How to take better photos

November 28, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Will Cockett is a professional photographer with 30 years of experience. He has snapped celebrities and even Presidents. He's taken his knowledge of photography and produced a user friendly photo guide in a new DVD, "Point, Shoot & Share; Make Better Pictures With Any Digital Camera." The DVD is available at

    Will's top 5 tips for a better photo:
  • ONE: Check, please! At least an hour before you plan to take your first photo, turn the camera on to make sure you have battery power and enough room on your memory card. Shoot a test photo and play it back to be sure it's flashing, focusing and looking fabulous.
  • TWO: Pick Your Mode
    Nearly all digital cameras offer special modes for the different environments you'll be taking pictures in, whether you're capturing the kids sledding down a snowy hill or showing off your front yard light display. To see how many different scene modes your camera has, set it to CUSTOM SCENE MODE. You may discover there's already a night scene mode, as well as a snow scene mode programmed for tricky winter landscapes. Some cameras can have as many as 60 different special scene modes, and manufacturers may call them by different names, but all do a spectacular job. Just remember to reset the mode to your usual AUTO or P (for program mode) once you're done. You don't want to confuse the camera next time you use it.
  • THREE: Flash, or No Flash?
    Smart snappers get the best pictures by controlling when and how the flash works. Assuming your digital camera is no more than three years old, it will have a flash button on the back that's easy to get to. Turn the flash to OFF and turn on the lights in the room. By turning your flash OFF indoors, you're telling the camera to use the available room light. That way you can record a memory the way it looks to you, not washed out by a harsh and sometimes unpredictable flash.
  • FOUR: Work the Angles
    Children and pets make the most adorable subjects, but you have to be ready to get those priceless shots. That's why you should first drop down to their level. Then snap away to your heart's content, mixing up the angles you take the pictures from. For pet pictures, try getting down lower than your dog or cat and shooting at an upward angle. Your picture will display your pet's perspective of daily life, which is often hilarious.
  • FIVE: Hold the Cheese
    Is anything more uncomfortable than trying to smile nicely on command? Reverse psychology works well here. Ask the subject to say "uh-huh" or to cheer "yeah!"--but tell them not to smile. "I like to tell a little kid to make a grumpy face," Crockett says, "and I get ready to take the photo right after, because 9 times out of 10, kids will crack themselves up over such a silly request."

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