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May 18, 2013

Tips to help you take better photos

There used to be a time when families had just one camera. That precious and expensive machine was kept out of reach of little hands and was taken out only on special occasions.

There used to be a time when families had just one camera. That precious and expensive machine was kept out of reach of little hands and was taken out only on special occasions.

Technology has changed, making photography accessible to the masses, and people are now taking more pictures than ever.

Here are a few suggestions on how to take better pictures.

Don’t forget to flash

Summer means a lot of sun with harsh midday shadows. When photographing people outside at noon with your light source (the sun) directly overhead, turn on the flash. I know that seems nuts to add more light to a bright day, but this actually works. The fill-flash will dramatically improve your picture by filling in those dark shadows with light. People will look a lot less like raccoons or more like humans.

Look into the light

A great way to understand light and color is to shoot the same outdoor subject at different times throughout the day. Start your shoot about 15 to 30 minutes before sunrise, photograph the same subject at noon and then again 10 to 15 minutes after sunset. Photographers refer to the dawn and dusk times as “the magic hour” because the light is, well, magical. Depending on the time of year, the light can have a surreal quality that can turn a snapshot into a real piece of art.

Underwater world

Underwater cameras have come a long way in the past decade, and the technology is affordable. There are a lot of point-and-shoot waterproof cameras for under $100 that take great pictures and are easy to use.

Move your body

I always try to show people different ways of looking at things. Shooting from different angles is an easy way to do it. Get down on your belly to photograph a flower, toddler or pup. Or climb a ladder to shoot down below. Show people something they would not normally see.

Photo apps

There is no shortage of photo apps for smartphones. My favorite editing tool is Snapseed. I can tone my photograph, crop it and make it look like I shot it three decades ago if I want. I use the last option sparingly. I don’t want all of the photographs I take in 2013 to look like they were taken in 1975 – that will just confuse future generations.

Scavenger hunt

A fun thing for photographers of all ages is to create your own scavenger hunt. Make a list of things to capture and then get together to share your photos. You can be as literal or creative as you like. It’s a great way to stave off some summer boredom.

Remember the 8-track?

The hard drives, CDs and jump drives where you store your family’s pictorial history will eventually go the way of the 8-track player and become obsolete. Print those pictures. Hang them up. Put them in albums. They are meant to be shown and shared, and there are a lot of local and online labs for great quality and affordable prints.


One of the best things about traveling is finding new things to photograph. If your plans don’t include hitting the road for a summer vacation, you can explore your own city. I grew up in Tampa, Fla., and when I was 19, I interned as a photographer at the Tampa Tribune. I was given assignments in parts of town I had never been to, and I loved rediscovering my city. You can do the same.

When I travel, I like to carry a light amount of gear. I usually leave my heavy DSLRs at home and carry a Canon S95 point-and-shoot. I love that camera because it’s small enough to fit in my pocket and I can override the automatic settings with full manual control.

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