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 18th, 2016

SAT Resources

SAT prep booksAfter seeing my son’s PSAT scores, I realize he needs to do some studying before taking the SAT in the fall. I knew the library had traditional study guides in paper form, but I was surprised and excited by the depth of digital options now available.

With your library card already (if you don’t have one it’s free for Maryland residents), fire up the laptop or tablet right now and access our online practice tests. With a choice of two different products (Learning Express Library and Testing and Education Reference Center), try both to see which fits your student’s learning style best. Once you have created a login, choose to take part of the practice test or power through from math to reading. Full text study guides are also available as part of these products if things just aren’t going well.

With months to go before the fall SAT, sign up for a free SAT/ACT Prep Course from Gale Courses. This two part, instructor led online course provides lessons, interaction and content quizzes and would be perfect to keep skills fresh over summer break. Maybe while you are there, check out out all the career introduction courses on offer, if you are still undecided about a direction after high school.

Then, once you ace the SAT, come back and explore the college and scholarship information the library offers to take your next step. With so many free options, we hope all students can find the help they need to take their first steps toward achieving college and a successful career.

Late registration for the May 7 test closes April 26. For the June 4 test, regular registration ends May 5 and late registration closes May 25. Fall test dates have not yet been announced.

Where’s your favorite place to study?


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