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A refresher course, Part 1 (05/16/2004)
By Tom Hirsch

A lot of information has been covered in the previous articles. This seems like a good time to review a few basics of photography.

For good camera steadiness:

1. Keep your elbows comfortably at your sides.

2. Press the camera lightly against your face.

3. Stand with your feet comfortably spread apart.

4. Place one foot about half a shoe length ahead of the other.

5. Inhale, let a little air out, then hold your breath.

6. Hold the camera firmly with both hands, and "squeeze" the shutter release.

7. Hold the camera up to your eye for a second or two after taking a picture.

With a little practice, these things will become second nature and you'll wonder how you were able to get any sharp pictures in the past.

When you get a new camera, thumb through the instruction manual. After you've shot a roll or two of film, or taken several shots on a digital memory card, go through the manual more thoroughly. It will make more sense the second, and even the third, time through.

Composition is the conscious arrangement of the visual elements of a picture. Pay close attention to everything in the viewfinder when you compose a shot.

Keep it simple. Have a center of interest, but keep it out of the center of the frame. Remember the Rule of Thirds.

There are a few other generalizations regarding composition:

1. Watch out for lines running through the subject, such as a tree seemingly growing out of a person's head.

2. For greater depth perspective, shoot the subject at an angle rather than head-on.

3. Fill the frame with only the subject matter you would like in a picture. Learn to visualize the image in the viewfinder as the photograph you will end up with.

4. Don't be satisfied with just one shot of a subject. Take several shots from different distances and angles.

5. Shoot horizontal subjects with horizontal composition, and vertical subjects with vertical composition. Sometimes try both.

6. Remember that generalizations are just that, generalizations. Feel free to break the rules if you think doing so would make a more interesting picture, but breaking the rules should be a conscious decision.

There are a few rules that should never be broken. One of these is making sure that the lens is clean. Clean the lens in a prescribed way, but only when necessary. When not taking pictures, keep the lens covered with a lens cap or put the camera in a carrying case to assure cleanliness.

This next reminder has been covered in several past articles, but it can't be overemphasized: For proper focus when using an autofocus camera, compose the shot as desired, then point the camera's focus eye at the subject, lock in the focus, recompose the shot and shoot.

Never let a camera, and especially film, remain in a car for extended periods of time. This is a good rule at all times, but especially so if the weather if either very hot or cold.

A snapshot is the effect of concentrating on the subject; a photograph is the result of examining the scene as a whole. With practice, when you bring the camera's viewfinder up to your eye you will almost immediately see every part of a scene from corner to corner and edge to edge. This is the way a photograph is created. 


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