Over the last few years and with the advancement of technology, photography has become extremely popular. Though 'selfies' are not what everyday photographers by trade call portraits or photographs, we do enjoy visually pleasing compositions.
If you're not familiar with the word, "composition" this post is for you! If you are ready to transition your hobby into an entrepreneurship, this post is also for you. If you are thinking of retiring your camera phone and asking Santa for a DSLR this Christmas, this too is for you.
Merriam-Webster defines the word Composition as "an intellectual creation". This may include art, music, writing or literature. The key word for me here is the word, "intellectual". As a full time photographer, my main goal before pressing the shutter button is to have 'intent' of what I'm photographing. Though I may not be the smartest cookie on the block, I do go out of my way to ensure the best possible outcome for my photograph. And guess what? That's what I want to teach you today.
Below are a few helpful hints many professional photographers forget to mention when teaching or mentoring beginner photographers. It's not out of malice but because they are used to the craft. Some of these tips may seem mundane, redundant or flat out too simple but they all have taught me something in my last almost fifteen years of photography.
I hope this list will help your photography stand out, inspire not only yourself but anyone who sees your photograph. My goal is to help you put down your phone and pick up your dusty camera in hopes to create something beautiful, magical and worth holding onto for generations to come.
1. NEVER under any circumstance leave your gear (camera, equipment, SD cards, etc) in your vehicle. Not only is your equipment not made for extreme heat or cold, you would be very surprised how often camera equipment is found stolen or pawned.
Learned by: School of Hard Knocks.
2. ALWAYS put your camera strap around your neck. People accidentally let go or have their camera bumped all of the time. Even if you have camera insurance, you do not ever want your equipment to fall.
Learned by: Maltz Photography
3. Do not use the words, "shoot", "pictures", or count "1, 2, 3". Instead, use the word/phrases:
"Shoot "--> "Photograph" (You're not going to shoot anyone, let's not go to jail.)
"Pictures" --> "Portraits" (You're becoming more professional, remember?)
"1, 2, 3" --> "HEY! Everyone look here!" (People automatically look up and open their eyes.)
Learned by: Alexander's Fine Portrait Design
4. Format your camera card *ONLY AFTER* you have downloaded your images to your external device. SD cards can be corrupt and you can easily loose your beautiful images. Format inside your camera, not on the computer itself.
5. Get acclimated to your surroundings of your session. If you have not ever been to the location (and you are not on vacation) take a trip to the destination to scope out the area. This will alleviate any added stress when your subjects arrive.
6. Check your background. Is there a light post sticking out of someone's head? Is there a tree branch sticking out of their back end? Don't be afraid to move your subject, this will save you hours of retouching!
7. Check your lighting. Is it too "hot" (blown out, too white)? Are your subjects squinting? Try turning the other way, shield your camera lens or bring down your ISO (we'll discuss this in another post).
8. Relax your subject. Make sure they are as comfortable as possible (unless they are models by trade, most people tend to be a little nervous). Ask them to relax their shoulders, talk to them, make them laugh. If you can make your subject feel relaxed, you have successfully surpassed the hard part!
9. After every photography session, always download your card onto a laptop, external hard drive or backup source. Remember, technology still fails, SD cards fry, get wet, or lost in transition. Make sure you have a back up!
10. Most importantly, HAVE FUN and enjoy your craft!
Again, these may sound very simplistic, but they all have been life savers over the years. If you have any questions or enjoyed this post, please leave a comment and I will follow up as soon as I can.