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Tips for Better Photos

Steps to improve the chances your shots are suitable for the magazine

These days, fancy digital cameras are so smart it’s seems all you have to do is set your equipment on an automatic setting and mindlessly fire off shots.  

But often this is not enough to create a quality photo that is usable in Texas Co-op Power. For one thing, consider all the different types of photography found on the pages of the full-color magazine: action shots, nature photography, portraits … even photos best described as candid camera! Each may require special skills, equipment, timing and even luck.

You can start by just following some basic guidelines—as well as understanding the capabilities and limitations of your camera. This will increase your chances you’ll shoot quality photos that reproduce well in the magazine.

Here are some simple tips from the Texas Co-op Power staff:

  1. If you haven’t already, read the manual that came with your camera. If the manual has been lost in the mists of time and space, search for the camera manufacturer’s website (Google it!), and you’ll likely find an electronic version or a way to order a replacement.
  2. “Turn off the date/time stamp” is the emphatic request from Production Designer Andy Doughty. Turning off the stamp is usually a simple matter. If you don’t know how, refer to tip No. 1.
  3. Set the camera to take the highest-quality/largest photo possible. Designers can always reduce the size of digital photos, Andy says, but are very limited on how much they can increase the size of smaller photos.
  4. Field Editor Ashley Clary, who manages our monthly photo contests, says if the light level is low, using a flash can be a problem. “The flash blows everything out and makes horrible shadows,” she says. If your budget allows: Consider investing in a flash diffuser to dramatically reduce that effect, she advises.
  5. When taking posed photos, if folks in the picture wear glasses, “ask them to lower their chins ever so slightly,” Ashley says. This cuts down glare.
  6. Remember: With digital cameras, “film” is cheap, and the more shots you take, the better chance you’ll get one where everything is just right.
  7. If taking candid photos of nonfamily members, such as at a public park or community event, don’t just walk up and start firing away. You’ll get a much better result if you ask first. “Ask for permission, and you’ll probably get a smile, ESPECIALLY WITH KIDS!” Ashley emphasizes.
  8. When taking portraits, don’t be afraid to get close and fill the frame with the subject’s face. But not talking or eating. Ashley advises, “try not to take a picture of them with their mouth open.” (Now that we say that, there may be an artistic reason to do so, but let’s say we’re skeptical.)

This is just a brief list of things you can do to improve your photography. As any would-be Ansel Adams or Annie Leibovitz could tell you, there is much to learn. You might try taking a photography class at a community college, or talk to a professional photographer in your town. Or go online and check out more tips and tricks on photography sites. It’s all good and can only help improve your shots.

Here’s hoping we get to see some of your best work—in the pages of Texas Co-op Power. Happy shootin’!