I'm flattered when readers tell me that they enjoy my photos here at Midwest Guest, but I'm not a professional photographer by any stretch of the imagination.
I've had to take my own photos for stories many times over the years, and I'd like to pass a few things along to folks who worry that they don't have the time or talent to produce acceptable images for their own blogs.
Taking photos and working with them in a photo editing program can take a little time, but learning how to do so gives you more creative control over your content and how you chose to showcase your own words.
I spent several years writing columns for a chain of local weekly newspapers where the editor generally assigned the one photographer at the newspaper to news stories, sporting events, and big feature subjects.
Columnists usually relied on photos provided by those seeking publicity for events or ran their columns without photos. Neither option appealed to me.
I began taking many of the photos for my columns to provide the needed graphic elements to break up the print blocks and make it more appealing for readers.
I owned a Sony digital camera-one of those little Mavicas that recorded your photos onto a 3.5" floppy disc. Those little cameras were still pretty revolutionary in the late 1990s, but they were slow and resultant images turned out grainy and unacceptably pixilated if you tried to increase the image's size very much. They worked all right for newspaper photos, where newsprint's rough often resulted in muddy images anyway, but only if the photographer was aware of the camera's limitations and compensated for them.
The newspaper eventually bought a digital camera for reporters to use, although one of them was shocked to learn it was a newer version of the same camera I had when she told me that my camera took much better photos than the newspaper's camera!
My photos are often acceptable to use as the small versions I use here at the blog, even if they may not be sharp enough or interesting enough to look good blown up or reproduced on glossy paper--and they allow me to advance my story lines with corresponding images.
How do you get started learning about photography?
Take a photowalk. Check out my recent post about an informal Detroit-area photowalk I recently attended, or see the Worldwide Photowalk site to find a photowalk in your local area.
Image taken at a recent Detroit Photowalk at Cranbrook Gardens in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Check Flickr to find photography groups that may hold shows, classes or other events in your local area. Here in the Detroit area, we have Flickr groups like Photowalks Detroit, which hosts local photowalks, and Exposure.Detroit, which hosts free photo exhibitions and other events around town.
Read a few books geared to beginning photographers if you're new to taking photos. Tim has a short list of suggested reading for beginning photographers at The Wandering Photographer.
I'd add Confessions of a Compact Camera Shooter: Get Professional Quality Photos with Your Compact Camera by Rick Sammon to Tim's list of suggested reading.
Although Sammon's book talks specifically about using compact cameras and Photoshop Elements (while I often shoot with an older version of a point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot when I'm not using my big digital SLR, and I use Lightroom for photo editing), I still found plenty of useful information in this book.
Sammon encourages readers to experiment and to always carry a camera, sharing my feeling that a pocketable camera can be a viable alternative when going somewhere where lugging a big SLR would be cumbersome or get in the way of enjoying whatever you're out to do.
Sammon's side-by-side comparison shots of scenes taken with SLRs and compact cameras nicely illustrate what works best with the little cameras, what doesn't work well, and how to work with the small cameras' limitations.
And here are a few other tips I've picked up over the years:
Always look for signs to photograph when you're out shooting. I learned to do so long ago after reading that such photos could serve as nice title slides for a show of your images. I also use sign photos to help me identify photos as I organize them after returning home or to advance a story as I'm putting it online. I also often use photos of historical markers or other informational signs in lieu of written notes when I'm out shooting.
Working with a hand-held camera in low-light? Taking a deep breath just before you shoot the photo, and holding it during the shot, can help steady the camera by eliminating a bit of the shake caused by the movement of your own breathing.
Don't have a photo? Sometimes you just have to get creative, like I did when I took this shot of toy ice resurfacing machines on my front porch to illustrate my story about a college hockey tournament.
Always remember that one of the beauties of digital photography is that you can take as many shots as you want and simply erase the ones you don't like.
© Dominique King 2010 All rights reserved