Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What about photos?

I had no idea how popular the last post about shooting video was going to be. Apparently, the bits of advice I passed along about shooting horizontal videos and stabilizing the camera were what people were looking for.

Say cheese!
So, let's probe a little deeper into the scary world of photography. Now, I'm not going to claim for one second that I am some kind of professional photographer. In fact, I'm pretty abysmal, but I am getting a little better as I have been bitten by the photo bug. It all started about two years ago when I went to a seminar run by Scott Kelby. Before I got there, I didn't know a whit about megapixels, composition or focal length. Once he broke down the basics for me, it really opened my eyes to what can happen with a camera.

And, yes, still pictures can be your best friend when pitching to the media. For print and websites, they are hard to beat. Even for pitching to TV outlets, you can show the assignment editors what they will see when they show up, and give them material to use for their websites.

So, what are the top three tips I have picked up to help me while shooting?

Choose your camera wisely. Yes, most smartphones pack a nice, high-resolution camera on them. And, it's easy to carry those suckers with you wherever you go, and they do a good job for the most part. But, if you really want to get some nice quality shots, you probably want to look for something that functions solely as a camera.

Mirrorless compact? DSLR? Who knows what the best choice is?
Whether you go for a super-premium digital single lens reflex camera, a mirrorless compact body model or even a point and shoot, you are usually going to get a better image. Why? The lens is typically much better than what you will see on the back of your phone. Plus, most lenses on dedicated cameras allow you to zoom optically - by magnifying the image - instead of digitally, which will make your picture look all blocky and pixelated.

And, don't get too hung up over the manufacturer. They all make respectable cameras. However, if you are buying cameras for your office, you probably want to stay brand-loyal so you can interchange lenses and other accessories.

Compose like you mean it. Anyone can take a snapshot, but you can really set your pictures apart from a snapshot by following the very simple rule of thirds.

The rule of thirds
Many cameras will allow you to put a three by three grid on the image you are about to shoot. To make the picture more visually appealing, the idea is to put the item you want to focus on one of the intersections of those lines, and you instantly have a better looking image. A person's eye. The speaker's face. It allows for more background, makes the subject more dynamic. The same goes for the horizon - if the sky is what you are after, put it at the bottom third of the frame. If the sky is boring, then shift the horizon up to the top third. This simple tip can really improve your shooting.

Who is that handsome man?
Another good tip is to think foreground, subject and background, when possible.  As you can see from this photo of my good friend (And PIO Chronicles contributor) Joe Farago, he is in the foreground, and the beautiful desert scenery is in the background, giving the photo a real sense of depth.

Today's cameras are smart. Worried you won't be able to take good pictures because you don't know f-stops, ISOs or shutter speeds? Faggetaboutit. Today's cameras come packed with some really awesome sensors that make it difficult for you to mess up a shot. I'm serious. If you put the camera in it's automatic mode, it will meter the light, figure out what you are trying to focus on, set the sensitivity of the device. All you have to do is hold the camera steady and click away.

Choose your mode
Most cameras also come with the ability to link to your smartphone or tablet so you can upload your photos right from the field to a photo sharing site, your website or to your e-mail account. Piece of cake.

Today's cameras can do all of this and a ton more. They can also serve as a video camera for you in the field, and they all fit on a tripod, so you can take those group shots with ease.

Don't think you can afford all the bells and whistles? The cameras that were released two years ago were packed with these capabilities as well. Check out some online auction sites or the manufacturer's websites for discontinued models. You might be surprised at what you find there.

The best words of advice that Scott Kelby gave us at the seminar I attended was to stop thinking about taking better pictures and go out to get practice. After all, you can delete all of the bad photos you take on a digital camera, and the great ones will make it look like you have been doing this for years.

Tom Iovino, Public Relations Strategist
Hillsborough County, Florida

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