Pro Photo Tips

Illustrated with images from David R. Day.

These simple and quick tips will help you create better photos.

 
 

Pro Photo Tip #1

“Almost Dusk”, Boise, Idaho

“Almost Dusk”, Boise, Idaho


Look up!
It is so easy to 'focus' both literally and figuratively only on the subject in front of us. Take a moment to notice and think about what is going on around you.
So look up, look down, look all around!
As I was waiting for the light to get right on the "Dusk" image. I noticed the flag flying above me. Here is the result of looking up! "Old Glory"

“Old Glory”

“Old Glory”

“The Angle”

“The Angle”

“Grand”

“Grand”


Pro Photo Tip #2

Punch Lines

Use natural or man-made lines to draw attention to your subject. Notice that they do not have to be straight, in the middle or at the bottom of the image to have a powerful effect.

“The Long and Lonsome road”

“The Long and Lonsome road”


“The Dance of the Zinnias”

“The Dance of the Zinnias”

 

Pro Photo tip #4
Have a back up plan.

No. Really back it up.
With memory so cheap there is no reason not to have your files in at least two places. Yes, the cloud counts, but an extra hard drive or two will protect you images even if Apple, google or amazon decide they aren’t making enough money from storing your data. I have seen several cloud storage companies come and GO


Photo Pro Tip #3

Color your World with Love
We love color, but we really love complementary colors. 
Notice how your attention shifts from the red to the yellow Zinnia and back.
The second example is more subtle however, the range of blues is a perfect complement to the oranges.
Can't remember what colors work? Think sports teams. Blue & Orange, Green & Yellow etc.

Neon Sunset

Neon Sunset


“Back that right up”

“Back that right up”

 

Pro Photo tip #5
Don't "Spray & Pray."

Think before you shoot.
Since there is no cost to taking "just one more." It is temping to just fire away and hope you get something good. 
What is the story you want to tell? What is the subject? Is there a better angle or location. Is there something (or someone) you want to add or subtract from your shot? Want to get deeper? Think about what you want the viewer to see, or better yet feel.
Just take a moment, a deep breath, a pause too 'think.' 
Credit to Daniel Robinson for the basis of this tip!

“The Test”

“The Test”

“Manhattan Rain”

“Manhattan Rain”


Pro Tip #7
Shape it up.

When you are looking to discover your world, find the shapes. Circles, squares, or the repeating patterns of leaves are very pleasing to the eye. In my commercial work, you will often see different patterns used to emphasize the product.

Upper Flathead River. Northern Montana

Upper Flathead River. Northern Montana

Western Trailer on the job in South Ada, Idaho

Western Trailer on the job in South Ada, Idaho

Pro Tip #8
What’s your favorite subject.

No this isn't about school. It's about highlighting what you want your images to reveal, what emotion are your sharing. 
Here is a tip inside of a tip. Pick ONE.
One strong subject is often better. One idea, one feeling. This pictures of Elissa Day is an example. It was temping to include more of the amazing scenery of Teton National park, but it would deemphasize that rockin' great grin.
Not the zoo, just the monkey.

 
SIBU Rescue Reaserve, Costa Rica

SIBU Rescue Reaserve, Costa Rica

Pro Photo Tip #10

Gold Rush

 
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Pro Photo tip #6
Negativity can be a good thing

Pro Photo Tip #6

Don't be so negative. No go ahead.
Use negative space to emphasize your principle subject or thought. Think opposite colors, textures, or subjects. Big blue skies, white walls, portraits with out of focus backgrounds.

“Desert Cross”

“Desert Cross”

“ Hey, Hay. “Palouse, Northern Idaho

“ Hey, Hay. “Palouse, Northern Idaho

 
Ellisa Day, Dancing girl bend. Grand Teton National Park

Ellisa Day, Dancing girl bend. Grand Teton National Park

 

Find the golden hour. Get up early or stay up late.

What's this golden hour? It is the the hour or so around sunset and sunrise. Parts of the spectrum of light get filtered out and what is left is a wonderful soft yellowish glow. It is prefect for landscapes and can make portraits amazing.

Here are a few examples:

#1 Traihead, Idaho

#2 Sunrise Grove, Boise

#3 Sunset Coasta Rica, Idaho

 
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Pro Photo tip #14.
Just needs a little sompthin'.

Great, as opposed to just good photos usually have more than one element. Look at the flower photo I took yesterday(with my phone BTW) at KA park. The flower alone would have been beautiful. The yellow against the white, contrasting with the green. But by chasing the bees around and catching a couple. It becomes a photo that tells a story.
Pretty balloon floating in the sky? Not bad. Same balloon mimicking the State Capitol dome? Much better.
So when you are looking for photos, try and find that extra sompthin' sompthin'.

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Photo Pro Tip #15

You gotta suck 1st!

If you are starting out in photography(or anything else really) you have to dare to be bad. You need to try new things, to experiment, to spin the dials, move to the left. Guess what, not all of these things will work. Actually, most of them won't, sorry.


Many think experience is learning how to do it right. I'm pretty sure experience is learning what not do to! MIstakes are the key.

It is a good thing, cause I make lots of mistakes.

Here are a couple of my attempts at greatness that didn't work out so well. (Click on the descriptions to see why I think these images suck.)

Let’s call this one. “There is an beautiful imger in there, somewhere!” Look at the shapes, the contrast of the snow on the cliffs, great lines, and nice subtle colors.  What happened? Mostly a lack of anything specifically interesting and a boring sky.  Not sure even now I would ‘find the shot.” It was still worth the look.

Let’s call this one. “There is an beautiful imger in there, somewhere!” Look at the shapes, the contrast of the snow on the cliffs, great lines, and nice subtle colors.

What happened? Mostly a lack of anything specifically interesting and a boring sky.

Not sure even now I would ‘find the shot.” It was still worth the look.

Pro Tip #11

A shot in the dark

 

Photo Pro Tip #12


Distraction, what distraction?


When taking a photo, or when you edit be sure to check the margins, the corners, the outside edges for distractions. As you are composing your images look for bright lights, bold colors, weird shapes, stray people, anything that will take your viewers eye away from your main subject.
Here is an example. The 1st shot is ok, cool sunset, the lines of the building are neat, BUT the cars, the people on the sidewalk, all are working against the beauty of the sky. By shifting the angle upward and over, the second image shifts the emphasis to the sky, keeps the cool buildings in play and eliminates the distractions.

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So much good here. You can see what I was going for can’t you. Great sky and one of my favorite sunbjects, the Idaho State Capital.  Why doesn’t it work, to much clutter. To many poles, to many trees, not quite enought light.  Now? I would like walk arcross the street and get something better.

So much good here. You can see what I was going for can’t you. Great sky and one of my favorite sunbjects, the Idaho State Capital.

Why doesn’t it work, to much clutter. To many poles, to many trees, not quite enought light.

Now? I would like walk arcross the street and get something better.