I’ve had the opportunity to help a number of organizations prepare digital pictures for their websites, and I observe that the poor quality of some of those photos has more to do with the way people use their cameras rather than the quality of the cameras themselves. Here are the three most frequent mistakes:

1. The subjects in the frames are way too small.
2. The focus on the subject(s) is fuzzy.
3. The pictures are poorly exposed, and very often overexposed.

You can correct these three mistakes by:
2. Keeping as still as possible when pressing the shutter button
3. Avoid shooting directly into a light source

More on each of those tips:

1. I have capitalized the first tip because it is so important in Web pic photography. Because Web pics are small, you must make the subject relatively large in the frame. The only way to do that is by getting close to your subject, either by using a telephoto lens or moving closer. In this Flickr group I’m presupposing that many people stocking websites don’t own expensive single lens reflex cameras. The shooting tips will therefore assume the simplest of equipment. So, GET CLOSE, if you don’t own a telephoto lens. When taking a picture of several people, don’t take the full view, head to foot. Feet aren’t important! Move in and show just the heads and shoulders of your subjects. Fill the frame with the most important visual elements; and for people, this means their faces. If you feel embarrassed getting too close to people, get over it! Ask permission to take a picture, and then MOVE IN! Your pictures will improve a thousand percent when you move close.

2. Squeeze gently down on the shutter button; don’t push it. When you push it, you move the entire camera body, and this tends to blur shots. Since many automatic focus cameras lock focus when the shutter button is depressed half way, here’s a good technique: As you bring your camera to bear on the subject and steady the camera with your hands, depress the shutter button half way to lock the focus. Then, keeping the camera as still as possible, roll your shutter finger forward and downward. This rolling of the shutter finger produces a gentler motion, less likely to move the entire camera.

Here are more tips for keeping your camera steady as you shoot:

a. If your camera has a viewer that you hold up to your face, using it will help to steady the camera. A steady base has three points, and this method has three points: two hands and the forehead.
b. Breathing tends to move your camera. So, before you depress the shutter, breathe in, then, as you are exhaling at a relaxed rate, roll that shutter finger forward and gently down.
c. Use your camera strap to hold your elbows in against your rib cage. This, with your forehead as a third point, will form a stable triangle. Thus:


Here’s how to arrange the strap: Hold the camera out at arm’s length with one hand with the strap hanging down. With the other hand, reach through the loop of the hanging strap and grasp the side of the camera closest to that hand. Now let go of the hand that was originally holding he camera, and reach that hand through the loop, grasping the other side of the camera. The strap should now run around the outside of each elbow and across your chest. The length of the strap should be adjusted so that when you bring the camera to rest against your forehead your elbows are held firmly against your rib cage by the tight strap. With small cameras this technique may seem silly, but with heavy cameras it’s a great help.

3. Avoid shooting into light sources: the sun, open windows, bright lights. The camera’s light metering system will underexpose subjects when the subjects are between a strong light source and the camera. But sometimes you may HAVE to shoot into a light source. If so, set your camera to flash, even if you are shooting outdoors. This will help to insure that your subject is adequately lighted. More on how to set your camera to flash in another lesson.

2 thoughts on “Basic Shooting Tips for Making Good Web pics”

  1. Hi, Derren
    I’ve learned photography by shooting a lot and asking questions of Flickr.com friends and local friends in a photography club. I’ve learned writing by lots and lots of practice as a young person, and then, a lifetime of writing sermons. (I’m a retired pastor.) I like writing, but through photography I have discovered a mode of self-expression that is sheer fun. (Writing is work!)

  2. These are good tips for how to have a photo appear like a quality photo on the web… but not to be confused with how to take a photo that will be part of the site’s design or presentation.

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