PodCamp Toronto – The 101 Tips For Radically Better Photos

Hello PodCamp Toronto participants and welcome to Pete’s 101 Tips For Radically Better Photos workshop which took place on Saturday, February 21 at Ryerson University.

Here as promised is the entire list of my tips. (See below.)

Over the next few weeks I’ll expand on one or more tip in every post. What this means is inside of a few weeks I’ll present you with an entirely free Photography 101 course suitable for photographers using IPhones and other smart phones, point-and-shoot cameras right on up to the top-of-the-line digital single sense reflex (DSLR) pro cameras.

Why do I do this? I love photography and have been shooting for over 50 years and shooting pro for just about all that time. Photography has been very good to me and I love teaching it to students at all levels. My workshops (see below) are non-technical, plain English explanations of how your camera works and how you can be a much better photographer regardless of your camera.

Let’s start with shoot more – shoot everyday. If you want to master your camera and improve your photography techniques this is the easiest and fast way to do it. It doesn’t matter what you shoot but it does matter that you create a goal.

Perhaps you’re shooting for yourself (maybe it’s photos of the new baby) or maybe you’re shooting for your personal or professional website or blog. Adding photos to these sites or to your Facebook or Twitter pages on a daily basis will help radically increase your traffic flow.

If you’re really stuck for what to shoot, set yourself up a simple project. With spring around the corner (It’s -10 degrees C as I type this.) how about shooting flowers at Canada Blooms, March 13-22 at the Direct Energy Centre.

Here’s a tip: You can bring in a monopod but not a tripod. Shooting flowers at the show is great fun. Arrive early in the day and you’ll miss the crowds. I’ve gone a couple of times now and came back with great photos. BTW (another tip) pack your own lunch as food can be costly at these shows.

Finally (and here’s the pitch…you had to know there was a pitch 🙂

I teach photography classes to individuals and groups and I have been doing these classes for years. My three-hour workshops are $300 (inclusive) for individual one-on-one sessions or the same price for small groups up to 10 people (making this a $30/student deal) anywhere in the GTA.

You arrange for the space (can be a coffee shop if we can get a private corner) or somebody’s home or apartment and find some friends and I’ll teach you how to use your cameras and become much better photographers. i do a basic point-and-shoot (including IPhone and Smart Phones) course as well as a DSLR Basic and Advanced course. I offer advanced classes in flash, HDR and black and white street photography which includes a walk-around shooting session. I can get you started using photo editors as I can teach most of them but I do specialize in Lightroom. I also do a very popular class on Shooting Better Vacation Shots that ends up as a slide show or album of your best images.

If you’re interested email me at peter@peterwest.ca for more information.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Pete’s 101 Tips For Radically Better Photos

Peter West Photography


Shooting Tips:

Shoot more – shoot everyday – set yourself a goal
Post your images online
Post your edited images if you want to look like a good photographer
Post only your very best images if you want to look like a great photographer
Shoot closer – get even closer
Look for the garbage can in the background of every shot
Use simple uncomplicated backgrounds (brick walls)
Take 2 or 3 frames when shooting portraits to avoid closed eyes
Stop shooting everything at your eye level
Shoot kids and animals at their level
Use a cheap LED flashlight or movie light for effects
Cover your pop-up flash with a tissue for softer looking portraits
Use a mini or Gorilla tripod to shoot night shots
Use the camera’s self-timer at night
Use “scene” modes to shoot speciality shots (fireworks, flowers, etc.)
Turn off vibration reduction when using a tripod
Don’t amputate limbs
Focus on eyes in portraits
Keep your horizons straight
For “golden” light shoot the one hour of sun rise and sun set
Shoot in bad weather (rain, fog, snow) for amazing effects
Cover your camera with a plastic bag for foul weather shooting
Use a lens hood to reduce flare
Use a reflector (white shirt, pop-up reflector) to add light
Shoot couples close and groups even closer
What To Buy (and not buy)

A soft eye-glasses cleaning cloth
Buy a second battery for point-and-shoots (P&S) and bigger cameras
There’s two ways to buy a tripod – expensive and really expensive
External flash or better two external flashes for pro results
Softbox (preferred) or umbrella (cheap) to diffuse flash
Extra memory card(s) of moderate speed ($30 or so)
A fast second lens for DSLR (50mm f/1.8 = $150 or so) for low light and portrait work
Consider a macro lens – remember you’ll only buy one
Buy camera that takes different lenses if you’re serious about photography
A second body is necessary if you want to shoot weddings and get paid
BTW the wedding photographer’s lens 70-210mm = $2500!
Get a camera bag bigger than what you need right now
Consider buying a printer ($100 to $1000)
A neutral density filter is a must for waterfalls and gritty daylight flash shots
A polarizer filter for shooting sparkling water and to darken skies
Reflectors ($25) instead of flash or as a second light source
The vacation zoom lens – 18-270 Tameron ($350) cuts down on the weight
Use foam core in white and black to build a cheap home studio
Comfortable camera strap is a must and cheap
Small monopod (instead of a tripod) for stability ($50-$75)
Advanced Shooting Tips:

Read your manual 😦
Go online and Google tips for your type of camera
Read photo magazines at the library
Take a course with me 🙂
Take a free online course (www.creativelive.com)
Scan Flickr, Pinterest, www.500PX for ideas
Visit art and photo galleries for more ideas
Give yourself a big assignment or project to do
Shoot with friends or create a shooting group
Shoot special events (Gay Pride, Toronto Zombie Walk)
Don’t shoot protests without long, long telephoto lenses
If unsure of what’s happening, take the high ground (Dan Rather)
Learn to find the light
Learn the rule of thirds and when and how to break them
Learn near – far juxtaposition of objects in frame
Learn Rembrandt lighting
For portraits/boudoir use window light for warm effect
Shoot into the light for special high key lighting effect
Beyond “scene modes” learn manual, aperture, shutter and P modes
Practice on your cat 🙂 or a vase of flowers until you get it
DSLR black and white – shoot in colour and desaturate in software
Bracket your exposures when especially shooting landscapes
Learn to use your camera’s histogram
On vacation always carry a pocketable (smart phone is fine) camera
Turn off your camera’s beep sounds
Bounce your flash to get even flattering light indoors
At parties/weddings shoot photojournalism and pose couples/groups
Shooting stuff for EBay etc. use a light tent (DIY or $100)
Learn to shoot in HDR (high dynamic range) for exciting images
If you’re publishing as a pro, always get a model release

After The Shooting

Get your images out of your camera into your computer
Edit your images in software (see list on my site)
Mac or PC computer with 8 gigs of RAM edits fine
Purchase an online SmugMug Gallery ($70/year) or free Flickr gallery
Buy an external one-terabyte hard drive (wired or wireless)
Use ICloud or DropBox storage
Print or make an album of your best (vacation for example) images
Use them as Christmas presents
Format your memory cards only after uploading images to computer
Accidental deletions (not formatting) can be fixed
Store your edited images in two places and maybe burn a DVD
Put your images in photo and digital frames
Use your images as computer backgrounds
Join an enthusiasts’s online group and share your images

Advanced Editing

Shoot in JPG format for fun and RAW format for perfection
Use a light meter
Learn Ansel Adam’s Zone System
Use a PassPort Checker to create a custom profile for your DSLR
Use an ExpoDisc to get a perfect white balance
Edit in Lightroom or Photoshop or free Picasa or IPhoto
Use external editors like NIK or Exposure 7 software
Calibrate your monitor if you’re printing ($150 gizmo)
Use VSCO for I-Phone and other smart phone editing
Use Camera Noir to shoot amazing I-Photo black and white images
Consider shooting film!
Join a camera club


One thought on “PodCamp Toronto – The 101 Tips For Radically Better Photos

  1. Pingback: PodCamp Toronto Review | www.peterwestphoto.com

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