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How to Take Great Outdoor Photos with Amanda Ray

Plan Your Photos

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Summer is here, and for many families that means fun – sunny trips to the beach, long weekends at the lake and lazy days of fishing. Thanks to digital cameras, anybody can capture these treasured moments in literally hundreds of snapshots. However, quantity isn’t quality. This week, Dave Morris of Birmingham, Alabama, an outdoor photographer for over 30 years and Brad Dale of Wolf Camera in Hoover, Ala., who’s been in the photo business for 25 years, will tell us how to make the most of a point-and-shoot digital camera in the outdoors.

Capture the Moments:
“Looking at a photograph should take you back in time,” Morris explains. “For example, I was hiking in Colorado with some friends. Instead of just snapping a few hurried photos of their backs as they trudged up the trail, I asked them to wait a few minutes. I hiked further up the trail and took a photo as I looked down at them. The photograph captured my friends’ faces, the steep path they had climbed to reach this spot, the aspens behind them and the snow-capped mountains in the distance. It was an amazing shot, and it captured that moment.”Click to enlarge

Think Before You Snap:
Morris recommends that you “Think of a photograph as a composition. Taking a good photograph is easy if you pay attention. I think most people fail because they don’t pay attention. I see a lot of snapshots, and I think, ‘If he’d taken 2 seconds to think this through, it could have been a wonderful picture.’”

Here are a few hints to help you compose your photos:
*Eyes – Remember, you’re photographing people; the eyes should be in the upper 1/3 of   the picture and be the focus of the photos. “The eyes should be in sharp, sharp focus,” Morris advises. “They’re the windows to the soul, after all.”

*Lines – Consider any lines in the photograph. For example, if you’re photographing a person standing in front of a stop sign, position yourself or your subject so the sign doesn’t appear to be growing out of your subject’s head. Also think about how roads, fences, horizons and other linear features will appear in your photos.

*Angle – Don’t take all of your photos at eye level. Try unusual angles, such as approaching the subject from above or below. Click to enlarge

*Preparation – By taking the time to become familiar with your camera’s functions, you can quickly snap a photo when something unexpected happens. “You have to be ready,” Morris mentions. “Those special moments may never happen again.”

*Close ups – If you’re taking a picture of a friend or a loved one, you want to be able to tell who is in that photo 10 years from now. Rather than having your friend standing beside a large landmark and then backing away until you can capture the entire landmark, position yourself to photograph the landmark, and have your friend step into the shot.

*Faces – When you’re photographing children, try to capture their expressions rather than taking posed shots. “Children’s faces are wonderfully expressive,” says Morris.

*Heads – “Never cut off someone’s head,” Morris emphasizes. “There’s no reason for it.”
Compose Your Photos:Click to enlarge
“I learned how to take photographs with a film camera, so I’ve trained myself to look for that perfect shot,” Morris explains. “Even though that’s not really an issue anymore, try to put yourself in that mindset. As you compose your photograph, imagine that you can only take 10 pictures, and you want to make each one the best it can be.” You still can snap a shot when an opportunity arises. But also take the time to practice composing good shots whenever possible to take more high-quality photos.

“Take notice of your background,” Dale emphasizes. “You don’t want the horizon to bisect your subject’s head.” Try kneeling, so the subject’s head is in the sky. “Keep the horizon level, especially if you’re at the beach or the lake. If you tilt your camera, it will look like the ocean is flowing off of the picture.”

Trial and Error:
Set up a still life, such as a bowl of fruit. Include different colors and textures, and photograph the still life using the different settings on the camera. By comparing the end results, you’ll learn a lot about your camera in particular and photography in general. Also set up your still life outside, and take photos in various light conditions. When you’ve downloaded your photos to your computer, right-click on a photo, and choose: Properties > Summary > Advanced. This summary will include details such as your shutter speed and exposure time. If you don’t remember which settings you’ve used for which photos, the summary will tell you.

Tomorrow: Understand Light, and Take Advantage of It

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Take Great Outdoor Photos with Amanda Ray"

Day 1: Advantages of Digital – Take Lots of Photos and Try All of the Buttons
Day 2: Plan Your Photos
Day 3: Understand Light and Take Advantage of It
Day 4: Use Your Feet and Getting Good Prints
Day 5: Donavan Lakes and Triple D Ranch


Entry 460, Day 2