Take better pictures of your friends and family with these simple tips!

Daisy-Girls-with-FlowersWe’re always taking family photos to capture our most cherished memories of our loved ones, and there’s nothing worse than taking an unflattering photo of the people that matter most. Taking great portraits isn’t an easy task, but with these simple tips you should be well on your way.

1. Know your equipment
You don’t need a professional-grade DSLR to take a good portrait, but you do need to understand how to use the equipment you have. For the casual photographer, something to consider is “Aperture Priority Mode”. Most DSLRs and many point-and-shoot cameras have this mode that will adjust the settings of your camera automatically so that you can get a shallow depth of field in your photograph. A shallow depth of field can help to make a great composition by keeping your subject in focus, while leaving a blurred background.

2. Frame your shot
Putting your subject in the middle of the shot with a lot of background isn’t always the best way to take a photo of someone. Try zooming in and filling the frame with your subject. Consider the rule of thirds when framing your shots. Before you press the button to take the picture, take a few moments to think about what you should really be focusing on– look for things you do and don’t want, and frame the picture accordingly.

3. Lighting is key
Lighting makes or breaks a photo, and especially a portrait. Try not to take photos under harsh artificial light– if you don’t have a lighting kit, consider taking the photos outdoors. Sometimes natural lighting will work in your favor, especially the “witching hour” of sunrise or sunset can be a great time to take a photo, but be careful of the directionality of the light. Make sure that your subjects face is lit up properly and that there isn’t too much light coming from behind the subject– something that may obscure facial details in an undesirable fashion. Consider using a reflector to cast additional light on your subjects face– something white that will reflect light will do if you don’t want to purchase one from your local camera store.

4. Be careful with you flash
A flash is often necessary to take a good photograph, but it can easily ruin one as well. Try to diffuse the light with either a store bought flash diffuser that attaches to your camera, or one of the many DIY options available. If you have to use the stock flash unit on your camera, take a few shots to experiment with the distance from you camera to your subject. You’ll likely want to stand about 4-6 feet away and use the zoom function. Too close and your shot will be full of harsh and unattractive light.

5. Help get a natural pose from your subject
Posing for a photo can be fun and playful, but it can also be awkward. Talk to your subject. Have them act naturally. Have them interact with the environment around them. Try to help them to forget that they’re in front of the camera. Some people are naturals and can just “turn it on” in front of the camera, but others will be a little stiff. Most of the time, the best smile you’ll catch on camera is one that is natural and heartfelt, not one when you make them say “cheese”.

The Rule of Thirds: Frame Your Photographs to Create Striking Compositions

Does your camera show you a 9 section grid on your viewfinder or LCD display when you’re taking a photo? Did you ever wonder why? It’s called the Rule of Thirds and understanding it can help you to become a better photographer.

The Rule of Thirds isn’t so much a rule as a suggestion. It’s fundamental principal of photographic composition that helps to create interesting and composed shots. The Rule of Thirds is as simple as it sounds; you’re breaking an image up into sections of three, horizontally and vertically, creating 9 sections. You want to place your subject matter so that it falls along, or close to, those dividing lines. Positioning the subject matter in this way creates photos that are more exciting and interesting than a composition with a centered subject would. Most modern digital cameras now have this kind of framing assistance built into the camera’s viewfinder or digital display, but after a while it will just come naturally to you.

Many amateur photographers tend to center the subject in their photos– it’s a natural tendency and there’s nothing wrong with it, but you’ll likely find that once you begin to compose your shots using this simple rule, you’ll begin to create more thoughtful and striking photographs. And you don’t have to limit the use of this rule to taking the photographs, it’s also a good idea to utilize it when cropping a photograph (Photoshop has grid lines in the cropping function to help you!). Thankfully, digital technology allows the user to control the development of their photo, and you can markedly improve your composition before sending it to print!

A Gallery of Photographs For Inspiration

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If you’re looking for inspiration, we’ve created a gallery of beautiful photographs for you to browse. Take a look and get some ideas on how you might compose your next shot! We’ve chosen photos that work incredibly well with the Aluminyze format. The photos showcase the vivid colors, great detail, and striking contrast that are sure to work well as aluminum prints.

Take Exciting Pictures Of The Night Sky With These Tips!

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Nighttime photography can be an exciting way to expand your photographic repertoire and help you to look at the world around you in new ways. There’s a lot more to the night sky than we’re able to see with the naked eye, and most consumer grade cameras have the ability photograph it. Here’s a few tips to help you get started.

Allow the night sky to enhance other elements of the photo
Utilize unique landscape elements to create an exciting composition. Nightscape photography isn’t just about taking pictures of the stars, it’s about utilizing celestial bodies to enhance the world around you. Play with different foreground and background elements and use the night sky as a backdrop to bring new life to things you see every day.

bigstock-starry-night-at-the-lake-lands-53667487Keep your camera still
Good night photography utilizes long exposure times. Use a tripod or place your camera on a sturdy surface that will ensure that it won’t move during the shot. A handheld shot will likely be unsuitable for this type of photograph. To minimize movement and produce the sharpest photo possible use a cable release, remote release, or timed release rather than simply pressing the button on your camera. Even the smallest movement can create less than optimal results.

Wide aperture, high ISO, and long exposures
Set your camera to manual mode and try new things!

There are countless factors that come into play when setting up your camera to take advantage of the night sky and all of them greatly affect the final product.

If you have fast lenses, something capable of f2.8 or below, try shooting with your widest aperture possible. If you don’t have lenses with these capabilities, or you’re not using a DSLR, you’re not out of luck! Nearly every camera on the market is capable of shooting at f/4 or f/4.5 and you can always take in more light with longer exposures and higher ISOs.

Higher ISOs will allow your camera to be more sensitive to low light and it’s a great way to capture more stars. Try boosting your ISO to 1600, 3200, or even 6400 if it’s a particularly dark night. The sky will really come alive and you’ll see far more celestial bodies than you had noticed with your naked eyes. Remember, the higher the ISO the more noise that the picture will contain. That noise is something that can be dealt with in post, so don’t let it keep you from experimenting.

bigstock-Benbrook-Star-Trails-40766896Slow shutter speeds are the final element of getting the most of the night sky. You’ll typically use exposure times of at least 10 to 30 seconds, but don’t be afraid to try ones that are much longer. The longer the exposure time the more star trails that will form due to the rotation of the earth. That can be a good or a bad thing depending on your own artistic vision!

Keep experimenting.
There’s no recipe to taking a good photograph, and there’s no “right” way to get the effects that you’re looking for. Longer exposure times, higher ISOs, and wider apertures will all change the way your camera sensor absorbs light. Trial and error will guide you and sometimes you’ll happen upon a happy accident.