Hit the Road

Tips from top shutterbugs

Professional photographer Conor Wall, an engineer-turned-photographer who lives in Cambodia, suggests amateur photographers who are in unfamiliar territory hire a local guide who knows “the happening places.” Wall loves Cambodia because, unlike in the West, life happens in the streets rather than behind closed doors. He took this image, one of 144 in his book “Carrying Cambodia,” from the back of a motorbike. Photo by Conor WallCarla Mitroff, a certified marine naturalist with American Cetacean Society, took this photo of a juvenile breaching humpback whale November 2014 just off the coast of Dana Point. When it comes to taking these types of photos, “you have to have patience,” she says. “Sometimes it’s just sitting around and waiting for a moment.” Best to shoot with the light behind you and not when the sun is high and harsh.  Photo by Carla Mitroff

We all take pictures. Boy, do we take pictures.

According to Facebook, we upload 208,300 photos a minute to the site. Do the math and that comes to 880 billion photos a year. I don’t think I can do the math, so I’ll have to take their word for it.

So why do we take all those photos? Many reasons:

We want to capture and preserve an adventure or special moment; to bring families and friends together; to provoke thought in both photographer and viewer; to learn more about ourselves; to cross cultural barriers.

Photos also are simple, cheap souvenirs, so shouldn’t they look good?

Shouldn’t we strive for quality instead of quantity?

If you’d like to improve the photos you email, text, share on social media and save, listen to the advice of those who know:

Jim Tonery — A retired school teacher and professional photographer who lives in Sonoma, Tonery says there are a couple of basic tenets for novice photographers to keep in mind.

“There’s an old saying: ‘The name of the game is to fill the frame,’” he explains. “When looking through the lens, our eye often edits what we want to see, but the camera sees the wide scene. If you have part of that wide scene that you really want to include, you have to narrow the photo. Avoid a picture that is mostly empty.”

And then there is the Rule of Thirds.

“This applies to landscape photos,” he says. “Many beginning photographers put the horizon in the middle of the photo, which leads to a static and dull photograph. Instead, consider putting the horizon one-third from the bottom if you want to emphasize a dramatic sky, or consider putting the horizon two-thirds up in the photo if you want to emphasize the foreground.”

And when it comes to taking portraits, it’s better to use a telephoto lens and zoom in than to get closer to the subject.

“This makes for a more flattering perspective.”

Lawrence Migdale — A South African by birth, Migdale lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. A stock photographer for 35 years, he has sold thousands of images.

“Most important when you are looking for attractive, memorable, drop-dead wonderful photographs is to take the photos near dawn or just before sunset — not at noon when the sun is directly above you,” Migdale advises. “Photographers call the hour before sunrise and sunset the ‘sweet light.’”

When it comes to taking people pictures, Migdale says that the photographer should let subjects know their photos are being taken, and that “you are doing it with respect. Don’t do it surreptitiously. Spend some time. Chat with them to make them comfortable, then ask their permission. If it’s not OK, move on.”

And if subjects want to be paid?

Do it, Migdale says, “especially in developing countries. Some of these people live on less than a dollar a day. If they are living in a tough situation and they want a buck, pay the buck. Think about how lucky you are to be carrying a thousand-dollar Nikon or a smart phone.”

See Migdale’s work at  migdale.com.

Darren Rowse — A resident of Melbourne, Australia, Rowse is the guy behind the popular blog Digital Photography School (http://digital-photography-school.com/) He previously owned and operated a digital camera review site. His photography tips include:

Every shot needs a carefully placed focal point — a striking tree, a rock formation, a silhouette. Without it, a photo looks rather empty and leaves a viewer’s eye wandering through the image.

Place points of interest in the foreground to create depth and give viewers a way into the image.

An overcast day and threatening rain creates mood and overtones. Don’t let this opportunity pass.

Take a little more time and look for new angles from which to shoot. It could mean getting down on the ground or looking for a higher vantage point.

E’Louise Ondash is a freelance writer living in North County. Tell her about your travels at eondash@coastnewsgroup.com