Say “Cheese”~Positively Splendid Guest Post

Do you enjoy taking pictures? Would you like to learn more about Photography? I sure hope so, because I have a special treat for you today!

Be sure to head on over and check out our Star Studded line-up for this week and next! And don’t forget to check the Party Guidelines!

Welcome to day three of the most happening blog party in town! My name is Amy, and my little corner of the blogging world is known as Positively Splendid. I am delighted that Liz has asked me to be a part of this exciting new venture!

Scrapbooking kick-started my interest in photography just after the birth of my second child in 2007. I loved the idea of putting memories on paper, and the more I strived to create meaningful pages, the more I realized the importance of taking quality photos to convey the importance of events. My photography skills have certainly come a long way since then! My development in photography has been completely self-taught. There certainly have been a lot of less-than-stellar shots taken along the way, but I have learned that good photography (or at least the quality amateur photography most of us strive for) isn’t impossible to achieve. Today I’m going to share a few photography tips I’ve learned through my experiences. Before we begin, though, I want to set some ground rules.

  1. Don’t be hard on yourself. First and foremost, it is important to realize that we all take crummy shots every now and then. Sometimes what is most important is actually being there and taking part, so if all you can manage are a couple of blurry snapshots of a particular event, that is more than ok!
  2. Don’t feel like you have to invest in a pricey DSLR to get the shots you want. Point-and-shoot cameras have come a very long way in the last few years. I have yet to delve into the world of SLR photography, but until then, I am absolutely tickled pink with the Canon point-and-shoot I purchased last year.
  3. Do get to know your photo-editing software, inside and out. (Or, if you don’t have a particular package you like, find one!) This is every photographer’s secret weapon, and it is incredible how a few clicks of a mouse can take a photo from drab to fab. Trust me: Very few of my shots are stunning straight out of the camera!

Ok, now grab your camera, and let’s talk about a few tricks you can implement today that will make noticeable changes in the quality of your photos!

Try a new perspective. We probably all have those shots in our archives of photos: the ones we take of our kids that make them look ants while a giant took it from on high. They have to crane their necks up in unnatural ways to have their faces seen by the camera’s lens. Definitely not the best technique for capturing shots with a natural, uncontrived feel, right? Next time you are photographing your children, your pets, or your food, try this: get down on the level of the subject. Kneel down so you can see your subject at eye level. Use your camera’s macro setting (that little flower icon you might have always wondered about is actually a setting you use to take very close shots!) to stay focused when you are up close and personal for truly dynamic food shots instead of standing back and taking it from your eye level. You will be amazed at what a difference this makes!

Let me show you what I mean. Take a look at these snapshots of my yummy mid-afternoon snack. Each of these photos is of the same pear, in the same location, at close to the same moment in time. The only difference between the two? In the second, I kneeled down to the level of the pear for a more dynamic perspective. I love how you can even see each of the droplets of water from the second vantage point!

Turn off your flash. The number one killer of a potentially good shot is flash lighting that washes everything out. If it is at all possible, strive for natural light in your shots. Have you ever noticed how terrific your outdoor photos are, while your indoor shots are lacking? The reason is natural light! Admittedly, this is one area where DSLR cameras far out-perform point-and-shoot cameras. Inside each digital camera is a little panel of light sensors, and those inside SLRS are much larger than those in point-and-shoots. Regardless, it is possible to maximize your lighting to achieve very good results without a flash using your point-and-shoot camera. If possible, set up close to a window or doorway where natural light is abundant. Turn on as many lights as possible to flood the area with light without having any light source aimed directly at your subject. And, perhaps most importantly, use a tripod! Shots taken sans a flash are very vulnerable to blurriness caused by camera shake, so if you’re striving for a crisp, clean shot, a tripod (or other flat, stable surface) is imperative. I actually read somewhere recently that if you don’t have a tripod, use your camera’s self timer to ensure your camera is completely still once the shot is taken. Smart, huh?

The following examples are admittedly quite extreme, but if the first photo below doesn’t depict flash photography gone wrong, I don’t know what will! The two photos were taken within moments of one another, and under the same lighting conditions. The only difference is that the second was taken without a flash. Natural light yields true-to-life shots!

Fire up your photo-editing software. Now that you’ve taken well-lit photos with dynamic perspective, load them onto your computer. This is where things get really fun! Fire up your photo-editing software and open your photo. Great programs don’t have to be pricey! For many of my daily photo-editing tasks, I use Picasa from Google. It is totally free, and I have been quite pleased with the functionality of the program. A few of my favorite functions in Picasa:

Basic Fixes

  • Auto Contrast and Auto Color – Great options if you’re in a hurry. The program will automatically maximize your photo, no questions asked.
  • Straighten – Use this to tweak your photo by rotating it a bit to the right or the left.
  • Fill Light – If your photo seems a bit dark, try giving this a nudge. It’s amazing what a difference it can make!

Tuning

  • Shadows/Highlights – From this menu, these are the two I use the most frequently. By adjusting these, you can liven up the color of your photos by brightening up the areas that need it and taming the others.

Effects – In my opinion, the best part of Picasa! My favorites:

  • Sharpen – Make your photos have a cleaner, crisper appearance.
  • Saturation – Used sparingly, this can really kick a photo up a notch. Just remember too much of a good thing can make your photos look other-worldly. Just sayin’.
  • Black & White – If you’ve got a photo you love, yet something just isn’t quite right after making the adjustments I’ve mentioned, try converting it to black and white. This masks imperfections while imparting a nostalgic feel to a photo. It’s a great weapon to have in your arsenal!

The difference is subtle in the before and after of this little snapshot, but see how much more vibrant the second photo of our little hula girl is? The changes took literally seconds to do, and it was all in Picasa.

Straight out of camera

After: Straighten, Sharpen, Fill Light, Saturation

Thanks so much, Liz, for inviting me to the party this week! It has been my pleasure, and I hope these little tips and tricks can help everyone punch up their photographs for more eye-catching and dynamic results!

Wasn’t that great?  Thanks so much Amy!

It’s time for you to share your photography posts or Wordless Wednesday photos!

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14 Responses to “Say “Cheese”~Positively Splendid Guest Post”

  1. Dawn says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I want to learn how to take better pictures!
    Dawn´s last [type] ..Wordful Wednesday

    [Reply]

  2. Robin says:

    Great tips Amy! I almost always give my shots a color boost =) I also love using natural light.
    Robin´s last [type] ..Alabama Breakfast Cakes

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  3. Stef says:

    Thanks for the tips, Amy! I have such a problem with camera shake when I don’t use the flash, but I hate the flash so much, I’d rather have blurry pictures!!!

    [Reply]

  4. I love all of the fabulous tips she gave. I love to take photos with natural lighting and I use PSE 8.0 but I still need to learn so much more about it.
    Tammy @ Not Just Paper and Glue´s last [type] ..Custom Flip Flops and Tutorial

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  5. Nice tips. I wholeheartedly endorse the advice to turn off your flash. The flash can really be a photo killer. Use all the natural light you can and try to avoid the flash.

    Also, I am a big user of Picasa. This is an amazing program for bloggers because you can easily create great collages. I use them all the time on my blog.

    The only drawback to Picasa is the inability to resize images in the program, which means your blog loads slowly. I use Photoshop Elements to resize but there are many other cheaper options.

    Good luck!
    Lesley @ TheDesignFile´s last [type] ..Giveaway: A set of handmade plates from Etsy

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  6. Sherry says:

    I love taking pictures. I took a wonderful online class with a blog friend of mine called “Mommytography” which helped open my eyes to a lot of great new pics and then took her next one which taught Photo Shop. http://mommytography.blogspot.com/
    Sherry´s last [type] ..SONrise

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  7. Crafty Mummy says:

    Thanks for the tips, Amy!
    Crafty Mummy´s last [type] ..Kids crafts…

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  8. Anna Cahoon says:

    Great info. I love photography! I plan to share your page with some other Moms.

    [Reply]

  9. Lesley, Picasa doesn’t allow you to resize or make permanent changes to your original photo, but there is an option to export your file and resize it from there. (If you look at the options listed at the bottom of your screen when a particular photo is open, you will see the “export” icon toward the middle of the list.) When you click on this, you are given to option to resize at that point before saving the exported file with the edits you have made. Very handy!

    I am so glad to hear this tutorial was helpful to y’all!
    Amy @ Positively Splendid´s last [type] ..A red-letter day

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    admin Reply:

    @Amy @ Positively Splendid, Thanks for answering that Amy!
    ~Liz

    [Reply]

  10. She's Crafty says:

    Thanks for the tips! I took the above picture of my son Nate with my Canon Rebel xti…at least I think that’s what it’s called! I used Photoshop CS3 to auto adjust colors, brightness and upped the saturation a bit. I love the bit of extra color in the background from my boots, and the watermelon red…..I LOVE SUMMER!!

    I can’t get the linky to upload the thumbnail….maybe it will in a bit.

    Thanks, Amy!
    Leigh Austin
    http://crafty.littlerockmamas.com/
    She’s Crafty´s last [type] ..Wordless Wednesday

    [Reply]

  11. Aysha says:

    Great tips… Its a miracle how some simple tips can create the best pictures.
    Aysha´s last [type] ..More Toys Toddlers Would Love

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  12. [...] from Positively Splendid, shared some awesome tips on photography for the Say “Cheese” Linky Party on [...]

  13. [...] to: Wordless Wednesday and Its a Blog Party! Share This [...]

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