- If you can get any Internet connection faster than dialup, get it! You’ll save much time and frustration.
- Calibrate your monitor — that is, adjust your screen as close to a set standard as possible, so that your photobuyers view your images in the same way you do. Shareware programs are available, or you can buy off-the-shelf software such as the Spyder line by ColorVision (see the PhotoStockNotes article.
- Learn to take advantage of all the basic Photoshop features. (While there are other imaging software programs, Photoshop is the industry standard. It even comes in a “lite” version, known as Elements).
- For a great resource for learning Photoshop, I highly recommend joining NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals – you don’t have to be one in order to join!). For $99/year, you get their bi-monthly magazine Photoshop User, discounts on books, workshops and seminars, and access to online video tutorials to guide you step-by-step through virtually all the things you’ll need to know how to do in Photoshop, as well as the best ways to accomplish them. http://www.photoshopuser.com.
- Examine your images at 100% to find and eliminate dust and scratches. Adjust levels or curves (the darkness and lightness of your image). Color-correct your images. If an image is a preview (usually sent as 4×6″ or 5×7-1/2″), SHARPEN the image. If it’s the hi-res version a buyer has requested for publication, keep the above corrections MINIMAL, and DON’T SHARPEN the image at all!
In the editorial field, such as magazine and textbook publishers, most of your pictures will be used at the quarter-page size. This is an advantage to entry-level photographers still learning Photoshop.
Once an image is accepted, it gets passed on to a “designer,” who has the job of making any technical improvements to your digital submission. However, if you consistently submit images whose technical quality is not high, your name will soon drop to the bottom of the photobuyer’s/designer’s list. They are not overjoyed when they have to put extra time into your digital images.
It’s no small task to learn this medium of digital photography. Reading the instructions for a scanner, or especially for your new digital camera, can mean wrestling with an English translation of Japanese “engineer-speak”! It ain’t easy. I recommend three courses of action:
- Attend a local workshop on the product you’re interested in, presented by the manufacturer’s own reps. Large local camera shops often host these for a nominal entry fee (about $10).
- Buy or rent a video produced either by Nikon School or Blue Crane. They are available at retailers such as http://www.bhphotovideo.com. It will cover all the basic controls and features in an hour. A great advantage is that you can watch with your digital camera in your hands, pausing and repeating sections as often as you need. There’s even one for Nikon scanners!
- Buy a “Magic Lantern Guide “ for your particular digital camera or flash. They are written in English, by photographers, produced by Lark Books and available at Amazon.com.
A final reminder, which bears repeating: Make previews you’re sending to photobuyers look as perfect as you can, but when asked for a hi-res “final” image, keep necessary corrections minimal, and don’t sharpen it.
Capturing the moment
Photography is about freezing a moment in time. You must make the most of the time that you have whilst you are out taking photos. If the weather is not right, use the time to explore the area, assess good viewpoints and work out what time of day will work best for the shot. Using a compass is invaluable in determining where the sun sets or rises, but remember that this changes with the seasons. Preparation and planning will help you to capture a successful photograph.
Keeping it simple and not cluttering the shot with too many elements is a good rule. By removing distractions from your photographs will help bring more prominence to your subject. It is also important to include some form of foreground interest, which may be your subject or it could be used to draw the eye towards the subject.
There is also a rule that will aid you in creating good composition, which is called the Rule Of Thirds. In photography, using this The Rule of Thirds keeps the main subject off centre, away from the middle of the frame. As a result, a photo looks more dynamic and interesting. Imagine your image divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. Placing your subject where any of the lines intersect will help in producing a well-balanced image. But sometimes rules are there to be broken as well!
Without focal point the eye can sometimes wander around the frame unsure of where to look. The focal point is what drew your attention to the shot. It could be a tree, hill, building or boat but should hold the whole composition together. By giving your photograph a point of interest it will also help create a sense of scale.
Time of Day
The quality of light changes considerably during the day. At sunrise there are weak shadows and pastel colours. Atmospheric haze and pollution are also at their lowest.
After shooting sunrise the light becomes harsher and more contrasting. Colours are fully saturated and can be enhanced further by using a polarizing filter. Shooting with the sun behind you or to one side will usually work best for maximum colour.
By late afternoon or sunset the sunlight will create much warmer colours and subjects will benefit from strong side lighting.
Shooting into the sun as it moves towards the horizon can also create stunning silhouettes. Making a silhouette with a sunset couldn’t be easier. Your foreground subject will usually automatically come out black in these conditions because the camera’s meter will underexpose when you are shooting towards a bright light source. Silhouettes can produce very strong eye catching images that will look great when blown up big and hanging on your wall.
- Get a little closer, do not be shy. One of the biggest mistakes most beginning photographers make is shooting from so far away. They leave too much distance between themselves and their subjects. Instead, get up close and personal. Fill up as much of the camera frame, with your subject, as you can. You can always reshape, trim, and resize a good quality shot. But you cannot continue to blow up a distant subject and hope that it will come into focus. It just won’t happen.
- Focus your shot on only one subject. Determine what the main subject of the photo will be, and catch that image. Try and find the one key subject, person, or event that accurately portrays the feeling you are trying to capture.
- In addition to getting one subject, in your photos, you will want to make the background of the photo as simple as possible. Busy, distracting backgrounds pull the attention away from the central theme of your photo. The subject of your photo is absolutely the most important element, and anything that detracts from the subject can ruin your shot.
- Subject placement. Most people place the subject at the exact center of the frame. There is nothing wrong with this. However this often leads to a bland and uninteresting picture. You may use a method called the rule of thirds. Imagine having a camera lens split into 9 equal sized boxes, 3 across and 3 down (like having a tic tac toe game printed right on your camera lens). Where those “tic tac toe” lines cross, should become the focusing point of your subject, when you are arranging to take your photo.
Based on this tip, every time you compose a shot, the main subject of your photo should be located primarily on one of these “third” lines.
As time passes and our photographs age, oxidize, and scratch, we have the ability to personally reformat all of our old, priceless family keepsake photographs. After restoring your images in Photoshop CS and reprinting them, it is best to store them in acid-free albums. Since the deterioration process is ongoing, the photographs will continue to deteriorate beyond repair. Without intervention, the photographs will fade away right along with the memories of our beloved ancestors.
I not only have some of my ancestor’s wedding photographs, I have some of their cameras too! Call me sentimental, but I think some of these old-dated items create great home accents and can complement a warm family atmosphere. Restored family photographs are fun to work with too. Depending on the paper used to print them, old family photographs can be decoupaged to a chest or keepsake box or wall papered onto end tables or table tops.
When framing your artwork, decide if you want a contemporary or traditional moulding. With fine art photography, you can never go wrong with a classic black frame, especially high quality gallery frames made from solid wood.
There are many other beautiful frames to choose from, so it’s worth bringing the image into a frame shop and playing around with the moulding corner samples. Maple and oak frames in black, natural or white and high-end aluminum frames are worth looking into for photographs. Even ornate gold leaf and silver leaf period frames that tend to be used with other kinds of art can work beautifully with photographs. Just make sure the frame and the photograph complement each other.
When looking at frames and mouldings, experiment with different frame widths and depths. Small photographs look great with big thick frames while large photographs can often look better with thinner, simpler frames.
And always remember to pay just as much attention to picking the proper mat. Matting and framing work together.
In addition to frame shops, flea markets and auction houses are great sources for one-of-a-kind frames. You can match subject with frame – a photograph of a country barn, for example, might look beautiful in a rustic, old peeling frame. Again, just be careful that the frame doesn’t overpower the image and that they work together as a unit.
The feature of image stabilization enables you to capture a sharp picture in dim light without using the flash or when a telephoto lens setting is needed. Every one of these digital cameras are capable of producing ultra sharp 4 x 6s and great 11 x 17 enlargements.
My choice is the Pentax A10. It has the sharpest monitor, the most effective image stabilization and the best flash range. The DIVx movie mode is also a plus. However, you may have other priorities to help you decide on a model. The Sony features a terrific slide show with music but is pricey for 6MP. The Casio is low priced and thin, but hard to see in bright light. The Panasonic has a nice optical view Finder and is reasonably priced. The Canon has the longest zoom but is overpriced. All have a plethora of special features but the one you will use most is the dial marked ‘AUTO’. If the video capability is important to you then buy the largest SD or MS Card available (2GB). For regular still photos a 256 or 512 megabyte card is enough. Some models include many manual settings for the advanced amateur so further research may be called for.
- Camera View RES Zoom Card LCD Thickness Flash Price*
- Casio Exilim EX S600 NO 6MP 38 – 114 SD .6″ 85K 9 ft. $273.00
- Canon SD 700 IS YES 6MP 35 – 140 SD 1.0″ 173K 11.5Ft. $479.00
- Nikon Coolpix P4 NO 8MP 36 – 126 SD 1.2″ 150K 13Ft. $340.00
- Olympus Stylus 710 NO 7MP 37 – 111 XD .8″ 115K 13 Ft . $283.00
- Panasonic DMC FX9 YES 6.4MP 35 – 105 SD .9″ 207K 12 Ft. $256.00
- Pentax A10 NO 8MP 38 – 114 SD .8″ 232K 15 Ft. $273.00
- SonyCybershot DSCFX9 NO 6MP 38 – 114 MS Pro .8″ 230K 9 Ft. $375.00
The general thing about digital photography is the number of pixels. Different resolution makes for different images. The more pixels an image has, the more elaborate it is. Details depend on the number of pixels. But bigger resolution also means bigger image file size and larger print size. This may cause some difficulties if you are trying to print the image by yourself. Larger file formats also cause trouble when sending files via email: some email accounts have specific space and your attached files are too large to be received. Despite this, people prefer resolution with greater number of pixels. The picture looks much more realistic when more pixels construct it. It is the same as in the puzzle game: the more pieces a puzzle has, the more complex it looks. Pixels give additional shades and nuances because they can take different colors, so the image looks as real as possible.
Let’s discuss the difficulties of file and print size. Using a 3 megapixel camera, you have no trouble printing 8×10 or smaller photographs and get satisfying results. If you want to print something bigger, you will get into trouble. You’d better go to a printing shop. For prints of larger size, you may need special paper and a professional, who can do it for you. Another thing to remember is changing of size. You can change the print size without making defects on the resolution. But this can only be done when making an existing photo smaller. If you decided to enlarge a small image using a program, you’d better give it up. Smaller images are made of different resolution formats and when you enlarge them, the number of pixels stays the same and is no longer compatible with the larger copy, so the quality of the photo is lost.
Resolution defines the file size as well. You may try to convert larger files into smaller ones, before sending them through email. Before re-sizing an image, you should better save it in its original resolution quality. Save it in its larger and pixel-rich size and then make it smaller in the editing program for emailing. In that case you will always have a copy of the original if you like to print it. Remember that once resized, an image cannot be brought back to its previous size, as it is larger and resolution would be changed for the worse. This effect is called pixelation: when you try to enlarge an existing copy. It always results in worse printing image quality.
There are three points you should remember about resolution.
- The higher the resolution, the better printed image quality.
- The higher the resolution, the larger the file size and the larger the print size.
- Do not confuse pixels with dots. They are not the same. Pixels per inch (PPI) and dots per inch (DPI) are variables completely different from one another.
“Good Planning” Advice for Photography Poses
- Prepare For The Event. Prepare for the event by thinking about every photograph you want to take and what kind of photography pose or poses you would like to capture. Consider who, where, how, and the type of environment.
- Take Multiple Photographs. Take multiple shots of each pose (remember, digital memory is reusable, a.k.a. “free”). Regardless of what you say or do, people will blink. And don’t count on spotting small problems on the tiny camera LCD screen (even on full magnification); which leads to…
- Check LCD Screen. Check the digital camera’s LCD screen for general framing of the picture, any movement, visibility of faces, and the histogram. Note that you can think up a fantastic photography pose; arrange everyone perfectly; and, have the photograph “frozen” (no blinking, and no shaking of the camera)…but, when you check it out in the LCD, you see 2 drunks fighting in the background! And, my favorite…
- Funny Phrases. Have some funny phrases handy to use just before you take the photo. Don’t use it when setting up for the shot. And, don’t use the same phrase all the time. Throw in funny anecdotes, phrases, names, words that you know your family will find more amusing than “cheese.” A natural smile looks four times better than a fake one. The second category is…
“Location” Advice for Photography Poses
Taking indoor family photography, is very different than outdoor family photograph (duh!). For INDOOR pictures…
- Wide Angle. You will tend to use the wide angle more often than your telephoto setting. Pay particular attention to your “end people” (those farthest to the right and the left in your viewfinder), and verify there is enough space in picture, so that if cropping is required, the end people don’t have to lose a limb.
- The Flash. Flash considerations are critical. Do not be outside your “flash range.” For example, if at ISO 100, your flash can properly illuminate 12 feet, don’t attempt any photography pose that requires anyone to stand at 14 feet (unless, of course, it’s evil cousin Ira who you want to appear in darkness).
- Plan “B”. If you need to be further away than your flash allows, here are 2 things you can try…First, increase the ISO setting (but not so much as to produce to much noise), or second, move to a significantly brighter location.
- Watch Your Background. If there are distracting features, change your settings to blur the background (see the Techniques page). The best photography pose in the world won’t look right with a distracting background. And finally…
- Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall. If there are mirrors or reflective surfaces in the background and you can’t find a different location, only take the picture in such a way that the flash is not perpendicularto the surface, but at an angle (unless you want a nice photo of your flash). Outdoor family photography has completely different issues. For OUTDOOR photography…
- The Sun. Avoid photographing in direct sunlight, or in mixed light and shade, especially faces. Optimal lighting results from a slightly overcast sky.
- Shade. When photographing in shade, use fill-flash (see terms) when necessary. And, really finally…
For fabulous holiday portraits get your children and guests to interact with their surroundings. Hand a child an ornament or ask him to hang a Christmas stocking. It’s not always necessary to pose your subjects. Giving them something to do helps relax them and you get wonderful expressions this way.
Hand an adult a champagne glass and ask him to lead a toast. Ask someone to help you hang the mistletoe. Take his picture while he’s hanging it and then when someone corners him under it for a kiss.
Consider creating a photo essay. Photograph the tree going up, your shopping trip to the mall, your child putting out cookies for Santa, your child sleeping, your child waking up on Christmas (if you can get up that early), etc. Create a story album using one of the many software packages designed for this purpose. I have used Epson’s package that comes with a bound volume designed by Epson, but a search online using the terms “photo album software” reveals a lot of other options. There are also online companies such as Shutterfly that will do the printing for you.
If you are especially creative and use your images to make collages and scrapbooks, the holiday times are perfect for capturing still-life’s that enhance your creations. Photograph the champagne and glasses, mantel decorations, ornaments, and flowers without human subjects. Use portions of these images to enhance your personal stationary or anything you create. Sometimes a portion of a great picture has a lot of potential for creativity. Study your images and consider cropping appropriately.
Include your holiday lights in your pictures. Candles and Christmas lights add an extra glow and provide a special atmosphere for portraits. Consider taking outdoor portraits outdoors in the evening and use your outdoor holiday lights as a back drop. As with all photos, light is one of your most important factors. We are lucky during the holiday season to have the opportunity to make use of dramatic lighting situations. Pay attention to the light and consider what situations would work best with a flash for even lighting and what would be better with natural light. Natural light can help you best capture the glow of the holidays. Play with both natural light and flash to learn what will work best.