Tips for Photographers

You can increase your chances of receiving an award in the Murrysville Photo Contest by following some simple advice from previous contest winners.

What makes for a winning photograph?

  • Know your camera: All of those knobs, buttons and dials perform an important function. Understanding what they do, and how they work together goes a long way to improving your photographic process. Read your manual, go to the web or ask a more experienced photographer for help.

  • Composition: Consider Leading Lines and the Rule of Thirds. A leading line is an element in a photograph that directs a viewer to the main subject in the photo. These can be straight lines, curves or diagonals. Examples could be a fence line, roadway, a shaft of light, even a tree branch. The Rule of Thirds tells us our subject becomes more pleasing if it is placed off center. Imagine dividing your scene into thirds both horizontally, and vertically and placing the subject at one of the intersections.

  • Exposure: Strive for the right balance of light and dark.

  • Lighting: Pay attention to the direction of the light and the shadows it may cast.

  • White Balance: Most beginning and some seasoned photographers set their cameras to auto white balance (AWB), and leave it there. It works reasonably well most of the time, but you can take your photo to the next level by manually choosing the white balance that fits the lighting condition. Most cameras provide dedicated choices for Sun, Clouds, Shade, Incandescent, Flash and a few others. Choose wisely.

  • Sharpness: Nothing kills a photo faster than a blurry image. Insure that your subject is tack sharp. If the subject is a living thing, focus on its eyes. If the primary element is an object, focus on the most critical part of that object. Motion blur is the other photo killer. Hold your camera steady, and choose a shutter speed that suits the subject. Consider using a tripod. It will slow the picture taking process forcing you to consider all elements of the scene. It also provides a rock solid platform. There may be times when you want to include motion blur in your picture. Examples might be waterfalls or streams. You’ll need a slow shutter speed for these and have a method to solidly fix the camera (tripod) to prevent movement. You may want to suggest movement in the water, but everything around it must be absolutely sharp.

  • Patience: An often overlooked but critical element in photography. Don’t allow yourself to be rushed! Invest the necessary time. You will be well rewarded.

  • Perspective: Experiment with as many angles as you can. You may stumble onto something great by using some creativity in your shot.

  • Don't be afraid to click the shutter often: Sometimes you literally have to take a hundred shots to obtain that perfect image.

  • Bring your camera along when visiting Murrysville Parks and Reserves: You often have no advance notice when that perfect shot will present itself.

  • Develop a genuine appreciation for your subject and the photograph will capture your heart.

All of the above tips come from previous Murrysville Photo Contest winners. These are people who have invested time and effort to incrementally improve their techniques with each click of the shutter. The Murrysville Photo Contest team hopes you benefit from their collective experience.

The above tips are general. Much more detailed information is available on the shelves of libraries, and from booksellers locally and on the web. The internet itself provides countless pages of detailed information. Useful web links include:

Good luck in the contest!


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