How to Make Winning Photographs
How to Make Winning Photographs
How to take and make winning photographs! Photographs are an integral part of our lives, a way of communicating, helping others to "get the picture." Capturing nature in an artsy way, running with athletes to capture the moment of victory, being there at the exact moment in time, when something rare and beautiful happened your way. Being able to share with others, inspiring others, showing others something they would never get to see otherwise, are all reasons to capture a photo.
Winning is relevant! If your photos convey to others what you wanted to "say" with pictures, then you have a winning photo. If you aspire to win at contests then it becomes more of a self-motivation to compete with others who are trying to "say" it the best way, too. Either way, you're a winner if you want to learn and improve ~ for surely, one day, holding THE photograph that has folks looking twice will surely be a moment of victory!
All photos by me, Bev Lemley ~ all rights reserved.
Before technical aspects...
...you have to have opportunities...
Make Your Opportunities
Make your opportunities for a winning picture! Flowers such as pentas, sedums, coneflowers, salvias, and other great nectar plants will create a haven of photographic studies. Many times you can find plants on sale; annuals are easy to care for and bloom beautifully all summer. Purples, reds, oranges, and yellows and blues (what's your favorite color?), make wonderful contrasting photos with many types of butterflies. The lovely whites and sometimes yellows have a tendency to "bounce" the light a little on photos, but add white and yellow, too ~ the bugs won't know the difference. Create a haven for bugs to start a great ecosystem, which will encourage them to come back each year ~ put your yard on their migratory path! See my article about the value of a great eco system in Linking to our Future for more info and pictures.
Allow clover to grow in your yard ~ I allow clover one extra week before I mow. Bees and small butterflies love these, and a host of other interesting insects. Allow some patches of "weeds," or nature's flowers, to grow. They can be mowed back down quickly before the majority goes to seed, and in a week you may have an opportunity to capture some great photos of bees and butterflies flying and sipping nectar. Plus, you're definitely helping the environment! Insects in the Garden will perhaps motivate you to keep it simple, and pesticide free!
For the Future
Plant Japanese maples, burning bush and other great trees known for their fall colors, and Nandina for their beautiful red clustering berries ~ and as a food source in winter for the birds. Create a beautiful garden setting for year-round landscape pictures ~ and for wonderful outside enjoyment! The spring-flowering Redbud, azaleas, snowball bush will provide food for bees, early butterflies, and just plain beauty worth capturing against a beautiful spring sky. Cherry trees, even "wild" cherries provide food for birds in spring. The beauty of flowering bulbs cannot be beat as they simply bring a newness to life after a long winter. A Walk in a Spring Garden may give some ideas for making your opportunities in a spring garden.
Flowering summer bushes, such as roses, lantana, butterfly bushes, abelias, will definitely be great attractants for many butterflies and bees, and even one of my favorites, the crab spider ~ I know! A Walk in a Summer Garden shows off my eco system and may give you some ideas for planting your opportunities in a summer garden.
I will sneak in a little technical aspect here: Depth of field. When you are planning and making your opportunities, think about your background for great shots. If the background is blurry, what will the mix of colors look like; if it's not, will the background add to it or detract? Ideally, the background will add to the picture whether the depth of field is shallow or not. More about the technical aspects later.
Of course, There's Family! Human Nature and Nurture...
Go where your heart leads! Family pictures are treasures! Make plans for a full family get-together. A friend recently told me of an upcoming extended family beach retreat ~ 26 family members, from 7 years to 82 years-old! She was excited about capturing pictures from the reunion; they will be treasures in the years to come!
Pets always will capture hearts of others and bring back wonderful memories, too!
There are certain seasons for butterflies, birds, insects, trees, flowers, even dragonflies to come to your area. The time they are there depends on if your yard has larvae-friendly places for them to stick around and raise a brood or two. You may have a food source as they pass through; this could be just a couple of hours! Birds may stay for a week or so or a whole winter (brrr! taking a picture!) Dragonflies are after mosquitos, so maybe you'll be lucky (or unlucky?!) and have them for a while in the summer. If you have planted nectar sources, which brings the bugs, which brings the butterflies, which in turn brings the birds, then you are on your way to capturing winning photographs! How to Attract Songbirds will show you a very happy eco system, birds included!
Even the time of day will create a perfect ambiance for your photo. The morning and afternoon sun can give a glow. Think about how the light will affect your photo ~ and it does! Take the opportunity in the later afternoon, two to three hours, before sunset. Most sources say one hour before dusk. I have better luck a tad earlier. But try different times as they come through the day to find that right twinkle for your photo. The right time can really put a glow, or a certain highlight on a flower, an eye on a bug, or a glint that's not glaring on a wing. It can highlight details without washing them out. The high, noon day sun may be okay if you have a great canopy of trees. If not, and it's glaring, you will probably have glaring photos ~ and that's not too good!
NOTE TO SELF:
ALWAYS have a pocket camera with you if possible. If you see a sunset and you're traveling, you will be able to capture the beauty. But not if your camera is at home!
The Sun and Moon...
...may always shine, but at certain times they look better ~ so take golden opportunities! The cycles of the moon afford great opportunities...take the challenge for a great moon shot! No space shuttle needed! And if it's a sunrise over the ocean you're after on vacation, set the tripod up the night before, and the alarm. You will have just a few minutes before your great opportunity is gone. Sunsets are more forgiving, lasting longer ~ but if you are traveling, you better have that pocket camera ready to take out; you can't take a picture if your camera is at home!
Rain ~ A Great Opportunity!
Rain, rain! If you are lucky enough to have rain, and then the sun comes out, jump for your camera if possible, and head outside! Look for drops of rain hanging from flowers and leaves, anything, practically! Even with today's smaller pocket cameras, you might be able to catch a great macro shot of something being reflected in a water drop. This is my absolute favorite personal challenge. There is great art in a raindrop! Again, the lighting has to be just right. So the angle of the drop and the sun is an opportunity you have to take at that moment. Trust me, it won't wait!
Keep Your Opportunities
Once you've created some good opportunities for great pictures, make sure you keep them! Don't use pesticides or herbicides at all. I know this is a bit strong, but the way things are going today, try to go TRUE GREEN! That means you're not halfway, you're truly Green! The life cycles that get started, the ecosystems are incredible. The bonus for you is healthier living, less stress, and a fatter pocketbook!
What you see every day...
...may not be something anyone else ever gets to see.
Don't take for granted what you have readily at hand. Share it with others around the world ~ they may be interested ~ or have to do a report on it!
Crop and Chop!
Learning to crop your pictures to their maximum potential is a great tool. Cropping brings attention, bringing out details that may never be seen otherwise.
The fact that you can see details in a butterfly's wing, a bee's knee, or a Granddaddy Long-legs' eye is pretty cool! Who wouldn't want to look twice at that! Learn to crop ~ and chop away!
A Granddaddy Long-legs' eye ~ up close!
I will have to look for a bee's knee ~ maybe this Granddaddy Long-leg's eye will work, instead! I hope you can see how cropping and chopping will greatly assist in getting those second looks ~ crop away!
With some practice, you can take your shots with the angle and perspective you want, so cropping can be somewhat minimized. But it isn't less cropping that's the goal; it's the perspective!
What's your idea...
What is your idea of a winning photograph?
Your Best Friends!
Digital memory cards and file storage/organizers are your best friends! Take as many pictures as you have an opportunity to take, they're basically free ~ just take and erase! You can learn a great deal from looking at the pictures uploaded, and see what you like and what doesn't work. Practice makes perfect! I use Picasa 3, which really has made many improvements and now is a great system for file storage and organization.
One more thing! I know there are many technical aspects that will make a great picture. I cover some in A Picture Perfect Gift. But one of the best friends for great pictures is to set your camera to autofocus ~ and learn as you have time, along the way. Don't miss the great opportunities while fiddling with your settings.
Learning how your camera works, how to set it, and what works best for you, as far as your understanding and capabilities; even what time of day and how your environment is, all affect the outcome of your pictures. Autofocus is amazing in that it takes all these things into account, and poof, it's done correctly and near perfectly! I have even learned a lot from reading the autofocus settings on the pictures that turned out the best to me ~ Picasa gives the photo properties with photo info. Of course this isn't an exact science, but it's a foothold. There are some great website links I'll pass along to you in a bit ~ these are your best friends, too!
Planning Ahead ~ Entering Contests - So you now have the picture...
...and now you need a plan! If you would like to enter photographic contests, then scour the web, looking for places your work will fit. Pay attention to deadlines, and the size of the picture; both are critical! Learning more about pixels and resizing as you go along will be essential and become second nature. The few contests I've entered, the sizes were clearly stated and so were the deadlines. I've learned the hard way that putting it off to the last few days only makes a rushed product and not enough thought. Putting your work out there in front of others to be judged and critiqued takes time to finalize your decision.
One more thing, rename your picture, so folks having to view them can make notes easier; numbers are harder to keep up with. Make it user friendly. And good luck! I have come out with some top picks, and I've been at the bottom, unrecognized except for an acknowledgement email. Entering contests helps to keep you on your toes ~ and you never know, you may just be a winner! And if nothing else, it's a huge learning experience. Learning to look at your pictures objectionably, as other see them, makes you see the flaws and dings easier. Yes, a great learning tool, indeed!
Know Your Pixels! AND THE WINNER IS?! - Great Resources for Un-perplexing Your Pixels!
Picture Correct Is one of the greatest websites for learning about taking pictures and about camera equipment ~ it's fun, easy to understand, recommends some terrific tools to use, and I'm glad it's there, free to use.
Digital Photography School, lIkewise, is a terrific source.
The following come as recommendations from the award winning editor of the "The Hem-alina", the Region 15 publication of the American Hemerocallis Society, Ms. Linda Sue Barnes. Thank you, Linda Sue!
Linda Sue reports that this is a great video on how to do amazing garden photography, Gavtrain-Photography Training, discussing aperture and depth of field, the blurry backgrounds and in-focus ones, and getting all the flowers in focus.
Photonaturalist has some free articles and some for nominal fees. One article is called "13 Tips for Wildflower Photography," as a pay-download, and one on dragonflies, a PDF file that's free.
New York Institute of Photography, has some free offerings, along with their photography course. They offer a lot of info to photographers at the level they wish to pursue.
I encourage you to use these as online classes, to gain as much knowledge as possible; different opinions combined will give you a better picture of how to take winning photographs!
And to see which ones of these photos in this lens have held a finishing place in a contest, please visit "The Hem-alina" to find out! Look in last year's edition, as well. I think you would be a bit surprised which of my friends made 1st place! I am greatly honored by this recognition, and my hat is off to my little garden buddy!
What's the Best Advice for Capturing "Winning" Pictures?
I'm certainly no expert, especially with technicalities!
I hope you weren't looking for technical answers, as I rely on learning as I go, knowing my camera, and what works, and making plenty of mistakes.
Like the great photographer Steve Kaye said, you can take thousands to get a few good ones!
Here are some suggestions ~ the last one is the one I rely on most:
- Study other folks' work! And study your own, see what works and what doesn't ~ that's the best teacher!
- Know all about your camera ~ experiment with the bells and whistles!
- Learn all you can ~ the links listed near the bottom are very helpful!
- Take many pictures ~ it takes many to get a few good ones!
- Look at your picture as others see it, very critically!!
Join REDBUBBLE, it's free, for great critiquing from others!
- Appreciate how light plays on an object!
- Preserve Nature's gifts ~ learn to use Nature's gifts and educate others, inspire them to be True Green!
- Take time to take photos.
- Appreciate your time behind a camera ~ it is probably a blessing to have the time and the place ~ capture the moment as you want to share it with others.
- Photography is as much about feeling and angles as it is equipment and pixels!
- Visit my lens NATURE IN MOTION for more ideas!
- I would be honored to see your work! Let me know where I can enjoy your picts!
- Who would have thought?!!! That attaching a picture takes on your emailing stipulations. Ms. Linda Sue Barnes, the award winning editor of the "The Hem-alina" our regional daylily journal, kindly pointed out to me that my submissions were basically thumbnail size. I certainly had to figure that one out! Making sure they were sent as attachments and not straight emails, the only thing to try was adjust the email setting. I set it to send as original size, and it went perfect. I would never have guessed sending as an attachment took on the email setting. So be forewarned! Not many people will have an editor so kind as to spend time helping you to figure it out ~ I am indeed blessed to be so kindly helped!
Before submission, send one to yourself and double-check it. I broke one of my own rules, waiting until the last minute. NEVER a good idea!
- Don't forget to use prayer ~ it works!
Enjoy the Show ~ Encourage Others!
In this big world, as it spins, pictures are being taken and passed around. They make us laugh, remind us of great trips and memories, they hold a place for us to come back to, make us smile, and sometimes make us cry, even ~ and they certainly help others to "get" the picture!
Scenes from nature can make us restful and help us to unwind and de-stress. Designing with Nature shows just how seeing a rainbow or a scene from a place you have visited, seeing mountains or a sunrise every day in your home can uplift your spirits and become a place in your life that's worth holding on to. Pictures can do all that!
So whether you take a "winning" photograph that gets published in a magazine or online, or you take a photograph that stays on your desk or is passed around amongst friends, bringing great memories and family together, you will have a winning photograph!
Nature is Art!
Just a note ~ Zazzle cards are excellently printed, the colors are vibrant. The card stock is excellent and there is no "smear fear" for writing on the inside. I was amazed at the quality, truly a work of art! These could be framed or put on a desk and enjoyed. Nature is Art, after all! Thank you for stopping by!
Images are available on cards, stamps, kitchen towels, coasters, even men's ties, which are created from nature's art and spun into interesting designs ~ check them out! I appreciate your visit!
...and share your love of photography in any way you would like!
© 2012 Beverly Lemley