This month, I decided to include some tips for taking better photos in my newsletter. Here is a copy of that text:

Simple Changes for Improved Shots
We all do it, even me. We’re so excited to get started with our brand new camera that we forget the most important thing: reading the manual. I know all-to-well how easy it can be to feel intimidated by all the jargon in these palm sized books. So, until you find yourself with the extra time/courage and can remember where it is you stashed your manual, here are some simple tips for some of the most frequently asked questions.

Why are my pictures blurry?
Many times, lighting situations are less than ideal when you click that button. Even with your built-in flash turned on, sometimes the dreaded “camera shake” creeps in and ruins your precious photo. Using a flash should, in most situations, remedy this problem. But what can you do when using the flash fails?

Move closer. Using the zoom, is not always the best option. Moving closer helps your flash illuminate your subject more fully, something that your zoom can’t achieve. The “camera shake” phenomenon is much like trying to make your way through a poorly-lit room without sacrificing the bruising of your shins. That’s because a camera lens works much like our eyes do. It needs light to interpret details; without this it gets harder to focus properly and avoid that poorly placed ottoman. Unless you can put a larger flash on your camera (only available for cameras with an external flash mount) your best option is to inch a little closer.

Have you ever noticed that right before you take your photo you see a little light turn on at the front of the camera? Most cameras have this “assistant” to help your lens achieve better focus without fully activating the flash. Just hold the button HALF WAY down while you focus on your subject. This gives your camera a few more seconds to read and interpret the information…much like one would do before plunging into a darkened room.

But how do you make it look professional?
While I’d like to say that my photos are solely the result of 15 years of experience and a Bachelor’s degree, the truth is that with just a couple of modifications you can have a more professional looking photo, too.

The easiest trick to implement: Move closer.

Nope, it’s not a typo. This works great for improving your composition as well! Those adorable freckles, the glimmer in your subject’s eyes, that dewy complexion, these are all details better captured from a closer angle. The other advantage is that you will, at the same time, be cutting down on distracting backgrounds or objects in your image.

Composition is what sets most pictures apart. The Rule of Thirds is a basic principle that will make a great deal of difference in your picture quality. It sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. Basically, it is based on the concept that perfectly centered subjects make for uninteresting shots. This is because it leaves very little to be discovered. A good photo will guide your eyes throughout, delivering the story little-by-little and culminating in visual delight.

You can achieve this by imaging that your image can be split into 9 equal sized boxes, 3 across and 3 down, like tic-tac-toe.

Based on this tip, every time you compose a shot, the main subject of your photo should be located primarily on one of these “third” lines.

Another great and easy tip is to pay attention to the colors that make up your image. If your subject accidentally stepped into an 80′s time-warp and their clothing colors resemble the stylings of the Cosby Show, there is a simple solution: change the image to black and white. Clashing colors can radically affect the quality of an image. If you are unable to guide your subject before they decide on their wardrobe or if, through no fault of their own, the backgrounds clash with your subject, minimizing the distractions is the best way to resolve this issue. The fastest way to do this is to cut out all that color with your camera’s black and white editing option.

Armed with these simple tools you can take more professional quality pictures. So get out there and enjoy the beautiful weather, blooming flowers, and the simple joy of the great outdoors with a camera by your side! And if you want to share your handy-work with us, feel free to shoot us an email at

info@plumtreestudios.com. You may just see yourself featured in an upcoming newsletter issue!

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