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During and immediately following the 2011 fall firearms deer season and youth season, the Herald published dozens of pictures of deer taken by local hunters. By my estimation, about 1 percent of those pictures was taken by our staff. The rest were submitted. In fact, I think I photographed three deer during the entire season.
There was a time when we expected to take up to a dozen pictures on the first day of the season and as many as 15 per week as the season progressed. The invent of digital photography has changed all that. I never thought I would say this, but the least expensive, lowest resolution camera on the market today takes better pictures than most of the point-and-shoot cameras that were available 20 years ago.
To take that a step farther, most cell phones take a better picture now than those cameras did 20 years ago.
Many of the pictures that were submitted to us for publication were high quality photos, as good or better than we could have taken ourselves. But some were bad…really bad. We used them anyway because many were a first kill or a trophy that the hunter was counting on being documented in the newspaper so it would forever remain in the archives.
Please understand, I don’t claim to be a professional photographer. In fact, when people refer to me as a photographer I correct them and say, No, I take pictures. There’s a difference. But I’ve done this long enough that I believe I am qualified to offer a few pointers.
If you really enjoy taking pictures, and like to get creative with your photography, spend a little extra money and get a good SLR (single lens reflex). That’s the kind with interchangeable lenses. If money is an issue, buy the camera now and add special lenses and other accessories as you can.
If you are just a casual photographer and don’t need to manually adjust your camera for fast action shots or low light photography, there are many good point-and-shoot cameras on the market that will work just fine for you.
But regardless of the camera, there are some things you can do to turn adequate pictures into good pictures.
First, fill the frame. Don’t stand 20 feet from something that can be photographed from six feet away. That’s the great thing about digital. Take the picture, look at it, and if it’s not right, delete and shoot again.
A second thing to watch for is position. Unless you’re looking for a special effect, don’t stand your subject in front of a window or glass door, or with his/her back to the sun. All you will get is a silhouette. If you don’t have a choice but to stand the subject in front of a light background, use your flash or “trick” the camera’s automatic setting into thinking it needs more light. Don’t be afraid to use your flash except in situations where it is not allowed or not appropriate. If you’re inside or lighting is low, use a flash. If you’re shooting on automatic, your camera will adjust to the light, but the shutter speed will be so slow you will have a blurry picture.
While checking your background, you should also consider what is going to show up in the picture. If you can’t move the subject, move yourself to improve the background or to eliminate something that really should not be in the picture. I don’t mean your mother-in-law or dirty underwear. It could be something as simple as a tree limb or a cat.
If you’re shooting children or small pets, get down on their level. Sometimes you have to “get down and get dirty” to get the good picture. Also, take more than one. You’re not wasting film anymore. The digital image is virtually free. You can erase the ones you don’t want later. That’s why the best teacher is your camera. Practice with it. Play with it. Figure out what works best. And there’s nothing wrong with taking notes to help you remember what worked and what didn’t.
If you are going to submit your photos to the newspaper for publication, email them to us in digital format as a jpg (or jpeg) image. You’ve defeated the purpose if you take your pictures on a high resolution camera then make a print on an inkjet printer. If you don’t have email capabilities, bring your camera or memory disc in and we’ll copy it for you. (If you bring us your camera, be sure and bring the USB download cable, too.)
I hope these little tidbits of information will help you take better pictures. And if those photos are submitted to us for publication, we will have better pictures, too.