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beginner photography tips


The Basics of Composition – Rule of Thirds

What makes famous artwork and photographs great? There are many basic rules that a professional uses as a guide when creating, and usually the first rule is called the Rule of Thirds. This very simple rule of design can be applied to your photographs making them more interesting than the everyday snapshot.

(photo is correct use of the rule of thirds)

THE RULE OF THIRDS – by definition

“The rule states that an image can be divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines. The four points formed by the intersections of these lines can be used to align features in the photograph. Proponents of this technique claim that aligning a photograph with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the photo than simply centering the feature would.” – “Rule of thirds.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Simply put, an image, where the main subject of a photograph (be it a person, an object or the horizon line) is put at either/both the vertical third or horizontal third of the frame, has more impact than simply placing the subject in the middle. In a photograph where a person is the subject, the rule of thirds says to move the camera and place the person on the right or left side of the middle. Or, in the case of a portrait, the eyes should be 1/3 from the top of the frame in most cases.

(this photo is an example of no use of thirds rule)
Another application of the rule of thirds is in landscape photography. Though it may sometimes work, the horizon line should rarely ever be at the absolute center of a photograph. Another note, the horizon should not go directly through a persons head. It simply looks odd and distracts from the subject.

1st photo is correct placement of horizon and second is not.

So, next time you are out shooting nature or photographing your family, keep in mind the rule of thirds. You just may find that your images spark more positive compliments.


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Follow-Up To 4th of July


As you know if you read my blog, I am not a professional photographer but I play one on TV. Just kidding. Being the owner of a photography studio and not a professional photographer, I know alot about photography but don’t have much time to apply my knowledge. I decided to take my camera out and get some shots of the fireworks on the 4th. I am going to upload my results. Please feel free to comment, good or bad on my results.


These were shot with a Canon 1D MarkIII and a Canon 70-200 f2.8 lens. The settings were manual with the shutter speed at 4 and the f-stop of 6.4 and an ISO of 500. The editing was done in Photoshop CS2. I did a level to get the smoke out of the photo. I then went into hue and saturation and make adjustments until the image was the way I wanted it. Remember, when your shutter speed is set that slow, you definitely need a tripod. I hope you enjoy my 1st attempt at fireworks as much as I did.

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Photographing Fireworks on the Fourth of July Night

This year, everyone grab your cameras and lets take some great photographs of those fireworks we all think are going to look spectacular until you get them home and look at them. With the following tips, you’re sure to capture some impressive images:


1) First, check the wind direction and get up wind of the show so not to get covered up with smoke. Nothing worse than a bunch of pictures of smoke.


2) Bring along a tripod if you have one. If not, use your knee to steady your camera. Shooting on a tripod allows you capture longer exposures without moving the camera.


3) Read those directions that came with your camera. Check out how to set the self timer. You want the movement of the light from the fireworks, but not the camera. Even your hand depressing the shutter release on the camera can cause a picture to blur.


4) Get your camera set up properly. First, turn off the flash. Many beginners do not realize this can be done. Usually, in the menu, you can find a icon with a lightning bolt that represents the flash. Look then for that symbol with a line through it. That should turn off your flash. Then, if your camera has a setting that allows you to set your shutter speed, try experimenting with long exposures. Try a 3, 5, and 10 second exposure to see what you get. Typically, you will be better off using a long exposure for the individual fireworks and a shorter exposure for the grand finale (since there is so much light in the sky with all the bursts). Remember that the longer the exposure, the more of a “trail” you will see for each burst and the more likely you are to catch multiple bursts in one image.



Lastly, shoot a lot. Memory cards can store lots of photos, which gives you lots of room to experiment. Like most good photographers, you need to shoot a lot to get one or two great pictures. Let us know how your shots turn out. Have a great but safe 4th of July.

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Simple Photography Printing Tip

Today I am going to talk about how large or small you need to take your image for different printing purposes. Depending upon what you want to do with a photograph, you can set your camera to shoot the image at different sizes. For professional photographers, this comes naturally but for beginners, it can be a bit confusing. To simplify things, we are going to lay out how large an image needs to be to get a good print. If you are going to use your image for:


Website or email: Image should be 640 x 480

Business card: Image should be 1024 x 768

4 x 6 print: Image should be 1800 x 1200 (2 mega pixels)

5 x 7 print: Image should be 2100 x 1500 (3 mega pixels)

8 x 10 print: Image should be 2400 x 3000 (7 mega pixels)

11 x 14 plus print: Image should be 3300 x 4200 (largest possible setting)


These are some basic guidelines that you should follow to get a beautiful quality print. When you go to the menu options on your camera you should easily find the settings for image resolution.


There is another option to consider when setting your camera for the appropriate output size. There are several options for the file format but for this tip, we will discuss two file types, tiff and jpeg.


TIFF: This file format is uncompressed. Choosing TIFF means that you’re always assured of getting all the image quality captured and processed by the camera. But TIFF files can be quite large, which means that only a few will fit onto a memory card. They can also take a while to be written to the card, which, with some cameras, means it might be a few seconds before you can take another picture.


JPEG: This file format is compressed, which means that the picture information is squeezed to a smaller size before it’s stored on the memory card. Though this compression does not alter the photo’s resolution, it does come at the expense of a slight loss of detail and clarity in the photo. Typically, a camera will offer several JPEG settings, each offering progressively more compression (which translates into being able to store more photos on the memory card), with a commensurate drop in image quality.


If you are wanting more detail and a better quality photograph, purchase extra memory cards and shoot on the tiff setting. If all you are wanting to do is put your images on the internet or print small prints, jpeg will be just fine.


So next time you go out to take pictures, consider the ultimate output of the image. Take a few minutes and make sure that your camera settings are appropriate for the type of shoot you are doing. Remember also, you can always shrink your images once you get them home. You cannot however enlarge the image once it has been shot on a lower resolution. So, if you are unsure of what you will be doing with your photographs, always shoot larger resolution and tiff format, that way you can’t make a mistake.

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Different Ways to Display Your Photography

I am going to let you guys in on one of my favorite ways to show off my photographs. Being that we have a photography studio and Fuji 370 professional printers, it is a little easier for us to play around with the images that come into the studio. My favorite thing to to with photographs is print them in different sizes other than the traditional 11×14, 8×10, 5×7, 4×6 and wallets. I have customers come in all the time and ask for different ideas on how to show off their new beach portraits. Well here it is. My favorite thing to do with images is print them in a square format. Take an 11×14 and make it a 12×12 or an 8×10 and make it a 10×10 or an 8×8, 5×7 looks interesting as a 5×5. Now, how do we do this? When you take your images to the local drug store or discount warehouse stores, you stick your card in and you are given the traditional options. Next time, before you just stick that card in and say print, do a little post production work. Any basic photo editing software will do. Be sure when you take your pictures, if you are planning on cropping to these unusual sizes, you leave plenty of border around your subject. Next bring the image into your software and crop it to the desired size. Next open up a new document and size it to the closest traditional size such as an 8×10 if you are wanting and 8×8 result.. Now you have two documents open, the original image(cropped to 8×8) and the new document(sized to 8×10). Take the original image and either drag and drop it or copy and paste it into the new document. Now you have an 8×8 image on an 8×10 document. Remember to make sure the dpi or resolution of both documents are the same. For example if you original photo is 72dpi then your new document needs to be the same resolution. I suggest 300 dpi for printing. Now that you have saved all of the images you want into the new documents and named them appropriately, save them on a disk, memory stick or cd and take them for printing. It would be a good idea to purchase a professional photo trimmer, prices range from around $20 up to hundreds of dollars. You can also purchase frames in these sizes or have them made at your local craft store. Now you have it, the big secret to odd sized prints.

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