library

Your complete how-to guide for enjoying the Cline Library's MakerLab and multimedia Studios.

Shooting Photos

Canon EOS Rebel digital cameraPhotography is the art, application and practice of creating durable images by recording light, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film. Photographers are artists with the camera, using a blend of technical skills and an artistic eye to take pictures of people, places, landscapes, food, you name it. Photographers can work as fine artists, wedding and event photographers, or sell their photos to commercial clients.

Photography Tips

Photography is a fun way to explore your artistic side, but for beginners the execution is often less than ideal. Follow these tips to shoot the best photos possible:

1) Use a Simple Background

When planning a shot you want to make sure that the viewer focuses on your subject and not the background behind them. A simple background that is uncluttered and fairly uniform is ideal because it draws the viewer's eye to the focal point of the image. Make an effort to use simple backgrounds when possible (a wall, a simple pattern, a neutral color backdrop, etc.) or to carefully reduce the clutter behind your subject. Finally, make sure to place your subject a few feet away from whatever background you choose in order to add depth to the shot and avoid casting a harsh shadow.

2) Focus on a Single Subject

Remember, simpler is almost always better. Many of the most eye-catching photos ever taken focus on a single (usually interesting) subject. To get the best results possible avoid cluttering the shot with too many different elements or conflicting focal points. You'll also want to make sure to spend extra time setting up and framing your shot, and perhaps even consider leaving two-thirds of the shot for negative space - this will help your single subject stand out even more.

3) Remember the Rule of Thirds

The "Rule of Third" is one of the most important composition rules for taking eye-catching photos. To use the Rule of Thirds, imagine that your shot is divided into nine equal sections thanks to two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. Next, place the focus of your image either along these lines or where they intersect. Aligning your subject or important elements with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the photograph and often looks more aesthetically pleasing than simply centering the subject.

4) Play Around with Depth

When photographing landscapes, it helps to create a sense of depth to create the illusion that the viewer is actually there. To accomplish this, use a wide-angle lens to achieve a panoramic view and a small aperture of f/16 or smaller to keep the foreground and background sharp. Placing an object or person in the foreground helps give a sense of scale and emphasizes how far away the distance is.

5) Avoid Zooming In

When you take a photo from a distance, you might be tempted to use your camera's zoom to get a closer shot of your subject. But it's actually better not to zoom in, especially when using a smartphone or camera with digital zoom, since doing so can often make your photo appear grainy, blurry, or even pixelated. Instead of zooming try to get closer to your subject (if possible, and not dangerous) or take the photo from a regular distance and crop it later. This will allow you to preserve the integrity of the image. 

5) Avoid Moving the Camera

One of the most dreaded photography issues, blur, is usually caused by an unsteady camera. In order to avoid moving your camera when taking a photo you first need to learn how to hold your camera correctly; use both hands, one around the body and one around the lens and hold the camera close to your body for support. Also, for handheld shooting, make sure that you are using a shutter speed that is appropriate for your lens’ focal length. If you’re shutter speed is too slow, any unintentional movement of the camera will result in your entire photograph coming out blurry. The rule of thumb is not to shoot at a shutter speed that is slower than your focal length to minimize this problem: 1 / Focal Length (in mm) = Minimum Shutter Speed (in seconds) So, as an example, if you’re using a 100mm lens, then your shutter speed should be no lower than 1/100th of a second. Use a tripod or monopod whenever possible. To learn more about shutter speed check out the Udemy training video posted above.

5) Think About Exposure

To get your photos looking their best, you need to master the three basics: Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. You also need to understand the relationships between these three controls. When you adjust one of them, you would usually have to consider at least one of the others, to get the desired results. Using Auto Mode takes care of these controls, but you pay the price of not getting your photos to look the way you wanted them, and often disappointing. To learn more about aperture, shutter speed, and ISO check out the Udemy training video posted above.

7) Shoot to Edit

Composing and shooting your photo is just the first of many steps step to making it visually compelling. Editing your photos is the next step -- and a very critical one, at that. Check out the "Editing Photos" page for resources and editing software.