Tuesday, May 08, 2007

These are a few ... er, 39 ... of my favorite things

A few of you have asked recently about my camera and photo-taking skills, or lack thereof. I’ve gotten a few private e-mails as well, so I figure now is as good a time as any to share with all of you my vast, immense knowledge about photography.

This really shouldn’t take long, since my expertise is pretty much limited to pushing a button.

"The rules of how to take a good picture, as per Kristie!!!!":

{crickets chirping}

Kidding. Even though what I know about photography could fit into a thimble … a very small thimble …. a tiny, pixie-fairy thimble …. I’m happy to tell you what works for me. Let me say first of all, that there are lots of professional photography sites out there giving tips and pointers and offering online classes. Lots of people who know WAY more about picture-taking than I could ever learn. But if you want to visit a website that I think has some of the most beautiful photos on the web, go to Pioneer Woman. She’s an amateur photographer … or at least she *was*. She actually had her first gallery showing this week, so maybe that makes her a pro now. Whatever. Bottom line, her photos are wonderful. And I’ll share with you my four tips, and favorite 39 photos; along with how they apply to me (and to her site, which seriously, you need to go see!)

Suggestion #1: Buy the best camera you can afford and learn how to use it. And for law’s sake, if you haven’t gone digital, go do it already.

I’m not saying you need to spend your life savings to get a good picture. But a quality camera can certainly make a difference in the quality of image you capture. My camera is a Canon Digital Rebel SLR; 6 megapixels. When I bought it, it was quite cutting edge, and I felt a little Ansel Adams-ish. Now, three (four?) years later, it’s obsolete, but I still love it. Yes, you can get decent shots with those little 2 mp digital cameras you throw in your purse, but a digital SLR gives you much more control over your settings, plus the beauty of digital means you can take 200 crappy pictures in search of five or ten good ones. I probably delete seventy-five percent of the photos I take because they suck, but that’s ok. It doesn’t cost me any more than the time it takes to push the trash icon on my camera's control panel. If you haven't gone digital, don't be intimidated. Just do it; you won't be sorry, unless maybe you're a professional film photographer with his or her own processing lab, in which case why on earth are you wasting your time reading pointers from someone like me?!?!

Make sure you get a camera with at least 6 mp. Sure, you really don’t need that many unless you plan on blowing a print up to poster size …. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken a regular image, and zoomed in and cropped a smaller portion of the image. The more pixels you have, the more you can crop and zoom and still get high-quality images. You might think a person’s close-up photo is wonderful, but if the photographer is anything like me, it’s only because they’ve already cropped out the trash can and ugly car and frowning sibling in the background.

I also use my camera on all automatic settings. I use auto-focus all the time, and auto-flash almost all the time. I have no idea what is with all the f-stops and aperture and shutter speed and mumbo-jumbo. I tell you that because the people who know how to *work* their camera, completely intimidate me. And while I'm sure I could get better pictures if I had a better working knowledge of how to make my camera work FOR me, I still think I do a pretty decent job with auto-everything. You can, too.

I do use the different modes on my camera …. Sports, portrait, etc. Best thing I ever bought was the telephoto lens, and I recently purchased an external flash in order to try and improve my indoor portrait photography. Again, you don’t have to spend millions, but if you buy quality equipment, you’re off to a really good start. And after that, like Pioneer Woman says, just practice, practice, practice. I can tell a huge difference in my own pictures, just through the last year or two.

Rules #2-4 to follow. And yes, I’m aware that this journal entry is nothing more than a blatant excuse to post photos that I love of my family. So excuse me if I just gaze at my own website all day, and think about how stinking cute my kids are. It's certainly more pleasant than listening to them fight all the time, which is certainly more par for the course around here lately.

PS. Was I the only one with a huge knot in my stomach tonight during the reveal show???


Jeri in Hawaii said...

I can't believe I am the first to post! As always, your tips are right on...and any excuse to look at your pictures if fine by me.

Natalie said...

I was FREAKING out that Joey was going to get voted off. Billy Ray may have tons of fan support, but the moves are lacking.

I need to get a new camera. . .and some talent.

Amie said...

I'd say perhaps even more important then the megapixels is the optical zoom. cnet.com, dpreview.com, and dcresource.com are good places to see reviews and real world opinions (from other users!) on perspective new cameras.

I have a Olympus SP-550 UZ off getting repaired at Olympus, and my backup is a Canon S1 IS.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips. You are a great photography and I am counting on YOU YOU YOU in Alaska.

Thank god it was Billy Rae. Go Apollo!

Lene said...

Great list and advice! I got a SLR last summer and I LOVE IT! My pictures are so much better now.

Adorable pics!

Anonymous said...

Yes, my stomach was in knots, knowing Billy Ray should get voted off but feeling bad for him at the same time. I really grew to like him this season. All I knew befoe was that Achy Brakey Heart stuff! Anyway, now it's down to 4 good ones!
Claire in TX

Briana said...

You do take great pictures. I finally went digital about 6 months ago (although with a 7mp I can throw in my purse or take with me during a marathon) and I love it. It is so wonderful to be able to delete the bad and zoom in on the good.

And no, you weren't the only one with a knot in your stomach last night. Now it's going to be nail biting each week to see who goes. The ones who are left are all good.

HomeSchool Mommy said...

I love taking pictures. I don't know ANYTHING about it, though. Maybe I should visit a camera store soon?

D said...

What beautiful children you have!!!! Thanks for the tips!!

Patty House, Jasonville, IN said...

I'm like you...I basically use Auto-Everything too. I have a Pentax *IST DL. I have a 18-55mm lens and a 70-300mm lens. I've been playing with the macro thingy too that Pioneer Woman uses for those close ups of the insides of flowers. I have no idea how she does that...I've tried and just get a bunch of blurry photos.

And I SO AGREE about going digital. Once I went digital in '01, I never looked back. I love being able to take so many pics and delete the blurry ones.

I've got you as one of my contacts at flickr. =) You and Pioneer Woman. I'm pattyhouse if you want to see some of my fine photography skills...aka look at my adorable kids. LOL!

Patty House, Jasonville, IN said...

Oh! Amie is SO right too about the optical zoom. It does so much better when you zoom than digital zoom does.

It's Her said...

Oh there is hope for me yet, I have a canon IXUS 60 6mp! Yeehaw!

Guess I'll go practise with it. Saving up for a beauty like a NIKON something or other (whatever they call the good ones). Think I'll get classes first!