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Example of Tip #4. The photo above is a typical shot.

This photo is much closer, capturing more detail and personality.

The shot also incorporates David’s suggestion of studying photography. A picture a bit off-center adds a more creative touch to the portrait.

Guiding principles to improve your photography, without buying new gear

—David Cramer, Signpost

If you take decent photographs, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “You must have a really good camera,” or, “You must have a really big lens.”

I often hear these comments from well-meaning (I think!) individuals who are admiring my work. It’s one of those compliments that is not quite a compliment, like telling a good cook he or she must have really good pots and pans. What many people don’t realize is that good photography isn’t created by having better equipment. In fact, the most expensive camera in the world in the hands of a non-creative person will lead to very boring photographs.

What leads to better results in your photography is something you already possess, and you can’t purchase it in a store. It’s the relationship you have with your creative self, and the time you devote to your photography. To help you develop your potential, here are some suggestions you can follow that won’t cost you a cent. I don’t take credit for all of these, as they apply to many facets of life and have been presented by countless people before me. For me however, these have become guiding principles.

• Develop patience and perseverance. Nature photography in particular requires a great amount of patience. Good skills develop slowly.

• Photograph subjects that interest you. Don’t let others dictate what you should photograph. Make your photography personal.

• Develop you own style. Don’t copy others, as that will restrict your creativity. Let others inspire you, but turn that inspiration into finding your own style.

• Be positive. The world is full of negative critics and downers. Don’t let yourself become one of them, as that will also destroy your creativity.

• Here’s a tough one: Recognize that you are going to take bad photos every now and then (or perhaps most of the time). Be open to and ask for constructive criticism. Detach your emotions from your photos and try to look more objectively at your work.

• Study art. Study every photographer you can. Go to galleries. Visit photographer websites online. See what’s being done. Learn about composition, details, color theory, backgrounds. Become a student. And always remain a student.

• Study your subjects. As a nature photographer, I have a much better chance at getting a unique image if I understand the birds and animals I photograph. Know what to expect. Anticipate. Visualize the image your want to capture.

• Think before you shoot. Spend more time thinking about a shot than making the shot. You’ll create much more interesting images if you get your brain into your photography.

• Make your photography a priority. Better yet, make it a high priority. You won’t get any better if you aren’t out there making mistakes.

Be grateful. Every day you get to photograph is a great day.

Use David’s principals to enhance these technical tips from Kodak

1. Look your subject in the eye.
Direct eye contact can be as engaging in a picture as it is in real life. When taking a picture of someone, hold the camera at the person’s eye level to unleash the power of those magnetic gazes and mesmerizing smiles. For children, that means stooping to their level. And your subject need not always stare at the camera. All by itself that eye level angle will create a personal and inviting feeling that pulls you into the picture.

2. Use a plain background.
A plain background shows off the subject you are photographing. When you look through the camera viewfinder, force yourself to study the area surrounding your subject. Make sure no poles grow from the head of your favorite niece and that no cars seem to dangle from her ears.

3. Use flash outdoors.
Bright sun can create unattractive deep facial shadows. Eliminate the shadows by using your flash to lighten the face. When taking people pictures on sunny days, turn your flash on. You may have a choice of fill-flash mode or full-flash mode. If the person is within five feet, use the fill-flash mode; beyond five feet, the full-power mode may be required. With a digital camera, use the picture display panel to review the results.

On cloudy days, use the camera’s fill-flash mode if it has one. The flash will brighten up people’s faces and make them stand out. Also take a picture without the flash, because the soft light of overcast days sometimes gives quite pleasing results by itself.

4. Move in close.
If your subject is smaller than a car, take a step or two closer before taking the picture and zoom in on your subject. Your goal is to fill the picture area with the subject you are photographing. Up close you can reveal telling details, like a sprinkle of freckles or an arched eyebrow.

But don’t get too close or your pictures will be blurry. The closest focusing distance for most cameras is about three feet, or about one step away from your camera. If you get closer than the closest focusing distance of your camera (see your manual to be sure), your pictures will be blurry.

5. Move it from the middle.
Center-stage is a great place for a performer to be. However, the middle of your picture is not the best place for your subject. Bring your picture to life by simply moving your subject away from the middle of your picture. Start by playing tick-tack-toe with subject position. Imagine a tick-tack-toe grid in your viewfinder. Now place your important subject at one of the intersections of lines.

6. Lock the focus.
If your subject is not in the center of the picture, you need to lock the focus to create a sharp picture. Most auto-focus cameras focus on whatever is in the center of the picture. But to improve pictures, you will often want to move the subject away from the center of the picture. If you don’t want a blurred picture, you’ll need to first lock the focus with the subject in the middle and then recompose the picture so the subject is away from the middle.

Usually you can lock the focus in three steps. First, center the subject and press and hold the shutter button halfway down. Second, reposition your camera (while still holding the shutter button) so the subject is away from the center. And third, finish by pressing the shutter button all the way down to take the picture.

7. Know your flash’s range.
The number one flash mistake is taking pictures beyond the flash’s range. Why is this a mistake? Because pictures taken beyond the maximum flash range will be too dark. For many cameras, the maximum flash range is less than fifteen feet—about five steps away. What is your camera’s flash range? Look it up in your camera manual. Can’t find it? Then don’t take a chance. Position yourself so subjects are no farther than ten feet away.

8. Watch the light.
Next to the subject, the most important part of every picture is the light. It affects the appearance of everything you photograph. On a great-grandmother, bright sunlight from the side can enhance wrinkles. But the soft light of a cloudy day can subdue those same wrinkles.

Don’t like the light on your subject? Then move yourself or your subject. For landscapes, try to take pictures early or late in the day when the light is orange-ish and rakes across the land.

9. Take some vertical pictures.
Is your camera vertically challenged? It is if you never turn it sideways to take a vertical picture. All sorts of things look better in a vertical picture. From a lighthouse near a cliff to the Eiffel Tower to your four-year-old niece jumping in a puddle. So next time out, make a conscious effort to turn your camera sideways and take some vertical pictures.

10. Be a picture director.
Take control of your picture-taking and watch your pictures dramatically improve. Become a picture director, not just a passive picture-taker. A picture director takes charge. A picture director picks the location: “Everybody go outside to the backyard.” A picture director adds props: “Girls, put on your pink sunglasses.” A picture director arranges people: “Now move in close, and lean toward the camera.”


Thanksgiving Day Football Tradition

What can you be more thankful for than sitting back with family and friends on Thanksgiving and enjoying a tasty treat of National Football League (NFL) football?

The professional and college football games being played on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2009, include: the Detroit Lions versus the Green Bay Packers, the Oakland Raiders versus the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants versus the Denver Broncos.

The tradition of pro football being played on Thanksgiving started in 1920. As of 2008, only six NFL teams had never played on Thanksgiving, including the New Orleans Saints, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Carolina Panthers. The NFL currently holds three regular-season games on Thanksgiving Day. A third game was added in 2006 and is aired on the NFL Network.

The Detroit Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving Day since 1934. The Dallas Cowboys have played every Thanksgiving since 1966, with the exception of 1975 and 1977. Since 1966, the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys host games on Thanksgiving every year.

The NFL Thanksgiving Schedule is as follows:

  • Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions - Ford Field, 12:30 p.m. EST, Broadcast on Fox.
  • Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys - Cowboys Stadium, 4:15 p.m. EST, Broadcast on CBS.
  • New York Giants at Denver Broncos - Invesco Field at Mile High, 8:20 p.m. EST, Broadcast on the NFL Network2.

ESPN’s Fun Facts: Thanksgiving And The NFL:

1998: THE JEROME BETTIS COIN TOSS
It was a decade ago that the Lions rallied to force overtime against the Steelers. The captains for both teams met at midfield for the coin toss with referee Phil Luckett and his toss comes up tails. Steelers captain (and Detroit native) Jerome Bettis appeared to mumble "tails" but Luckett claims Bettis called "heads" and the ball is awarded to Detroit, which promptly marches in for the winning field goal. The Steelers are livid and the controversy sparks the NFL to rewrite its coin flip procedure. Luckett is then involved in another controversy 10 days later, when his crew blows a call that gives the Jets' Vinny Testaverde a game-winning touchdown against the Seahawks.

1993: LEON LETT'S ADVENTURE
The Dolphins line up for a game-winning 41-yard field goal attempt. It is blocked. Lett mistakenly slides through the snow and knocks the ball toward the end zone. The dead ball becomes a live one and Miami recovers. Given a second chance, Miami's Pete Stoyanovich kicks the game winner.

1986: CELEBRITY PROPOSAL
During the halftime show of a Thanksgiving Day game, sportscaster Ahmad Rashad proposes on air to Phylicia Ayers-Allen, best known for playing Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show. They later marry, but divorce in 2001.

1980: WILLIAMS TO THE HOUSE
If you left the room for an extra dessert at the end of regulation, you likely missed it. Chicago's Dave Williams needed just 21 seconds to return the overtime kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.

1976: THE JUICE IS UNDENIABLY LOOSE
O.J. Simpson ran for 273 yards in the Bills' 27-14 loss to the Lions.

1973: CLINT LONGLEY'S SHINING MOMENT
The Redskins held a comfortable 16-3 lead when rookie Cowboys backup Clint Longley took over for the injured Roger Staubach and threw two touchdown passes, including a 50-yard bomb to Drew Pearson, to give the Boys a 24-23 win in his NFL debut. It would be the only notable highlight for Longley, whose NFL career would last all of nine games.

1968: THE MUD BOWL
In a steady rain, which started the previous night and lasted almost 36 hours, the Lions were shut out, 12-0, by Philadelphia as Sam Hall kicked four field goals in what is now called the "Mud Bowl." Hall was rumored to have used dry balls to kick the field goals, as NFL rules at the time only permitted the home team to replace game balls. The Lions, meanwhile, were kicking wet footballs.

1962: STARR-BURST
The only loss for the eventual NFL champion Packers that season came on Thanksgiving Day when Bart Starr was sacked 11 times.

1925: THE GRANGE DEBUT
College football is still king when Red Grange takes $12,000 for a game (today that's about $140,000) from the Chicago Bears and makes his professional debut in a 0-0 tie with the Chicago Cardinals. The largest crowd on pro football history at the time, 36,000, shows up for the game at Wrigley Field.

1920: THE BEGINNING
In the NFL's first recognized season, six games were held on Thanksgiving Thursday (only three are being held this year). One of them had Fritz Pollard leading the Akron Pros to a 7-0 win over the Canton Bulldogs, whose roster included Jim Thorpe.

 

     

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