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Free Photography Tips

Family portraits and special occasions deserve the services of a professional photographer who can preserve those keepsake moments for you.

But even little snapshot events in your life can be improved by applying some of the trade secrets professional photographers use.

  • RULE OF THIRDS – Divide up your viewfinder into a tic-tac-toe pattern in your mind and place the main subject near a point where a vertical and horizontal line intersect. Your images will be more interesting if you don’t put your horizon in the center of the frame. If your foreground is more interesting than the sky, raise your horizon, and vice versa.
  • COMPOSITION - Take the same scenic image horizontally and vertically to see which you like better when you get back the results. By taking several different frames (or images) of the same scene, you will find yourself getting more creative. Try wide-angle settings as well as zooming in tight on the main subject. If possible, frame the main subject with objects in the foreground. Change where you are standing by going left and right a few steps as well as going higher and lower.
  • PLACING PEOPLE IN THE IMAGE – Action or motion of objects such as vehicles, animals, or people should be moving into the image from the left (if possible) because we read from left to right. If you intend to see the facial expressions of the people in your scenic photographs, have them close to the camera, with just head and shoulders being sufficient. Fill the frame with just their faces if you are not interested in the background.
  • LIGHTING – This is one of the most important aspects of interesting and well-created images. Since many, if not most, of the photographs you’ll take while on a cruise or other trip will include people in the foreground, you must learn how to use fill-flash. Unless the light in your background matches the light on the faces of the people in the image, you will have too much variance for the photo lab (or the automatic printing machines) to give good flesh tones.

    If your scene is in full sun, and the sun is not fully filling in all areas of the faces, you will get harsh shadows. You can mitigate this by using fill-flash if the subjects are relatively close to the camera. Remember, your flash will work for only up to 12 to 15 feet in most cases. If you know how to use the manual settings of your camera there are more options. When using window light for portraits, turn off your flash – otherwise it will prevent your getting this lovely effect.
  • POSING PEOPLE – Paying attention to the details of posing will increase the emotional impact of your photos. Where people place their hands, and even the way the fingers are spread out, makes a big difference. A small hug is certainly more fun than people just standing with their hands down at their sides. Turn people slightly towards one another or toward the middle if it’s a group of people. Only rarely will you need to photograph anyone full length unless it’s a large group -- and then you never want to cut them off at the knees or ankles.
  • KNOW YOUR EQUIPMENT – Read your manual to learn the settings on your camera’s menu. Each camera has a unique way of presenting menu options, so reading the manual is essential.

    You definitely want to learn how to change your ISO for different situations. The higher the number, the more sensitive the sensor. Most people now use digital cameras. For those still shooting film, 100 ASA is for bright light; the other extreme, for low-light situations, is 1600 ASA.
  • DEPTH OF FIELD – This is another way to make your images more artistic. If you are photographing something and want the background to stay out of focus (to highlight your subject) you will need to learn how to control the aperture. A large opening (a small number - such as 2 or 2.8 on most short lenses, or 5.6 on a telephoto lense) will give the shortest depth of field (also known as depth of focus).
  • CAMERA SHAKE – Nothing is more aggravating than finding out later that the great image you thought you took is blurry. This generally happens in low-light situations and can be avoided by changing the ISO setting to a higher number (like 800 or 1600). There are also two easy ways to prevent blur by steadying yourself:
    • lean against a wall and let your breath out before gently squeezing the shutter button; or
    • rest the camera on something stationary, like a table top, car top or hood, or on the railing of the ship.
  • FINAL TIP – When considering taking a photo, think to yourself – “would I enlarge this and put it on my wall?” If the image is worth capturing in a photograph, it’s worth doing it right.

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Harvey Branman
Photography As An Art
1307 N. San Fernando Blvd.
Burbank, California 91504
(818) 954-9294