This summer I spent more time with my camera than my computer. As a camp photographer up in the mountains of White County, I shot more than 20,000 photos. To make them look good, I had to edit them quickly and judiciously -- good enough for parental scrutiny.
Although the dog days of summer are behind us, Labor Day is just around the corner and chances are you still have some pictures to take.
I’ve seen more poor quality images posted to Facebook recently; some were dark, some washed out, some simply blurry or in need of cropping. Even with the ubiquitous cellphone camera, quality photos can be created with little effort.
The primary thing to consider when taking pictures is where your light is. Ideally, you don’t want to shoot into the sun, but rather have it over your shoulder.
Even if you’re outdoors, don’t be afraid to use a flash. It will remove facial shadows and brighten up your pictures. Keep in mind though, the pop-up flash on cameras will reach only about 6 feet before its light dissipates.
In order to get the most from the light that is available, your camera will read it with a meter.
In DSLRs, most point-and-shoots and many cellphone cams, you control the meter. Usually, if you place the crosshairs in your viewfinder on the face of your subject and press the shutter release button half-way down, you not only place your subject in focus, but take a reading of the light on them as well.
The thing is to hold onto that meter reading. Readjust your view to take the photo without releasing pressure on that button. Otherwise your pals will be in shadows, all blurry with the lake behind them sharply illuminated.
After you get that reading, continue to frame your image, then finish pressing the shutter release button.
When composing a picture, look at it as if it were a print. Be critical. Are there trees or poles coming out of your subjects’ heads? Are they in the light? Are there extraneous objects in the photos, like people or vehicles?
It’s always a good idea to take a few extra shots to ensure one will come out. Some may be too dark or light; others may have someone not smiling or their eyes closed. There were close to a thousand shots at camp I didn’t use.
Edit out the bad shots on the fly, before you get home. This will cut down the editing process.
Just about every shot needs some editing, whether it be cropping out extra sky or people, or adding contrast or light to the image.
However you alter it, the paramount rule of editing is not to save over the original photo. If you are working on photo 123.jpg, rename the edited image as 123a.jpg and save it in your docs or photo folder as opposed to the card it came from. This way, should you inadvertently ruin a picture, you will always have the original to try it again.
Photoshop is the granddaddy of photo editors, but there are many good free editors online.
GIMP is an open-source image editor. It is the closest thing you can get to Photoshop without paying anything. There’s a learning curve, but it’s free. Find it at www.gimp.org.
Experiment with being creative with your photography. Try the different modes your camera has to offer. They change the exposure settings so you don’t have to. Most have a panoramic mode, one for sports and another for portraits. Looks at the icons on your camera’s mode dial or display and you’ll figure it out.
If you want to experiment with manual settings, just remember the F-stop (aperture opening) works in direct relation to the shutter speed. If you raise one, lower the other. You’ll get basically the same picture with a little different results.
Although the same amount of light comes through, a faster speed freezes action better and a smaller aperture yields a greater depth of field (more things in focus).
Want create the effect of motion? Try panning your subject. If you have a moving subject like a car, a runner or bike rider, move you camera with it as you shoot the picture. Your subject will be in focus with a blurred background, looking as if he/she is really moving. Try it a few times and you’ll easily perfect this technique.
So if you still have pictures to take this weekend or haven’t really done anything with images from the Fourth of July yet, now you can get busy with the knowledge of how to shoot better photos and how to fix those that didn’t come out as you’d expected.
Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly on the Business page and on gainesvilletimes.com.