Tips for Better Pics

I don't purport to be any sort of photography expert, but I will say that having a camera with me during virtually all my waking hours has made me a better see-er and visual documenter, albeit of the Instagram / faux-lomography variety. Here are 7 things I've learned along the way:

1. Selectivity

The quickest way to improve as a photographer (at least as far as appearances go) is to shoot more and post less. I might take 10 pictures of the same thing, pick the best one, and only post it. This 10:1 ratio may be excessive, but you get the idea. A self-evident, but oft-forgotten rule: People only see what they're shown (i.e., be highly selective, and only post the best of any given batch of a similar pictures). Your "friends" and Facebook's servers will thank you.

2. Narrative

Photography, even from its origins, has always been about telling a story. You are capturing an ongoing moment in a still frame. Understand the limitations, but also the freedom afforded by the medium. Think in terms of capturing the essence of this moment and stick to the plot as it were.

3. Cropping

Many people attempting to capture the scope of a moment, achieve quite the opposite by showing too much. As in #2 above—the idea of capturing an ongoing moment (time)—you must also delineate the picture plain (space). Leave out extraneous objects (e.g., visual litter) that distract from the focal point. For me, this idea of cropping was engrained while studying design under Professor Bob Dorlac. With his Iowan accent, he'd always say, "crap the image."

4. Lighting

Photography literally means light-writing. You're penning a story via light, and that light also dictates the type of story being told, be it warm or cool, harsh or subtle. I've taken pictures of completely inconsequential subjects or moments, just because the light was so good. As a general rule, avoid the flash, as it tends to wash out the figure(s) in an unnatural manner. I prefer the long light of late day, because the shadows become an integral part of the composition.

5. Composition

There are books written on this subject, but to remain brief, just a few pointers:

  • Don't center the subject; things die in the center. Mind the rule of thirds.
  • Photograph people on non-descript, light backgrounds. Some backlighting is helpful in defining the form of the subject.
  • Have a hierarchy. Every composition should have dominant and subordinate elements. This creates a sense of order and flow in the composition.

6. Focus

It's over-rated. 

7. Subject-Matter

Don't only photograph pretty people and pretty sunsets (not that there's anything wrong with that). Take time to study the inherent beauty of a bologna sandwich or the modularity of a waffle.  The ordinary is extraordinary. More on this in an upcoming post. 

 *I realize this was a bit more philosophical than practical, but hopefully helpful.