Simple Tips to Improve your Photography.
A story with a photo is always better than a story without a photo
Pictures make a story stand out. They catch your eye and, like a great headline, can make all the difference between someone clicking on a story or not. If you’re also planning on sending the story to your local newspaper, an accompanying picture is pretty much essential.
Taking good pictures does mean you have to put some thought into your photos but don’t worry – if you follow the tips below, you’ll be snapping great shots in next to no time.
The two most common problems
Most badly taken photographs suffer from either poor composition or from being out of focus/badly lit. Or sometimes both! Fortunately, tackling these problems is relatively easy.
The most important aspect of your photo is what you fit into the frame. If you take a moment to think about what you’re focusing on, it will make all the difference to the finished image.
Closed composition, where all of the key elements of your picture are within the frame, is the most sensible approach to take when you’re starting out. You can try more arty shots when you’ve mastered the basics!
When composing your picture, do try to:
- Tell a story by capturing something interesting or which informs the reader
- Get active shots – pupils playing sport or baking cakes for charity
- Keep the background clear – avoid lamp posts sticking out of people’s heads!
- Include signs or landmarks if you’re somewhere other than in school
- Take photos in landscape and portrait aspects to give you (and the local paper) more choice
- Zoom in on the action – use your camera lens or move in closer
When composing your picture, don’t:
- Take pictures of the backs of people’s heads – move to a better position to get a better shot
- Take photos of people in a single line – it makes for a dull photo (if you need to take a group shot of your sports team, put them in rows to make a more compact shot)
- Take pictures of people holding a big cheque – again, it’s dull and newspapers in particular don’t like it (if you want to show charity achievements try to capture the actual event)
- Wait until the action has passed – look around at your location when you arrive to see where you can get the best shots from and keep your camera to hand at all times
Bad light / Out of focus
You won’t often have control over the light when you’re taking pictures but there are some things you can do to brighten up your pictures:
- Don’t shoot against the light – avoid having the sun or the bright lights behind your subject
- Try to use natural light wherever possible – if you can go outdoors, then do so
- If you’re indoors, place your subject(s) near to a window with light coming in or by the brightest light in the room (but not directly under it)
- Remember that if you can’t see your subject’s face because it’s in shadow, move them!
To avoid photos being out of focus you should try to steady yourself or the camera. Using a tripod is a great idea but rarely practical in school so try these tips instead:
- Rest your elbows on something steady like a table, railing or wall
- Lean against a wall
- Kneel on one leg and rest your elbows on your raised knee
Above all, remember to take lots of shots to give more chance of taking a great photo. You can’t always tell from your camera screen if the shot you’ve taken is in focus, so make sure you’ve given yourself more than one option to choose from.
Three Golden Rules
All of these will help improve your school website’s search engine rankings, that is, a higher listing in the Google/Bing search results pages.
1. Correctly name your photographs
The picture below is of a pair of Docker’s Hooks displayed at the Museum of Liverpool.
When naming your picture use:
- dashes to separate the words in the image name
- a name that describes the photo
- and the webpage keywords in the name of your photo
2. Image Tags – Create descriptive alternative or “alt” attribute text
3. Optimise your photographs for website use.
There are a number of ways to reduce your photo file sizes. You can use software such as Photoshop or other editing software – a free one to consider is picresize.com – which allows you to resize, crop and add special effects to your image.
The image to the left has been ‘resized’ using picresize on the above image of the Devil’s Gorge. The original is 13Mb and this one has been web optimised to 1Mb, and as you can see there is very little difference between the two, apart from the 12Mb file size.
At Ambitious Minds, we use a WordPress Content Management System and for pictures we use an automated software programme that further reduces all images sizes to enable fast page downloads.
You can find out more about the technical aspects of a website here in Part One and Part Two – or why not try our website report, see form to the top right of the page
It should go without saying but safeguarding plays an important part in taking photos of your pupils.
Always follow your school guidelines regarding photographing pupils and ensure you have permission to use the photographs.
Ideally, you should also use a school camera or tablet, rather than a phone. Smart phones are incredibly useful for taking photos, particularly when you’re out and about, but it doesn’t look good to be taking photos on personal devices.