8 Simple Steps towards better photos – part I

Eight simple steps toward making your images more visually interesting is a series of tips by Barb Gordon.

Barb, of www.BarbGordonPhotoCoach.com, is a Master Photographer, Photographic Craftsman, and Certified Professional Photographer with the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) to which she has belonged since 1984.  She is a nationally published and award winning photographer, entrepreneur, speaker, and author including being published in the prestigious PPA Loan Collection 2006, PPA Showcase 2003, and twice named Iowa’s Top Ten Photographer of the Year.

She has been locally honored by YWCA Tribute to Women of Achievement 2001 and Advanced Entrepreneur of the Year 2003.  Barb owns Gordon Photography & Gallery in Marion, Iowa specializing in customized portrait art.  Learn more about her studio at www.GordonPhotography.Biz

As a recent breast cancer survivor, Barb started www.PortraitsAndStories.com as a photo essay project to encourage survivors, their families, and their friends through images and blog posts by the survivors on a wide variety of topics.

When not working, she enjoys life on a new farm raising organic chickens, gardening, and playing with the horses, cats, and dogs.

Let’s turn things over to Barb now,  with the first two tips.

As a professional photographer for over 25 years, I have developed my own style of posing, lighting, and portrait finishing.  There are, however, some easy to learn everyday tips that can improve your photography quickly.

I am not one for “fixing it in Photoshop” or “in the mix” as they say in the music business. As a professional, I want to get it right the first time in camera.  Downloading files and fixing things in post is just too time consuming and sloppy for me. So here are eight tips to get you started off right.

Tip #1 Get Closer-Get Lower-Get Higher

Most people I observe stand too far away from the subject they are photographing. I am sure that is because they do not want to call attention to themselves; they want to snap a fast picture and not be noticed or be in the way. But I say,“Get closer to your subject!”

Taking a moment to get closer and not have so much distracting background improves an image greatly.  Cropping in post production later is okay to a point, but I am for doing it right the first time in the camera.  Over cropping degrades the image quality by only using a small part of the file.

Speaking of getting right in there, I was in Las Vegas and found a crowd of people watching and taking pictures of three living statues. These beautiful girls were clothed and painted in one color and looked like real statues only they moved just a little bit just once in a while. Similar to the English guard, they will not even move to accept a tip or compliment. I carefully worked myself into the center of the crowd and took a photograph…well, okay, lots of photographs.  After a few minutes I realized that the crowd had opened up for me, and I had all the elbow room I wanted.

Try not shooting everything at your standing level. Add interest to your images by getting lower and shoot at kid level. I squat, kneel, and lay on my stomach (all of which is getting harder at 40 something!).  As shown in the example on the above, I often get on a ladder and shoot down on someone by two feet or more.  Lay someone on the ground and shoot almost straight down on them. That is fun, too!

Tip #2 Look behind your subject

Many times we notice after the fact that we have a tree trunk, pole, or some other line intersecting the head of our subject.  Take a moment to look past your subject and see what may become a distraction. You may have to move around a bit to find a more pleasing angle.

If timing is critical, grab your shot regardless of the background first.  Then with the luxury of time back on your side, reposition yourself to eliminate those unwanted lines.  With children and pets, you may not get another chance to get exactly what you want so get the image now.

With this photo of George, I think it is pretty obvious that the pole is distracting. It just so happens that this was my favorite picture of George that I captured during the entire time I was dog sitting him. That expression and angle just did not happen again, so I am glad I took this anyway. Now if I had just had a reflector to fill those dark eyes in! But that is another post.

The excuse of “I’ll just fix that later in Photoshop” is for amateurs and reflects sloppy work. Fixing files also takes time and time is money. Photoshop is a great tool to assist you with challenges in images, but it is not an excuse not to do things right in the first place.

Thanks, Barb!  We’ll continue this series with tips on cropping and lens selection.

Photography expert Barb Gordon, Master Photographer, publishes Barb Gordon Photo Coach’s Shooting For Success ezine. If you’re ready to take your photography to the next level, get your FREE reports “Make Photography More than a Hobby” and “15 Ways to Make More Money with your Photography” now at http://www.BarbGordonPhotoCoach.com

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