Tips for taking your own photos

Tips for Taking Your Own Photos

Most amateur photographers at Rutgers need to photograph a speaker at an event, photograph a group, and/or take a portrait photo of an individual. Here are some pointers for getting a better-than-average photo with a typical point-and-shoot digital camera, for saving your images so they are easy to retrieve, and more.

Photograph a Speaker

Photograph a speakerAt speaking events, you often see and hear professional photographers clicking away. That’s because people frequently do not look their best while speaking, and the photographers are taking as many shots as possible to try to get that one good shot.

  • A trick of professional photographers that you can use is to arrive early and take setup shots of the speaker at the podium prior to the actual event. This way, you can get closer to the subject (5 to 6 feet away), better control the photo, and not disrupt the flow of the speaker’s presentation.
  • Keep in mind that the flash on your point-and-shoot camera is of little use when photographing a speaker from a distance in a large room.
  • The flash will not be sufficient to light the room, so the best strategy is to use available light.
  • Available light is any light already in the room: artificial, natural, or combination of the two.

Take a Group Portrait

Photograph a groupYour point-and-shoot camera is not ideal for photographing groups of people in motion, e.g., clapping hands, shaking hands, presenting awards. You will be better off taking a posed group shot where the subjects are standing still.

  • Try to limit the group to three to five people and stand 5 to 6 feet away.
  • Available light is best, but you can also try some shots with the flash.
  • Try to keep the group at least 10 feet away from a wall or other background.
  • Don’t be reluctant to fill the frame with people.

Take an Individual Portrait

How you photograph an individual will depend on whether you are shooting indoors or outside.

  • Photograph an individualWhen shooting indoors, try to use indirect window light. Avoid using a flash, which can cause red-eye and shadows.
  • When shooting outdoors, open shade or an overcast day is best for avoiding shadows. Place the subject in an area with a nondescript, generic background at least 10 feet away from a wall, tree, etc. Be conscious of avoiding lines in the background—poles, lines on a building, utility wires, etc.—that can look like arrows bisecting the subject’s head.
  • Don’t be reluctant to fill the frame.

Composing a Photo

Rule of Thirds for Photo Composition: Rutgers Day Gate Greeter in Period Costume

When deciding where to place your subject(s), try to avoid centering, which can result in a static, boring photo. Rather, keep in mind the universal rule of thirds. Imagine the frame divided equally into nine parts by two equidistant horizontal lines and two equidistant vertical lines. Place your subject(s) on one of these lines or at an intersection of these lines to take a more dynamic photo. Also keep in mind that the viewer’s eye will be drawn to whatever is brightest in the frame.

Organizing and Storing Digital Images

Keeping your images organized when you save them helps in searching for them later.

  • Before saving your images, choose a file naming convention that works for your department.
  • Shoot date, unit abbreviation, image number, and file format is a common file naming practice. For example, an image with the file name 052110KeckCtr012.jpg is jpeg photo number 12, shot on May 21, 2010, at the W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience.
  • Remember to save images in multiple places so if one medium fails, you still have a copy. 
  • Always keep the image number in the file name and try not to use too long of a file name when transferring files because the file name can become truncated and hard to decipher.
  • Entering metadata into the file with identifying tags (subject, date, location, etc.) and copyright information (photographer’s name, usage rights, etc.) also is necessary when trying to find information about the image and will aid in searching for images.