Monday, July 28, 2008

TOTW #1: Easier Web Navigation; Better Portraits

So I think I want to start doing a 'tip of the week' posting on my blog. But each one will really be two tips... one computer-related, one for photography, audio, or video. And these aren't going to be targeted at people who already have expertise in these areas; these are for normal people. It has taken me years to figure out all of the little tricks that I use all of time time; and it will be nice to pass on some of that knowledge.

Computer Tip: Open web sites more quickly and easily.

Part 1: Most people type out in their browser's address bar to get to Google's web site. A quicker way to do the same thing is to type "google" and press [Control+Enter] on your keyboard. Your browser will automatically add the "www." and ".com" for you. This tip works for any .com web site, in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Opera, as well as Safari on Windows. Unfortunately Safari on the Mac doesn't support this feature.

Part 2: Instead of grabbing your mouse to click on the address bar in your browser, press [Alt+D] in any Windows browser (or [Command+L] on the Mac). The whole web site address bar entry should then be automatically highlighted, so you can just start typing a new site address. Then use the Control+Enter trick to get to web sites more quickly. So to quickly get to Google's home page, type: [Alt+D] google [Control+Enter]. Much faster than the "normal" way of doing things.

Multimedia Tip: Better Portrait Photos

Since I'm currently involved in a photo directory project, it seems appropriate to give a tip to get better portrait photos. This one is a little longer than I'll be making future tips, but it's full of really good information.

Getting good portraits doesn't require fancy equipment. It's all about the right lighting and getting people to relax and be themselves. Even inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras can capture good portraits.

Start with lighting... the best portraits use soft lighting coming mostly from one side of the subject. Harsh lighting such as the afternoon sun isn't flattering, and on-camera flashes produce a very flat image which hides the features that make people distinctive and interesting. The easiest way to get soft lighting is to use indirect light coming from a window or doorway, or to set your subject near a white object being lit by the sun. If you must take pictures in the sun, have the subject turn so it is at their backs, but not shining directly into your camera lens.

Have your subjects turn their bodies slightly toward the most prominent light source, but keep their head facing the camera. In addition to better lighting, the diagonal line created by their shoulders is far more interesting than the straight line created when someone is standing with their body aimed straight ahead, and it gives more of a feeling of depth to the photograph. I've found that somewhere between 25 and 45 degrees of turn is ideal, but it depends on your subject and lighting conditions. Just avoid right angles in the picture by using diagonal shoulders.

Getting people to relax is trickier; you can only do so much and the rest is up to them. Making a joke usually helps, as does adding distance between the camera and subject. People don't like having cameras right in their faces, so step back and zoom in. In addition, the extra distance helps facial features to be recorded more accurately; the wide lens angle required when too close to you subject leads to noses, foreheads, and chins that are too big, especially when compared to the smaller ears that also result. (Wide angles exaggerate distance and size differences.)

These same techniques can be applied to candid snapshots too.

That's it for this week!

There you go! Two quick tips... things that took me a while to figure out, and now I'm passing that on to you. Good luck!


Pinky Homer said...

Hey Doug, I've been following your blog since the V3 reunion (hope you don't mind) ... you always have interesting things to say. I really like your views/observations ... you are expanding my horizons. I especially like your tips of the week because I'm computer illiterate but have limited time b/c of kids... so thanks! I know you are not particularly fond of macs but thanks for including the tricks for it b/c I have a mac (I love bugs! had 3 comps die in the last year) ... so thanks and it was nice seeing you at the reunion.

Cheryl H said...

Thanks for the tips, Doug. They are really helpful.

Amanda said...

I'm excited for these tips!

Lili and Jeff said...

Awesome tips! I can't wait to see what you have in store every week! THe things we could learn from you are unlimited! I am going to practice my quick internet browsing tips right now.

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