OFFICIAL BLOGHER '10 LIVEBLOG: How to Take Great Pictures

BlogHer Original Post

Enter Mishelle Lane and Rachel Devine, who swear by their DSLRs, and Lotus Carroll, who loves the results she gets from her point-and-shoot. The trio will discuss composition, lighting, self-portraits, using photography to improve your blog, and much, much more.

Theme: The best camera that you have is the one you have on you. Your camera is doing no good at home.

These women are looking at how an image can move you. The way you capture it can tell a story on its own, or be accompanied with words.

Rachel: Learn how to look at your pictures, edit, and know what makes a story. A picture will tell a different story to different people - but make the image tell the story you want.

"You don't even need words to tell a story, it just has to provoke thought to your viewers."


Lotus: Start thinking about it and it will come naturally.

Rachel: Start thinking of a tic-tac-toe grid on photos. The main elements of the photo should come where the lines cross, not in the middle.

Lotos: Start thinking "am I centering an image" and try that -- THEN take the challenge to try the rule of thirds and take the picture.

Mischelle: don't be afraid to edit photos to improve composition of the finished product.

Look for the lines of life

Mischelle: Use the lines to compose your image. Naturally and manmade.

Rachel: Pick the obvious, a road a path. Images with lines will show progress, where you are going. A photo of a pathway in the forest reflects a journey while a photo of the forest doesn't do as much.

Subtle lines, i.e. a tupperware container's textured top, blades of grass pointing to a subject.

Lines naturally lead your eye to another point.

Dutch Angles aka Tilt
Cinematographer's tool to turn horizon line. But it creates tension. Works with movement and joy.

Mischelle: Stopping to use tilt as much because it can be overdone. "At a certain point I'd seen so many of my own photos with this angle... wanting to rely on other elements within composition to garner an effect."
Train your eye to look for the horizon line. Line the camera up with that.

Lotus: Take a minute to look around and see what is going on -- make sure there aren't things growing out of the subject's head. Just by changing the angle you can get a better photo.

The triangle
-- ISO refers to how sensitive to light the camera is.
When you have a lot of light, you use a smaller number. Grainy at ISO 1600, smooth at ISO 100
-- Shutter speed captures motion: Use a fast shutter speed to capture blur. Slow shutter speed will capture blur if in motion. Slow shutter speed is best for fireworks.
-- Aperture is how much light is hitting the sensor and that is controlled by the opening in your lens. Biggest opening, smallest number - leads to shallow depth of field.
-- Shooting in shutter priority shoots in maximum aperture, shooting in aperture priority may result in a blurry photo. Don't be afraid of a wide depth of field.
-- Exposure is the process of capturing light with your camera to produce and image on film or a digital sensor.
When you shoot digitally, it is better to underexpose than overexpose. Underexposed (too dark), overexposed (too light).

Rachel: You can't fix overexposure, you just have to throw in into black and white and call it art.

Light is your friend. Front light is flattering. It is flat, but hard to get. Look for a diffused light source, i.e. a window.

Lotus: Don't be afraid to make it happen on purpose. Look for good light sources in your home and remember them.

Side light brings out eyes. Back light is dark.
Flash modified light can be used as a filler, not a bright, harsh spot

Always always take your camera! Builds experience, allows you to document life and capture yourself.

You don't have to be attached to a brand or have great equipment.

Composition - use the rule of thirds, take photos where the lines cross.
Look for the lines of life - natural and man made.
Simplicity - KISS - Keep it simple. Don't be afraid to move something.
Symmetry and Balance
Frame within a frame - find a doorway or mirror to add interest. Shoot through tree branches.
Think before you tilt

Don't over prop; simplicity is key
Avoid sleeping babies in boxes; its morbid
Keep the babies/kids off the tracks; be safe
Watch your backgrounds; avoid showing mess
Don't over edit; you CAN go too far

Take self portraits - document your life as a photographer
Create Bokeh magic - Lens set with a wide maximum aperture (low number) will give a wide blown out background. Use a portrait setting on a point and shoot.
Have a macro addiction - A "flower" setting on a point and shoot.
Look for reflections; they're everywhere
Have fun with the shadows
Flare it up
Experiment with angles - shoot high and low (instead of tilt)
Use lens attachments or a lensbaby (a group of lenses that create an effect, focus on a point)

Mel: What is a good starter kit to have?

Buy the best quality body you can afford, but don't go overboard. Kit lenses are useful. Every brand, use a "50" lens - get what you can afford. It is sharp, it is a good lens. Allows for very narrow field.

Maria: Do you recommend renting lenses to try them out?