The reason I wanted to show you this picture of Mr. Bigglesworth today (other than the fact that I think he's incredibly handsome) is that I wanted to offer you some picture-taking tips. First of all, a disclaimer: I am NOT a good photographer. I've never taken a class, read a full book on picture-taking, know what an ISO is, or what constitutes a "good" lens. I have an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera that is always set on "auto."
That disclaimer out in the open, I want share some of the things I've learned that have helped me take some passable blog pictures. Take or leave any advice, and consider the source. You've been warned.
That disclaimer disclosed, my first piece of advice to you is NOT that you should go out and buy a fancy camera. This is my camera, an inexpensive 5 megapixel Kodak Easyshare Z730. (I grabbed this photo from Amazon because obviously, I can't take a picture of my own camera!)
I LOVE my camera. Our family has owned three Kodak Easyshares, and they've all been fantastic for our skill level. I previously owned an expensive and complicated Canon A70 camera, but I could only manage blurry pictures with it and it died a horrible death after only one year! (It stayed alive only long enough for the warranty to expire.) I'm glad it died. I hated that thing.
Whichever camera you choose, make sure it has a close-up feature on it. See the picture of my camera below? See the flower and the mountain? The mountain is for far-away pictures, and the flower is for close-ups. When I turn my camera on, the focus is set somewhere in between "flower" and "mountain," so if I want to take a close-up, I push the flower button. Everything else stays on auto! On your camera, it may say, "close-up" or "macro." Find it. It's soooo important.
The close-up feature lets you get up close and personal with your subject. Look at this close-up of my pouch. I love close-up pictures; they really draw you in. So often, people stand too far back and you can't see any detail! When you go shopping or look at a quilt in a show, don't you like to get really, really close? I know I do. The next thing you should do is turn off your flash. Leave your camera on the auto setting, but just turn off the flash feature. Flash is horrible. It burns out color, startles the subject, turns eyes red, wrecks the background by making it too dark in the distance, and "flattens" the subject. Of course, if it's too dark, you have to use flash...but try turning it off if you can. Natural light is softer, the colors are truer, and the subject has so much more depth.
Here are two pictures of my pouch. The first is using natural light only:
And below is the flash version. I didn't turn on the flash on purpose, it came on automatically. I have to turn my flash off on purpose in even in slightly diminished light--it wants to flash even though there is sufficient light!) See the shadows? The washed-out fabric? The "flat" look of the whole picture? I'll admit, this is not the greatest example, but I think you'll see what I mean if you really start looking at great pictures and see how natural light gives them much more life.
Tripods are not just for professionals. I have two tripods and I use them both. They're essential! It's so hard for me to hold the camera still when I take a picture, especially in low light. A tripod steadies the camera so you can use natural light more, even in low light situations. I have two tripods and use them all the time. The little one is a gem! You can use it on tabletops, put it on shelves or stacks of books, or even steady the camera on your chest while taking a picture.
Another essential item is white foam core board. I have two pieces of foam core that I use as backdrops. On all my pictures with white backgrounds (like the pouch and the tripod pictures above), I set the item on one piece and use the other piece behind the subject. The white reflects the light softly and makes a very nice background. Some people tape four pieces of foam core together in an open box shape and use that as a little photo studio for small items. The white sides help reflect more light on the subject so that you don't have to use flash.
I also drape fabrics on my foam core boards and set the items on the draped fabric. It makes a nice little photo "booth."
So get a decent camera with a close-up setting, turn off your flash and get a tripod, then go buy some foam core board. And if you really want to do it right, you need this:
Photoshop Elements. Amazing. It corrects hue, lighting, skin tone, distortion, blur, crookedness...downright amazing. There is a steep learning curve, though, so be prepared to read a manual or something. It's the "lite" version of Photoshop, but I can't imagine that they left anything out...it's so fantastic! I learn something new every day. I correct EVERY picture on Photoshop Elements before you see it, usually using the "autofix" feature. Oh yeah, and the tool straightens out crooked pictures because I can't seem to take a level picture for anything.
And it also helps to have some great things around to take pictures of! Here are my Squiggle blocks so far: