section one : start with the good stuffEven the best photo editor can't help a picture that's beyond repair. So let's have a quick run-through of how to take photos that are good SOOC (straight out of camera; that is, unedited).
Lesson One: Use Your Gear
A good photographer can make something beautiful with even the worst disposable camera. But let's face it: better cameras take better pictures. You can take a peek inside my camera bag to find out what I use personally.
But whether you have a DSLR or a point-and-shoot, one thing that I strongly recommend is to never use flash. True, some pretty cool shots can be taken with flash, but overall I never switch my camera from the "no flash" setting. It can make an otherwise pretty photo look tacky and amateur. Natural light is always best. (Of course, I mainly photograph nature; I'm not in a studio setting.)
Lesson Two: Play the Weather
Pop quiz- So it's a sunny day and you're at the beach. Or perhaps it's winter, overcast and snowing. Which is better for photography?
Answer- both. You just need to learn how to play the weather.
Sunny days cast harsh shadows, so it's better to photograph the subject so they're not in shadow. Sun-photos are generally more cheerful and warm-toned; backlighting is always nice too.
Bright overcast days make the sunlight diffused and colder. I personally prefer these days; the natural light takes on an ethereal quality and it's flattering to everyone and everything.
Lesson Three: the Rule of Thirds
I'm sure you've heard of this before. Photographs are divided up into nine sections. It's best to have your subject aligned on one of the thirds rather than smack-dab in the middle. Of course, with photography rules are made to be broken, and some truly amazing shots have been taken without the thirds. But it's generally a good idea.
By the way, the Rule of Thirds generally wants you to align your subject on one of the lines. I feel that as long as it isn't front-and-center, it's okay.
|As you can see, the cardinal is tucked neatly into the 2nd third down and 1st third across.|
section two : edit to perfectionOkay, so now you've got a reasonably good photo... now what? Well, in some cases you won't need editing. In fact, most of the photos I post on HorseFeathers are SOOC — I just add a watermark, resize, and post. (Mostly because I am too lazy to spend an hour editing every photo to perfection.)
But sometimes there's a photo that seems beyond repair. The only thing to do is try editing it. Sometimes it will work; sometimes it won't. But here's my tips for bringing back a photo that should have gone to the big darkroom in the sky. (Or computer trash can, rather, since we aren't working with film here.)
Lesson One: Start Basic
Let's start with this photo. It's pretty dark and the bird disregards the Rule of Thirds. Due to the wind, it's also slightly blurry. So it's salvageable, but not amazing.
The first thing I always do is crop.
Next, adjust the curves of the image so it's lighter. (I use Photoshop by the way.)
I used Pioneer Woman's "Sharpen This!" action to make the bird pop... and there you go! Much better.
Lesson Two: Act It Up
In Photoshop there are these handy things called "Actions." Other programs have similar things, I believe. If I do edit my photos I either use my own actions or those from Florabella. They're top-notch.
Lesson Three: Collage
Another fun idea is a collage. I like collages that tell a story, like these:
I guess that's it! Of course, the best thing to do is practice. So get out there and take some pictures!