With the holidays approaching, many amateur photographers are getting out their cameras to record the seasonal doings. Some people will enter the ranks of amateur photographers for the first time with the gift of a new camera.
But having a camera in hand does not a photographer make.
It doesn't take a lot of expensive equipment to take good photos. Joe Costarella, a member of the Warren Photographic Society, suggests that amateur photographers start out small.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Mary Beth Wyko
Tribune Chronicle photographer R. Michael Semple demonstrates that photographers should move around to get the perfect shot.
"Find out what you want to do," he said. "It all depends on what you want to do and what kind of camera you want. Know what you want to take."
Joy Christiansen Erb, assistant professor of photography at Youngstown State University, agrees. "I think that in most cases it's the photographer that is most important," she said. "You can make a photograph from any kind of camera."
Christiansen Erb said that photographers need to have a clear vision of what kind of photos they want to take. "Most people can start with pretty basic materials to do that, be it a point-and-shoot, disposable or digital camera," she said.
Tribune Chronicle photographer R. Michael Semple offers these tips for taking good photos:
1. Have patience
2. Get close
3. Don't get hung up on equipment
4. Don't set up photos - look for moments
5. Consider the composition of your photo
When it comes to creating that perfect image, photographers agree that it's all about light.
"Light is the biggest aspect of photography," Costarella said. "No light, no picture. People don't understand that the light is what produces an image. Anything you shoot, it all depends on how the light is brought out."
Tribune Chronicle photographer R. Michael Semple agrees.
"People fight the light all the time and don't even know it," Semple said.
"If there's no light, there's no object," Costarella said.
Semple explained that cloudy, gray days are better for photos than bright, sunny days.
"In bright light, you have to watch for shadows," Semple said.
According to Semple, the best time of day to take pictures is early in the morning and just before sunset - about 15 minutes before the sun goes down. "You get this beautiful light from the West," he said. "It's just beautiful and makes a really, really stunning image."
When shooting indoors, Christiansen Erb says photographers can take a few simple steps to improve their photos. "Just turning on some extra overhead lighting, that will help," she said. "Flash will certainly help as well."
Once you've got good light, Semple and Christiansen Erb suggest paying attention to the background of your photo. "Try to think about not just who you're photographing," Christiansen Erb said, suggesting that photographers look for a clean, uncluttered background.
This goes for outdoor photography as well. Semple says to look for distractions in the background, such as poles or wires.
Photographers also should move around to get the best shot. While moving to get a good shot, Semple says to move in close to your subject.
"We're so, so used to what TV can do, zooming in, and that's an illusion," Semple said. "You have to get close."
Christiansen Erb agrees. "I think one of the biggest mistakes beginners make is not getting close enough to the subject," she said.
When photographing children, especially, Semple said amateur photographers "have got to learn to get to the level of children."
Christiansen Erb said that amateur photographers also can improve their photos by placing the subject of their images off-center. "You can create a more effective photograph by not having your subject right smack in the center," she said.
Semple also suggests that photographers "look for the moment" instead of trying to pose a shot.
One of the best things an amateur photographer can do to improve their photos is to read their camera's manual, Costarella said.
"Learn your camera," he said.
Christiansen Erb said that to get the best images, amateur photographers should take photos of what interests them the most. "Photograph what you're most passionate about," she said. "I think if you photograph something you're interested in, you're going to be most excited and passionate about what you're doing."
And when it comes to producing quality photos, Semple suggests that amateur photographers be patient and take lots of pictures, something that's easy to do these days with digital photography.
"If you get two good pictures out of 100, you're doing good," Semple said.