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?


Tags: , , , , ,


May 23rd, 2016

Summer Reading for Teens

girl-869213_1280You may have heard the term “summer slide,” which sounds like a pleasant family fun activity, but it actually refers to the tendency for students who don’t actively engage in educational opportunities to lose the knowledge and learning they gained during the school year.

But don’t worry, one of the easiest ways to reverse “slide” it is simply by reading throughout the summer. Our Summer Reading Program is almost here, which means we’ll be spending the next several months promoting reading and giving out prizes to those who complete a Summer Reading log. And teens have their very own program! We define “teens” as any child entering 6th – 12th grade. So if your child falls within that range, they can sign up for the Summer Reading Program, read 6 hours, and become entered into win cool prizes. And the best part, they can complete as many logs as they want throughout the summer!

We also have thousands of items available digitally, from ebooks and digital magazines to e-audiobooks, movies and music. All you need is your library card, PIN and access to the internet. While students have reading assignments during the school year – the summer can be all about what’s most interesting to them. Sports, zombies, pop stars – if your teen is reading books, magazines or graphic novels, they are engaging their minds and beating summer slide.

Did you know listening to audiobooks is a valuable reading tool? 85% of learning comes from listening and 30% of people are auditory learners. Listening to books exposes students to pronunciation of English, dialects and non-English words, expands vocabulary and can be combined with a physical book to guide struggling readers through the story. Audiobook narrators are actors who create compelling voices to make the stories come alive, thus improving attention spans.

AudiobookSYNC is a free program, available to all teens for 15 weeks, with a total of 30 teen-friendly audiobooks to download and keep. Many of the titles have curricular connections; all have high recommendations from both professional reviewers and casual audiobook listeners. You can even sign up for text alerts: text SYNCYA to 25827

Research has shown that freedom of choice in reading materials is a clear indicator in summer reading success. If your teen is picking out what she wants to read and listen to, she’s more likely to finish the books and keep reading all summer long.

Not sure what to suggest to your teen to read? Here’s a list of award-winning titles for teens, as well as a website dedicated to developing boys’ love of reading.

And our summer reading program has plenty of events for teens to hang out with other teens and explore topics from science experiments and games, to upcycling and art projects.

Our summer reading program begins June 1 – to register, go to http://www.cecil.ebranch.info/teens/summer-reading/.


Tags: , , , ,