{Live} Jackie's Photo Tips

You've met Jackie - one of our staff writers (and a professional photographer). Today she's helping us all out by sharing some helpful photo tips to take your blog to another level. Because let's face it, pretty pictures are really nice to take and to look at. So read these tips, whip out your camera, and post to your heart's content! Yay for blogging! And thanks, Jackie!

As you’re flipping through the spring issue of The Violet, I’d be surprised if the inspiration to pick up your camera doesn’t hit you (I mean, did you see Camilla’s flower photos? Gorgeous!). Before you go all Annie Leibovitz on us though, I’ve compiled a list of tips to help you make the most out of your photography adventures. Happy shooting!

Shoot Manual. Know the Basics.
I recently wrote a post on my blog about the three basic aspects of manual shooting: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO. Using them gives you so much more control over your camera, and it can make a world of difference in your final image.
If you’re just starting out in the photography world, natural light will play a huge role in your images, and while the thought of a clear blue sky on a summer afternoon brings delight to most, it makes photographers cringe. I can’t count how many times I’ve been shooting on an overcast day, and I hear, “I just wish the sun would come out!” No you don’t!  Have you ever seen someone put a flashlight under their chin right before they tell a scary story? They do that because the harsh shadows from direct light are scary. Direct sun also causes harsh shadows. Add squinting and a little sweat to that - it’s not cute.

The most flattering light is soft and even, so try to photograph people in shade, indoors near a window, early in the morning, or - my personal favorite - that hour or so right before the sun starts setting that is so perfectly referred to as Magic Hour.

Carry a camera with you always.
You know that old phrase, "practice makes perfect?" Whoever said it was onto something. It's also a really horrible feeling to happen upon a moment and wish you had your camera to document it. Trust me (and anyone who's been around to hear me whine about it when it's happened) it's the worst.

Don’t be afraid to experiment -- it’s called being creative.
I went to Catalina last year, and I have to say that one of my favorite photos from the day was not of the marina or the sandy beaches. It’s one that a friend took of the floor of the ferry. Great photos aren’t always the obvious ones, so think outside the box.

Pay attention to detail.
A cell phone cord, a can of soda, stray hairs – they can take away from a good image. I’ve spent many hours working in Photoshop. It’s much easier to get rid of it before you take the picture than after.

Go for natural expressions.
My first photography teacher told me that the trick to taking a really great portrait is to capture your subject’s personality. This is why you’ll frequently find me having full conversations with my clients during a session rather than simply telling them to “smile!” I’ve found that most people freeze when a camera’s pointed at them. They want to look good in the pictures, so suddenly they’re very aware of their expressions and how they’re acting, which ends up making the photos look forced. Shift their focus by asking them about themselves – their jobs, their plans for the weekend, their friends. I’ve heard the most incredible stories from people I’ve photographed; it’s one of the best things about my job.

Get your work out there. 
I created my blog shortly after I started shooting, and, for the first two years, I posted my favorite images from every single shoot I did. It was a great way to critique my work and watch its progression. I also developed a list of other photographers’ blogs, which continues to serve as constant inspiration.

Be yourself.
What sage advice in any context! There are so many people out there who will critique your work and tell you what to do differently. Remember, it’s just advice, and - like any advice - you are under no obligation to take it. Every photographer has a unique style - it would take the fun out of it if we didn’t! Develop your own style, figure out what techniques you like, and learn how to incorporate them into your work.

...That being said, if you’ve had your heart set on authoring a coffee table book entitled Portraits in Direct Sunlight of Very Camera Aware People, be sure to send me a copy. ;)