Wick Communications

Five tips for better photos

In Photography on 22 Jun 2012 at 8:15 am

On Thursday, Half Moon Bay Review photographer Charlie Russo once again took time out of his busy day to tutor the newspaper staff on the fine art of photography. It is actually the second such session and I dare say it won’t be the last. All of us take photos all the time – whether for the newspaper or our family scrapbook – and most of us wish we took better shots.

Charlie covered a lot of ground and began with a discussion of aperture, shutter speed and other technical requirements that are every bit as important with today’s point-and-shoot as they were in the dark ages of the darkroom. Among other things, this week he gave us four things that we can all do to improve our photography. They are easy, almost obvious, tips and with his indulgence I repeat them here:

Think angle: Charlie said one bad side-effect of the point-and-shoot is that we do just that. Too often we take photographs from eye-level. He suggests moving around a bit. Get low. Bend down. Shoot up from a lower perspective. (As he did in the photo above, of a dance class.) Or climb a ladder and give readers the vantage from above. Choosing a different angle can provide a visually stimulating alternative to the everyday and even help tell the story better.

Shorten the depth of field. In a nutshell, Charlie suggests we practice focusing on the subject and leaving the rest to blur in the background. More technically, it means opening the aperture of your lens to let in more light. If you have a dummy-proof camera, look for an icon of a person or a face. That often means “portrait” and implied in that is a short depth of field. …

Fill the frame. This is something former Review photographer Lars Howlett used to preach. Charlie says it can be as easy as shooting over someone’s shoulder (or including the greenery around the artichoke.) The point is to add some dimension to your images.

Clean up the background. While you want to fill the frame, you don’t want extraneous things taking away from the focus. A power line in the background, writing on a blackboard that has nothing to do with the subject, a bunch of empty soda cans on the floor can distract from your image.

Since you read this far, let me mention a bonus fifth element that Charlie also mentioned for shooting people. Lighting matters. He says that photos taken in full summer sun render hard shadows; he much prefers to shoot using what he calls “window light.” He suggests getting your subject in a doorway or somewhere where the light radiates from the side, creating natural, softer shadows. Give it a try.


  1. Thank you. I definitely need help in this area. This is not my strength.

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