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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

5 Steps To More Professional Photographs

Try these tips to get photos that will stand out from the crowd

Make Dramatic Compositions. What separates a photograph from a snapshot is often the sense of depth in the image. It's easy to take snapshots because you point and shoot with no consideration of depth of field. A photograph requires artistic intent to compose an image that feels three-dimensional. This is usually done by finding an interesting foreground that will lead the eye into a dramatic background. Often, I'll scout a location for interesting foregrounds, such as rocks or reflections in a body of water, interesting foliage or colorful fallen leaves. Use of standard compositional rules such as the Rule of Thirds and leading lines can make a big difference in your picture quality. Another fact that we nature photographers have to deal with is that nature is messy. All those branches, twigs and weeds everywhere can be very distracting. A big challenge, especially with the tighter compositions, is to simplify the scene and boil the subject down to its essence by eliminating distracting elements.

Maximize Dynamic Range And Resolution. Modern digital cameras can capture a large dynamic range of light to dark tonalities. This is data in the image file that can be extracted during processing of the RAW file in your image-editing software. Learn how to maximize the color tones and dynamic range by mastering your image-editing software. I think being a photographer now requires being somewhat of a computer geek in order to make the most of your image files. Always maximize the resolution of your photography by shooting at the highest-quality setting of your camera. If you get an amazing shot that you want to make into a print, you need a lot of pixels, even to get to a 16x20-inch print. I've seen in my workshops that some people are unsure of what the highest-quality setting is on their camera, how to set it to aperture priority and how to set the focus points, so become an expert in how your camera operates to make the most of the dynamic range and resolution of your files. It's a good idea to download your camera manual to your smartphone and iPad and read it.

Be A Ruthless Editor Of Your Work. There's no need to post every image you take online. I know only a very small percentage of the shots I've taken are worth showing to others. Develop the skill to pick out your best work to show on your website or in your portfolio book, and store the other images away on your hard drives. I've seen many websites that will show 10 views of a scene that was maybe worth showing once in a vertical composition and once in a horizontal composition. Most of the time you should only show a scene once, and if you get a better shot of it, then retire the old one from your site and portfolio. I know I can become attached to an image because it was hard to get, but eventually you have to be honest about the quality of the image on its own. Don't rely on others to edit for you since this skill is part of developing an artist's eye and sensibility. Over time, you may find that you develop a distinct style of photography that's evident throughout your body of work.

Final Thoughts. Mastering these five steps is really a never-ending process. I feel I'm working on improving my skills in these areas constantly. As technology evolves, so must our learning curve and our ability to adapt. By improving in these five areas, ultimately, we can better express what we see because, as the artist Degas said, "Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."

See more of Elizabeth Carmel's photography at elizabethcarmel.com and thecarmelgallery.com. Workshop information is available at elizabethcarmel.com.


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