It used to be that the art of picture taking was something only hobbyists and professionals worried about, but today most cell phones and smartphones have built-in cameras that border on the quality of the top cameras of only a few years ago.
So, basically, everyone has gotten into the act. Judy Holmes and Greg Baer think most people could use a little help. Okay, in some cases, a lot of help.
"Taking good pictures is about so much more than pointing and shooting," said Holmes, a 20-year veteran professional photographer. She and co-author Greg Baer have just written the friendly, no-nonsense, how-to book That Picture Stinks! (www.thatpicturestinks.com).
"While there are many things that make a bad picture, there are three things that jump to mind: they’re too light or dark, the composition is poor or people don’t use the flash enough," added co-author Baer. "The results can range from lousy to boring to, well, embarrassing. With just a few basics, people can dramatically improve the quality of their pictures and ensure that they capture memories worth preserving in a manner that’s worth showing."
Holmes’s and Baer’s tips include:
• Too light or too dark – Too many people see the program mode or auto mode on the camera and think, "That’s for me!" It isn’t. The auto mode should be the last mode anyone thinks of using. If you want that beautiful sunrise or sunset to be all it shouldn’t be, or that winter wonderland to look more like nuclear fallout, by all means use the auto function! Otherwise, learn where to point the camera to "fool" it and give you the perfect exposure. Hint: Want the sunset deep and dark? Baer says point at the lightest area. Want the snow nice and bright? Point at the darkest area.
• Photo by Godzilla – Sometimes people take bad pictures of their kids, and they know the shots are bad, but they can’t put their finger on why they’re bad. The primary reason kids’ photos turn out bad is that, as grown-ups, we usually take pictures of our kids from the angle of looking down on them. After all, they’re small and we’re tall. As a result, we create all kinds of shadows, awkward poses and perspective issues that make it look like Godzilla is towering over them, grabbing a shot of them with our iPhone for a Facebook page. If you want to take consistently better pictures of your kids, get down. Really, get down on the floor and take pictures head-on from their level. You’ll get more of them in the shot, their eyes won’t be squinting from looking up at you into the sun, and the perspective will show a normally proportioned child (instead of this tiny creature with a huge head, skinny arms and feet that poke out from under their pants). Do the same with your pet pictures for an "Ahh" reaction instead of the normal "Ugh" one.
• A little more light please – Adding a flash to outdoor photographs, especially with people in them, is one of the quickest ways to look like a genius. Taking pictures in the bright sun can cause horrible dark shadows on your subject or worse, make them squint so they go blind. Turning the flash on instead of "auto flash" will help in these situations. It can help to lighten the shadows and balance the picture and if you move your subjects into a more shady area, using the flash will light up their faces. If you think that’s cool, just wait until you show off that picture. Then you’ll really see their faces light up!
"There are a lot more ways people can improve the quality of their photography, just by tapping on a few icons on their point and shoot," Holmes added. "However, if they can follow these three basic rules, they’ll produce a lot fewer stinky pictures!"
About Judy Holmes and Greg Baer
Judy Holmes has been a professional outdoor photographer for 20 years, specializing in capturing nature’s motion and magic, often in extreme weather. Greg Baer has been a professional photographer for over 15 years. For the last 10 years, he has been running Corporate Cards.