Thursday, August 26, 2010

some photography tips & tricks I did for some gay dads groups

Hi Folks,

Ok, for those who don’t know, I’m an amateur photographer, quite a keen one and also it seems quite a good one (but that’s entirely subjective) – I still have so much to learn and much further to go. Anyway, I’ve had work exhibited both here in Melbourne on numerous occasions and also once in New York in an interactive exhibition (that was very exciting!). I’ve also had a couple of photos published - which was also very cool.

So I was thinking that it might be a good idea to compile a tips & tricks document that will hopefully become organic in nature. I’m not the world’s best photographer and I don’t claim to be.

For those who haven’t seen them:

My two flickr sites

My own -> (which pretty much has everything I do in it! The good & the bad!)

My family photostream ->

Now down to the nitty gritty…

Your equipment shouldn’t matter (how many times have you heard this line!). You should be able to achieve good photos with any camera. Better cameras don’t make better photographers. Please don’t even think that to take good photos you need to spend the money on a dSLR. Learn what your camera can do. Read the manual (I don’t think I’ve ever read a manual start to finish to be honest). Learn what each mode does and what you can achieve with it. Find what you like and run with it :) Or basically play. Select the mode, shoot a couple of snaps and see if you like the result.

Take multiple shots. Memory is cheap – buy multiple memory cards. I suggest multiple shots for a number of reasons, children move fast! I’ve learnt this. Also I think its better if your shots of people with their eyes open rather than their eyes shut.

Auto. This can either be a bug-bear or a saviour. Most “real” photographers will tell you not to shoot in Auto. Ignore them – as a friend of mine said – camera companies have spent millions on developing these modes, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t use them. I personally will only use Auto when I can’t the image I want to work using my presets (normally shooting in full sun).

Flashes… well yes. Not a fan. I think in the nearly 11 months plus of the girls life I have used the flash maybe 3-4 times. I really try not to use the onboard flash as they are incredibly bright and while I may be over-reacting I am concerned about the potential damage that incredibly bright light can do to little eyes. This is entirely personal choice! But this ties into my next point.

Be aware of light and where light is coming from. Use it to your advantage. This is one of the things in my mind that takes a photo from ordinary to extraordinary. Be aware of the direction of the light and what it’s going to put in shadow. Also keep in mind you are much better taking photos in the shade/indirect light then you are taking photos in full sunlight. Now post-processing can help (I use CS3 but I don’t know nearly a tenth of what it can do) some images but the old adage is really true – crap in, crap out (or garbage in, garbage out). iPhoto from what I understand also has some pretty powerful, basic photo editing tools. Not sure about PC based programs sorry – I haven’t used a PC in a number of years.

Composition (or how you frame/shoot your photographs). At the end of the day this is what makes or breaks a good photo. A badly composed photo is a badly composed photo. We’ve all seen photos with people’s heads cut off etc… this isn’t really about that. This is more about space and negative space. Be aware of negative space and how you can use it to your advantage. As in if you have a child up against a wall maybe move back a bit to make it more interesting. Be aware of background elements in the photo you are trying to take as they can detract or add to a photo. Also don’t feel constrained to shoot in either a horizontal or a vertical mode. Mix it up a little, shoot on an angle. Get closer to your subject, get further away etc… again just play and have fun with it. Another idea is maybe try to get candid shots of people with your baby/babies. I think we’ve all seen the overly forced smile photos – you know the ones I mean where people either look constipated or in physical pain – a lot of people don’t like having their photos taken so try to be more obtuse about it and there is a certain sweetness or elegance that come through candid shots.

iPhone apps – there’s a number of iPhone apps that can be fun to use to create interesting and quirky pictures. There’s some for android equipped phones again but as I’m an apple fanboy, I have no idea about these things ;)

Amongst my favourites are hipstamatic for that wonderful toy camera feeling and Best Camera which allows a number of different treatments (fake polaroids for example). Cameraphones are very good for having on you at all times as you never know just what’s going to happen. I shot mostly with a dSLR but I have a point & shoot in the nappy bag and I always have my iPhone with me.

Further resources:

MIT has a bunch of photography related courses online ->

The Melbourne Camera Club in South Melbourne has an introduction to photography course that we (Larry & myself) found quite educational ->

The classes go very fast though! I think it’s $250 for 8 or 10 weeks from memory.

If anyone has any questions please feel free to fire away – more than happy to answer them :)