Taking Better Photos

Taking Better Photos

Many have sent me PMs asking about what camera I use and how I get the vivid colors, etc. I had planned on doing a big write up on what equipment I use and some helpful tips.  I’ll do a little of that, kinda add my .02 cents but will direct you to a great write-up posted in a Ride Report I read recently.

But first, a little about what I use and do.  For right now when I’m on the trail I use an Panasonic Lumix FP1 (older point-n-shoot Olympus C-5000Z 5MP).  It has some manual settings which is nice but typically I just use some auto settings and make it better in post. Typically every photo I take before its uploaded anywhere I adjust the contrast & levels in Photoshop CS4.  Most image editing tools allow you to do this, including Picasa & Picnik.  Here’s a before and after shot using the Olympus (click photo to zoom):

Before (Details: 1/250, f/5.6, 7.8mm, ISO 50):

After, a little Contrast / Levels change

Now here’s a similar shot with my good camera, a Canon Rebel XTi. It’s Canon’s entry level DSLR but is loaded with goodies and unless I take photos for a living, I can’t see needing a whole lot more than what this camera offers for the price.  I mainly use two lenses, Canon EFS 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS and a Canon 50mm f/1.8 prime lens.  This little 50mm is the best money I’ve spent on a lens!

Here’s a similar shot with my Canon XTi 17-85mm:

Before (Details: 1/250, f/5.6, 26mm, ISO 100):

After:

Now this shot is not the best example to show the differences here, but this is what was going on in my backyard at the time!  As you can see the Canon, even in the before shot, has a much better white balance & contrasted photo.  There’s not a huge difference between the Canon’s before & after shot.

Here’s a few shots I took with the Canon DSLR that you just can’t do with a standard digital point-and-shoot camera.

If I could suggest only a few things to make your photos better, it would probably be these: framing & lighting.

Framing

Use the Rule of Thirds, which will allow the photo’s surroundings to help tell the story you are capturing. Also, when I frame a shot, I quickly look all around the view finder, making sure there’s not some weird object that throws the shot completely off.  The photo below is a good example of letting the surroundings be a part of the photo. It puts the viewer on location with the subject and it dramatically adds more to the photo than if the subject were centered.  On this shot I pulled the subject to the left edge a bit further than the normal but, I wanted Brayden’s eye to be the focal point of the shot.  For me, that tells it all!

There are times though, that the subject makes the shot look much better if it is centered.  As you can tell in these examples:

Lighting

In my opinion, lighting is like the sound of the photo.  Just like in a feature film, the shots can be good, the actors can be great, but without solid sound effects & scores, it feels very empty.  Lighting is the same way.  It adds so much to the photo and is probably one of the most over looked aspect for beginners.  There’s so much on this topic, so I think I’ll just show you a few examples and move on… Lighting is crucial, take advantage of it.

Last night I was reading a very good Ride Report on ADVrider.com and noticed the writer took very good photos. He had to be a seasoned photographer or just has a lot of hours looking through the lens. Then at the end of the report, he wrote a very nice photography primer post, some technique and tips for anyone taking photos, whether with a point-and-shoot or a nice DSLR.  I recommend reading thought it, as well as his ride report! Thanks Gregor.

Good luck and get creative with your shots.  Snap some shots at different angles, low and high. Play around with your camera and get to know it, and know it well!  If you have a DSLR like the Canon or Nikon.. do yourself a favor and put the dial on Manual and never ever turn it to anything else!  This will force you to learn the techniques of good exposure, shutter speed and focus.

1Comment
  • Chris Luhman
    Posted at 09:49h, 06 February Reply

    Good tips. I am a picnik addict. 🙂

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