Photographing Special Subjects

We have all stood on the sidelines of a sporting event, graduation or awards ceremony and tried to take a great picture. In spite of where we stand or what we see in the viewfinder, we often do not achieve the result we are looking for. Below are some hints to help capture these special moments on film.

Photographing in Dim Light

Dim lighting is often the most challenging for the amateur photographer. Unfortunately, many of the things we are trying to photograph take place with less than optimal lighting conditions. It is not impossible to get exciting pictures of these precious moments, though. With a little prep, when the clouds roll in or the curtain rises, you can be ready.

Hold the camera extra steady. To avoid a blurry shot, be sure to brace the camera on the back of a chair or railing, or against a column or tree. This keeps the camera from moving and blurring the shot. A tripod is a wonderful tool to use, and there are some available that are ‘pocket-sized’ and very portable, if you don’t feel like lugging a full-sized tripod around. Be sure to press the shutter button smoothly. A jerky movement when taking the picture can jar the camera and blur your photograph.

Wait for action to slow. A moving subject is hard to capture without blur. Wait for your subject to stop moving or slow down before taking the picture.

Turn off your flash. Remember that the flash range is only about 10 to 15 feet. Turn off the flash if your subject is out of range, and capture the scene in existing light. Remember to hold the camera steady! High speed film will yield the best results in dim light with a film camera.

Use a dim-light film. A dim-light, or high-speed, film is extra-sensitive to light. This will enable you to take good pictures even if the lighting is not cooperating. A high-speed film would be one with a rating of 400 or above. Film rated at 400 or 800 is probably your best bet, but a higher speed is fine too.

Photographing Flowers

Flowers are a particular challenge to photograph. In order to capture their beautiful colors and exciting shapes, follow these tips.

Use a simple background. Make sure your background doesn’t fight with the subject of your photograph. Plain backgrounds work best when taking pictures of flowers. A black or complimentary colored background will also work well.

Get close. Get as close as your camera will allow. If you are a true enthusiast, you may want to consider some accessory close-up lenses. Try several different viewpoint levels when taking pictures of flowers. Shoot down to achieve an attractive pinwheel effect, or kneel at the level of the flowers to capture their beauty at eye level.

Use creative lighting. Different types of lighting will change the mood when photographing flowers. Backlighting will shine through the petals and give an appealing glow. Try different point light sources to vary the effect and give you the look you want.

Control the wind. Consider bringing your subject indoors or use a piece of cardboard as a block if the wind becomes a problem when photographing. Too much movement will blur your shot. Make sure to choose a camera angle that will not include the cardboard, or choose an attractive color to serve as a background.

Photographing Gardens

Many photographers love the idea of taking pictures of gardens. Whether it is in your own backyard or a more formal setting, there are many ways to capture the beauty of a garden. Stand way back or, if possible, higher up to get an overall appreciation of the design and layout.

Document your planting. As flowers bloom and die, it is easy to forget how much space they took up. If you wish to duplicate your garden the next season, use your camera as a tool to document your plantings. Make sure to take before and after pictures! It is great fun to see how your garden has progressed weeks, months, or even years later.

Add interest and depth to overall shots. Show a wide area of garden and give depth to your shots by including something in the foreground like a rosebush or bird bath. Remember to keep the point of interest out of the center of the photograph. Tall plantings should be one-third of the way from the top of the picture, a single bush or flower should be one third of the way in from the left or right. Try a couple of things until you find a composition that works for you.

Record the seasons. Gardens change so dramatically during the year that picking one spot to photograph and shooting a picture at the change of the seasons is a fun way to document them. Look for a theme; a bed of daisies, a waterfall or a child’s play area make a great photograph. Remember to include the gardener in your shots! A shot of them deadheading or weeding is the perfect way to show their passion.

Photographing Landscapes

You can take pictures of the beauty around you, and your pictures can be dazzling, too! Follow these simple steps, and you will be thrilled with the results.

When photographing landscape, give the eye a place to focus by including a point of interest; a clump of flowers, a cloud in the sky, a mountain, tree or boat. People or objects in the foreground will also give a point of reference if the object you are photographing is especially large. The cliff or waterfall will look huge if you put mom in the foreground, but may not seem as big without her. Remember to check your viewfinder carefully for trash cans, light poles or power lines that will detract from your photo. If your camera has a panoramic format, take advantage of it if you are shooting a wide vista. Lines such as a road, river or fence will lead the eye. Use them to your advantage by incorporating them into the picture to lead to the main center of interest.

Remember to factor in the light! The best light is in the early morning or late afternoon. The long shadows give your photos the most dramatic effect. Midday sun is harsh and creates a less appealing photograph, so avoid it if you can. Remember, though, that an overcast day is not a total loss. Colors glow when polished by rain, and a bright spot – a flower with a splash of color, for example, will make your photographs striking even if you have no sunlight to work with.

Sports and Action Photography

Our kids are always on the go, and we will want some pictures of them while they do the things they love best. Whether kicking to soccer ball, running to first base or dancing in a recital, there are ways to keep these memories intact with great pictures.

Aim your camera to a spot where action is likely to take place. Keep the viewfinder near your face and your finger poised over the shutter to give yourself the opportunity to take a picture at a seconds’ notice. Be ready to take a lot of pictures, too. Timing is critical in action photos and it is often necessary to take several pictures before getting a good shot.

Use an action stopping film or pan your camera to get the effect you want. Some film is engineered to capture that kick, leap or somersault without blurring. If you move the camera wile pressing the shutter button, your subject will be sharp wile the background will be blurred. Both effects are equally dramatic and satisfying. Remember to get as close as you can to the action without interfering with it.

Photographing Sunrises and Sunsets

Nothing is like a sunrise or sunset. The colors can be something to behold. Remember to pay attention to the lighting and composition and you should be able to shoot some dazzling photographs. Keep in mind that your lens must be very clean when shooting pictures of the sun. Dust particles, fingerprints or other matter on the lens can cause lens flare when you are taking pictures of the sun.

Use the night flash setting on your camera. This combines a slow shutter speed to capture the background with a flash that illuminates a nearby subject. Or, consider including a silhouette. A tree or person against the colorful sky will make your photo even better. Remember to use the ‘no flash’ option on your camera or it won’t be a silhouette. And don’t forget – the point of interest should be off-center!

Photographing Under Water

Taking great pictures under water is not as hard as it seems. Use a waterproof one-time camera to avoid damaging your regular camera. Most underwater cameras come equipped with a fast film, so you will be able to capture everyone from body-surfers to cannonballers. Look for clear water – if the water is murky your pictures will be, too. Hold the camera steady, and move as close to the subject as possible. Remember that since the timing is unpredictable, you will need to take a lot of pictures to increase the chance of getting several shots you like. Try different viewpoints; just above water, underwater, and half in, half out are all fun vantage points and will add interest to your album.

There is no reason that you can’t take the kind of pictures you want if you follow these simple steps and are a little adventuresome when taking your pictures. For more information, check  ‘Taking Great Pictures.’

About WF Staff

Washington FAMILY Staff

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