Three Skills to Improve Your Photography…Even with a Cell Phone, Part One

October 23, 2015

The Old Fart Photographer

Okay, so I, Doug Brauner, am The Old Fart Photographer (thanks Terry Reed for the name). Even though everyone will benefit from these blogs, they are intended for people entering the seasoned time of life. Photography is a wonderful hobby that doesn’t require a second mortgage, and is a source of fun and memories.

My memory isn’t as sharp as it once was. Fortunately, I still remember by wife’s name and birthday as well as our anniversary but I can’t say the same about my grandsons (or at least calling them the right name). People who have memories like an elephant have few problems with most photography blogs and Youtube videos. “30 Tips for Fantastic Photos.” “Ten Top Camera Accessories for Your Next Vacation.” “15 Tricks to Make Your Photos Look Like Ansel Adam’s.”

I can only handle three tips. So, I thought I’d write a blog with my top three suggestions for improving your pictures. Three has that kind of three stooges ring to it; Curly, Larry and…and…and…Moe. (Hey, I knew it would eventually come.)

Tip #1: Fill your camera’s LCD or viewfinder with the object of your affection
Tip #2: Play Tic-Tac-Toe with your pictures (I win!)
Tip #3: Seeing 3D in a 2D world

Yes, there are many other tips that will help you create better pictures, but lets start with these three and infuse them into our brains so that when we’re sitting in our nursing home rocking chairs we’ll keep repeating them to the nurse.

Tip #1: Fill your camera’s LCD or viewfinder with the object of your affection

We see a very large picture when we’re standing at Old Faithful. Our eyes capture a nearly 180 degree, wide-angle view. Yes, the corners are a little blurry and lack color, but God made the human eye to do much more than any camera lens.

Old FaithfulEven though we can see such a wide picture with our eyes, our brain can hone in on a very small part of what we see. We remove all the distractions from Old Faithful as though it is the only thing we see.

That works with the human eye in a 3D world, but not on a 4×6, 2D print of Old Faithful.

Many times I took in a roll of film to local Kodak kiosk, or later, the one hour photo department at Walgreen’s and was disappointed because the object of my affection was lost in vast array of nothingness. I didn’t fill my frame with the object I was shooting. Why? Let me muse a moment.

  • I thought that what I was capturing was powerful enough to grab my attention in a 2D world.
  • I didn’t want to cut anything out of the picture.
  • More than likely, though, I wasn’t thinking (normal Doug Brauner behavior)

So, if you want a picture that grabs your attention and says, “Yes, that’s my love!” then I have two suggestions for you (again, trying to keep things simple).

  1. After you have zoomed in on your subject, zoom in a little more.
  2. Use your feet to get closer to your subject.

Simple, right?

Let’s tackle the first suggestion. I have three different zoom lenses for my camera. Let’s say that I’m using by Sony 18-55mm kit lens to take a picture of Pikes Peak from the Garden of the Gods (not like I haven’t done that before). I picture a nice wide-angle shot that takes in a bit of the rest of the surrounding mountains. I zoom my lens to what looks like a good picture, step back for the camera for a moment, then zoom in a little tighter. More times than not my first picture wasn’t zoomed enough.

55 mm

55 mm

70 mm

70 mm

120 mm

120 mm











TIP: Take two pictures, the first at your initial zoom range, then zoom in a little tighter and take another picture then compare them.

The second suggestion will work better than the first in certain situations. To solve the problem of your picture looking like a shot of faithful from outer space use your feet to zoom in a little closer. Let me get a little geeky on you for a moment.

The world you see with the naked eye is similar to a 50mm lens on your old 35mm film camera (or on a full frame digital camera…another blog. Ugh). In other words, there is little to no compression of your picture. The picture will look much like what you saw with your own eyes.  Zooming in on a person or object compresses the picture like a peanut butter sandwich you accidentally sat on. The background is closer than what you remembered as well as the foreground.

If you want the picture to look like what you remember seeing, many times its best to move your feet and get closer to your subject (besides, think of the health benefits of a few extra steps).

Remember, you want to fill your LCD or viewfinder with the object of your affection. It captured your attention, now you want to make sure it stands out when you print it or display it on your computer. You will be amaze at the difference this one little tip will make.

Next up for the Old Fart Photograher: Playing tic-tac-toe with your pictures. (I win!)

Copyright Douglas P Brauner

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