electric boogaloo

Cheap cameras don’t take crappy photos, people do

Some of the questions I am most frequently asked – not counting “Did you see what your baby giraffe just did?” and “Did you? DID YOU SEE?” – are things like “Do you have some sort of special camera setting that allowed you to get that great shot?” and “Is it the camera? Is it magical? Do I need a magical camera to take pictures good?” and “Did you bribe your son to get him to pose so perfectly for that one?”

The answer is no. I didn’t see what the baby giraffe/science teacher did. The pose and the shot are almost pure dumb luck, I don’t know much about the technical side of photography. The final result for me is a mixture of photoshop and a highly discerning, almost godlike ability to throw all the crappy shots away.

COMPOSING THE PICTURE — Six easy steps to taking better shots right away
Part one of however many of these I do before I get bored and quit

1. Turn off your flash. But everything will be too dark! I know, that’s what the lord gave us Photoshop for. Most camera flashes make things look fake and weird.

2. Move closer. For pictures of kids and pets, crouch down to their level so that the camera is at their eye level. No matter what you’re shooting, getting as close as possible without having anyone spit up on your camera will improve your picture.

3. Take 100 pictures that suck. It’s a digital camera, this isn’t the mid-1930s, you aren’t my great grandmother – I promise you’re not being wasteful.

Here are a few of the sucky pictures I took the other day. As soon as I pulled out the camera, adorable window-side poses instantly turned into insane hopping and nose-picking and curtain-flapping. Graham took his pants off. Nicolaus hid, the baby found my lens cap and put it back on the camera. All of this is normal for a photo session, and should in no way diminish your chances for a getting a decent photo in the end. Just put your camera on the setting with the little running man, and click click click click like a stubborn crazy person.

4. Choose the one that doesn’t suck completely. This is subjective, but I generally look for one that isn’t all blurry or so bright that details were lost. I also like a picture that tells some sort of story or reveals something about who or what we’re looking at. Too dark is okay, fixable clutter is okay.

5. Crop out the crap. Some purists don’t ever crop a photo after the fact. That’s fine as a creative exercise to force yourself to stretch artistically, but for the purpose of this tutorial I am going to assume that you’re not trying to impress anyone with your amazing pureness. You just want to have your friends go “Oooh – did YOU take that?”
So open photoshop and crop your photo.

I like for the subject of my photo to touch at least two edges of the frame, but that’s just me. You do whatever you feel man enough to do, so long as you crop out anything that distracts or isn’t needed for the story you’re trying to tell.

6. Clone out the other crap. But that’s cheating! REAL photographers don’t clone things out! REAL photographers rearrange the world so that there is never a tree branch sticking out behind anyone’s head and never a big booger on their child’s cheek and never a laptop on the chair in the background. That’s nice. Real photographers are awesome. I clone out the crap.

You can find nice tutorials all over the internet on how to use the clone tool. Do it.

So yeah. More tomorrow! Lighting adjustment, color balance, magazine tricks, and convert your images to black and white like an artypants superstar.

posted by electric boogaloo in Artypants and have Comments (17)

17 Responses to “Cheap cameras don’t take crappy photos, people do”

  1. Sonja says:

    I agree with you 100%. And as a somewhat “real” photographer (if you can call weddings and portrait photography “real”), I assure everyone out there that “real” photographers do all of the above, and if they suggest that they don’t (especially cropping!) they are 1) lying, most likely in an effort to get you into bed, or 2) they only photograph still lifes (and even still, they are lying), or 3) they literally take 1000s of pictures in order to get one good one (which they edit anyway).

    Remember, on the 728175th day, God invented Photoshop and He saw that it was good. Before that, He hated photographers and made them work in the dark, inhale chemicals, and (gasp) “dodge” and “burn” with just plain light! Madness!

  2. Squirl says:

    I have Photoshop Elements but haven’t really learned to use it yet. I like some of your “throw-away” pictures too.

    Will Graham ever know that you labelled him as crap?

    Didn’t think so.

  3. couldbeanyone says:

    See, the internet is educational.

  4. LadyBug says:

    Thanks for the tutorial, Tiffany. And that really is a great photo of Nicolaus.

    I hope this Christmas finds you surrounded by those you hold most dear. Merry Christmas to you and yours, hon.

  5. petrel says:

    Love, love, love the hints. I get the no flash part, and have been doing that. What is the problem when they come out grainy because of it, though?

  6. KL says:

    Can I hire you to take thousands of crappy pics of my kids? :)

    Thanks for the tutorial…. one of these days I will take good pics of my kids, darnit!

  7. Squirl says:

    Merry Christmas, you guys!

  8. NtycnBoricua says:

    Thanks for the tips! Nice pic too! :D


  9. electric boogaloo says:

    People keep giving me a hard time about labelling Graham as crap but dude. When he saw me trying to take his picture, HE TOOK HIS PANTS OFF. Labelling everything “punk” didn’t make sense, so I went with a more general term.

  10. Personally, I really dig the top left photo of Nicolaus with his eyebrows arched. You have a mad little genius there.

  11. karen says:

    I rarely read a photography tutorial that I agree with. This was refreshing and practical…. words to live by!

  12. Stephen says:

    Thank you. Very very educational.

  13. Marielle says:

    Thanks so much for the advice! I’ve started taking more pictures ever since I converted to digital- it’s just not feesible with film! But you’re right! The more the merrier!

  14. great tutorial, I agree and know people complains about their cameras but they don´t know the specific steps to take..

  15. Danilo Javor says:

    Nice introduce!I recently have new choice to ordering Digital camera stuff.I have new baby and I would like high-speedshutter digit cam taking her photo.

  16. Latia Colian says:

    Please tell me more how can i buy digit camera cheapest.I need camera tools.My friend want it this month. :P

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