Genealogy: Taking better digital photos overall tips

Taking better digital photos overall tipsBy Barry J. Ewell

The following are some basic tips to consider the next time you head out with your digital camera.  These tips are easy to implement and make the biggest difference in your use of the camera in you genealogy research.

Be prepared. Gather everything you’ll need, such as a tripod, extra batteries, and any props you’ll use. (A camera bag really comes in handy for transporting everything.) If you plan to take photos in wet weather, bring a plastic bag to protect your camera.

Hold your camera steady. Camera movement causes most of the blurry pictures you see. Prevent your camera from shaking by planting your feet firmly on the ground, and then steady your upper body by tucking your elbows in close to your sides. If you feel unstable, use a tripod or try leaning against a wall or a tree. Gently press the shutter release in one motion; if you press too hard, you could jerk the camera downward.

 Get closer. Try to get within two to four feet of your subject. Ideal photo composition is 90 percent subject and 10 percent background. If you’re photographing people, getting this cozy might seem awkward at first, but try it anyway—you’ll get better photographs.
Cut the clutter.  Nothing ruins a photo like stray objects that detract from your composition. If there’s a phone wire, an aluminum can, or anything else unsightly, remove it from view by either rearranging the area or blocking it out of the frame. Also, notice how objects in your background interact with your subject. A plant that appears as if it’s growing out of someone’s head, for example, will ruin an otherwise great picture.

Take more pictures. Most of us are frugal with the number of pictures we take. But with a digital camera, you can simply delete the images you don’t like, so don’t hesitate to capture every memory. Why not fill the entire memory card with photos of your new puppy? The odds are better you’ll take a few pictures that will really thrill you.

Find the right lighting.  Use the flash sparingly, especially when photographing people. Natural light, such as the light coming in from a window, provides a more flattering tone and a higher-quality photo. For a dramatic effect, experiment with shadows created by natural light.

Another way to improve a picture’s lighting is to use adaptive lighting technology. You’ll achieve a better balance between light and dark areas, bringing details out of shadows. As a result, your photos will look more like what your eye sees.

Remove red eyes.  There are a few factors that cause people to have glowing eyes in photos, including the amount of pigment in their eyes. While red-eye isn’t 100% preventable, you can take measures to avoid it.

  •  Snap pictures when your subjects aren’t looking directly at you.
  •  Avoid using the flash whenever possible.
  •  If you decide to use the flash, turn on the red-eye reduction flash on your HP camera.

Try a new angle.  Get creative by using different angles. Get down on the ground or up on a chair, and look at your subject from a different perspective. Take time to find the best viewpoint and take several shots of the same subject from various angles.

 Don’t say cheese.  Sometimes you want a perfectly posed picture, such as a portrait of the kids with their grandparents. But you don’t need to pose your subjects every time. Part of the beauty of digital photography is that it’s much easier to capture life’s candid moments. So forget “cheese” and tell a joke or two! Your subjects will look relaxed and natural, allowing for pictures with more personality.

Avoid the bull’s-eye effect.  There’s nothing wrong with placing your subject in the exact center of the frame, but there’s nothing particularly interesting about it either. It’s actually more aesthetically pleasing to place your subject off center than mid-frame.  In photography there is a what is a called the “rule of thirds,” a trusted compositional technique. Here’s how it works: In your mind’s eye, divide the picture area into vertical and horizontal thirds (like a tic-tac-toe grid).

Rather than placing your subject directly in the center of the grid, try placing it on one of the four lines to create a more interesting picture. You might line up a human subject on line A or line B, for example. Or in a landscape photo, you could experiment by aligning the mountains or horizon on line 1 or 2. Use the rule of thirds to create a picture with a more dramatic sense of scale.