A point-and-shoot primer
One of the best things about photography is how easy it is to get into. Even the simplest point-and-shoot is somehow magical. Through its lens, the garden you’ve passed by a thousand times grabs your eye as a fabulous study in color and light. That run-down house is transformed into the subject of art with a story to tell about aging and resilience. No matter who you are, heading out into the world with a camera and an open mind is enough to make you a photographer and let you experience a fantastic part of the art world from the inside!
For the beginning photographer, starting can be the hardest part. Everything is a potential subject, which can feel very overwhelming. One fun way to get over this hurdle is to give yourself some different kinds of photography challenges!
- Shape or color challenge: search for subjects with a specific shape (square, triangle, linear, and the like) or color
- Time challenge: pick a specific place (like a single room or street) and see how many different photos you can take in 30 or 60 minutes
- Distance challenge: see how reframing photos from different distances and with various levels of zoom can help create different photos of the same things
Or, pick a theme for the day such as:
- Interesting shadows
- “A study in contrasts”
- Worm’s-eye view/Bird’s eye view
Top Tips for Great Shots
Don’t be afraid to move around to get that perfect photo. Crouch or even lie down to take a picture from below for a fresh and dynamic perspective, or get up high to shoot from overhead. Put yourself at eye-level with children and pets for great portraits. Notice where the light source is, and experiment with taking photos in which the light source comes from different directions. Discover the difference between the bright, bold light of midday and the soft, gentle light of the “golden hours” before and during sunset.
Crisp photos start with a steady camera: if you have a mirrorless camera or DSLR, put one hand under the lens to support it, holding the body of the camera with the other. Tuck your elbows into your body, breathe deeply, and press the shutter button as you slowly exhale to keep your stance—and therefore your camera—steady, and your pictures clear.
Most importantly, take lots and lots of pictures! In addition to being fun, this increases your chances of catching a perfect moment.
From Digital Image to Physical Object
Once you’ve captured some shots that you love, what better way to use them than to decorate your home? Your local photo processing center can professionally print your photos straight from your camera’s SD card, some on canvas as well as on different types of paper, in both larger poster and smaller standard sizes. If you don’t have a local photo processor, you can also order prints online and have them delivered right to your house. A couple of easy-to-use options, with great quality prints at a good price, are Snapfish.com and NationsPhotoLab.com.
For high quality professional-level framing work, make sure to check out your local framing or gallery shops. If you like to get a little crafty, here are some fun and creative homemade ways to display your new works of art:
Frame out a pegboard from the hardware store by attaching some trim or quarter-round around its edges, then use simple silver or gold binder clips on pegboard hooks to display a rotating collection of your current favorites! This is great look for home offices, hallways, and children’s rooms.
To display your favorite photo in a rustic and natural way, use Mod Podge to adhere and coat a larger print to a piece of wood. You can hang it as is, or inexpensively and stylishly frame it by centering the photo board over a larger piece of wood painted a neutral color, nailing the photo board to the framing piece beneath by gently lifting the corners of the photo, then gluing the photo down over top to hide the nailheads.
To cleanly display photos on a fridge or at the office, use self-adhesive magnet sheets, available in packs of 100 in standard photo sizes.
You can get a giant “engineer’s print” on regular, non-photo paper very cheaply from larger office stores. This type of print may be low-resolution, but the effect can transform your photo into a dreamy Impressionist-esque scene. Use Mod Podge to attach your print to an affordable canvas for display.
Buying a Camera
There are three basic categories in today’s camera market. A point-and-shoot camera lacks manual controls but is affordable, light, and easy to always carry around. If you’re not sure photography is for you, start here. Look for a camera with a large image sensor, optical (not digital) image stabilization, and at least 10x optical zoom. Expect to pay about $200-$400 dollars.
When you find yourself bitten by the photography bug and want to dive deeper into the world of apertures and f-stops, consider a mirrorless camera. Smaller, lighter, and less expensive than DSLRs, mirrorless cameras have interchangeable lenses, give you the same manual control and features as a DSLR, and take gorgeous, top-notch quality photos. You’ll need at least 20 megapixels if you plan to do large-scale printing. These cameras are usually $500 dollars and up for the camera body and a starter lens.
DSLRs are the powerhouses of the photography world, meant for pros and serious enthusiasts. DSLRs focus and shoot more quickly than mirrorless cameras, and have superior optical viewfinders. However, they are heavy and bulky. You’ll need to budget $1,000 to $1,500 and up.
By Marie Pappas