It seems that everyone has a digital camera these days and I
see people snapping pictures on the rivers all the time. Are you happy with the
results or disappointed in what you get? Ever wonder how to make the photos better?
Here are some quick tips to creating better photos and getting compliments from
your friends and family about what a great photographer you are.
#1  Good editing.
Even great photographers do not take perfect pictures every
time. With digital cameras it is easy to get carried away and shoot lots of
pictures. But seriously, do you want to share all of them, even the duds? What
is your reaction when someone shares 100 boring pictures with you? Do you
really look at them all? So, take a few minutes when you get back from a trip
and pick out a few of the best to share. If you share only the best, you are
instantly a better photographer. There is no cost to throwing the extras with
digital. Don’t be afraid to use the delete function.
#2 Make  people say “WOW” when they see a photo
Recognizable faces with interesting expressions grab your
attention. So make sure that the subject of your photo is looking at you, is
sharp and properly exposed (not too light or too dark). The face should not be
in dark shadow. Zoom close in to see the person’s face clearly. Most pocket
digital cameras have one auto focus point in the middle of the frame so put the
face in that spot for maximum sharpness. If you have a sports mode on your
camera, use it for action shots. It will give you the fastest shutter speed
which also improves sharpness. Watch out for the position of the paddle when
taking pictures of boaters,. It often ends up in front of the boaters face.
These are throw-aways. Take extras and save the one where everything comes
#3 Eliminate distractions
Look at the scene you are capturing and ask yourself? What
grabs me here? Why am attracted to this scene? Then capture that in the camera
without anything extra, such as pieces of other boaters, too many trees, too
much sky etc. Zoom in or move closer (not always possible in a boat), or change
your position to show a different background. Ideally you want enough
background to show where to boater is, or how big the waves are, but nothing
more. All photo editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop, Elements, Lightroom
etc has a crop tool. If you can’t eliminate it in camera, then crop later.
Today’s digital cameras have plenty of pixels so you can throw away some and
never miss them.
#4 Use the light
Sun can be your friend or your enemy and dramatically change
the mood of a photograph. Avoid shooting directly into the sun. Avoid putting
the sun directly behind your subject as this creates a dark shadow on the face.
In river photography, watch out for brightly sunlit water, as this tends to
overexpose and turn pure white with no detail. If you can, shoot on an overcast
day or in the shade. If the sun is out, try to position it behind you so it
lights the subject. What out for brightly lit areas that are not your subject
as these will draw attention away from your subject. Try to move or zoom to
eliminate these.
#5 Tell a story
When you put together a blog, a facebook page or an album,
select a group of photos that tell the story of the event. You might want to
include one or two that set the stage, such as the put-in, unloading boats etc,
and a series that show the action on the river, and maybe a parting shot to
close-out the show. You might have some wide shots that show the environment,
and some close-ups of the participants. Catchy captions can help tell the
story. Make each photo that you include a unique one and eliminate the
redundant ones, no matter how good you think they are. The audience will get
bored quickly, so pick the best one of each scene.
Here is an example of how I put these tips to use:
Hudson River Gorge Sept 2010:
We had a gorgeous fall day to paddle the Hudson Gorge in
late September. The fall foliage was so beautiful that I forgot to look at the
rocks in the river as I paddled down with my eyes wide open admiring the beauty
of the day. We had a fairly large group of experienced boaters, a relatively
low and easy water level, and a great day on the river. The photos in this
gallery were taken by a professional, James Swiegert who haunts the river and takes
pictures for the rafting companies, and Ram Tripathi. James took all the
close-ups at the Narrows in the Hudson Gorge.