Wick Communications

We can take better photos

In Photography on 15 Jan 2015 at 3:07 pm

dekalbhooker

If this press release crossed my desk, I would say, “OK, but can we get a photo of Hooker actually being the layperson of the year?”

It’s a funny headline, sure, but it’s the photo that grabbed my attention — precisely because it’s anything but an attention-grabbing photo. In fact, it’s terrible.

All of us have photos something like this in yellowing scrapbooks at home. Everyone gathers around, stares at the camera and smiles their faces off. It works when it’s grandma and Aunt Nell and that crazy cousin with the wandering eye and all you want to do is document Christmas dinner, 1973. It doesn’t grab your eyeballs, however, when those people grinning at you are not blood relatives.

Photos like this are a throwback to an era when photos were A Really Big Deal. You had to get down the bulky camera, get everyone to hold still, worry with the focus and shutter speed, finally “click.” Then you had to remember to take the film to Harry’s Camera Shop so you could wait a week to see that you still had the lens cap on.

As you know, we don’t live in that world any more. People take pictures all day long for any reason whatsoever. Our camera phones are dummy-proof, full of fun filters and cropping tools and all manner of cool app. You can be Ansel Adams with all this stuff.

So let’s resolve to do better than this. Some ideas: …

  • Ask the award-winner to do what brought her the award rather than pose with the certificate. Athletes of the week, farmers of the year, Eagle Scouts, Science Fair winners – all of them are more interesting if you show them in action. Photos with their awards aren’t a plan, they are an absolute last resort. And ignore that person at every photo shoot who tells you different. (Actually, I tell photographers to shoot the ribbon-cutting or big-check hand off just as the chamber president wants it… then shoot something better that you will actually use.
  • Frame the photo. Sometimes your subject is better off somewhere other than the middle of the photo. Look up the rule of thirds. It’s not hard to understand and will instantly make your images look more sophisticated.
  • Watch the lighting. Don’t pose people in front of a sunny window. Likewise, understand that shooting the school play with your iPhone 4 in a darkened auditorium will result in a photo that looks like dark mush. Experiment with shadow, different times of the day, etc. Lighting is really, really important.

No go forth and shoot something!

Clay

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