Tips for amateurs to taking better photographs with any type of camera.
Everyone enjoys having photographs of family, friends, vacations, and interesting sites to capture memories and perhaps express a little creativity. Often times, a simple adjustment or two can greatly improve the shot, bringing even more pleasure to the finished photograph. Whether the photographer is using an expensive 35 MM SLR type of camera, or a simple, inexpensive 110 disposable pocket camera, attention to a few details can make all the difference in improving your pictures.
The main areas where anyone can improve are content, lighting, and angle: CONTENT
Flip through your favorite magazines and notice how professional photographers "frame" their subjects. Grouping a nice collection of objects or people together is one method of creating good content, and isolation of a single subject is another. Remember who is going to be looking at your pictures and what you want them to see.
Taking photographs of several objects or people can make a beautiful layout. A group of people standing together can turn out nicely if you ask them to act "natural" and place them in a natural setting. For example, having them all sit randomly on a large rock is more natural than having them line up like a classroom of kindergartners in a yearbook. The surrounding scenery can provide more color and interest, too.
Indoors, if taking a portrait of your office crew, why not have them all standing around the coffee machine as if chatting, or have them act as if they are working and you caught them with your camera. The more natural the background and subject, the better the photograph will look in the end. Most "posed" pictures are not much fun to look at, although there may be the rare occasion where this type of shot is desired.
Outdoors, things such as groupings of flowers, trees and the like in nature can be balanced by being aware of how many items you wish to include and the angle at which you take the picture. Keep in mind your final product and how you would like it to appear. Do you want to show the detail in one little daisy, or would you like to capture the whole field of daisies?
Sometimes it helps to include an object for size reference with your subject, such as a person standing next to that cactus can show just how huge it was, or placing your little child beside a common object, such as a door in your home, can help register their height at that particular age.
The most common mistake amateur photographers make is having too much background that is not related to the subject. By getting a little closer, and/or zooming in on your subject a little, try to isolate your subject from all the surrounding blank walls or chaos. Getting closer can also capture a little more detail in your subject itself. Be careful and know how close you can get with your particular camera model, as getting too close can cause your shot to come out distorted or out of focus. Some of the best people portraits are gained by filling the whole picture frame with their face and capturing the detail of their expression and likeness.
Lighting is something you must be very aware of in order to take better photographs. Even with the simplest camera equipment, the amount, direction, and quality of light make all the difference between a great photo and a terrible one.
Despite most amateur photographers' beliefs that you need lots of bright lighting, most cameras take better photographs with indirect lighting. This would be an overcast day or light shade outdoors, and a covered flash indoors. You can cover your flash with a light white cloth, which will allow some of the light through, but not bring such a harsh light to your subject.
The direction of direct, harsh light brings problems to your pictures. If facing the sun, your subjects will end up squinting, but with their back to the sun, their face may turn out too shaded, and you risk getting the glare of the sun in your camera lens. With more indirect type of lighting, you do not have to worry about glare or shadows so much.
Sometimes, though, you can use direct lighting and shadows to your advantage, such as taking a close up of a person's face, allowing direct light to shine on one half of their face, and the other half cast in shadow. This may bring out their unique facial features. This can also work well with rock formations, with the longer shadows of early morning or late evening giving more of a feeling of depth and angles in your subject than taking a straight on picture at high noon. If you choose to shoot in bright sunlight, always make sure the sun is not pointing directly into your camera, but is at some angle to your back.
Choosing your angle can make a great deal of difference in the interest of your photography as well. Don't be afraid to move around and see how the view looks from higher, lower, to one side, or even turning your camera for an angular or longwise shot. Try placing the subject in different parts of the picture, the top, bottom, or to the side, rather than always dead center. Intentionally off-center shots are very much the rage with professional photographers today.
A final word: accept the fact that as you practice and experiment, you will have some bad shots, but as you look at these, try to learn from them by asking yourself what you could have done differently to improve your photograph. Then your experience will not be wasted.
The keys to taking better photographs are being aware of your content, your lighting, and your angle; not being afraid to experiment; allowing yourself to be a little bit creative; and knowing what your camera can do.
Bicycle touring is an excellent way to see new places. Riding long-distance is physically demanding, however, and requires gradual condition following a training program such as this:
Modern lightweight, multi-speed bicycles make long distance bicycle riding more appealing than ever, and many people who get into bicycling may dream of taking long weekend rides or even much longer tours through the countryside. The bicycle is a low-cost and unobtrusive means of travel that can get a tourist out there on the level of the people living in the area, especially in quaint, Third World countries where many bicycle tourists go. Because of the technological advances of today?s bicycles, which are indeed far easier to ride than earlier models, many new riders might be tempted to bite off more than they can chew when it comes to long rides.
Bicycle riding is a strenuous activity that requires a conditioning period for full enjoyment, even if you are already an athletic person with a good all around level of physical fitness. Riding a bicycle is an aerobic activity, and you will have to develop the lung capacity to keep from running out of breath on long rides, especially if the ride involves climbing steep hills or mountains. Long-distance riding also requires developing your legs, of course, as they will be under considerable strain to keep the pedals turning. But perhaps the most difficult aspect of riding, especially for new riders, is the pain in the rear end you will experience from sitting on a narrow bicycle seat for long periods of time. This pain can only be overcome by gradually increasing your time in the saddle over a period of weeks or months.
If you?ve never ridden long distance before, don?t make the mistake of hopping on a new touring bicycle and heading out on a 50-mile ride, even if you are athletic enough to make it that far without training. Because of the above-mentioned factors, especially saddle-soreness, it is much better to start out modestly and work your way up to longer rides. Begin with short rides of 15 to 20 minutes in duration and see how you feel after that. After the first week you should be able to ride an hour or so at a time. It?s best to alternate your riding days so your body has time to recover between longer rides. You could ride 15-20 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and ride an hour on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Try riding faster on the days when your rides are short, but take it easy and enjoy the scenery on the longer days. After the first week or two, you can gradually start pushing a little harder and may even be ready to extend the length of your rides.
In moderate terrain, you should be able to average about 15 miles per hour on paved roads, so once you work up to doing three rides a week of at least 20 miles, you won?t have to spend more than about an hour and twenty minutes on the bike on those days.
On the alternate, shorter ride days, try riding 10-12 miles at a much faster pace. This will quickly build up aerobic capacity and increase your overall fitness level. On this schedule, you will be riding close to 100 miles per week. This is still not enough to be prepared for long-distance touring, but you are getting to a good base level of cycling fitness.
Over a period of several weeks, gradually increase your mileage at your own pace, which will vary according to your age and general fitness. You should now try to make one much longer ride one day each week. Now is the time to shoot for that goal of 50 miles, non-stop, or even further. Work your base mileage up until you are riding about 30 miles at a time three days a week and 15-20 on your fast-paced days. At this level, you are now averaging 200 miles per week and should be getting used to the saddle, as well as developing strong legs and lungs.
If the tour you dream of taking on two wheels is going to involve mountainous terrain, you must try to do at least some of your training on hilly roads. It?s very difficult to prepare for climbing on a bicycle if all your riding is done on flat terrain. Likewise, if you plan to carry a lot of luggage on your bicycle in touring panniers, before the trip you need to start riding some with this additional weight to more closely simulate the conditions of your trip.
Bicycle touring is a rewarding way of seeing new places and it has the excellent side benefit of getting you in great shape. You?ll enjoy it more and not get discouraged if you take it easy in the beginning and follow this training plan. Remember, not everyone is the same. Some new riders may reach this level in a few weeks, while others may require 6 months or more. And out on the road on an actual tour, some riders will poke along at the rate of about 30 miles per day, while other will average 100 miles per day or more.
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