S H A R P N E S S
Today’s cameras do a good job of bringing the subject into focus, but all too often, the camera is in shaky hands. This results in blurry photos. You constantly have to be thinking of the camera’s steadiness. Nothing can make a good picture stand out more than pinpoint sharpness. With active subjects, you may need to load your camera with higher-speed film so you can use a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with a lot of blurry photos. Two things can happen. First, if your camera is steady and the subject is moving too fast for the shutter speed that you’re using, the background will be sharp and the subject will be blurred. If your camera is not steady, then it’s most likely that the entire picture will be blurred. Once you understand this, you can make adjustments in your technique.
You can intentionally blur a background, however, to keep the focus of your picture on the subject. Increasing your shutter speed and then compensating by opening up your aperture accomplishes this. This limits the area that is in focus and this is called depth of field. If your subject is far from the background, it will blur the background.
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L I G H T I N G
One can’t say enough about the subject of lighting. It is the key to making great photographs.
When taking photographs outdoors, it is best to have soft light – preferably an overcast day. When it is overcast, the light is diffused and there are no heavy dark shadows; skin seems to glow. There are tricks you can use to manipulate lighting in your pictures. One thing you can use is called a twist fill, which is placed in front of subjects to bring out highlights in their eyes. If you don’t want to purchase a fill, you can use everyday items such as foil, a white bed sheet, white towels or even the foil sun reflector you use to shade your windshield. When you use any type of reflector, it will throw a beautiful soft light into your subject’s face and will cut down on external reflections that would impede soft light. Another thing you can use is your camera’s flash. You can bring out the warmth of an expression or put a twinkle into a subject’s eyes without changing the mood of the portrait.
An important thing to remember when taking pictures of people is that the viewers’ attention is always drawn to the lightest part of a photo. Photographers use this to their advantage by making sure there are highlights in the eyes of their subject, making them the lightest feature. Highlights are often referred to as catch lights, because they catch a viewer’s attention.
To learn how different kinds of lighting affect your work, try this exercise. Ask someone to be your model and position her so the sun shines directly on her from the front. Take your photograph. Now have your model shift around so the light strikes her from the side. Again, take a shot. Finally, have her move so the sun shines directly from behind. Take your final shot. When you finish the set of three pictures, repeat the exercise, but this time use your flash as well. For your third set of photos, repeat the lighting positions as before, but this time, instead of using a flash to fill the shadows with light, get yourself a large sheet of white cardboard or buy a twist fill. When you make each photograph, place the card or fill where it will reflect the light into the face of the model. You’ll soon get the hang of where to angle your bounce board for maximum effect.