Want to take better pictures?
By Casey Lessard
Like our cover photographer Kelsey Brand’s photo of her sister Logan, your photos will be better if you capture life in action. Experiment with fast shutter speeds (like the cover) or slow ones, in which case you should move with the subject or stay perfectly still (i.e. use a tripod).
Find a great venue
Darlene O’Rourke’s photo of the McCarthy family shows that sometimes a portrait is as much about the venue as it is the people. Build a database of great places to take photos, remember when the light is good there, and bring your subjects when the time is right.
Great moments like Jenn Moxham’s photo of her son Grayson aren’t waiting for you to pull out your camera. Have it ready, then shoot until you get the picture you want. It might take one shot, or it might take 50. Don’t let your guard down if your instinct tells you something great is going to happen.
Lea James’ detail of a knot is one of those shots you don’t see every day, yet it’s there every day for you to see it. Look up, look down, look around. Often the best photos are the ones you can’t see because you’re too busy looking at something else.
Change your schedule
Want to get a photo like Brenda Parsons’ of the wind turbines near Ipperwash (#1)? Brenda was up at 5 a.m. Now that’s taking photography seriously. By the way, bring your tripod and leave the shutter open as long as you can. You may need to use a night setting or bulb depending on your camera. Make sure the flash is off.
Use existing light
Andra Brand’s photo of her daughter Logan (#2) looks great because she’s using the light from the Christmas tree. You could use window lighting or really any light, even a street light. Just watch your white balance setting to make sure the colour looks the way you want.
Bring in several layers
Thinking of shooting another sunset? The reason Lynn Wilbur’s sunset (#3) is so beautiful is that she brought in several layers: a foreground (sand), middle ground (water), and background (sun). Try looking for those three elements, and then incorporate people.
Emily Marks’ photo of two people walking down a wooded road (#4) takes advantage of one of several composition rules, including balance, rule of thirds, dominant colour, leading lines. Wondering what these are? Visit
Don’t be afraid of people
Karen Brown’s photo of the South Huron senior concert band in action (#5) requires the photographer to overcome the fear of being embarrassed by getting close to the action. If you get a good photo, and the subject is okay with it, it’s usually a good idea. See also Jane Miklovic’s photo to its right (#6).
Macro for flowers and bugs
Shooting flowers? Find the macro setting, which looks like a flower. Use it for bugs, too. Maggie Brennan used it for both (#7).
Frame within a frame
Look for opportunities to shoot people framed by an object such as a window or other frame, like Anita Deline did (#8). The frame acts as a foreground element, as discussed earlier.
Make your subject comfy
Once your subject is comfortable with you photographing them, interesting things happen, as Judy Jewell discovered (#9). Just tell people to pretend you’re not there, and act as comfortable as you want them to act. It takes a few photos for people to do that, but keep shooting and don’t draw attention to yourself.
Look for abstract details
Vreni Beeler was carving a pumpkin when she looked closer. She’s glad she did (#10). The closer you get, the more abstract everyday objects become.
Use your tools
Mies Vandeleygraaf’s photo of sunbeams through smoke (this page) incorporates several of these lessons. The more you bring together, the better your photos will be.
Keep your sense of humour
Martin Page’s raccoon photo and Paul Maguire’s photo of his granddaughter share a sense of fun that forces the viewer to smile.
Special thanks to the Grand Bend Art Centre and to the students who shared their work with the Strip.