Composition – how to take professional looking pictures

Taking beautiful photographs is something that a lot of people wish they could do. Funny thing is that you don’t have to be a professional photographer in order to make that happen.  Just  follow a few simple tips and soon you too can have better looking pictures that your friends and family will admire.

Firstly, be sure your photo has a solid focal point.  Without a good focal point your photographs will end up looking empty, leaving the eye with nowhere to rest.  Your viewers will be more appreciative of a photo that has a clear focus.  With portraits the focal point is most likely to be your subject, but with landscapes or wider shots, it can be less obvious.  Maybe a tree or a small building within your landscape will draw the eye.

www.alisonfrost.co.ukWhen framing your photo, remember that you don’t always need to place your subjects directly in the centre of the photograph.  This is known as the “Rule of Thirds”.  In reality this is actually the rule of ninths, because you are envisioning your photo space divided into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Try to place your subject to the left or right, top or bottom, instead of dead centre in the picture. This will make the viewer’s eyes move around the image instead of staring straight into it and provide a more artistic finish.  In this image of White Wells Ilkley the photographer has placed the focal point of the building top left, drawing the eye across from the rising sun. However remember that many cameras will automatically focus on what ever is in the middle, so you will need to adjust this accordingly.

In some instances you will find that placing your subject dead centre and thereby breaking the rule of thirds provides the most dramatic impact.

While we are considering the rule of thirds, it is worth mentioning symmetry.  Pay attention to the symmetry in your pictures. A picture that is supposed to be symmetrical but isn’t, will immediately look wrong so make sure you’re standing in the dead centre of a symmetrical object if you are trying to create a symmetrical composition.

Don’t forget to change the orientation of your shots, some portrait and some landscape.  It may give you a completely different result than you expect and make your pictures stand out from the crowd.

Develop your creative vision. You can make an object from your everyday life look interesting if you know how to adopt a point of view that differs from what everyone sees. You can use your imagination to show usual objects in original settings or outside of their everyday use. Look at the world with a different point of view. So, remember to look for unusual things. It can either be a small detail or a strange situation. Learn how to represent what strikes you as unusual or original in the world you see.

As you practice and develop your skills, you will develop a feel for what makes a good subject for your pictures.  Get views from different angles of the subject or scene that you are shooting. Many amateurs will not take the time to move around the subject to find the best angle, if you do, you’ll find there are many different photos to be taken of one subject.

Try being selective when taking your photos. Find exactly what you want in that photo, and remove anything else from the shot. If you’re trying to take a picture of a flower, you don’t want a bunch of other flowers or trees in the shot. Get as close and focused on the subject as possible to get the best possible photo.  Move in closer to your subject, then move in closer and take a better shot. If you have your subject fill the frame, it will help the viewer appreciate and understand your photo. When taking the picture, continue to move closer until you are sure your picture will represent the subject.

Also don’t forget to pay careful attention to backgrounds when composing your photographs. Jumbled, messy rooms can ruin an image and prevent your subject from standing out. Also, even the smallest item within range of the snapshot can be a distraction, taking away from the central focus. Always make a quick scan of the room or landscape, then remove items that will detract from an otherwise perfect shot.

One final thought – theres no such thing as too many photos!.  In this digital age, don’t worry about taking too many pictures as this can often help you to capture surprising and unexpected images. You can always delete any of the pictures that you do not like,  but make sure you’re memory card is big enough.

So just a few basic tips to improve the composition of your pictures and help you take professional looking pictures every time.

Masterclass: Creating memorable Holiday Videos

Everyone wants to be a great director when they get behind the camera. There is a strong urge to tell people what to do, where to stand, and how to act. Try to avoid that tendency as you film your family’s holiday events. Instead, take a back seat to the action. That is not to say that you can’t manipulate some of the events, but let the actions of your guests and family tell your story rather than giving them direction or even a script to tell your story.

Start simple and keep it that way

Set up the story with the arrival of friends and family. Ask them to introduce themselves and how they are related or close to the family. This makes it easier for those older family who may have difficulty remembering faces and names. It will also help years down the road when you may not remember yourself who everyone is in your story.

If you want it to be more interactive, ask questions of your subjects or ask them to share a memory of their favourite holiday. If you have a small camera, video activities on the sly and piece it together later to get more candid video. Some people are camera shy or freeze up when a camera is pointed their way. Of course, you can check out how the pro’s do it – go to www.motivproductions.co.uk

Family Traditions are precious

Each family has its own traditions. When families blend through marriages traditions change or new ones are made. Keep a video record of those traditions. If your family enjoys a game on the field nearby, take your camera to record the game. If the youngest child is the one designated to put on the final decoration, show that child’s honoured role in the family. Everyone wants to be a star, but no one will appreciate it as much as a child in their special moment.

Respect everyone as you create your video

As mentioned before, some people are camera shy. If a family member or guest would prefer you not include them on the video, you should respect their wishes. You should also respect the special times when family gathers at the dinner table or attends church ceremonies. It may be best to put down the camera and simply participate in the event yourself.

As a burgeoning filmmaker you may want to play with your camera by getting close ups, or playing with the lens to create interesting cinema effects. Sadly, the only effect you will get is close ups of people’s noses and eyes, or your viewers may become ill with the lens changes and “wacky” effects you attempt. Instead, save special effects for the editing stage. You will find plenty of editing ability with various computer programs so that you can get those fun effects to make the film visually interesting.

Most importantly, have fun!

If you find that you are not getting into mix and enjoying the fun you see through the viewfinder, it’s perfectly alright to put down the camera and join in. You can also hand over the camera to get into the scenes that look like fun. Some of the greatest producers and directors also starred in their own films. You can be a star in your film, too.

Using Video Editing Software

Now that you have a fancy video/digital recorder you can finally film all the fun you and your loved ones are having whilst on holiday, or during various celebration and milestones. Once upon a time it would have been good enough to simply pop in the tape or burn the video onto a DVD, and then play it back on the television and most people would have thought it enjoyable. Now that technology has improved a great deal and video editing software has become really quite easy to use, good enough just isn’t good enough anymore.

The magical things you can do now with your videos

As the language for using software becomes easier for even the average, low-tech person to understand more of the editing software programs are easier to use so that even a novice can add effects to their home videos that they would have paid a lot of money to a professional to do for them.

After you have captured your video to your computer’s editing software you can do a number of things that will make your film look like a pro did it for you:

·       You can use the storyboard to move scenes around to create the story you want to tell.

·       You can add narration and even subtitles to your scenes.

·       You can create special effects such as colour changes, scrapbook edging to look like an old fashioned photo album, and fade in and out to new scenes for cleaner transitions.

·       You can also clean up the quality of your home video to clean up blurs, bad lighting, shaky camera handling, and other common issues novice filmmakers tend to experience.

The fun is just beginning with your video.

After you have edited your home video and you have burned it onto a DVD, there are a variety of things you can now do with your film. You can upload it to YouTube or Vine to share with others. You can save it to a cloud service to ensure that you will never lose it due to storm or fire damage. Your grandparents and parents who are not technologically savvy will be able to watch your video no matter where they are in the world with ease. Yes, even the folks who still have 12:00 blinking on their old-fashioned VHS players.

These days even the technology resistant older generation have at least given in and brought a computer into the home. If you want to share your vacation video or graduation celebration with them, you can send your video to them through email accounts, or share your cloud information, or share it on your social network of choice. All they will need to do through their email is click “download, save, and play” in succession to see your fun day. Or if you elect to use social media to share your experience, all they will need to do is click the play arrow superimposed on your posting to see your experience.

Where to get started using a video editing program.

Most video editing programs will work with virtually any system you have. If you elect to download video editing software online you may want to try a free version first to see how well you can use the interactive methods employed. Check the software for system requirements. Look for information such as:

·       Windows or Mac system: which generation as well.

·       If using a tablet or smartphone, check whether it is Apple iOS or Android.

·       Check the memory/bit requirements: 32 or 64 bit.

If you enjoy the free, basic video editing software you may decide to purchase a higher quality software. The best advice is to start with the free one to make sure it does what you want and that it works with your current devices and that the language is comfortable for you to use the program. The best part of the fun you will have capturing the memories.

            

The Best way to video a Family Celebration

Family celebrations by their very nature are unpredictable and constantly changing events. It can be challenging to video celebrations. The first thing the family may need to  is decide whether there will be a designated videographer in the family or if they want to let everyone take a role, meaning all those smartphones in everyone’s hands are put to use. Let’s look at the two options pros and cons:

Family Videographer taking an outsider’s role

The family member chosen to film the celebration is necessarily cut out of the production by being set behind the camera. That can be sad later in life when a spouse or friend of the family asks where, Bob is and the reply is that he is the cameraman. The pro of having one person video the event is that there is a modicum of control even in a potentially chaotic event. One camera will capture the scene. With one camera filming the event you are assured that all the key moments will be recorded. Granted, that one camera may miss other fun or interesting scenes that should have been captured for posterity.

On the other hand, having one person film the event means that you will get that person’s perspective on what is important, and that may not be what another person felt was important. There is also the possibility that the designated cameraman was not the best choice for the task, meaning that the event may be inadequately filmed with bad lighting, low lighting, shaky handling of the camera, or forgotten lens caps left on during an important moment.

Everyone has a camera for the event

The advantage to having a camera in everyone’s hand is that you will find multiple versions of the event from different perspectives, which can be interesting. Children will see most things at low levels or at upward angles, which can let the adults see what the children see. On the other hand, teens and young adults will most likely pay closer attention to their own age groups, leaving out the children and older members of the celebration.

Keep in mind that the different perspectives may not tell the story of the celebration completely. Of course, a technical editing wizard may be able to splice the scenes from multiple views to tell a cohesive story, but that may be harder than it sounds.

The best way to video a family celebration may be a combination of methods.

Perhaps you can have a designated family videographer, or even hire a professional to tell the official story. This will provide the narrative of the celebration: who attended, what the celebration is about, the songs and dances; actual story of the celebration.

Along with the main scenes captured on one camera, other family can video from a video camera or smartphone. Their story would be the behind the scenes events: The groom preparing for the big day. The bride putting on her gown for the first time. The cake being carried in. The ring-bearer taking a nap before the wedding. The flower-girl pouting before the music begins. Later at the reception, the candid scenes can be played for the guests on the high definition TV screen with the camera’s sharing abilities. The official videographer can film the reactions to the individual scenes, which will continue the narrative of the big day for the bride and groom to share for a lifetime.

Masterclass: Editing Family Videos

You and your family have returned from an exciting vacation and now you are ready to check out the videos you made of beautiful scenes at the beach at sunset, a fun day at an amusement park, or a weekend caravan trip. The image on the screen is seldom as lovely as you remember it through your viewfinder, is it? The images jump about, the lighting is too dim, and for heaven’s sake, someone forgot to take off the lens cap! You may lower your head and resolve to do a better job next time. You may even think you are now stuck with the results of this family trip. But, hold on now, you can fix these errors with a lot of patience and a little bit of know-how.

How to get started editing your family video.

You will need to download a VHS to DVD converter software program into your computer. There are free ones available online. In many cases the free version is rather basic and is intended as an introduction to encourage users to purchase a higher level program with more “bells and whistles.” Once you have a program installed, you will need to use the cords provided with your camcorder to attach it to your computer to transfer your VHS to DVD. Granted, most people do not use VHS anymore, electing to use a digital recorder, there are older VHS tapes out there that one may wish to improve through editing with computer software.

After you import or capture your video to your program, you will need to save it. Use the highest quality option available. If this will take up a great deal of your hard drive’s memory, elect to save a portion at a time. Make the conversion of that part to DVD (use DVD-R or DVD+R, not rewriteable DVDs) and then delete from the hard drive before saving another part of your video and work that way until the task is completed. Caution: Always check your converted material before deleting from your hard drive to assure everything transferred properly.

Now that your video is in DVD form, here is the fun part.

Most software programs separate into scenes so that you can manipulate them anyway you choose. For example, you may want to show the kid’s events first, and then show the adult’s activities separately. Or perhaps you want to start with the last beach sunrise and work backwards to the start as the family is packing for its adventure.

The best part of being able to edit your video is being able to delete the scenes where the feet are mistakenly being filmed or a wasted period of time is filmed with the lens cap on. Perhaps a child got a hold of the camera and filmed a shaky scene you would rather not see. It is not unheard of for a camera to have had poor lighting as it is moved from indoors to outdoors. The result is a bright indoor scene, and then when the scene moves outdoors the picture is too dark to see anything. Software will enable you to improve the quality of the lighting. Evening scenes can be rather creepy if the people in the scenes appear to have bright eyes or red eyes. You can use the program to fix those creepy eyes.

Adding Special Effects to your family video.

One of the fun things you can do as you edit your family video is add effects to it. You can add titles between scenes, use a fade to black to transition between activities, or add colour borders and trimmings. You can add a spark of humour with “thought bubbles” or add dialogue in script much like the silent films of the olden days.

No longer do you have to endure family videos that don’t tell the story as you remembered it. You can create a video that will be a match to the memory and share that joy with those you love. It just takes a lot of patience and a little bit of know-how.

Video Editing Software

In this day and age family videos seem like major productions. In the old days a camera shot of the happy couple cutting a cake or running out of the church under a spray of rice at a wedding was more than enough to commemorate the big day. In our current times, for most cases, the brides want a video to show every event leading up to the wedding: selecting the dress, choosing the décor, menu and cake for the receptions, and so on. Every event must be recorded for posterity.

A well-off bride may be able to hire a professional to do all the work. However, due to the quality of video/digital camcorders and the ease with which people can use video editing software, even the well-off bride can simply have a family member film the events and later edit the events herself.

As software creators become savvier about consumer use of their programs they have realized that making the process more interactive is a good way to get more people to use their products. This is particularly true regarding video editing software with the advent of social media and video sharing websites. As more people wish to share their videos, software designers are eager to provide programs everyone can use.

Beginner’s luck with free software.

If you want to try using video editing software on a budget, you will be delighted to find that you can easily find such software available for free online. Lightworks provides an easy, interactive program for beginners to test their mettle. The user interface helps the beginner understand how to use the software to edit their video. The tools are easy to use and you can create real-time video effects.

WeVideo is a cloud-based editing software.  The designers provided an easy to use drag and drop method for editing so that you don’t have to understand how it works. Instead, you simply apply the effects you want with a click of the mouse. Afterward, you can share your effort on various social networks. The basic program is free. If you like the simple structure, you can get the advanced version by upgrading to different paid plans.

Intermediate skills to make you look like a pro.

You can search online for higher level video editing software. We looked for the ones that a beginner can advance to after they have gained some better understanding of the technology and the language of editing.  Now that you know more, you will find that simple methods and simple features just don’t do the job you wish to accomplish.

Adobe Premiers Elements is a great professional grade software that an intermediate user can enjoy. This editing software will enable you to:

·       Add animation to your work

·       Include video and visual transitions beyond “fade” and “turning the page.”

·       Correct colours that did not film correctly due to lighting or other issues.

·       Drag and Drop effects that are a step up from the basics.

·       Direct capture from camcorder and DVD burning.

Pinnacle Studio 16 is another great professional grade software that is available online. This software includes:

·       3D editing technology

·       Animation effects

·       Better video and audio transitions

·       Green Screen

Cyberlink is yet another more advanced video editing software a savvier filmmaker can enjoy using. It does much the same things as the above programs. The one feature that is interesting is the ability to add subtitles, which would be a boon for foreign language when visiting another country, or to provide dialogue for deaf viewers, or to provide a fun silent film experience.

There are other beginner and intermediate video editing software available both on and offline. These are mentioned to show you what you can do with your home video that you may not have thought of before. All of them offer either a free, basic version or a free trial download so that one can test them before making a purchase.