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Picture Perfect

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You've just started a company and moved into your new office space. Snap.

A well-known celebrity pops into your restaurant for dinner. Snap.

You're a real estate agent and a fabulous house has just come on the market. A picture would really help sell it to potential buyers. Snap.

All too often what you to capture on film does not resemble the moment, or represent your intent. Maybe the photo is too dark, the subject is blurry, there are glare spots, or somehow you didn't notice that your finger was in front of the lens -- all common mistakes.

Following are tips from expert shutterbugs that will leave you smiling when you see your developed photographs.

Get a Grip
First, learn how to hold the camera correctly, urge experts contributing to Fodor's Focus on Photography. "More pictures have been ruined by shaky hands than all the poor lenses in the world."

Hold your camera with two hands, one hand positioned under the viewfinder (be careful that you don't accidentally cover the viewfinder) and the other hand on the side with the shutter release button. Squeeze your elbows tightly against your body and then snap.

You might also use a tripod, typically a three-legged stand to which you clamp the camera. The tripod will secure and steady the camera, preventing "shaky" pictures. Using a tripod is a particularly good idea if you plan to shoot products for print ads or brochures, houses for real-estate listings or Web sites, or accident scenes or property damage for insurance claims. Don't stand too close

Beginners should stand approximately four to five feet away from the subject, recommends York Photo Labs. When you're starting out, this distance will produce the best pictures of both people and objects.

No matter what you're shooting -- people, objects, or landscapes -- Kodak recommends that you move close enough so that your subject "fills half or more of the picture area."

Set Up Your Shot
Before snapping shots of everything in sight, take a moment to ask yourself this very important question, advises Chuck DeLaney, dean of the New York Institute of Photography. "What is the subject of my photograph?"

Remove as many distractions, like cars in parking lots and crowds, as possible. For example, if you're a contractor who has just built a beautiful home you would like to include in your portfolio, don't take the picture until the construction scene is cleared. Wait until the workers take their trucks home, the debris has been removed, and the telltale dumpster is returned to its owner.

If your subject is an object, take a moment to position it correctly. You may have to move around to find the most compelling angle. Also remove any distractions near your subject.

The Panoramic View
Many new cameras allow you to take panoramic photographs, a picture or series of pictures representing a continuous scene, by just flipping a switch. The panoramic feature comes in handy when photographing large groups of people and landscapes. For best results when using panorama, York Photo Labs suggest keeping "the horizon line near the vertical middle of the frame or it will appear curved... Remember, a panorama can be vertical, too. Turn the camera 90 degrees and try shooting tall scenery, like a waterfall or high building."

An Event to Remember
If you're having a party to celebrate your new office, new client, or company anniversary, you'll want pictures to commemorate the day.

While photos of happy faces will remind you of how fun the event was, you don't want to forget the theme or reason for hosting the event, remind experts at York Photo Labs. "Most large public gatherings have a focus and an accompanying logo, symbol, or visual theme. While you should not try to capture it in every picture, finding and photographing that visual cue will greatly enhance your gallery of images from the event."

Incorporating your logo becomes particularly important when photographing business events -- especially if you plan to submit the pictures to an industry publication or local newspaper.

Reduce Red-Eye
According to Kodak, red-eye is "caused by the reflection of light off the blood vessels of the retina of the subject's eyes. It occurs most often when the flash is located close to the picture-taking lens of the camera."

To reduce red-eye, Kodak experts recommend these simple strategies: Turn on all of the lights in the room.

  • Ask your subject to look slightly away from the camera instead of right into the lens.

    Keep Your Eye On the Sun
    Always check your watch, recommends Dave Johnson, Staples business expert and author of How to Do Everything with Your Digital Camera. "There are better and worse times during the day to take pictures. Perhaps the worst time of all is midday, when the sun is directly overhead. The noon sun creates extremely harsh shadows and casts unflattering light for almost any kind of photographic project. People looks their worst when you photograph them between about 10 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon."

    Forget the Cheese
    You've probably been saying "cheese" right before the camera snaps since you were a child. However, DeLaney warns "asking [people] to say cheese or smile, generally creates a very forced, exaggerated smile." For a more natural smile, have them say "money," -- this word causes the cheeks to turn up less.

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