Getting the Photo You Want



My husband Mark and I attended the Aladdin Shrine Circus in Columbus, Ohio last weekend. With all the colorful costumes, happy spectators, and exciting performances, I was hoping to get at least a few good photographs. I was sitting there, snapping away at the children enjoying camel rides, when a man beside me said, “You must be running out of film by now!” I would have been, too, if I had been using film. One of the best things about digital photography is that it enables us to take dozens, even hundreds of photographs, increasing the odds that some of them will be keepers. Mark and I together took 799 shots that day.

You can increase those odds even more by keeping just a couple of things in mind. First, think about composition. Sometimes I take a picture of something that interests me, only to find that I was not mindful about the composition. Clutter in the background distracts from my subject or pulls the eye in a direction I had not intended. I try to compose the shot before I take it. I also try to fill the frame as much as possible. This gives my photos the sense of intimacy I’m looking for.

Next, think about light. Photography is all about the lighting. Too much, and my shots are overexposed and washed out. Direction of light can be problematic too, causing unsightly shadows on faces and other subjects. Too little, and they’re underexposed and dark. Aperture and shutter speed settings on the camera compensate for tricky lighting. Using flash helps too. I often use flash even indoors or in bright light to make sure the faces of my subjects aren’t in shadow. Outdoors, I use flash to compensate for bright, harsh sunlight that creates hard shadows where I don’t want them. Even better, I try not to take photos at midday when the sun is brightest and the shadows are most pronounced, unless that’s the effect I’m going for. I make plenty of mistakes, but with digital photography I can simply delete those shots and keep the best ones. Sometimes I’m surprised at which ones turn out to be the best!

I was pretty sure this one was going to be good. This nine-year-old popcorn vendor caught my attention. While other children romped and played around him, enjoying the circus, this boy was all business. For him and his family, the circus is a job. When he squatted down to rest for a moment, I snapped his picture. The composition turned out well, with good color and movement. The diagonal blue field leads the eye to the central character, caught in a pensive pose.  The photo tells a story, and that’s what I was trying to achieve.

I used this Tokina lens (click to see on Amazon), attached to a Nikon D7100 camera body.  It’s a 100mm fixed focal length lens that opens up to f2.8 to let in lots of light and costs about $370. On the D7100 cropped sensor camera body, this lens has an equivalent focal length of 150mm. Zoom lenses that cover the 100mm focal length and have f2.8 start at about $1300.

Mark used this Nikon lens, (click to see on Amazon), attached to a Nikon D750 camera body (a full frame sensor camera, so lens focal lengths are true on this camera body). It’s a 50mm fixed focal length lens that opens up to f1.8 to let in even more light than the f2.8 lens above and costs about $217. Zoom lenses that cover the 50mm focal length and have a wide aperture setting (f2.8) start at almost $1800.


I’d love to hear about your photography experiences. I invite you to share in the reply section below.