You need some pictures for your website; everybody does. And you have your own camera; everybody does. So you don’t have to hire a professional photographer, you can do it yourself. The price, the convenience…can’t beat it.
But…you knew there was a “but” coming, right?….but the technology is only part of photography. Lighting and the subject are just as important. Knowing how to use all three (subject, lighting, camera) is just as important again.
For the best imagery, hire a pro. A great brochure or website design can be trashed with mediocre imagery. Professional photography can make the difference.
That said, there are lots of times when you can and should do it yourself, and digital cameras make it easy. Use them. They are your friend. Here are a few tips to improve your shots.
Take Pictures of Light on a Subject
Photography is about light and the subject (the thing you are photographing), not the camera. So look at the light and shadow when you’re photographing. These tips are mostly about getting better exposure in your pictures and avoiding problems with light.
Use a Tripod
A basic tripod costs less than $20. Better ones are less than $75. A top-end tripod can run $1200. You probably don’t need one of those, but you should get a basic model. Any tripod makes lots of photography better. Get one and use it. It will come in handy for years.
Get a camera that automatically “brackets.” That means it can automatically take a series of pictures (often three); one is a little dark, one is about right, and one is a little bright. You’ll have better choices whenever you can bracket. Learn how to use that feature.
Use a Tripod and Bracket
When your subject is stationary, you’re using a tripod and you can take multiple exposures, those exposures can be combined in software to create a better image. Even if you don’t know how to use the software, your graphics person probably does. Multiple exposures give you and your designer more and better options.
Look Around and Behind
Do a quick check around your subject. Make sure there’s nothing distracting in the background. It’s easy to watch your subject, ignore everything else, and later discover something ugly, odd or distracting in the pictures. Try to avoid those distractions when you shoot. As a general rule, a simple background is best.
Look for Soft, Even Lighting
Generally, even lighting is better than sharp lighting.
Even lighting comes from big light sources (or multiple light sources spread out). Reflected light is often soft. It creates softer shadows that are not as dark as sharp shadows.
Sharp lighting comes from one or a few small light sources. Direct light from a bare bulb is sharp. It creates very sharp, dark shadows. It can also create bright, overexposed areas in the image.
This isn’t a firm rule. There are times a small light sources is the best or only option. But as a general rule, look for soft, even lighting.
Don’t Use the On-Camera Flash
The on-camera flash is a small light source that creates sharp shadows. If you must use the flash, check out this tip from December 2012.