I’ve been in a bit of a photographic slump lately. So when my friend Jane asked for help with her new camera, I felt like an utter fraud in suggesting a photo safari.
I didn’t expect to shoot much when we met up at the Como Conservatory in St. Paul last Saturday: My purpose was to help Jane get comfortable with her camera, and maybe offer a pointer or two.
But to my surprise, helping Jane figure out her camera rekindled my enthusiasm for my own. Before I knew it I’d shot more than 100 frames. Here are a few, along with some of the tips I gave Jane last weekend.
Tip 1: Use your fill flash. Using your flash on a sunny day may seem silly, but it can greatly improve your portraits—or bring out more detail in a dark subject, like this statue.
Tip 2: Remember the Rule of Thirds. Yes, even when you’re shooting abstracts and patterns.
Tip 3: Blur the background. Blurring the background is a great way to put your subject “front and center.” Unfortunately, you usually need a “fast” lens with a really big maximum aperture to get this effect. But you can also fake it with a telephoto lens of at least 250 mm. Simply step far away from your subject and zoom in. The more you zoom in, the narrower the focal range.
Tip 4: Include people in your shots. I used to wait patiently for everyone to leave a scene. These days, I’m more likely to wait patiently for someone to enter my shot. Including a person in a scene can add context about the time/place and a sense of scale.
Tip 5: Get close. Although you probably need a macro lens (or a macro setting on your camera) to get microscope-worthy close-ups, try photographing a subject’s detail every now and then.
Tip 6: Go wide. Because nothing gives a sense of place like a nice wide-angle shot. (Or even an in-between shot!)
Tip 7: Shoot through something. Look for opportunities to “frame” your subject. Wish I’d noticed that this railing wasn’t quite perfectly centered, but I still like the overall effect.
Bonus tip: Have fun! If you have the time and inclination, play around with your photos. Here’s a poster I made using Mike Warren’s “Polaroid poster” Photoshop action.
Can’t get enough photography? If you liked this post, you may also be interested in how to buy a digital camera.