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Focusing on Ways to Improve Pictures in the Coming Year

December 24, 1988|ROBERT LACHMAN | Times Staff Writer and

The first of the year is only a week away, which also means that a few time-honored traditions are also on the horizon. Of course, the greatest New Year's tradition is football, which needs no explanation. The second is hangovers, which needs even less of an explanation. But, if you choose to explain it, please do it quietly.

And finally, there are the New Year's resolutions. The interesting thing about New Year's resolutions is that they have nothing to do with the start of a year. These are things you should be doing on Valentine's Day, the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving.

Along that line, those who vow to take better pictures in 1989 should keep a few things in mind. It's easy to say you want to take better pictures but it takes hard work and perseverance to get it done.

If some of these ideas seem like a rehash of many of the concepts of this year's photo columns--you're right. But remember, this is the one you need to cut out and stick up on the refrigerator with one of those inane magnets from your local Realtor.

So, each time you reach for a tray of ice cubes, memorize one of the following. By March, you'll be an expert.

Move in closer: You don't have to be an Einstein to figure this one out. It's so simple yet can be so hard. The closer you are to a subject, the more likely you are to capture an interesting or different element of it. You also eliminate the distractions that may be on the sides or in the background.

Don't be intimidated: It's your turn to be the aggressor. You have the camera, so you are in charge. The subject will be looking for direction, so provide it.

Make sure you have the right camera: The average amateur photographer should probably be using a 35-millimeter automatic-focus camera. Don't get a piece of equipment that is more advanced than you really need. If you didn't get the pictures you wanted the last time you tried, then you might have the wrong equipment. Remember, bigger (or more expensive) is not always better. Get a camera that fits your needs.

Put your best pictures in a frame: Take a quick look around the house. Would anyone ever notice that you own a camera? It doesn't make sense to shoot all those pictures and then lock them away. Go to your local custom lab and have a few of your photos blown up and ready for framing. But don't be frugal when getting your work framed; you usually get what you pay for. A frame will make your picture stand out from others. It's certainly cheaper than buying original artwork of others.

Experiment: Don't be afraid to take a chance. Stretch the limits of your film and creativity.

Practice makes perfect: It's as simple as that.

Read a book. It can even be free. Go to the library and pick a photography book off the shelf and learn something new.

Read another book: See "Read a book" and do it again.

Take a photography class or workshop: This is perfect for those who like to put things off and need someone to force them into shooting pictures. What sounds better than spending a week in Yosemite at a photographic workshop?

Consider the light: Light is the most important factor when shooting a picture. Try and stay away from shooting photographs around noon when the light is too harsh. For truly dramatic pictures, shoot early in the morning or near dusk. Pay particular attention to the way that the light falls on your subject and the background.

Visit an art gallery: A gallery can be a major source of ideas and inspiration. However, there aren't a lot of photo shows, so you might have to do a little investigating before you go.

Go to the zoo: For starters, you have a very captive audience. The animals are not very far away and you can use shorter lenses. the variety of shots is enormous. Don't settle for second best. Put some heat on you local lab for better quality developing and prints. There is no reason to accept anything that isn't first rate.

Give yourself an assignment: If you're waiting for good photography opportunities to fall in your lap, you're going to be waiting a long time. Have some idea what you want to shoot before you go there. Make things happen.

Buy a new filter: There is no need to go wild and buy every conceivable filter available, but there are a few you should consider. A polarizing filter is helpful for your color pictures because it gives you more saturation, especially in the sky. A red or yellow filter can do the same for black-and-white photography and add a little drama to the sky.

Edit: If you have shoe boxes full of snapshots, spend a little time editing your work. Then, you don't have to make silly excuses about why this one is too light or dark or why everyone's expression is bad.

Organize: Certainly a long-lost art. Once you've edited those beauties it's time to put them into an album or slide tray. If you're ready to put them in order, stop, tighten up your selection again and throw out a few more. Remember how many more times you're going to press that trigger finger, so there will be many more shots to come.

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