June 27th, 2016

Photography tips

photographer-16022_640Here’s a confession: I am obsessed with taking photographs. Whether it’s a cute moment, a pretty scene, or even just a dinner I’m particularly proud of, I always pull out my camera or phone and snap a picture.

Now there’s nothing more frustrating than taking a picture and it not turning it out. It could be too dark, blurry, or simply just look a little off. Here are some of my strategies for taking the best photos:

1 – Know your light. Lighting is one of the most important parts of photography and it can really make or break the quality of your photo. I’ve always found that natural light yields the best results. The best time of day to take photos is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. This is called “golden hour” and it produces the most flattering lighting, especially if you’re taking a portrait of yourself or somebody else. The position of the sun during this time of day creates a warm and glowing golden light that can make just about anything look good.

But what if you want to take a picture at night or during a time when light is less than optimal? Fake it! The flash on a camera can often be too harsh on your subject, but you can use the flashlight feature on your cellphone to brighten up the subject without washing them out too much. When a camera doesn’t have enough light to work with, the pictures often come out blurry or grainy. So make sure you always pay attention to your light source!

2 – Take a lot of photographs. Say you’re photographing your child’s softball game or another sporting event, it’s often necessary to take many photos in order to get a few good ones. The trick is to do it quickly, so you don’t miss out on actually watching the game. If you worry too much about every photo being perfect, you may end up paying more attention to your camera than what you’re trying to take a picture of. So if you quickly snap a lot of photos, chances are you’ll get a couple of great ones and you can weed out the bad ones later on.

3 – Edit your photos. Sometimes you take a photo that is so beautiful that you don’t have to do anything else to it, but that’s often not the case. Almost every photo needs to be tweaked in some way in order for it to be the best version of itself. There is computer software you can use to do this, such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom. But if you want to take pictures without investing too much into the editing software, there are a number of great free apps you can use.

I recommend VSCO and Afterlight. Both are free apps that can be downloaded to your device and you can use them to enhance your photos. Your photo’s too dark? You can use the “exposure” or “brightness” tools to help brighten it up. Your photo’s blurry? Use the “sharpening” or “clarify” tools!

Both of these apps also have free filters you can use on your photos. A filter will adjust all of the aforementioned settings, as well as color, contrast, etc. Filters can be used to make a photo look beautifully natural or otherworldly and surreal. It all depends on which filter you use and what you want from the photo!

Cecil County Public Library also has tools that can help you in being the best photographer you can be! We offer Gale Courses in such subjects as “Secrets of Better Photography” and “Photographing Nature with Your Digital Camera.” Gale Courses are free six week online classes that are taught by actual professors and new sessions begin monthly.  These are great for both beginners and people who simply want to learn about more about photography!

Remember, you don’t need a fancy camera or expensive software to take great photos. Use these tips and start collecting memories!

What’s your favorite tip for beginning photographers?

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April 25th, 2016

Spring Cleaning

putz-bucket-1290951_640Spring is finally here and my house is a mess! I’ll share a secret – I have a love/hate relationship with spring cleaning — the warm weather inspires me to clean, but the lovely long afternoons of sun highlight the dust all over my house. Exasperated, I’ll go outdoors and save cleaning for another day.

Thankfully, the library has many resources for organizing and cleaning that can help you get on track before the warm weather officially hits. One of my new favorites is The Complete Book of Home Organization by Toni Hammersley. If you were one of the many people who loved the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, you will be happy to know she recently released another! It is called Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up. I can’t wait to give that one a try. If you like Pinterest, CCPL has a great page with many boards of helpful resources – even one specifically about paper clutter.

As far as helpful cleaning tips, I will share my go-to strategy: don’t do it all at once. When I try to deep clean everything, I end up distracted and never finish! When I do a room at a time, over the course of a week or two, I find that everything is cleaner and I enjoy it so much more. I also listen to audiobooks while I clean and that makes the time fly by! The library has many audiobooks that you could checkout either in a branch, or online, that will make your spring cleaning seem like less of a chore and more fun! If you haven’t tried downloading from Hoopla (a digital service available through our website), give it a try – everything is available immediately, with no wait times. Good luck cleaning!

What’s your best spring cleaning tip?

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