Taking better photographs the easy way
It has taken me about 7 years of tinkering and trying to get to the
level of picture taking I am right now, and I have been able to lean
on a friend in my club who is a professional photographer. Here are some
quick tips we worked out to help a beginner get quality photographs without
too much work or outlay. This assumes, of course, that you already
have a digital camera.
build a backdrop
Get some foam-core board at any store with a
craft section...Ben Franklin, Wal-mart, Target...etc. Also, get some blue
poster board...these should all be the size of about 2 ft x 3 ft. or
so. Cut the foam core board to make a ‘L’ shape, and use a few scraps of
the foam core board to strengthen the sides with strips about 2 in. x
5-6 in. I glued mine together with White Glue (Do NOT use superglue or
epoxy...it will eat the foam in the foam core board and give off toxic
fumes). I used tape to hold it together while it dried. Once dried, I
took the blue poster board and cut it so it would fit to the width of
the ‘L’ assembly, and then laid it down so the "front" was even with the
"front" of the L. I then let it gently curve up to the top of the L, so that
you should have a flat area to put models on, and then a nice flowing
slope to the back. Hard to explain, but I hope the picture will
help you get the idea. This will give you a fantastic area to photograph
on much like professionals use.
get a tripod
You will also need a tripod to attach your camera to. I got one at
Target for $20.00. Nothing will upset you more than perfect, blurry
Also, know your camera's settings and features. The one I have has a
special setting for taking pictures close-up called a Macro setting.. Consult the manual.
Get a cheap light stand from a store like Wal-mart. Mine holds three
lights and is 6 ft tall. Also, get three energy efficient light bulbs,
those twisty ones, I use two 100 lumins bulbs and one 200 lumins bulbs.
The reason for this is they give off great light cheap and WITHOUT
nearly as much heat as a normal bulb. Heat is not a good thing when
dealing with models.
Now I can light my work sufficiently, and yet not melt it. The down
side is that if the bulbs are not full spectrum (energy saving bulbs are
fluorescent, not full spectrum) they will give off yellow-tinted light
in your pictures. Bummer.
enhancing your images
Get friendly with your photo-editing software. I use Photostudio 2000
SE, it came with my computer. Your computer should have some sort of
program that allows you to change your pictures (get rid of red-eye,
lighten/darken…etc.). All you really need to learn is how to control the
colour spectrum, primarily to add blue to your spectrum because the
traditional manner to fix the yellow or off-spectrum problem would be to
add a blue gel filter on the front of your camera lens, but digital
cameras usually don't allow this.
However, this is where learning to add blue to the spectrum of your
digital pictures in your software comes in. Doing this will simulate the
use of a Blue Gel filter, and you will get nice vibrant looking pictures.
You will either need to look through the manual for your program or else you will have to look through the program for something like “enhance”,
“tone adjustment”, or “spectrum adjustment”. Whatever you end up with,
it should allow you to add or remove Blue, Red, and Green. Just add blue
until it looks right. I usually have to add 100% to get things correct.
Using a blue backing for your photo stand (as described above) will also
give you the perfectly consistently coloured item that will allow you to judge when you have added enough blue to the picture. It works for me anyhow.
See the pictures at the side (before and after) to see what I mean.
The second set of pictures of the paratrooper have also been cropped.
All that I did in these pictures was add blue back into the spectrum
using my photo-editing software. As can be seen, the results are very
pleasant and it is easier to do than using fancy lighting and special
adapters, but will make quite a bit of difference in how the pictures
With blue added
Without blue added