Photography Tips

Make a snap into a photo

300dpi, 2mb file, pixels, high resolution image…..
These terms may seem really daunting but producing a great quality photo is simple with a few easy to follow tips!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so what message do you want to get across to your viewers? For example, an image of an empty church does not convey the message that you have just had a sold-out concert - it makes the viewer question where the people are.

It is important to ask yourself: Who is the photo for? What it is about? What should people be wearing? Try to be creative when positioning your subject. For instance, taking a photo of the back of people’s heads in a church does not make an interesting shot; try taking a photo of them from the front.

Try to interact with people when photographing them – making jokes or chatting to them while taking the photo can help them relax. Also, when taking a group shot, make sure that everyone is looking at YOU! If one or two people are looking in a different direction, this can ruin the impact of your image. Two ways to try and combat this are:  Firstly to give your group instructions about when to be looking at the camera (when you are not using flash they may not realise when you are taking the picture). Secondly, take more than one shot of the same group. Not only will this ensure you should have an image with them all looking in the same direction but, inevitably, people blink, so you should be able to capture a shot with everyone looking awake!

When taking a photo decide what you want in the image and think what you want to leave out. Clutter can be a problem in images and create a lack of emphasis. Simply moving your subject to an area with a less distracting background keeps the emphasis where it needs to be - on the subject. Another detail to consider is objects in the background that perhaps make the subject look odd. For example if you take a photo of someone with a tree behind them, try to be careful about branches looking as though they are coming out of the subject’s head. Or, if there is a speaker who is talking on a serious topic, make sure there are no signs in the shot that would lead to humour. Check for these sorts of objects before taking the shot and, if needed, change position or angle.

When people look at a photo the eye searches for a point of focus, so when taking the photo think about empty space! If you are taking a photo of a person and there is nothing around them, then crop in a bit tighter to add more focus on the subject. However, if you want to feature your subject in context, think about what is relevant to portray this. For example, if you were taking pictures of a Fair Trade event in your church, think about placing your subject in front of the stalls with Fair Trade products or, if you have a banner for the event, ask them to stand in front of this.

If you want to take a photo of a group of people, think about where you can have them positioned to make the shot more interesting. What about having them positioned on a staircase at different heights, rather than in a straight line? If you do place them in a straight line, make sure when taking the photo that your camera is straight and that your subjects do not look like they are about to fall over.

Lighting is important when taking your photo. If an image is too bright detail will be washed out and show as white space. If it is too dark, your subject could meld into the shadows.

Think about what light is available – if the weather is good, try to go outside, as natural light is the best form. However, be careful of having your subject facing direct sunlight which may make them squint. Also, when the sun is at its highest, the light can be quite harsh, adding dark shadows which are not always flattering for your subject. Try to move your subject into a shaded area to achieve a softer light.

Be careful about taking photos into the sun because this can cause sun spots to appear on your images and can possibly wash out your subject. Also, avoid taking pictures with people standing in front of a window, you will find this will cause your subject to be completely in shadow.

There will be times when you need to take photos indoors because of the weather or it could be evening. In these cases, your on-board camera flash should automatically come on. There are just a few tips to remember when thinking about your lighting. Try to place your subject in the best lit area. Flash can make your subject appear very bright and cause dark shadows behind them - if you can minimise this it will help your final image. Avoid standing people directly under an artificial light as this can produce an odd halo effect around them.

Camera Shake
No matter how much time you have spent on getting your lighting and composition right, a blurry image will affect the quality of the photo. Also if you send a blurry image to a publication they will not publish it.

Camera shake can be a problem for photographers from beginner to pro. At a basic level, one of the best things you can do is make sure you have a strong, sturdy base. Stand with your feet slightly apart and make sure your weight is evenly distributed. Hold the camera in both hands and keep your elbows tucked into your sides. Two other positions you can try are kneeling on one knee or sitting. These positions also give you a different angle on your subject which can lead to a more successful shot. Above all else, take your time!

Another reason for an unintentional blurry image could be the auto-focus on the camera.

Auto-focusing systems are great and more often than not get it right, but occasionally they can focus on the wrong part of your image. This could lead to your background being in focus but your subject being blurred, so it is essential when taking your photo that your point of focus is in the right place. All cameras differ slightly but usually the camera will have a red box which you place over the area you would like in focus, or it could have a light that will come on to tell you the camera is focused or it could beep to let you know. Have a look at the manual to find out how your focusing system works and make sure you are comfortable using it.

Pixels are a huge contributing factor towards the quality of your photo. Digital photos are made up dots (pixels) and the more pixels there are in the image, the more detail has been recorded. How much detail you need will depend on what you want to use it for. For use on the computer, such as websites, presentations or screensavers, the number of pixels can be less of an issue but for printing the more the better!

When it comes to printing your images the number of pixels influences how large you can scale your photo before the images starts to become distorted. This is where the term DPI comes in which means ‘dots per inch’ (also know as pixels per inch). In printing terms this means the dots of ink used by a printing device per inch of paper so, the more dots, the better and sharper the image.

Camera Settings
The settings vary on different cameras so it is important to know your camera to get the most out of it. To make sure your camera is going to produce an image of the highest resolution, make sure the image quality on the camera is set to either fine or extra fine. Alternatively, the options on your camera may be large, medium or small.

When you set your camera to its highest quality settings you are using the camera’s maximum number of pixels. This is perfect if you want to print your images huge or want to send it to a newspaper for publicity but you will notice the number of images that you can save on the card is reduced.

Jpeg stands for ‘Joint Photographic Expert Group’ and is a compressed type of image format. This format of image loses some quality in the compression but can be used on PC and Mac. It is widely used for printing and on websites.

TIFF stands for ‘Tagged Image File Format’ and is a larger image format than a Jpeg.

Attaching an image in an email
Often we are sent images embedded in a Word document but we need images to be sent as a separate attachment in order to publish it in its highest quality. We can’t use images embedded in Word. So, please send them as attachments.

To send your photo as an attachment on an email: 

- Open up your email software (for this example I am going to use Outlook Express) then click on 'new message'.


- In Outlook you will see a paperclip on the menu bar - if you click this, you can pick the folder on your computer
  where the image is saved.

- Once you have found the file and highlighted it, click 'insert'.

- You will now see the image has been attached to your email.

- You can repeat this process again on the same email if you want to add another image.

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