Photo Tips - Photographer's Tips

Photographer's Tips - Hands On

As Shared on the Tech Net by Jim Austin

Photo by Lusi

Taking a Great Picture

Nine Secrets Behind Great Pictures

1. Just a few colors that compliment or contrast each other.
2. It portrays a message. i.e. "How beautiful!"
3. Tells a story.
4. Contains just a few picture elements.
5. Leaves you questioning or wondering is it complete? "What's behind the scenes?"
6. Has unusual juxtaposition.
7. Gives you a reason to look at it over and over again.
8. Good lighting makes great tones. Morning or evening light is best.
9. Triggers a memory. Creates an association.

"A PHOTOGRAPH is conceived purposefully,  expressing the artist's interpretation of a subject.
A snapshot is, well...  blinking."   ~ jim austin


For more dynamic shots, keep your subject off-center. Use the tic tac toe grid pattern in the frame if your camera has this setting. If not, imagine such a grid, as depicted here.

You'll find four intersections. The best place for your subject of interest is the intersection at the lower left, followed by the upper left, lower right and the last choice would be the upper right. This works for vertical shots too.

To create depth, think of an S curve when lining up objects rather than lining them up straight in rows.

Query: What is Composition?
Jim: It means where your subject sits within your picture. The balance of space.
Query: Where is this grid setting?
Jim: Most cameras don't have it. You must use your imagination.
Comment: You can also use cropping afterward. (Scaramouche)

Lock the camera focus on your subject, then move the camera slightly. This will keep your subject in focus while off-center, and creates a softer background.

Place your subject off to the side and bring it to life by moving it to size.

Depth of Field

We see in three dimensions, but cameras only see height and width. It's up to us to create depth.
Set F-stop to a higher number. 16-22 is recommended.
Point and Shoot cameras should use landscape mode.
For a fun "test drive" visit Camerasim to experiment with different depth of field settings.

To Create Depth
# 1. Look for something in the foreground.
# 2. Look up, down, back, look up as you take a walk.
# 3. Fill the frame with your subject.


If subject is too dark, let more light into the camera.  Use the exposure compensation setting and bump it up by +1.

Use a fill flash to fill in shadows.  A fill flash is not as powerful as a full flash.  Find fill or forced flash settings on menu options.   A fill flash will bring out colors.   Use a fill flash in bright outdoor light.

Golden Hour

This is the hour starting at sunrise, and the hour preceding sunset. These times give landscapes nice varied colors. It's also good for portraits due to the soft side lighting.


Slow down and let go.   Look for small details when you are in the field searching for a sweeping landscape. Look down for small detail shots and small intricate abstract patterns right under your feet.   Sit down while paying attention to small details.   Let go of finding what you think you set out to photograph.

Change your POV.  When you photograph, change your Point of View.  We always see the world from our own perspective, from eye level.  Change this.  Make photographs from a dog's perspective, a frog's perspective, or a butterfly's eye view.  Photograph from the end of your forward berth, or from the bottom of your dinghy.


In bright sun, the underside of clouds are blue. Skin tones are red. This light makes them weird.  Investigate the white balance setting to compensate.   Use white paper outdoors in the sun.  If photos are in the shade, balance with the paper in the shade.
A polarizer is useful in bright sun.
Keep the sun behind you.
Learn to love the overcast days of Fall.   They have lower contrast.  On a sunny day the difference between shadows and harsh sunlight at noon is hard to handle for most digital cameras.  The soft, diffuse light of an overcast day is your friend.

Stop Motion

Query: Will the camera continue to focus during stop motion?
Yes. The settings are on the modes dial, and the focus is set before you shoot.


Query: How to use the zoom effectively?
Jim: Back off of the digital zoom, or if you do use it, do so with a tripod.  Use optical zoom for best results.

Camera Modss

Manual Settings

Manual gives you full control. You have to think about aperture, speed, ISO, white balance, and flash. This mode has maximum flexibility.

Macro Mode
The symbol looks like a flower on most cameras and is used for close-ups or macros. Use it to get in very close to your subject. You can also use zoom with the macro setting. This allows you to capture detail on very small objects. Use a tripod or a very steady hand. Some cameras use telephoto. Suggested subjects include flowers and insects.

Query: How close should the lens be from the subject?
Jim: Six to twelve inches. Try a test shot.

Query: Should I use a flash?
Jim: Yes. But cut the flash power down one of two ways:
1. Put a piece of white paper over the flash to soften the light.
2. Change the flash exposure compensation through the internal menu.

Night Mode
The symbol for this usually includes a moon of some description. When using night mode, the camera tries to create a little flash and to manage the focus. It works well in low-light situations like capturing indoor decorated Christmas trees, etc.

Party Mode
Many photographers joke that the P (program) setting on camera mode dials stands for pro. It really stands for Partying mode, when you are at a party and have too many things in your hand, you just switch to P mode.

Portrait Mode
The symbol for this usually looks like a person's head. It's used for taking photos of a person. This mode gives a softening to the face. It automatically uses a wider F stop, which makes a soft blurry background.

Query: What about cameras with 'smile finders'?
Jim: A face detector is a nice feature and it's fun to use, but look for other useful features when purchasing a new camera, such as lens quality, etc.

Tracking Mode
When taking photos of dolphins or other moving objects, use the tracking mode. This puts the camera in a continuous auto focus. Use single auto focus for stationary objects or reset the lens. Check the contacts on a removable lens if not cooperating.


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