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Photo pro
How to beef up your photography skills

04/02/15
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



One of the biggest struggles a photographer will have, said New Hampshire Institute of Art photography head Gary Samson, is with light. He offered advice during an interview at the school last week.

“I tell my students to avoid back-lit subjects like the plague,” he said. “If you want to photograph someone and they’re standing in front of a window, the person’s going to be rendered dark. The digital chip in the camera cannot capture all that information.”
Turn the subject so the window instead casts light onto his or her face, or buy an inexpensive ($14 on Amazon) photo reflector. Samson’s was a pop-up and looked like a gigantic silver disc, but he said any sort of white board or even a sheet of aluminum foil could work. (Have the subject hold the reflector at waist level, or hold it yourself; it will put light where there were before dark, unflattering shadows.) 
Samson advises photographers to avoid the flash; for the beginner especially, daylight is almost always the best light.
“I really try to avoid using the built-in flash on my camera as much as possible,” Samson said. “The flash is mounted on the camera just above the lens, and when that goes off, it casts a shadow behind the subject and looks like an amateur photograph.”
Also avoid middle-of-the-day outdoor photos.
“Once we get past 9:30, 10 a.m., and through 3:30, 4 p.m., the sun overhead is really bright and casts sharp shadows. You never want to put people in direct sunlight,” Samson said. “I would put them in the shade of a building, or under the shade of a tree. My favorite time to photograph is after 4:30 p.m., when the light is softer and warmer.” (Similarly, you may also find photos come out better on a cloudy day; the sunlight will filter through the clouds become less harsh.)
Then think about the composition. Make sure no trees are sticking out of people’s heads. When you look through the viewfinder, see if you can break up the photo so there’s an element in each third. 
“Think of your viewfinder like a canvas or piece of paper. It has edges. Is the subject too large, not large enough? If you always just take your subject and just place it in the middle of the frame, it sometimes makes for a boring composition,” he said. “Think about how you might want to break the image into components or into thirds. … Also, if you put a diagonal line in the middle of the composition — a roadway or a walkway maybe — that will also make for a more dramatic, visually exciting photograph.”
Last tip: slow down. Samson says that for every photo he shows, he probably takes more than 30. Anything can happen during that millisecond you press the button. Shoot photos from different angles and edit down to the very best. 
 
As seen in the April 2, 2015 issue of the Hippo.





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