Monday, October 29, 2012

Really Easy Photo Tips for a Simple Camera

Becca commented recently asking me what kind of camera  I use and if I could share some photography advice. I've seen many bloggers say that you don't need a fancy or expensive camera to get good photos, and after yearning a little for a nicer camera that I couldn't afford, I finally decided to take their advice and figure out how to take decent photos with the little camera I do have. I tried a few different things and found a style that works. On Saturday, Frank and I went for a walk around the neighborhood and I took photos to use as examples.

Just a warning, I'm a real amateur at photography and I learned everything I know through trial and error, so there's not going to be anything here about apertures and shutter speeds. :) But if you're like me and have a super simple point-and-shoot camera (I use a Canon Powershot, A series, that's three years old and cost $100 at the time - here is something similar), and you want the pictures to look a little nicer, this might help.

Without further ado, my photo tips!

Tip #1: Turn off the flash.

This is the number one biggest factor in getting nicer photos. It forces you to try out different things and notice the lighting, and the quality of photo is so different.

For example, I took a picture of a shelf of P.G. Wodehouse books that my roommate brought home.

Here is the DON'T picture, with flash:

Yuck. You can see how awkward and fake that looks.

Now here's the DO with the flash turned off:

This photo is definitely not going to win any photography contests but at least now it looks more simple, pretty and natural.

Tip #2. Try out cool angles.

One of the first things I learned from Frank's sister (who took our engagement photos) is that good photographers notice what most people don't. We were sitting in a train station one day, when she crouched on the floor and began snapping photos of people's shoes as they hurried past us. I was like, "Jenna, what on earth are you doing??" but then she showed me the photos she'd taken and they looked really cool and artistic. A lightbulb went off in my head - what kinds of awesome pictures could I take if I started noticing the little details and interesting angles?

Here's my example from our walk on Saturday. I noticed one tree near our church had such pretty little red leaves. They looked like clusters of rose petals as they hit the ground.

At first I took a picture from the angle I normally would, but it's a DON'T since it's pretty generic and forgettable:

So I tried again, using an unusual angle for my DO picture:

Much prettier. See how the leaves look like little rose petals?

3. The Rule of Thirds, or just fill the frame.

As far as I can tell, this means to divide the photo into three parts and fill the frame accordingly. The Wikipedia entry is pretty helpful. If you want an even more simple version of this rule (I usually forget about the Rule of Thirds myself), just try to "fill the frame" for more visually appealing photos. It makes a big difference.

For example, here is a DON'T, a boring picture of a table full of food:

While on the other hand, this is a DO since it fills up the frame and makes me want to reach right through the screen to grab one of those brownies off the plate:


Which reminds me, Colleen made chocolate chip cookies for us while we're waiting out the Frankenstorm. I think I'll go have another one...

And now for my final bonus tip, something I just found out about a few months ago, and which has completely changed the way I publish photos.

I discovered the magic of iPhoto at my old office and I became obsessed with fixing up photos. When I left that job, and went back to using my five-year-old  laptop most of the time, I thought I would have to give up photo editing for a while. But then Colleen (source of all good things in my life) told me the most amazing piece of information...

Did you know you can edit your photos for free on Google?

Here's how it's done. First you have to have a Gmail account or Google Plus. When you're in the account, click on "More" at the top, and you will see "Photos" down there on the list:

Once you click, you can either go to "Albums" if you already have photos up or start with "Upload new photos":

Once you've uploaded a photo, just click on it and this screen will pop up. All you need to do to get a much nicer photo is click the little "Autofix" magic-wand button in the upper left. If you want to do more than that, click on "Edit Photo" next to it:

And all of these fantastic options will pop up. You can do the "Basic Edits" or get fancy with doodles or text.

Some of the photo editing options

So there you go - a few easy little ways to get better photos with a simple camera. This is just the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to photography, and of course the best way to improve is practice - if your family and friends don't mind tolerating your efforts. :) If you decide to use any of these tips, please let me know and come link up your post!


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  2. Tess,

    Thank you for sharing your great tips!! I am always thrilled to hear others advise about things, photography being one of many...

    Lately I have been trying to use less to no flash, when taking pictures. You are so right to point out that the pictures turn out so natural and simple but much more beautiful that way. Oh and using different angles is so much fun!! One can get some pretty creative photos.

    I will definitely be keeping all of you tips in mind. I love your blog and so enjoy coming back to see what fun and exciting news you have to share with your readers since my last visit.

    ♥ Becca

  3. Yayyy I'm so glad you found this helpful! That's what I wrote it for. :) Figuring out ways to get better photos is such a fun little hobby.

    I'm thrilled you love the blog and I love your visits and comments! Building communication and a relationship with readers is pretty much the best part of blogging. :)