I met Cindee a few years ago at Laity Lodge. She is truly one of the sweetest people I know, and that is not an overstatement. She has a great eye for photography and sometimes, Cindee’s images are featured at The High Calling. I asked Cindee if she’d share some of her great wisdom here and, lucky for us, she said yes! And then she threw in a giveaway, just for fun!
A great photograph captivates, causing us to pause, wonder, and feel. A great photograph evokes emotion and invites us to see. We may not be Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, or Annie Liebovitz, but we can all learn to take better photos, because photography is less about equipment than vision. Less about mechanics than emotion. Less about technical proficiency, and more about stringing the moments of our lives together in images, across the years.
So how do you move from simple snapshots to captivating images? With these six tips, that can be used with any camera type—from full-frame DSLRs to point-and-shoot to film cameras to Smartphones:
1. Observe the way light plays among the leaves, how it catches in someone’s eyes. Notice patterns and shapes, the vibrancy of colors and reflections. Watch the interactions between people, faces and eyes, the shapes of hands and feet, the emotions reflected as they stand, sit, play, converse.
Frame those images in your mind. What would you include? Exclude? Where would you place your subject to reveal the emotion you’re noticing? In the center, high or low in the frame, offset left or right?
Follow photographers you admire on Facebook, Flickr, Instagram and Pinterest. What first caught your eye? Was it their use of light, or how they framed a landscape? Was it the way they captured delight, or the fragility? Was it striking lines or subtle shading? Observe, notice, question. Then begin to practice.
2. Practice. Nothing will hone and improve your photography like practice. Experiment with framing and lighting. Watch for interesting patterns and reflections, shadows and shading. Choose subjects that intrigue you. Challenge yourself to take one good image a day. You’ll be amazed by how quickly your photos improve.
3. Framing. Identify a subject, take a photo, and view it on camera. Does it reflect the image you noticed? If not, why not? Are there distracting details? Is the subject under- or over-exposed (too light or too dark)? Would it help to move in, move out, choose a different angle, shoot from a different height so your subject is higher or lower in the frame? Could you capture the image from another direction to improve the light?
If you have a telephoto lens, step back from your subject and zoom in to blur the background. The human eye can selectively focus, but the camera can’t, so what you see and what you capture can be very different. With practice, your vision and the image you capture will unify.
4. Lighting. Once you’re comfortable with framing, it’s time to work on lighting. Practice outdoors first. Natural lighting is easier to work with than artificial lighting, especially the soft light of early morning and late afternoon/evening. Mid-day sun can be difficult for even experienced photographers. Play with the light. Does it enhance your subject or shadow it. Are the shadows interesting or distracting? Does the light saturate or diminish color?
5. Horizon Lines. One quick, easy tip is to straighten horizon lines. Does the horizon slant left or right? Straighten it on camera or in post-processing (we’ll discuss that next.) Straighten vertical lines too – buildings, trees, people. This can dramatically improve your photos. Of course, there are always exceptions. Sometimes the best possible expression of the moment is to creatively slant lines.
6. Post-Processing. There are dozens of options available for post-processing. Try Smartphone apps like Instagram, Adobe Photoshop Express, or Aviary. On computer, try the free versions of PicMonkey or Picasa, and for more comprehensive post-processing you can try the 30-day free trials of Aperature, Lightroom, Photoshop, or Gimp.
I use Aviary for quick edits from my iPhone, and Aperature for post-processing from my camera. The key with post-processing is practice, experiment, and play. Discover what you like, what you don’t like, and why.
One final tip: If your camera offers the option, set it to capture in RAW. Why? The quick answer is more recorded information per image, allowing you far more post-processing options. Not all cameras can do this, but it’s one tip I wish I’d known years earlier.
Remember, photography is art. Your vision. Your voice in image. Unique and beautiful. So enjoy! Experiment. Capture the moments of your life — a legacy, a treasure, a gift, a blessing.
Cindee is giving away one special photography gift pack, including notecards with her original photography, a ceramic mug, and an 18×12 matted photograph. Here’s how you can win: Pin this post, or share it on Facebook or Twitter. Be sure to leave a comment so we know where to find you, and we’ll announce a winner on Monday!
Congratulations to Calista, our winner!
Cindee’s Gear: Canon 6D camera body, 18-135mm and 70-200mm telephoto lenses, and her favorite, a 100mm macro, a small Canon speedlight flash, Manfrotto tripod, and two black Lowepro backpacks—the Microtrekker for every day and the Fastpack 250 for travel.
Author Photo Credit: Megan Re (Cindee’s 13 year-old daughter). All other photographs by Cindee Snider Re.