NYC Skyline

It seems as if we just downloaded the final 59 pictures of our Thanksgiving turkey.

Now it’s time to get ready for the batches of photos we’ll take in December and early January at holiday parties, celebrations, end-of-year, and beginning-of-year festivities.

Not to mention the thousands of photos taken with all the new smartphones, cameras, tablets, and other devices that will be given and received.

So, this may be the best time of the year for you to brush up on your photo taking (and editing, storing, and sharing skills).

To be ready for the photos that must be taken, here are several tips to ensure that you are prepared for the opportunities ahead!

1. Get to know your camera. Spend 20 minutes playing with its features, checking its settings, and trying out some of these other tips below. I’ve used my camera for several years, but several months ago photo quality plummeted. Then I looked more carefully and noticed that I had inadvertently turned on a filter that made every picture look washed out. Not exactly the effect I was looking for.

2. Develop an automatic, mental checklist that you run through every time you prepare to snap a few shots (or video). Am I in photo (square pic or regular); if in video mode, what about slo-mo and time-lapse? Are any filters on? Do I want to be in HDR (high dynamic range)?. If you don’t know what some of these things mean, like HDR, this is the time to do a little reading or a little video tutorial viewing here or here.

Cropped NYC Skyline 3. Don’t zoom, never zoom. Using zoom on your smartphone camera reduces photo quality very quickly. Instead, move closer to your subject or take a longer range photo and crop it in editing mode and voila…you will have the zoomed image you wanted. (See the two images in this blog, the photo taken of the NYC skyline above and the smaller AND cropped photo to the left. By cropping the photo at the top, I focused on a smaller part of the photo.)

4. Hold your camera steady, very steady. Especially in HDR, you will be taking multiple bursts of shots so don’t move until the photos are all taken. And remember to take most photos and videos in landscape mode (horizontal mode). If you are taking a picture of the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State building, then leaving your phone in the upright (vertical) position works best. For everything else, you want it in landscape.

5. Get creative and try out some filters. On my phone I can choose from various black and white options—mono, tonal, and noir and have other effects like fade, transfer, and instant. While I recommend that photo novices use and master the simpler tools on the editing app that comes with their own phone, there are a number of other editing apps like VSCO that work with both Android and iPhone.

6. Make sure you have plenty of light. While natural light is best, most likely you won’t have ideal conditions when you are inside. Too bright holiday lights, candles, shadows and more will really challenge getting the photo you want. Your flash won’t do you much good particularly the further away from your subject, but for close-ups it can be useful. If in doubt, take one with the flash and one without to see which does a better job. For everything else, try a practice photo using the lighting you have and see what it gives you before shooting the photo you want.

7. Don’t forget to edit. Your camera has editing tools appropriate for some basic improvements to your photos that are easy and fast to use. (In fact, many people ignore these tools completely.) Typically you’ll have a cropping tool that allows you to focus on a particular part of a photo or to eliminate someone in the background. Also, remember that cropping is the best way to zoom on your camera. You will probably have access to filters (see #5 above) and a setting or two for adjusting light, color. Too dark or too light photos can be significantly improved. What is the best way to develop your editing skills? No surprise here. Practice. And more practice.

But, you aren’t done yet. You’ve taken all these great (and some not so great) photos. Now what?

For heaven’s sake do something with them. Delete doubles or any photos you don’t want to keep. Do the necessary editing (see #7 above). Put them in some order. Prepare a slideshow, book, album, or collage to send to the people with whom you shared those moments. Use your photos, don’t just save them. Most of all, share them with others.

Happy photo-taking!

Check out these other BoomerTECH Adventures blogs on photography…

Playing With Photoshop

Tips for Taking Great Photos

If It Moves, Take Video

Sharing Images in Photos

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