Notes – The Life Guide to Digital Photography by Joe McNally

Notes on things I want to remember from this book:

  • Before you go to your camera make a decision: Overexposure? Underexposure?
  • Speciality light requires testing, so before you start shooting, check your settings and take a few test shots.
  • For silhouettes, find the correct exposure for the background, then play around with underexpose. Make sure your main subject is cleanly against the bright part of the picture.
  • Capture the mood. Think about drama. Expose for highlights and let the shadows play.
  • Determine how you are exposing you subject. Do not let this object of principle focus fall victim to expose settings that may be appropriate for secondary objects in the image.
  • To shoot an environmental portrait, you have to think story. Think “face in a place.” Locate the person in an environment that tells about who the individual is and what he or she does.
  • If you tip or angle a wide angle lens the distortion in the photo is increased.
  • Be aware of how much DOF you have in your image and what is contributing to that DOF and what can be adjusted. Three things govern DOF: length on lens, size of aperture, and closeness of camera.
  • Key thing to have sharp in a portrait: the near eye.
  • For a truly minimal DOF, go with a longer lens and fill the frame with your subject: Push the lens in close.
  • When shooting texture, fill the frame.
  • Good photo exercise: take a word that describes a sensory perception – soft, hard, rough, smooth – and take a picture that expresses that feeling.
  • If you are shooting wide, it is a very good idea to anchor the foreground of the photo with a lead or important element.
  • When shooting texture, bracket (vary f-stops and shutter speed). You may also want a shade more DOF than usual.
  • Hunt for patterns. Factor them into your image and make them work for you.
  • Walk slowly when you have a camera.
  • When shooting patterns, fill the frame. Remove anything extraneous from the scene.
  • Before you put the camera to your eye, assess the light and shadows. Look for light that reveals form and shows dimension.
  • More your camera position around. Look at the form from top to bottom, high and low, left and right.
  • Make a decision that the subject deserves color – and then decide what kind of color. Color relates more to exposure than to most other adjustable elements. Color can appear more lush or saturated by a subtle underexposure.
  • Survival strategies for finding good light and reasonable color when shooting in harsh sunlight: get out of the sun. Find open shade from a tree or building. Look for reflected light. Glass and metal buildings can often make for huge “bounce cards” that reflect light in interesting or pleasing ways. In shade or reflected conditions, color often comes back to life and you can see details in shadows. Try going inside and looking for interesting ways light in coming into where you are (bouncing off the floor, through lace curtains, ect). Try to diffuse the light
  • When you see it, shoot it. Now!
  • Good exercise: Put your camera in B&W mode for 24 hours then go shoot what you think are black and white subjects or black and white moods. Then take a look. Did you see differently – did you shoot differently – then you usually do?
  • Know places you want to go, keep a checklist, at least in your head, of locations where things are bustling (like a fish market or farmer’s market) or sites where the atmosphere is likely to be quiet and easy (like in a park in the early morning or a church in the late afternoon).
  • Test the waters, compositionally. Move the camera around, and move your principle subject left right, up and down.
  • When you want to  enjoy a bit of spontaneous, rapid fire shooting, prepare your camera. Take a quickie shot to dial in the right exposure. Once set, fire away without worrying about exposure.
  • Get the camera down to the level of the activity to increase the sense of urgency.
  • Watch for the moment: the leap, the throw, the pirouette, the racket connecting with the ball.
  • When shooting wide, do a survey of all the edges to make sure they are not littered with visual junk.
  • When shooting wide, avoid tilting or tipping the camera as this will increase the distortion. Line up the edge of your frame with a straight line in the scene (a corner, window, ect).
  • Take a photo of a piece of the action. Hands are great photographic subjects.
  • Keep your eye on the subject, even when changing lenses.When they are not conscious of being photographed they revert to natural actions and body language.
  • If you are trying to capture a quiet moment, find quiet light.
  • Be patient, unassuming and calm. Become part of the furniture. When those around you forget that you’re there the charming, candid pictures start to flow.
  • When shooting groups, make sure all the subjects can see the camera with both eyes. Ask everyone in the group to turn to the person next to them and make final adjustments (fix ties, ect). Move fast, be confident, make it fun, don’t be afraid to make a fool out of yourself. Break up your subjects outfits. Find someone in the group who is loose and will respond well to banter. If possible, introduce yourself and remember names. At the end of the process, get your group to do something exuberant: cheer, all high five, hug one another tickle one another, whatever. Let them know the picture taking is over and they can really go crazy. Lead the charge and be goofy.

These notes a on things I found interesting and wanted to remember. Much more in covered in this book. Joe is quite a good writer so if you anything mentions it I suggest you pick up this book to get the in depth word on the subject.

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