Author Topic: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.  (Read 7993 times)

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Offline Brice Burrell

  • Posts: 7392
Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« on: April 28, 2008, 08:05 PM »
  Hey guys with the tool contest around the corner I thought I'd start a thread to help the absolute beginners take better pictures. If you are like me, you don't know anything about the high price cameras, you just want to know to take photo to post on the internet with your inexpensive digital camera. Here's a few tips for taking better pictures.

  The first thing to do is read your camera's owners manual, believe it or not there is good information in there. I bet there is a few things your camera does that you never knew about, and if you knew about it, you'd use that feature. Things like the timer, manual focus, special effects and so on. I'm going to assume you know how to use the basic functions of the camera, if you don't, well read the manual first then come back here. If you get stuck don't be afraid to ask questions here, someone will be able to help.

  To take decent pictures I believe a tripod is a necessity. If you aren't taking professional quality pictures, you don't need a professional quality tripod, the good news is that $30-50 USD can buy a tripod that will get the job done. The bad news is $30-50 can also buy a total piece of junk, you really have to shop in person. Take a close look at the tripods at one of the big stores like BestBuy or other places like that and you'll see what I mean, there is sometimes a big difference in quality in the same price range. You're looking for a tripod that is stable enough to hold your camera steady, that's all, if you want a better tripod, by all means spend the money.

  Alright you've read the manual and you have the tripod, now what, are you ready to start taking pictures? Well no, not just yet. Let's think about a bit of setup first and we should start with lighting. I know what some of you are thinking, "I thought this was for beginners, first you are talking about tripods and now lighting", don't panic, hear me out first. Lighting is easier than you think and I bet you already have what you'll need. When ever possible I like to take pictures indoors I like to use both natural and artificial light. The natural light generally helps to balance out the colors that the artificial light can distort. Plus natural light is a easy way to add a lot of light to the subject being photographed. Direct sunlight is likely going to be too much for indoor photographs, a white translucent shades is the best way to tone down direct sunlight (and you probably already have them). Now, we'll talk about artificial light, some types of lights are better than others, but for the most part, any light will do. Fluorescent lights are found in most shops and they'll work just fine, so will incandescent lights, see you do have what you need for lighting.

  As a general rule, you can never have too much light, but, how do you know if you have enough? Simple answer guys, take a picture, if its too dark, add another light. Again, almost any light well do the trick, a lamp, a trouble light or one of those clamp lights you find at the home center, they all work well. You may find adding a light here or there will cast a shadow on the subject, no big deal, move the light a little until you've remove the shadow. Don't get too caught up in the lighting, your camera's auto setting will take care of most of the work. Like I said above, take a pic, if its too dark, then worry about light.

  While we are talking about lighting, now might be a good time to discuss using the flash on your camera. I don't like the flash because at the distance I like to shoot most of my pictures from (3-5 feet) the flash can be overpowering. So I like to set up enough light so I don't need to use the flash. Make sure you know how to turn your camera's flash off, read that manual!

  Sorry, we still aren't really to take pictures yet. Make sure you have room in your workspace, you want to be able to take picture whenever you're ready to shoot but still have enough space to work on your project. Find a safe place for your camera and tripod so you don't kick it over while working, however, you want to have it close and easy to set up when you need to take your pictures. Make a safe spot ahead of time. Its also a good idea to have spare batteries on hand. Another good tip, when you reach a critical point in the project that needs to be photographed, take pics and check them to make sure they are what you wanted and the quality you wanted before you move on to the next step in the project. Its a real bummer to find out after its too late, your pics are a little blurred. At last, time to start taking pictures..............more to come.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2008, 02:07 PM by Brice Burrell »

Offline Dan Clark

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Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2008, 09:46 AM »
Brice,

Thanks for starting this thread.   I think this needs to be part of the Photo Tutorial.  After a few more posts here, I'll add a link and short description in the tutorial.

I'll have more suggestions later, but here are two tips:

- Take lots of pics.  Always take at least two or three from each angle.  Four or five would be even better.   Remember that pixels are cheap, but opportunities for an image are fleeting.  Waste the pixels, not the opportunities.

- Get long, medium, and closeup shots (remember to get multiple of each).   The long shots are a "summary" and provide perspective.  The medium show the components better.  But it's the closeups that give it "meat".   Everyone gets the long and medium shots.  It's the closeups that most people miss.   So get up close and personal.  Put your camera in macro mode or get a macro lens.  Then shove it up CLOSE!

You can get gigabyte cards for just a few bucks.   Buy a big one.  Take a bunch of pics.  Download them all to your computer, review them, and then delete or archive the ones that you don't want to keep.   Even when you take multiple shots from the same position, you'll almost always find that one will be at least slightly better than the others.

Regards,

Dan.

Offline vteknical

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Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2008, 10:04 AM »
To add to lighting:

It's probably best to keep the lighting source the same.  Shooting with Flourescents and incandescents mixed together will affect the camera's ability to accurately reproduce the colors due to the different color temperature.(Kelvin Temperature)

This can be corrected with filters but to keep this thread in the spirit of tutorial for beginners, that can be learned later.

http://www.sizes.com/units/color_temperature.htm


Offline Brice Burrell

  • Posts: 7392
Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2008, 10:31 AM »
  Guys, you have offered good advice, thanks. However, this thread is for the people that aren't ready to discuss white balance, color temperature or additional lens. Let's get them through the basic stuff first, then go from there.

I'll be adding more to this thread soon. 

Offline Brice Burrell

  • Posts: 7392
Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2008, 11:52 AM »
 Time to start taking pictures, well, not quite yet. Before you just start taking pics give a little thought about what it is you are trying to accomplish with your pictures. Think about the angels needed to tell the story, show the details or to see the big picture. Take a good look at the back ground, is it acceptably for the photo? If not change the angle or move the subject. For a finished project, you'll want a shot of the whole project and close ups of the features or details that you think are important. When describing a process, pictures that show the small details of the process that are to communicate are a good idea. As Dan said, take a lot of pictures!

  Taking your first picture, you want in to look good right? If you know very little about your camera start with the auto setting, it will do most of the work for you. All you have to do is frame the shot, try to center the subject and take your first pic. In the picture below you can see the subject is not centered.
6742-0

6744-1
Now with the subject centered the picture is much better.

  I agree with what Dan said above, take a number of pictures of the same shot is a good idea, I also like to shoot more pics from slightly different angles. This helps get the a shot that is just right. Here are a few examples, notice the slight angle changes.

6746-2

6748-3

  The pictures look almost the same, however, look at the top pic, its a centered littler better. Sometimes one shot has some glare and the next shot at a slightly different angle is a big improvement. Thats why it is worth taking a lot of pictures.

More to come.........






« Last Edit: April 29, 2008, 11:58 AM by Brice Burrell »

Offline Brice Burrell

  • Posts: 7392
Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2008, 12:40 PM »
  One common problem beginners have is pictures being blurred. There are a number of reasons this happens. The first is obvious, the camera moved during the shot, an easy fix is to use a tripod. I know you can't always have a tripod on hand, using your camera's auto setting will help reduce the chances of pictures being blurred when shooting by hand. The next reason is because the subject is moving, solution, try the setting on the camera for "sports". Most inexpensive cameras have a setting like this, it speeds up the shutter speed. A faster shutter speed will capture moving subjects with no problems.

6750-0
Take a close look at this pic, you'll notice its blurred from the camera moving during the shot.

6752-1
This one shows the people moving in the background, they are blurred. It happens to be the kind of shot I was after as an effect.

6754-2
Here, the camera was moving and so was the subject, blurred big time.

6756-3
Now, here is a shot with a high shutter speed like you would find on the "sports" setting on your camera. Yes the saw was cutting in this pic, notice the cut in the wood and the dust in the air.

  There is one more reason for blurred pictures when using the auto setting on your camera. When you try to get a close up shot sometimes the camera's auto focus can't focus that closely, so you have a pic like the one below.

6760-4
 The camera couldn't focus on the domino tenon so it focused on the background instead, look at the screwdriver, it is in focus. When shooting close ups try to stay back from the subject some and don't zoom in too much. You'll need to play with your camera to find out how to best take close ups with the auto setting. If your camera has a manual focus, try that, you'll get good results once you understand how to use that feature.

More to come.........



« Last Edit: April 29, 2008, 05:25 PM by Brice Burrell »

Offline Dan Clark

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Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2008, 02:25 PM »
At slow shutter speeds, a tripod is great (I have four).  However, it you don't have one or don't have time to dig it out, here are couple tricks that to help eliminate motion blur:

- Lean against a convenient wall, post, or table.  Body movement is the killer.  Just bracing your body or arms against a solid object will result in sharper shots.

- Use a "monopod".   A major cause of motion blur is up and down movement, not side to side movement.   If you can't find a convenient object to lean against, make a "monopod".  A monopod is just a tripod with one leg.  But you don't have to attach the camera to it.  Just get some solid object like a convenient board that's the right length, place one end of the board on the floor and your hands (holding the camera) on top of the board at the other end, and shoot away.  You've just eliminated the vertical motion.

I hope this helps.

Dan.

Offline Brice Burrell

  • Posts: 7392
Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2008, 05:17 PM »
A rule of thumb for shutter speed when shooting handheld.

the lowest shutterspeed to use handheld is "1 divided by the focal length" . If for example you have a 50mm lens your shutterspeed should be 1/50th of a second (or faster) for a 200mm lens 1/200th of a second (or faster) etc etc.
below that use a tripod.............


  OK, but how does this help the beginner?? Your posts are going way, way past what a beginner understands. I appreciate that fact you are trying to help, the problem is, you are likely confusing the people that this thread is meant to help. Sorry, I hate to be so blunt.

  If anyone would like to offer advice for this thread, please only add the most basic of tips here. Assume the person that is reading this thread only has $150 USD camera and no experience with photography.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2008, 05:19 PM by Brice Burrell »

Offline Brice Burrell

  • Posts: 7392
Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2008, 05:31 PM »
  No, don't remove your posts. I just ask you try to remember what its like when you are new to any endeavor.  Its all confusing at first and I think its best to start with small steps in the beginning. When the guys get better shooting their pictures I'll send them to you for the more advanced stuff.

Offline Dan Lyke

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Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2008, 06:44 PM »
So the question was asked "What can I do with a $150 camera?". Quite a lot, but here are a few things I haven't seen mentioned yet:

1. Learn how to use histograms. The histogram tells you about how your scene was lit. If you've got big spikes at the high or low end, you may be missing shadow or highlight details, your shadows may be all black, or your highlights and sparkles may be blown out into featureless white. Usually you want a nice bell curve shaped histogram (at least until you understand why you don't). You can usually use the "depress the shutter button half-way" while pointing the camera at something brighter or darker to adjust the camera exposure if your camera doesn't have manual overrides for exposure controls.

If your camera doesn't have a built in histogram feature, you can use your image editing software on your PC to see a histogram. I use GIMP),  because it's Open Source and runs on many platforms, which has several different ways to see that information, the easiest is "Levels" or "Curves" under the "Colors" menu. Both of these options will also allow you to redistribute the histogram  to some extent, but won't let you get information that wasn't already there. If you use a Canon point-and-shoot, you can apparently also run the Open Source CHDK firmware to get a histogram in-camera (along with all sorts of other groovyness).

Learning how to use the histogram will teach you so much about exposure and light that everything else about lighting and flash will fall into place.

2. It's better to take an in focus picture and crop than to post an out of focus picture taken too close.

3. Watch your backgrounds. Trees will leap to grow out of heads. Distracting junk in the background will draw the eye much more strongly than any beauty in the foreground.  Learn to see in 2d rather than 3d, and your compositions will come together better.

4. Learn about the golden mean, or if you can't remember that, put the interesting bits of your photo on the 2/5ths points, or if you can't remember that, on the 1/3rds. Eschew the middle! Only put stuff there if you want it in a visual dead zone. This applies to horizon lines especially.

Along those lines, I strongly recommend Graham's "Composing Pictures" if you're lucky enough to find it used or in a private reprint (how I got my copy), or Kepes "Language of Vision" (available from Dover) to take your composition further. And you don't have to think about all of this stuff when taking a picture, just learn it and your pictures will start to get better. (although not always, as my work attests...).

5. Nobody cares how hard it was to take the shot. This probably isn't a problem for you taking pictures of your work, but on wildlife photography forums often someone will post a picture and it'll get ripped to shreds. Then they'll come back and say "but I had to sit in the swamp for seven and a half hours, hanging from a bush...". Yes, it was a noteworthy moment in that photographer's life, but if the picture doesn't tell all that backstory, nobody else cares. Evaluate your pictures by the story that they tell on their own, and be brutal about it.

The corollary to this is to show people one picture for every ten or hundred you shoot (especially with digital), but anyone who's used a view camera can tell you that it is possible to take 10 pieces of film and get 10 good shots.

6. Good photography is staged. Good candids are very rare. Take the time to find an appropriate background.

7. All these rules have exceptions.





Accomplished computer geek, novice woodworker, road cyclist, in Sonoma county, northern California.

Offline Brice Burrell

  • Posts: 7392
Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2008, 07:46 PM »
OK, I give up. Turn this into a thread something the beginner is intimidated or confused by.   >:( It was meant for the guy who was posting out focus pictures take the next small step to improving his pics. It wasn't meant to be for a person who was looking to have photography as a serious hobby. I understand your enthusiasm to share your knowledge, that's what makes this site so great. I think some of you have gone a bit too far with your sharing.

Offline Dan Rush

  • Posts: 608
  • Trim carpenter
Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #11 on: April 29, 2008, 08:11 PM »
Thanks Brice,  I'm that guy you are trying to help.  I just picked up a new digital and even the packaging was a challenge. ???

Guys, imagine you are 10 years old, you need to cut an old 2 x 4" for a tree house, and your dad gives you a lecture on how to cut compound miters on a slider...       just start me off on an old pull-saw, I'll try to catch up.



Thanks for the help, Dan

Offline CharlesWilson

  • Posts: 458
Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2008, 10:04 PM »
For those beginners without a tripod, here is one for $10 shipped from Buy.com:

http://www.buy.com/prod/KraftTech-60-Adjustable-Camera-Tripod-w-Nylon-Carry-Bag-New-Factory/q/loc/58207/207985239.html

Charles Wilson

Offline Dan Clark

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Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2008, 11:27 PM »
So the question was asked "What can I do with a $150 camera?". Quite a lot, but here are a few things I haven't seen mentioned yet:

1. Learn how to use histograms. The histogram tells you about how your scene was lit. If you've got big spikes at the high or low end, you may be missing shadow or highlight details, your shadows may be all black, or your highlights and sparkles may be blown out into featureless white. Usually you want a nice bell curve shaped histogram (at least until you understand why you don't). You can usually use the "depress the shutter button half-way" while pointing the camera at something brighter or darker to adjust the camera exposure if your camera doesn't have manual overrides for exposure controls.

If your camera doesn't have a built in histogram feature, you can use your image editing software on your PC to see a histogram. I use GIMP),  because it's Open Source and runs on many platforms, which has several different ways to see that information, the easiest is "Levels" or "Curves" under the "Colors" menu. Both of these options will also allow you to redistribute the histogram  to some extent, but won't let you get information that wasn't already there. If you use a Canon point-and-shoot, you can apparently also run the Open Source CHDK firmware to get a histogram in-camera (along with all sorts of other groovyness).

Learning how to use the histogram will teach you so much about exposure and light that everything else about lighting and flash will fall into place.

2. It's better to take an in focus picture and crop than to post an out of focus picture taken too close.

3. Watch your backgrounds. Trees will leap to grow out of heads. Distracting junk in the background will draw the eye much more strongly than any beauty in the foreground.  Learn to see in 2d rather than 3d, and your compositions will come together better.

4. Learn about the golden mean, or if you can't remember that, put the interesting bits of your photo on the 2/5ths points, or if you can't remember that, on the 1/3rds. Eschew the middle! Only put stuff there if you want it in a visual dead zone. This applies to horizon lines especially.

Along those lines, I strongly recommend Graham's "Composing Pictures" if you're lucky enough to find it used or in a private reprint (how I got my copy), or Kepes "Language of Vision" (available from Dover) to take your composition further. And you don't have to think about all of this stuff when taking a picture, just learn it and your pictures will start to get better. (although not always, as my work attests...).

5. Nobody cares how hard it was to take the shot. This probably isn't a problem for you taking pictures of your work, but on wildlife photography forums often someone will post a picture and it'll get ripped to shreds. Then they'll come back and say "but I had to sit in the swamp for seven and a half hours, hanging from a bush...". Yes, it was a noteworthy moment in that photographer's life, but if the picture doesn't tell all that backstory, nobody else cares. Evaluate your pictures by the story that they tell on their own, and be brutal about it.

The corollary to this is to show people one picture for every ten or hundred you shoot (especially with digital), but anyone who's used a view camera can tell you that it is possible to take 10 pieces of film and get 10 good shots.

6. Good photography is staged. Good candids are very rare. Take the time to find an appropriate background.

7. All these rules have exceptions.

Dan and I are both photo geeks.  Sometimes it's a little difficult to understand us when we talk "geek".  (I'm actually worse than him.)  I'll try to translate...

/GeekSpeak = OFF

1) Histograms - A histogram is just a bargraph in your camera that helps you set image exposure correctly.   Try to set the exposure so the bulge is in the center of the graph.

2) Focus - Make sure that your pic is in focus.  Out of focus pictures SUCK!

3) Backgrounds - Keep backgrounds simple.  Look behind the target to see what the background looks like.  Move around until the background is simple.

4) Golden mean - Fill the frame with your target.  Then move it off center a little.  It will look better.

5) Take lots of pics - Show people only the good ones.  Be a harsh critic of your own pics.

6) Stage your pics - Move stuff around until the target looks good.   Fake it!

7) Violate rule 1-6 sometimes.

/GeekSpeak = ON

And most importantly, make sure that you set the camera's auto-ISO correctly with a maximum ISO of say about 1200.    This will help you zone in on the hyperfocal point without worrying about exposure.   If possible, get a CF card with UDMA support for maximum throughput when shooting RAW files.  If your camera supports UDMI,  that will help you in the studio.    Also ensure that your camera has good chromatic abertion reduction and supports a wireless WiFi transmitter (preferably 802.11 b or g).  Now regarding the automatic dust reduction, yada, yada, yada... ;D ;D ;D

You may of course completely ignore the last paragraph. 8)   

Regards,

Dan.

p.s. If you think this is bad, you should frequent the video forums!  For example:
Quote
I'm wondering what would be wrong with just using Adobe Media Encoder, selecting format as mpeg2, and selecting a preset like HDTV 1080p 29.97 High Quality for videos shot in 30p and, HDTV 1080p 23.976 High Quality for videos shot in 24p? Would there be a lot of quality loss?
:o  I think there would be a quality loss, but I could be wrong. ;D

p.p.s.  If you think I'm joking check this out: http://www.hv20.com/showpost.php?p=82106&postcount=35.

Offline vteknical

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Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2008, 12:30 AM »
I still remember trying to learn all of the features, benefits and how to's of Photography and it never really clicked until I understood how a camera works.  Shutter Speed, Aperture, and Time.  I assure you if you invest a little time to read 5-7 pages on how a camera works all of the information posted here will just make sense.

For example: you need to buy a tripod.  A total beginner will ask why? and when do they need to use it?  This would be a self answered question if they understood a camera's limitations.  

I can not emphasize the importance of learning the basic concept of how a light box(camera) works if you truly want to take great pictures.  

I will remove my previous post and make a mental note not to steal anyone's thunder in tutorials.

Victor



« Last Edit: April 30, 2008, 01:25 AM by vteknical »

Offline clintholeman

  • Posts: 301
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Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2008, 01:11 AM »
Just a thought that I haven't seen on this thread, though I may have missed it.  Remember that no one knows what you are shooting.  Not even the camera.  It only sees shapes and light.  It takes some work to see what is really there and to make sure that it tracks with what is in your head.

I'm sure someone else mentioned this, but I'll do it again.  Have and idea of what you want the image to show or say.  then set it up that way.

A former ad shooter... now doing honest work for a living. ;D
Clint Holeman

clint@clintholeman.com
http://www.clintholeman.com

Offline mhch

  • Posts: 371
  • Hobbyist, France
Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #16 on: April 30, 2008, 01:48 AM »

 May be we can have a picture contest too, with goodies from the best camera makers  ;) :D :D :D :D
 Of course only open to USA and Canada members  :( :( :( :( :(

Offline Dan Clark

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Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #17 on: April 30, 2008, 10:13 AM »
I can't speak for Brice, but I believe he shares my frustration.  We see very intelligent, talented people create lovely pieces of woodworking, and then... 

Post horrible pictures that totally destroy how other people perceive their work.   Fuzzy, poorly focused pics of polished curly maple.   A tiny spec in the corner of an image that's purported to be a great jig.   Dark, grainy shots of a supposedly lovely cabinet.  For someone who values quality work AND quality pics, that is immensely frustrating!

I think that even the most complex posts here contain (or did contain) excellent information.  The problem is that we PhotoGeeks forget that others may not speak our language.   While this language may be a bit bewildering at first, they are like the woodworking and tool terms that we use constantly.   They efficiently communicate important concepts about photography.   Unfortunately, we need to crawl before we can walk and walk before we can run.  IMO, that's what this thread is about.  So...

Instead of deleting your posts, please...  Look through them and find the basic concepts you think are important.  Then REWRITE.  Be concise.  Remove extraneous detail.   Explain the core concepts in simple terms.   Keep it simple.

Thanks,

Dan.

Offline Dovetail65

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Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #18 on: April 30, 2008, 10:26 AM »
Dan I agree, but do not scare people that can not take pictures from showing their work.

I have bad pictures, but in the last 5 years I have sold over 900 woodworking items with these bad pictures. So to you, a connoisseur of photography, the pics are bad, to the general public they can give a hoot. As long as the pics are in focus the rest doesn't matter in terms of selling or the enjoyment of your work.

So even if your pictures suck, post them. This is a Festool woodworking and tool forum after all.  Not a photohraphy forum.

Respectfully,

Nickao

PS Some of Jerry works pictures on his web site leave a lot to be desired, his content more than makes up for it!
« Last Edit: April 30, 2008, 10:28 AM by nickao »
The one who says it can't be done should avoid interrupting the person doing it.

Offline Dan Clark

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Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #19 on: April 30, 2008, 10:36 AM »
Nick,

I've seen your pics.   Your pictures work.  Could they be better?  Of course.  But that goes for almost everyone and definitely includes me!

You are NOT the target audience of this thread.  The target audience is the neophyte photographer whose pictures do NOT work - for them or for anyone else.   

Regards,

Dan.

Offline Dovetail65

  • Posts: 4619
    • Rose Farm Floor Medallions and Inlays
Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #20 on: April 30, 2008, 11:20 AM »
Of course my pictures can be better and with you guys helping me the next batch of projects will look great. I can't wait to get my current projects done so I can try out the things you have discussed!

nickao
The one who says it can't be done should avoid interrupting the person doing it.

Offline johnbro

  • Posts: 130
Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #21 on: May 03, 2008, 03:21 PM »
Great topic, as a "photo geek" (as Dan said) I also am frustrated by the poor quality of many snapshots I see day in and out.

Problem is that people think the camera will do everything. Their vision is selective, the camera has no selectivity.

Over the last year I've been introducing my 16 year old daughter to photography. She's had to learn some basics and has improved tremendously.

Brice, thanks for starting this topic--I realize many people want to weigh in on advanced topics, it's painful to oversimplify a complex subject.  Here's my top tips for beginners using a simple point and shoot automatic camera. BTW, most of these I learned from the very first book on photography I ever read, baci in 1977, and I still think is one of the greats: "How to make good pictures" from Kodak.

1. Get in close. Whatever single element that is most interesting should fill the frame. Want to take a picture of a jewelry box? Have it fill the frame--don't shoot from so far away that you include the workbench it's sitting on. Note--every camera has a limit on how close it can focus. It's no use to try to shoot closer than that. A blurry picture is always to be avoided.

2. Make it sharp--this means the center of attention. Auto focus on modern cameras isn't like your eyes, it doesn't know what you want to be in focus. It will often pick something other than what you want in focus. In low light (like in your house or shop, as opposed to outdoors) it can be difficult to get objects both near and far in focus. Usually the camera can do one or the other.

3. Before you press the shutter, look carefully at all four corners of the picture you're about to take. Is the background cluttered? Are you decapitating someone? Sometimes you need to move stuff in the picture, or else move the camera, to remove a distracting background.

4. Avoid deep shadows (and bright highlights). Digital cameras can't handle a lot of contrast well. A bright sunny day at noon is a nice time for many outdoor activities, but photography isn't one of them. Usually your camera can "see" details either in bright light or in shadows, at the expense of the other one. On a sunny day, shoot in the shade (under a tree, porch, umbrella, etc). On a cloudy day, shoot outdoors.

5. To take great pictures of people on a sunny day, have them stand with the sun behind them (but not where your lens will be pointed at the sun). Now they won't squint, but their faces will be in shadow. Force the built-in flash on your camera to be "on" and it will remove the shadows from their faces. Alternatively, have them stand in the shade and snap away.

6. Use your viewfinder. Most experienced photographers don't hold the camera at arm's length and peer at the digital display to compose a shot. For one thing, the camera won't be as steady as it will closer to your face. For another thing, that display is hard to see in sunlight. Use the viewfinder instead.

7. To take a picture of something taller than wide, rotate the camera. Most people pics (unless they are in a group) look better in "portrait" mode (ie camera held vertically) than "landscape" mode (ie camera held horizontally).

8. Get in close.

9. Get in close.

10. Get in close.
TS 55, 3 guide rails, MFT 1080, RO 150, ETS 150/3, MFK 700, OF 1400, Kapex 120, Domino 500, CT 26

Offline Brice Burrell

  • Posts: 7392
Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #22 on: May 03, 2008, 07:04 PM »
Thanks, Johnbro, finally some advice that works for beginners.

Offline johnbro

  • Posts: 130
Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #23 on: May 04, 2008, 11:30 AM »
Here's another tip for beginners.

Jerry Work likes to say that the most dangerous tool in the workshop is the tape measure. What's the most dangerous feature on a point & shoot camera?

The flash.

The built-in flash on your pocket-sized digital camera is probably the least-understood item on it. I always chuckle when I see flashes popping like crazy in a stadium at the president/band/football team 200 feet away. Why? Because most of flashes have an effective range of maybe 10 feet.

The on-camera flash is good for three things only:

1. Filling in shadows when used in daylight on a subject with the sun behind it.

2. Recording the details of a car wreck at night for your insurance company.

3. Creating incredibly unflattering pictures of your ex to post on the Internet.

Why? Because a small, bright, light directly next to the lens will make a perfect storm of photographic problems for your picture. Small, bright light creates harsh shadows. Light source close to the lens eliminates "modeling," the appearance of 3-dimensionality in the picture, leaving everything flat. If the subject is near the background, count on ugly shadows behind the subject on the wall. Count on a few bright (perhaps too bright) objects in an otherwise dark dark space, giving your livingroom the appearance of the local haunted house at Halloween.

Most of the P&S cameras (which I don't own, BTW) that I've been asked to "help" with have at least 4 flash settings: off, on, let the camera decide, and red eye reduction. Ignore the last, because its only value is to help your ex look slightly less unflattering, and that wasn't the point of the picture, was it? "Off" is a good setting, since you'll have to figure how to light the scene more creatively, or make the camera use a faster internal setting.

In low light you're going to have to sacrifice some quality to get the shot. Using the on-camera flash will almost certainly get you the worst quality of all the options available.

In daylight, to fill in shadows, use the "on" setting and try it. Modern cameras will recognize that you're using fill flash and set an appropriate exposure.

If you MUST use on-camera flash for people pics, try rubber-banding a single layer of Kleenix over the flash. It will help.

But not much.
TS 55, 3 guide rails, MFT 1080, RO 150, ETS 150/3, MFK 700, OF 1400, Kapex 120, Domino 500, CT 26

Offline Dan Rush

  • Posts: 608
  • Trim carpenter
Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #24 on: May 04, 2008, 07:30 PM »
Thanks Guys for "dumbing down" the conversation.  I've spent the weekend taking pics, and I will post some here soon for you to tear apart. (that's a good thing).  I'm a pretty good carpenter, not so good photographer.  Thanks for this thread.

Dan

Offline Dan Clark

  • Posts: 540
    • talkFestool
Re: Taking better pictures, a tutorial for beginners.
« Reply #25 on: May 04, 2008, 08:31 PM »
Whoa!  Did someone page the FOG Picture Cop!?!  ;D   I'm lookin' forward to your pics!

Dan.