Awesome Pictures Without Photoshop

You might be overwhelmed with all the gadgets and software that is available to photographers, amateur and professional. What to choose? How many lenses do you really need? What settings should you utilize on a camera that has hundreds? Okay, maybe not hundreds, but many more than a mind can juggle sometimes. Even people with a regular point and shoot camera can achieve outstanding results.

  • Lighting Issues: Most photographers swear by the “golden hour” rule of thumb for lighting. This, of course, is for outdoor shots and refers to the hours of the day that provide you with the softest light. When you take part in the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset timeframe, you are blessed with pictures that seem to glow and have a softer appearance. If it isn’t always possible for you to photograph only two hours out of the day, using items to direct the light to reduce shadows or to diffuse the light on a subject come in handy. Flashes can be harsh at times and can overexpose you shot. However, this can be used as an artistic approach also. But a white foam board or shiny silver window shades for your car can give you less dramatic results for photos.

  • Filters: A filter is a screen of sorts that will distort your picture, whether it be the colors or the texture of the shot, these can be very useful. I have even read of exposed film and processed film being used as an infrared filter. It is supposed to distort the colors and you can enhance them on Photoshop to be more vivid. But using things like colored cellophane, glass from a blacklight, or hose stretched over the lens can have great results. Using waxed paper in front of your flash can diffuse the harshness and soften the photo as well as breathing on the front of the lens. The condensation from your breath makes it appear soft and misty. Dark filters can make it look like it is night when it is really the day, producing a more detailed shot than a night photo would. I have even experimented with sunglasses. The different tints make for some interesting looks.

  • Manual Camera Setting: By switching your DSLR camera to “manual” takes it off of any auto settings you had it on. This gives you complete control over your shot so you can blur what you want to, slow the speed down for spectacular motion art photos, or just fine tune what the auto settings are missing. Manual lets you set your “shutter speed”, “aperture”, and “ISO speed”. The shutter speed is how long the “curtain” stays open on your picture before closing and capturing the shot. The aperture is the mechanism that controls how much light enters the shutter and the ISO is the sensitivity of the sensor within your camera to detect light. The lower the ISO, the less grain and noise will be in your pictures. The slower your shutter speed, the more movement will be captured. This is great when photographing a train passing or a car at dusk or even in the dark. The longer the shutter stays open, the longer the trail of lights or colors will be. The best way to get awesome shots with these elements is to just practice fiddling with it. Soon it will become second nature to know what settings you like.
  • Other Settings: One really nice feature of a lot of DSLR cameras is that they have the HDR setting. This involves the camera automatically taking three simultaneous shots and making the best possible photo out of what you snapped. You can get some very defined, very vivid pictures using this setting. Some photographers pick and choose using this setting to get the best out of what the subject is and others use it exclusively. Tilt shift can make cars, people, and buildings look like miniature toys. This is an effect you can apply with software too, but there are cameras with it built in. Fish eye distorts the peripheral of the photo and the subject remains fairly undisturbed. It can be a very creative tool in many situations, but playing with it is the best way to learn. Rear Curtain Flash is more difficult to master. However, the results can be stunning. This setting will produce two flashes and will freeze your subject and blur your background. This is great for moving subjects such as a dancing couple. The people will appear still and the world will be moving.

Experimentation is the key to all of these. You can’t expect your shots to be perfect the first time implementing something new. But the more you play around, the more things make sense. In no time you will be taking pictures you never thought you would have before. Even if you don’t have a DSLR camera, using filters with your point and shoot will generate different looks for ordinary shots. Give it a try! Display your work proudly and in larger formats such as canvas options or wallpaper. It is a way to make your home or even a studio stand out as unique to those around you. Then you will be giving them lessons on how you did it!

Chris Garrett is a large format printing expert and online publisher for the customized wallpaper expert He frequently blogs on the topics of design and printing.

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