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.