How to Take Photos that are Good
1 GET A WORKING 35MM MANUAL-FOCUS SLR CAMERA.
(If you already have a camera you like with a working light meter, skip this step.)
Here is an eBay seller (not me) who sells refurbished working cameras, which include batteries, so you should be ready to shoot.
(If you have to make a choice of a lens, a 50mm f1.4 lens is good. In general, the lowest f-stop number is best. So it doesn’t matter a whole lot, but an f1.4 is better than an f1.8. A lower number lets you shoot in lower light and makes the background a little bit more out of focus, which is a good thing.)
Buy any kind of 35mm film. Here is the kind I use.
2 SIT ON YOUR COUCH AND THINK OF SOMETHING WHICH YOU’D LIKE TO SEE.
This is by far the most important step and the main reason that my photos are good. If you come up with a specific finished photo in your head, you become not really a photographer, but more of a painter. Draw a simple drawing of what your photo will look like. Choose something that will be easy to photograph but that you would like to see and have not seen very much. Think of something that both makes sense and doesn’t make sense. Such as a person drinking directly out of a teapot. Come up with 4 – 7 ideas which are worth trying.
3 ARRANGE THE IDEAS IN A LOGICAL ORDER OF WHAT WOULD BE EASIEST TO SHOOT.
(Such as if one photo is a really easy setup, do it first. If one involves dunking someone’s head under water and would affect future photos, do it last. If certain photos are very important for you and others aren’t, put the least important ones last so that you prioritize what you care about most, in case you run out of time.)
4 PICK A DAY AND TIME AND LOCATION IN WHICH TO TAKE THE PHOTOS.
TIME: Google when the sun is going down. Arrange your photos accordingly. (The best time to take photos is generally immediately after sunset, but this only lasts an hour or so. If you are meeting other people, arrange the time to be an hour before you think you need to be there, because people are late and always take longer to get ready than they think.)
LOCATION: Remember that your background is as important or even more important than your subject. Have your backgrounds planned out in advance. Or, worst-case scenario, pick one location which you already know hosts multiple good backgrounds which will not be in direct sunlight. Such as a certain park may have a brick wall, and trees, and a fence, all which are old and cool and in shade which can be used. If your subject has black hair, put them in front of a light background. If they have light hair, put them in front of a darker background.
5 TAKE YOUR FIRST PHOTO.
A: Set up the person and or props, line everything up. Subject, pose, background.
(Make sure that all of the light in your frame is the same. Don’t take a photo half in shadow and half in sun.)
B: With your lens set on its lowest f-stop number, (1.4, 1.8, 2.8, whatever yours is) look in your viewfinder and check your light meter.
Adjust your shutter speed (on top where you advance the film) until your light meter is in the middle indicating correct exposure. If you are holding the camera in your hands and not using a tripod, never put your shutter speed below 60. (If you do, no matter how still you hold the camera, your photos will be blurry.) If the light meter says your camera still has too much light coming in or has a plus sign, move your f-stop (on the lens) to a higher number until the light meter is in the center and indicates proper exposure.
C: Focus on your subject’s eyeballs or most important part.
D: Count, “Three, two, one,” and click the shutter. (To avoid them blinking at the wrong time.)
E: Advance your lever all the way (by the shutter button) so that you are ready to take your next photo.
Generally shoot in daylight, no flash, out of direct sunlight. Generally get closer than you think you should get. Don’t be afraid to get close to your subject. Only show things in the frame of the photo that you really want to see. If you don’t want to see a new car in the background, move your frame so that the car is not in it. Do not be afraid to make your photo subject wait or change what they are doing. If your photo subject is standing in such a way that they have a double chin, tell them to elongate their neck so that they don’t have a double chin. They may make fun of you at the time for forcing them to do unnatural things, but they will be extremely responsive when they realize that you are helping them appear more attractive. Unnatural poses often give way to very natural-looking pictures.
Repeat this process until you’ve taken all of your planned photos for the day.
If you come up with another photo idea on the spot which is easy to do, do it. These are bonus photos.
6 TAKE YOUR FILM TO BE DEVELOPED.
If you scan your photos yourself, it will cost you only $6 or $7 to get a roll of film developed.
You may however want to go through this process a few times paying for scans before you invest in a scanner.
7 SCAN YOUR PHOTOS.
When you scan your photos, make your color adjustments in the scanning program itself. I often drop some of the blue out of a photo in the scanning program to get warmer colors. (If you have a photo of something blue, it will still look blue. It will just be a warm blue.)
The first scanner I had was made by a company called Wolverine and cost about $150. It was not perfect but I got many of my best photos from it.
Now just email your photos to yourself (to get them from your computer to your phone) and post them!
And feel free to ask me any questions.