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Photography: Get your picture perfect

By Jeffrey Allred

Deseret News

Published: Monday, Sept. 2 2013 1:52 p.m. MDT

Too much depth of field: A seagull stands near the Newport Beach, Calif., pier.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Whether you shoot snapshots for your Facebook page or you want to make enlargements for your wall at home, the best way to get better photographs is to practice, practice and practice.

Photography can be applied to every profession and is a heck of a fun way to spend your free time. A hobby in photography can turn into website photos for a business and could lead to stock photo sales.

Every photo situation is different, but repetition helps.

One way to improve your photography is to look at published photographs in newspapers and magazines and see what makes them succeed or to fail. When shooting photos, don’t be shy and fire off plenty of frames. Anticipate for the key moments and be ready with the right camera exposure. Be patient and wait for the important moments to come.

The following tips are some of the more important elements in achieving good photography.

Depth of field

Depth of field is the amount of things that are in focus in a photograph. For example, showing a bird in focus in the foreground but leaving the pier out of focus in the background can be an important way of directing the viewer's eye and adding prominence to a key part of your image and simplifying the scene.

By keeping the subject in focus and the background out of focus, the photo is simplified. Depth of field is controlled by the camera’s aperture. It works just like the pupil in the eye. When it's dark, the pupil opens, and when it’s sunny, the pupil constricts. An aperture of F22 will have more things in focus as opposed to an aperture of F4.

Best light

The sun has warm colors and provides longer shadows and is more pleasing in a photograph when it's setting or rising. Try to avoid shooting photos at midday when the light temperature is cooler and the sun is harsh. By simply waiting for the beautiful early and late light in the day, your photographs will improve dramatically.

Composition

Good composition is arranging the elements and colors of a photograph in a pleasing manner. The biggest mistake is placing the subject in the center of the photo. Divide the photo into thirds and place the most important element into one of the thirds. This gives the subject a place to run, look or move and adds interest to the viewer.

Fast shutter

A good photograph is sharp. Using a fast shutter speed keeps a moving subject sharp. For sports or moving subjects, use at least 1,000th shutter speed. This will stop the action in the subject and create a good visual.

Fill the frame

Have you ever viewed a photo and the subject was so tiny and so far back in the frame that you lost interest right away? Get close to your subject and fill up the frame. The eyes are the window to the sou,l so show them. Either use a telephoto lens or step closer to the subject.

Fill flash

By simply using your built-in fill flash, a face can be illuminated enough to fill in the nasty midday shadows and make a much better photograph. Most camera flash options include red eye reduction that uses some quick pre flashes to constrict the pupil in the eye and avoid red eyes.

Most cameras have fill flash, too. The camera emits a smaller portion of the flash that has just enough power to fill in the harsh shadows in the face and still use the ambient light. The combination creates a nicely exposed image.

Two more things also will improve your photography. Change your camera angle. Climb to a higher position or kneel to avoid the average eye level angle. New angles can make a dramatic impact. Use a tripod to steady the camera for longer exposures. Shooting a moving river while the surrounding rocks remain stationary can create a 3-D type motion and really improve an image.

Photography has many rules to follow, but the bottom line is that you don’t necessarily have to follow them. Have fun and continue to improve.

Jeffrey Allred has been a photojournalist in Salt Lake City for 26 years. jallred@desnews.com

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