Photo Mojo

by Stefani on 31-March-2008

Shadow Mama

Every now and again a sweet reader will write in, asking for photography tips.

I find this really, truly flattering, but I don’t really know how to answer. I’m not a trained photographer. I don’t know how half the buttons on my camera work. I’m just a girl who takes a lot (A LOT) of pictures.

So, as much as I’d like to, I can’t really impart any real photography wisdom, I can only tell you what I do, and hope that maybe it will work for you too:

1) I think that my skills have grown a lot in the past year, and that’s in large part due to this blog. Having a blog has required me to take photos almost every day. Where before, I might save the photo taking for big events, outings or occasions, now I take pictures of every little thing. The daily practice has taught me a lot about my camera, how it works in different settings. and also a lot about myself, what I find beautiful, what I want to remember, my own style.

The very best advice I can give is to just take lots of pictures. Take your camera everywhere. Take pictures of everything; your lunch, your doorknob, your steering wheel while you wait in the carpool line, the squirrel that won’t leave your birdfeeder alone. Pretty soon, you’ll learn a lot about your camera, your style, and you’ll start paying closer attention to your everyday world. You’ll find yourself taking lots of mental photos, composing shots even when you don’t have your camera at hand.

As an added bonus, the constant photo taking has totally desensitized my children to the camera. They used to balk when I brought it out, now they’ve come to expect as much, and even ask, “Hey momma, you wanna take a picture of this (… rock, playdoh snake, flying leap off the couch…)? Should any of my boys become politicians or actors, they will feel perfectly at home with the paparazzi.

2) I never use the flash. Never. Well, I take that back, I try sometimes, but I’ve yet to take a good photo with the flash. Maybe if I learned what all those buttons did, I could adjust the flash levels or something, but since I don’t know how to do that, I just don’t use it. Most of the photos you see here at Blue Yonder were taken outside, or very near a sunny window.

3) I try things from lots of different angles. If I’m taking a photo of a boy playing in the water I might take one from below him and catch a lot of the water spray, and another above and capture his swirly wet hair, one real close to see the drops on his skin, and one from behind to capture the plumber impersonation (why it that my kids fannies cannot hold up a wet swimsuit?).

Photos that are all looking dead on, straight at the subject have their place, but more often than not, a different angle will add to the interest of the shot.

4) I get real close. Most of my photos focus on one particular detail that I’d like to remember… dirty fingernails holding a fluffy chick, rather than the whole boy and the whole chicken.

5) I don’t really edit my photos much. I may crop them a little, raise the contrast or sharpness, but that’s about it. I use iPhoto for those things. Sometimes, if I want the photo to be a particular size, or if I want to add text, I use Picnik. I know that a lot can be done to improve photos with more extensive editing programs but 1)I’m too lazy busy too learn how to use them. and 2)I’m kind of a purist. I don’t like the idea of things altered too much.

So that’s it. That’s about all I know on the subject.

Here’s a few tips though, from some amazing photobugs that know far more than me!

The Pioneer Woman
Stephanie, of Little Birds
Alicia of Posie Gets Cozy
And the one that will change your life: 21 Ways to Improve Your Photographs

Alright then, get to shootin’!

Natalie March 31, 2008 at 11:27 pm

I’m so glad you posted this. My sweet husband recently gifted me an amazing DSLR camera to use for our blog, and while I love taking pictures, I was feeling a bit inadequate. I have been reading about composition and exposure and am learning tons- I just want to take interesting photos without a lot of fuss, ya know?. Your post gave me a much needed boost of confidence! Thank you!

Felicia April 1, 2008 at 3:14 am

I just wrote about photography the other day. And you’re right, now I find myself talking pictures all all sorts of things I rarely looked twice at before. There is certainly beauty in the small details. I follow a lot of the same tips you do 🙂

Casey April 1, 2008 at 7:02 am

Great ideas — as a photo novice, I thank you for posting this.

Maria April 1, 2008 at 7:47 am

Great post! I am in LOVE with the photo…beautiful. I just got a new camera and I vowed NEVER to use the flash again. I agree with first commenter…this is a nice shot in the arm for the novice! I’ve always loved your photos and it’s nice to k now you’re keeping it real…

Amy April 1, 2008 at 8:34 am

I love the photo accompanying this post – the way the waves in the wood are visible in the shadow. I once read that waves symbolize women, so this is particularly appealing to me. Beautiful!

Julie @ Letter9 April 1, 2008 at 9:13 am

I think you’re totally right that taking excellent photos required taking LOTS of photos. Great tips. The one that I find helps the most with pics of kids is to get on their level.

Megan April 1, 2008 at 10:43 am

I am truly amazed that you aren’t a professional photographer. I just recently started visiting your blog and love your images. I am a professional photographer and that image of your son laying in the tent is really beautiful. So, even though you may not be a pro – you are good enough to be one. Keep on snapping.

Molly April 1, 2008 at 10:56 am

ditto. I share your photo philosphey to a ‘T’. Particularly the reasons for not editing them too much and snapping every day. I’ve also noticed a change in my girls. The other night they asked for me to take a picture of our sunshine pancakes before we ate them, and now they are more likely to go about their business while I’m shooting, instead of the old freeeze and smile routine.

molly April 1, 2008 at 12:48 pm

you shared my two favorite tips:
turn off the flash.
no ‘say cheese’ photography…

although i’m guilty of just posting a say cheese picture on my blog last night–but it was a request by their grandmother…

the picture in this post could be my absolute favorite blueyonder picture. those lines and textures are fascinating.

Aimee Greeblemonkey April 1, 2008 at 3:35 pm

great post!

Sachi April 1, 2008 at 6:16 pm

Thank you so much for these tips. I had never used picnik before and now I am a registered user! Your blog is stunning. I love reading it so thanks also for all of the work that you do. Sachi

Anne April 5, 2008 at 9:03 am

Thank you for posting this. I am still learning all those buttons as well and I hope by this time next year I will know what they do. I am a little purist when it comes to altering photos as well – but some altered photos look really good.

Mayberry Magpie April 6, 2008 at 9:00 am

I’m taking lots of photos, too — learning from trial and error, but my photos still aren’t as beautiful as yours. Thanks for sharing the tips. Every little bit helps!

Mayberry Magpie

Pamelala July 17, 2008 at 8:32 am

I am with you, I have just started my small biz, have never used photoshop to edit, I use picnik and think it’s great, good luck to you. I just wrote a whole bunch on my blog about why I don’t use PS!
P

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