A Cowgirls Guide to Getting Great Photos

Part 1 – “Squeeze Don’t Push!” 

how to take great photographs

There’s an apocryphal story I like about a photographer who was invited round to a dinner party. During the evening the hostess remarked on the quality of his work, “I just love your pictures, you must have a great camera” she enthused. The photographer politely thanked her. At the end of the evening after a fabulous meal as everyone was leaving the photographer took the hostess aside. “Thank you for a wonderful meal” he remarked, ‘you must have a great stove”.

The point naturally is that you don’t need an an amazing camera to take great photos. Sure, a top of the range DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera will give you more scope but in this brave new world pretty much any digital capture device can deliver you an image to cherish. But a few basics regardless of what kit you are packing will help make your photos better.

So lets begin at the very beginning….

Hold yourself and your camera still. Sharp images will only happen if what you are focussing on stays steady in the frame. If you don’t have a tripod look to see if there is anything else you can rest your camera on. The back of a chair or a fence for example. If you are shooting hand held spread your feet at least shoulder width apart and flex your knees a little to make sure you are stable. If you have a DSLR rest the lens in your cupped left hand so that your hand is underneath. That way you can adjust the focal length whilst keeping the image steady in your viewfinder and keep your right hand free to push the trigger. If you have a compact camera with a screen resist the temptation to do the thumb and forefinger only hold. Grab as much of the body as you can in your left hand, If possible rest the body on the fingers of your left hand with the left thumb on top and hold the side of the camera with the right. If it’s a phone camera hold the entire device in your left hand. If this sounds a bit ‘leftist’ it’s simply because most photographic devices are set up with the shutter release on the right hand side. So get used to keeping things steady with your left and hitting the trigger with your right.

Now once you have what you want to take in your frame check your focus. Most everybody uses autofocus these days and that’s fine, but unless you have it set up differently most autofocus facilities will simply focus on what’s in the middle of the frame. Often a problem is you are taking a picture of two people who aren’t cozied up. So if that’s not what you need half press and hold the shutter button with what you want in focus in the middle of the frame then move to the shot that you want (with the button still half down) and it will keep that particular subject in focus. If you’re working on a close up portrait focus on the eyes not the nose to get the best result.

For the moment of truth the most important thing to remember is to squeeze the shutter button don’t push. Sounds simple doesn’t it but you’ll be amazed how many people get soft pictures and right titled horizons because they push too hard. Cameras are sensitive and a gentle squeeze with your finger not your whole hand is all that’s required to capture the image. Finally to make sure you really have the shot you want nice and sharp I like to squeeze and hold. Keep the camera on the shot for a second or so after you have taken the picture. You may think you are done but if the shutter speed is a little slow due to lower light conditions you may find that moving it as soon as you think you have taken the shot may result in slight blurring. Get used to squeeze and hold and you’ll avoid this.

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So go on give your camera a little squeeze (and a hug too if you’re feeling that way) and get happy snapping! Look forward to seeing you all this summer at Black Mountain Ranch!

-Nicola

Coming Next Week: ‘What you see is what you get’ Otherwise known as Composition… 

  • http://www.facebook.com/paula.hendee Paula Hendee

    Great tips, thank you

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=592787330 Helen Lauth

    looking forward to another great summer!