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How to improve your portraits

By October 11, 2008November 9th, 2020photography

I am rediscovering photography, as I may have mentioned recently. I got my first 35mm camera when I was about 15 years old and it’s always been one of my abiding interests. For many years, I wasn’t particularly good at taking pictures. But if you do something enough, over time you can’t help improving bit by bit.

Photography taught me a lot about technology; cameras are complex machines and part of the process is learning to use them without having to think too much. In other words, the tech part has to become natural. For most people (me included) this has always been hard. For something to be ‘natural’ it has to be simple.

The new digital cameras can do so much more than the old mechanical cameras. And the software that can be used to manipulate images (i.e. Photoshop or Photoshop Elements) is powerful, but infinitely complex. That’s why most people don’t even bother to manipulate their photos very much. I wouldn’t either, except that I discovered books by Scott Kelby, who is a great photographer and an expert in Photoshop. More importantly, he’s a great teacher.

For example if you have the $79 Photoshop Elements program (Mac or PC) and you buy Kelby’s $29 book you can learn to transform ordinary portrait shots into amazing shots. Here is a before and after of one I did on a quick snapshot of my brother Stu. You don’t have to know anything about Photoshop Elements (I didn’t) or about retouching photos. All you have to do is have the book and follow the instructions for improving portraits (or landscapes or black & white pictures etc.). If you have a digital camera and want to improve your pictures this is the best way to do it.

The first time you do it it will take 20 minutes. Eventually you’ll be able to retouch a photo like this in about 5 minutes. Trust me, this is worth checking out if you are even remotely into photography.


P.S. If you appreciate these kinds of observations, you might want to read this as well.
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