How can I im­prove my pho­tos with­out investing too much?


Spe­cial to the Whig

Dear Li­brar­ian: I of­ten see amaz­ing pho­tos in mag­a­zines and on­line, but mine never look as good. Do you have any tips for bet­ter pho­tog­ra­phy with­out ex­pen­sive equip­ment?

Dear Reader: Con­fes­sion: I am ob­sessed with tak­ing pho­to­graphs. Whether it’s a cute mo­ment, a pretty scene or even just a dinner I’m par­tic­u­larly proud of, I al­ways pull out my cam­era or phone and snap a pic­ture.

Now there’s noth­ing more frus­trat­ing than tak­ing a pic­ture and it not turn­ing out. It could be too dark, blurry or sim­ply just look a lit­tle off.

Here are some of my strate­gies for tak­ing the best pho­tos:

1. Know your light. Light­ing is one of the most im­por­tant parts of pho­tog­ra­phy and it can re­ally make or break the qual­ity of your photo.

I’ve al­ways found that nat­u­ral light yields the best re­sults. The best time of day to take pho­tos is the hour af­ter sun­rise and the hour be­fore sun­set. This is called “golden hour” and it pro­duces the most flat­ter­ing light­ing, es­pe­cially if you’re tak­ing a por­trait of your­self or some­body else. The po­si­tion of the sun dur­ing this time of day cre­ates a warm and glow­ing golden light that can make just about any­thing look good.

But what if you want to take a pic­ture at night or dur­ing a time when light is less than op­ti­mal? Fake it! The flash on a cam­era can of­ten be too harsh on your sub­ject, but you can use the flash­light fea­ture on your cell­phone to brighten up the sub­ject with­out wash­ing them out too much. When a cam­era doesn’t have enough light to work with, the pic­tures of­ten come out blurry or grainy. So make sure you al­ways pay at­ten­tion to your light source!

2. Take a lot of pho­to­graphs. Say you’re pho­tograph­ing your child’s soft­ball game or an­other sport­ing event, it’s of­ten nec­es­sary to take many pho­tos in or­der to get a few good ones.

The trick is to do it quickly, so you don’t miss out on ac­tu­ally watch­ing the game. If you worry too much about ev­ery photo be­ing per­fect, you may end up pay­ing more at­ten­tion to your cam­era than what you’re try­ing to take a pic­ture of. So if you quickly snap a lot of pho­tos, chances are you’ll get a cou­ple of great ones and you can weed out the bad ones later on.

3. Edit your pho­tos. Some­times you take a photo that is so beautiful that you don’t have to do any­thing else to it, but that’s of­ten not the case. Almost ev­ery photo needs to be tweaked in some way in or­der for it to be the best ver­sion of it­self.

There is com­puter soft­ware you can use to do this, such as Adobe Pho­to­shop or Adobe Light­room. But if you want to take pic­tures with­out investing too much into the edit­ing soft­ware, there are a num­ber of great free apps you can use.

I rec­om­mend VSCO and Afterlight. Both are free apps that can be down­loaded to your de­vice and you can use them to en­hance your pho­tos.

Your photo’s too dark? You can use the “ex­po­sure” or “bright­ness” tools to help brighten it up.

Your photo’s blurry? Use the “sharp­en­ing” or “clar­ify” tools!

Both of these apps also have free fil­ters you can use on your pho­tos. A fil­ter will ad­just all of the afore­men­tioned set­tings, as well as color, con­trast, etc. Fil­ters can be used to make a photo look beau­ti­fully nat­u­ral or oth­er­worldly and sur­real. It all de­pends on which fil­ter you use and what you want from the photo!

The Ce­cil County Pub­lic Li­brary also has tools that can help you in be­ing the best pho­tog­ra­pher you can be! We of­fer Gale Cour­ses in such sub­jects as “Se­crets of Bet­ter Pho­tog­ra­phy” and “Pho­tograph­ing Na­ture with Your Dig­i­tal Cam­era.”

Gale Cour­ses are free six week on­line classes that are taught by ac­tual pro­fes­sors and new ses­sions be­gin monthly. These are great for both be­gin­ners and peo­ple who sim­ply want to learn about more about pho­tog­ra­phy.

Re­mem­ber, you don’t need a fancy cam­era or ex­pen­sive soft­ware to take great pho­tos. Use these tips and start col­lect­ing mem­o­ries.

Last Week’s Trivia Ques­tion: When was the Small Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the gov­ern­ment agency that pro­vides sup- port to en­trepreneurs and small busi­nesses, founded? An­swer: The SBA was cre­ated by Congress in 1953 as an in­de­pen­dent agency of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

This Week’s Trivia Ques­tion: When was film in­vented?

Upcoming Event: Join the Ris­ing Sun Branch Li­brary at 11 a.m. on July 1 for “Yoga 101: An In­tro­duc­tion to the Prac­tice of Yoga.” Taught by Ado­nia Garvin, this class is de­signed for all who have wanted to try yoga but have found it hard to do — until now! If you have a mat or towel, please bring it with you. Reg­is­tra­tion is re­quired, so call 410658-4025 or visit www.ce­cil.

What Peo­ple Are Ask­ing runs weekly in Jump­start and is writ­ten by li­brar­i­ans at the Ce­cil County Pub­lic Li­brary. Ques­tions? Visit your lo­cal branch, email ask@cc­, call 410996-5600 or visit www.ce­cil. ebranch.

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