Photography Essentials -
The difference between mediocre snapshots, 
good photos and great masterpieces

   Know Your Camera. 
  For goodness sakes, you have to read the boring manual.  The professionals know their cameras and push technology to the limits.  Master the setting modes and every option on the menu, especially red-eye, white balance, and ISO settings.  Know how these settings dramatically alter your photos.

  Understand your camera’s preset settings.  These are great options designed by professionals to make the average Joe look like a photo genius.  Cash in!

  For reproduction purposes, such as greeting cards, book and video production, always shoot at your highest resolution (large file size).  This enables you to enlarge your photos with minimal distortion. 

  Be sure to explore the following functions SLR and DSLR cameras: 

Shutter Speed                    F-Stop
Depth of Field                    White Balance
No-flash Option                 Special Effects Options

   Zone Into Your Focal Point. 

Be sure your audience can distinguish the subject from the background. 
What’s the point of your picture?  What’s the message?   

  Compose Your Composition. 

  Less is more.  Mentally block out all the sounds, smells, tastes and other emotional connections you may have with your subject.  Make picture-taking an all-out visualization experience void of all extraneous sensory distractions.  This is easier for the deaf community.  Your composition options are limitless.  Therefore, your biggest challenge is eliminating the clutter and framing up the best layout to capture the essence of your story. 

  Deliberate thinking works. Thinking makes the difference between good and bad pictures.  Think about visual balance, movement and stuff like this.  Get up in someone’s grill to emphasize the details of your story or the panoramic thing to tell the big story.  Think!

  Impact with balance.  Maintain vertical and horizontal references, or purposefully tilt for special effects. 

  Pattern generates power.  Life is many patterns.  Visual pattern is like the rhythm in music.  Visual pattern captures the viewer’s eye and invites him into your photos.  Look for it and use it. 

  Texture spurs sensations.  Soft, craggy, smooth, shiny, rough, pitted or polished, we are surrounded by textures.  A textural photo is engaging.  Go for it; mix it up.  Most of all, be alert to see and use the power of texture. 

  Motion is life.  Capture a subject in motion with a fast shutter or very slow shutter speed.  He’ll become a shape in space or a zooming streak - a fascinating blur.  Your deliberate choice of camera settings empowers you to create expressive photos. Do it!  

See The Light.

Photography is light.  Everything is visible because of light – no light, no picture. Where is your light source?  Overhead, side lit, back lit, under lit or frontal?  How defined or vague are the shadows?  Is your subject washed-out by too much light? Are the shadows as interesting or more interesting than the actual subject matter? Light is measured in intensity, which greatly changes the qualities of color.  Color saturation and the lightness and darkness of a color are dramatically altered by lighting conditions.  Color photos can be de-saturated into black and white photos.  Controlling the range of grays, from near blacks to off whites, enables you to alter the mood and message of photos.  This is a powerful visual tool in the hands of creative photographers.  

Play with over and under exposing images.  
Avoid shooting into the light source, unless you are breaking this weird rule for special effects.  This could be way cool!  Oh, Shoot eggs!  Shoot shadows of your subject, not the subjects itself.  

5. Get An Angle.
“What’s your angle?”  Sounds like an inquiry about a person’s motive.  “What’s your angle, dude?”  A photographer’s shooting angle creates a telling perspective.  In other words, your viewers will know “Know where you are coming from,”  Out of the ordinary angles say out of the ordinary things about your subject and about you.  Shooting portraits from a downward perspective gives you an elevated view.  We naturally look down on children only because they are small.  We don’t look down on basketball stars.  They are so tall we’d have to perch in high places to shoot them.  This could be fun.  Work your angle and add tremendous intrigue to your photo stories.

Check out the various vantage points (perspectives, angles) that the photographer uses in these photos.  Each angle communicates something different about the subject and the attitude.  








  1. 1.Choose one of your best pictures that illustrates the following:








  1. 2.Enlarge your image and give it a title that poignantly tells us something that is not obvious about what is happening in the photo.  A picture may be worth a thousand words, while there is always a story behind the picture that evades the viewer’s eyes.  Your well crafted words tell your audience something they otherwise would never know by looking at your photo. 

  1. 3.Describe why you took this picture and how you set it up (if you had to set it up).