“If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.”- Unknown.
Taking focused pictures is something every photographer wants, right?
But it’s not as easy to do when you have no idea how to use your camera or how your actions as a photographer can hurt or help the quality of your images. I had to learn about focus the hard way, through lots of blurry and out-of focus pictures that left me scratching my head wondering, “why doesn’t this look right?”
I didn’t know it was “focus” that was problem, I just knew my pictures never looked right to me. They were never clear, clean, or like the vision I imagined them being in my head. But then when I began to focus on my photography and learning how to get better, things began to change.
I say this to say that focus is a subject near and dear to my heart.
If your pictures aren’t looking as clear, crisp, and focused as you’d like, try considering these five things:
1. Do you have poor focus? This sounds obvious, but it’s not really when you, as photographer, have no idea what your desired subject is before taking your shot. Perhaps, unknowingly, you’re focusing on the wrong area when shooting. Or, and this was something it took me forever to learn, perhaps you’re too close to your subject to allow your camera to focus.
Another possibility is that your selected aperture is too high, producing too narrow of a depth of field.
To fix all these problems, take your time when composing your shots. Decide on your subject before shooting, set your focus on that, then shoot.
As you can see, in the above picture, I’m focused on the flower in the forefront. It’s this (focusing intentionally on that single flower) and my aperture that produces the blurring of the background flowers.
2. Has your subject moved? Unless you’re hoping to convey movement in your shots, make sure your shutterspeed is high enough to account for any movement. Generally, when shooting my kids, I try to stick to 1/125 and above. For stationary objects, like flowers, perhaps, you can choose lower shutterspeeds.
3. Is your ISO too high? The better your camera, the better it can manage the grain that inevitably comes with shooting at high ISOs. If your camera is not as great, try to keep your ISO as low as possible. To compensate for the decrease in light, and if possible, make adjustments with your shutterspeed and/or aperture.
4. Did your camera shake? Not as obvious when you’re starting out, but camera shake, either knowingly or unknowingly, can lead to un-focused shots. To fix, be mindful of form when shooting. Use both hands, keep the camera close to your body, and support yourself with some form of solid object, i.e., wall, tree, etc. Or, even better, shoot with a tripod (spoken from a photographer who has only used her tripod like two times in the past three years. 🙂
5. Is it your lens? If you have the money to invest in a good lens, do it, since lens quality can have a very big impact on the crispness of your images. Two years ago, I decided to upgrade from my kit lens to prime lens and I have not looked back. I now only shoot using my prime 1.4 lens because I love that it consistently and easily produces sharp images.
Another factor to consider when it comes to your lens and producing sharp images is cleanliness. Having a clean lens that’s clear of dust and grime is a must for clear and crisp images.
Also, one more thing to consider, if your lens is clean and you’re doing everything else right (see above) and are still not getting focused shots, get your lens professionally checked. It could be that your lens has a mechanical error preventing it from properly focusing.
What are your favorite tips/tricks for ensuring focused pictures?
“Earth laughs in flowers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
You know what’s funny about me and starting new things? It’s funny that when I start things, or most things, I always have in mind that I will eventually quit them.
“There will be an end to this,” I often tell myself when I commence upon dietary restrictions, writing projects, and anything else that I feel uncertain about the meaning or worth of my efforts. This is why I can’t finish a novel or James Frey’s “a million little pieces” for the life of me.
I usually can’t just flow in murky waters. So what I usually do, when I can, is not commit to treading in these waters at all.
Or, usually, I’ll start with an exit plan in mind. So, for instance, when I said last month that I would be giving up chocolate. With that pronouncement, I already decided in my mind that I would only stay true to this commitment so long as a) I was not given free chocolate cake, b) I got eight hours of sleep, c) I didn’t stumble upon an “easy” chocolate recipe that contained ingredients I actually had in my pantry.
I never did get eight hours of sleep, so that commitment went out the window. Of course.
It is in my nature, I realize, to give myself leeway out of open-ended commitments that I think I can’t, or, rather, don’t want, to live up to. I do this because I take my commitments and life very seriously. I do this because I’ve been conditioned to think in absolutes and certainties. Everything means something. Every hobby must lead to a profession. Every good conversation must lead to a friendship. Every start must have a end, a good one, for me to stay motivated. This is my personality by nature. And it’s why when I don’t live up to my commitments, I feel bad and make excuses to explain, to myself, why I didn’t.
I am saying this now because it’s something that I now recognize as a problem. If you’re always looking for destinations, meaning, stated goals, and certainty, you lose sight of what it means to be alive.
You miss the unexpected joy and sense of relief that comes when you decide in the midst of new and unfamiliar territory that you are not lost, just wandering. And usually in wandering, you’ll find a new way back to where you wanted to go anyway, or you’ll find someplace better than you thought. That’s the joy of wandering.
This year, I’ve willingly wandered, drifted into new things– new fitness classes at the gym, auditions, new writing opportunities– without an exit plan or clear exit sign in sight.
And in doing more of this, old things in my life are beginning to make more sense. Like photography.
People often ask why I “do photography.” And when I buy new camera equipment, I ask myself the same.
I want to say because one day I’ll make money from this hobby, but that’s really a lie.
I think the joy of photography has always been, without me knowing it, the wandering part. Yes, I enjoy taking pictures of my children. But more than that, it’s one of the few things in my adult life that I’ve allowed myself to grow in without a clear goal in mind for the end. The journey itself is my “why.”
This is my life tip that can be applied to new photographers or anyone else listening. Wander in the craft and good things will come.
Knowing what good light looks like matters. But more important than that, especially when you’re starting out and none of that stuff makes sense anyway, is this: To get better at taking pictures, you must be willing to continue on when you aren’t yet taking better pictures.
I never had a plan to continue with photography when I started out four years ago. But I kept with it, through bad pictures and a lack of motivation, because I enjoyed the process. My pictures weren’t great, but I kept going because for once, with photography, this new thing I didn’t understand, my desire to tell my story was greater than my desire to give up.
Ah, the beauty of wandering.
Have you ever started something without a clear goal in mind? What was it and how did “it” end up?
Along with most of the East coast, we’ve been hit by snow.
Lots and lots of snow. More than we’ve received all season.
I’m usually an adult when it comes to snow. I hate it, or I don’t hate it, but I hate being in it. It’s cold and wet and gets in the way of my car pulling out of the driveway.
But my children don’t feel the same way. Like most children who see snow and see its better “half,” they love the snow.
So whenever it does snow, even if only an inch, they beg to go out in it, play in it. “It will be fun,” they say. And I usually don’t believe them but end up outside anyway, usually in my pajamas wrapped beneath my down coat and hopes that this “just be over soon!”
Months before today, I read a book called, “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. In the book, she documents her year long journey to be happier. One of many, many lessons I took from the book is that part of being happy is sometimes faking happiness. It’s our attitude that sets the precedent for our behaviors, and, thus, our lives. If we live lightly, if we open ourselves up to enjoying the moments we dread, if we decide to lead with happiness..then so our lives will be, happier, light, enjoyable.
I have, over the years, become something of a curmudgeon, not necessarily towards my children, but towards everything and everyone else. I complain about things, things I hate, things that feel uncomfortable, things that make me feel too vulnerable, I’ve realized, because I think that complaining will make me feel better about that said thing.
But, you know what? Complaining only makes you feel worse. It makes you feel unhappy and hard and miserable.
So, today, in the snow, I decided to “fake it.”
I initiated this snow man, which is big, since I usually feign ignorance when my children ask to find accessories and body parts for their created friends in the snow. I faked it until I was able to let go and just enjoy this moment, this snow man, this snow. And…it felt good.
So, about the snow. I think I like it now. I think.
Happy Friday and Valentines all! Stay warm! xo.
So, this is the last post of the Clicking Series. (cue the violins) I know. I know. It’s a sad occasion for me, too. I love talking about motherhood and writing and parenting, but writing about photography is something that I’m really into right now.
This series has been fun for me. I’ve enjoyed sharing tips with you and hearing from you what you’re doing to make your pictures of your children better. I’ve enjoyed this so much that I think I will make conversations on photography a more regular part of this blog.
The response to this series has been overwhelming and humbling, very humbling. Your comments that you’ve learned something, your retweets, your facebook shares have meant a lot to me!
But this is the end. Or, not the end but the interlude to future conversations. In case you’ve missed any of the posts, here they are in the order in which they appeared in this series:
This is the post that you’ll want to bookmark and come actually come back to for future reference. Here I name my favorite online and offline resources for newbie photographers. These are resources that I rely on and make use of, in some cases, on a daily basis.
The Digital Photography Boxed Set, Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 by Scott Kelby.
Volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4 are considered standard reads by most photographers. I like these books because the author, Scott Kelby, is funny, relatable, and a great teacher. In these books, Scott’s not heavy on the technical side of photography (which is good for newbies), but he is big on providing you with all you need to know to take great shots.
Most general, beginner photography books these days offer information that could be applied to any type of camera, but the information usually slants one way or the other. Or, for instance, a book that leans towards point-and-shoot users will not talk much about the Manual settings of a DSLR. This book doesn’t do that. I like it for that, plus, the images are breathtaking. This book is a bit more on the technical side, but it’s still an easy read.
I like this book because it offers some insight into, what I consider, a God-given gift—that is the ability to see creatively. Peterson is not strict on rules, instead he challenges readers to begin thinking about all that goes into making interesting images, or color, lines, shapes, forms, and patterns.
I was first introduced to this book via a really awesome giveaway on Veronica Armstrong’s blog. I didn’t win that giveaway, but I was inspired by her love for this book to buy it myself. Along with its beautiful images, I love this book because it’s message of the power of shooting from your heart and soul is one that is often missed in photography books. Sure, the technical stuff of a photograph is big, but, in my humble opinion, more than that is a person’s ability to shoot the visions from their heart. That’s what photography is. And that’s why I think photography, being a parent, and shooting your children all go hand in hand.
There are a lot of great books out there offering tips to parents on how to take better pictures of their kids. Here are some of my favorites.
Mamarazzi: Every Mom’s Guide to Photographing Kids by Stacy Wasmuth.
This is a really great book. It’s easy to read, easy to understand, and delivers.
If there’s a book that I think any expecting mom should have before giving birth, it’s this one. I love Me Ra Koh’s story and her photo recipes for shots to take of your children in their first year of life are priceless. Priceless! If you have a new baby, get this book now!!
This is a community of artists, hobbyists, and professional photographers. Along with offering really great classes through its CMUniversity, it’s the forum that’s worth its weight in gold. It’s the forum that contains hundreds of tutorials and tips and tricks and access to photographers who really want to help you. The cost of membership may seem a bit steep, but if you have interest in furthering your photography career or just being able to talk to real women who, like you, are passionate about photography, it’s so worth it.
Along with taking beautiful pictures, Darcy, the blog’s author, is awesome because she offers really great photography and Photoshop tutorials that are easy to understand. She’s a mom, too, so she also talks a lot on her blog about some of the challenges and topics that are of interest to moms. Oh, and she also has a great community formed around her photo challenges.
This is one of the first sites that I found on my quest to improve my photography. Here you can find informative posts, tutorials, interviews, and tips. I was introduced to iheartfaces through a lovely blog I follow called Mamahood Among Other Things. She often took part in the challenges so I became interested in this site through seeing her beautiful work.
I have hundreds of other sites, books, and blogs I frequent, but I’ll stop here.