A picture is supposedly worth a thousand words, but how many of those words are positive?
With the holidays in full swing and individuals gathering in an assortment of social settings, it’s a safe bet that pictures will be taken. And whether you are documenting the 8-foot Christmas tree in the living room or the borderline abysmal clothing at an “Ugly Sweater” party, people don’t want their precious moments to be lost in a poorly taken photograph.
So, what is the dividing line between a good and bad photo?
Well, multiple factors determine whether a picture will stand the test of time and simultaneously draw acclaim from its observers.
The first rule of photography, just like any other aspect of life, is to practice. Whether you own a camera that costs hundreds of dollars or resort to using your cellphone’s camera, practice really does make perfect — or close to it.
“There is no secret. I’m still disappointed my picture sometimes doesn’t turn out like it does in front of me,” said Deb Jacques, a C & G photographer for the past 15 years.
Jacques has been taking photos since 1983, continually working on a craft that even she admits is difficult to master with technology always changing.
“Photography is really complicated,” Jacques said. “I spent four years studying light and composition. Everyone thinks they can be a photographer, but it really does take a lot of practice.”
One way to get better in a hurry, Jacques said, is to do something as simple as read your camera’s manual. It will provide insight into the camera’s different features and offer tips on how to better utilize each function.
Edward Osinski, the photo editor at C & G Newspapers, stressed the importance of camera steadiness.
Many photos have great potential until a shaky hand ends up ruining what could have been; this is a common problem that can be solved with simple tactics.
“If you’re shooting Christmas lights at night, you probably need a tripod because you need to have the camera really steady, and it might take an exposure of several seconds,” Osinski said. “Indoor light is kind of the same thing. The thing you want to avoid is camera shake, which is very easy to do. Even (for) a sixtieth of a second or a thirtieth of a second, it’s tough to hold the camera steady.”
And when we think of the holidays, whether it involved taking family pictures at an early age or posing for pictures as a full-fledged adult, there is one common theme: the background.
Jacques and Osinski both stressed the significance of a solid backdrop that creates the aura of a photo, giving it a glow while still letting the observer focus on the individual or group that makes the photo worthwhile.
From avoiding the demonic possession-look of “red eye” to having a lamp jut out of the side of someone’s head, a clutter-free background allows for the concentration of the eyes to be on the main subject. Using a blank wall as a background gives complete control to the people in the picture, and even doing something as simple as taking the picture close to the subjects will reduce things like glare and enable better focus.
Again, taking pictures is a skill that requires practice and will result in an assortment of, “How did I mess this up so bad?” one-liners. Being aware of the mundane — focusing, avoiding camera shake, using backgrounds to your advantage, understanding a camera’s capabilities — will aid you in the journey toward photographic supremacy. Or, at the least, it will make you a photographer whose skills people can trust.
When you are taking pictures, sometimes it is best not to think too much.
“When taking photos, don’t pose for everything,” Jacques said. “Wait for a ‘moment.’ This is especially true with children. When taking photos of them on Christmas morning, take a photo of them posed with a gift, but also take a photo during the gift opening and afterward. You just may catch the twinkle in their eye.”
And, as always, realize why pictures make people feel the way they do.
“‘A frozen moment of time’ is my favorite term that expresses my deep interest in photography,” Jacques said. “You never get the moments back. Children grow up fast. Looking back at photographs from times passed is a powerful thing. Emotions are dredged back from the memories of the time and place photos were taken. Pictures of loved ones who have died are treasured. Document your family for the generations.
“Life is short. Take pictures of it, and treasure the moments for a lifetime.”
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