I’ve wasted a lot of time and money trying to learn how to take great pictures.
This entailed the painstaking hours of learning how to use my digital camera solely in manual, taking photography classes, buying fancy-dancy cameras, lenses, computers, and editing software, bugging my photographer friends for advice, and finding time to learn how to use Lightroom.
The latter is still a work in progress.
I recently attended an awesome mentoring session with the oh-so talented Justin DeMutiis of Justin Demutiis Photography, and learned more in our two hours together than I learned in the last year of “figuring it out on my own.” I learn by doing, and I think it’s important to spend the time with a photographer actually walking you through the steps on how to edit versus reading an instruction manual or relying on Youtube.
While being able to edit pictures serves as the icing on the cake, no amount of editing will fix a crappy picture that has a bad foundation. Here are some of Justin’s top ten things to avoid if you want a great shot.
Letting the camera do the work. Avoid relying on the camera’s automatic settings. While using aperture priority is very useful and widely used by professional photographers in fast moving situations, by putting the camera on full auto, you relinquish creative control. (My note: I never thought I’d be able to figure out automatic settings, but I did, and it’s easy).
Leaving distracting elements in the frame – This can be odd trees, plants, water bottles, etc. It’s worth the extra few minutes to clear an area before shooting, or a few extra seconds of looking through the viewfinder to create a clean composition.
Putting the subject dead center in the frame. If you hand the average person a cell phone and ask them to take a picture of you and a friend, chances are, your heads will be in the center of the frame. This is much more manageable in the age of Instagram, but for vertical portraits, it is more pleasing for heads and eyes to be in the top third of the frame.
Shooting with a lens that is too wide. Cell phones generally have wide lenses, professional portraits photographer generally shoot with longer and more flattering lenses.
Taking too many images and/or not spending enough time on a single image. With babies and children, it is vital that you know your equipment and never stop shooting. You never know when the perfect moment will happen. With older children who take direction well, you will not feel as much pressure to go on autopilot and put the camera in burst mode. If you have a loose game-plan, a beautiful location and beautiful light, you can take a few additional moments to pay close attention to the details, perfect a pose, and create a overall pleasing image.
Moving slowly with kids. The above being said, it’s important to be prepared to move swiftly with children. If you take too long or give too much direction, it will be very challenging to capture a genuine moment or expression.
Being unspontaneous. With many great moments, it is necessary to just step back and let the moment happen.
Being unwilling to get up close and personal. Notwithstanding the above, if a newborn baby is sleeping, for example, getting closer can often be better. By simply getting closer, you can often eliminate distractions and emphasize your subject.
Being unreceptive to light. Light is ever changing, but many new photographers do not take the time to learn to “see” the light. When I search for locations to shoot, I first look for the light, then a pleasing background, and lastly I consider the pose. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Light is the first of painters”.
Lack of Patience. With photography, practice really does make perfect. Don’t get frustrated when you don’t like your product and, instead, find ways to improve it. Here are examples of Justin’s work, all of which are being published with his permission:
Justin’s first glimpse of becoming a professional photographer came as college freshman. He became one of eight college students in North America to win a scholarship to attend the North American Nature Photography Association’s annual summit, for which he owes his style. Not long after, he found his true calling in wedding photography, a place where all his technical skills seamlessly blend with so many things he loves. To Justin, nothing compares to providing a timeless set of images that tells the story of one of the most important and happiest days of two people’s lives.
If you are interested in a setting up a photo shoot or mentoring session with Justin, please contact him at 813-229-5960.