They say a picture is worth a thousand words…
… but that value plummets if the quality of the photograph leaves something to be desired. So how do you make sure your photo has maximum impact – or even gets published at all?
- People are generally much more interesting than things. People doing things come over best of all.
- The fewer people, the better: trying to cram too many faces into a shot means they all end up as anonymous blobs.
- All the same, remember that shots of activity putting people in context are generally more meaningful than ‘mugshots’.
- Get as close to the subject as you can, without cutting off vital bits. But do leave enough headroom, or people will look as though they’re bumping their heads on the top of the frame.
- Back-lit photos are generally flat and lifeless; so don’t shoot into the sun or looking towards a window.
- On the other hand, don’t ask people to squint into the sun; they’ll be more comfortable – and the picture a lot better – if the sun is off to one side.
- Most blurred pictures are down to camera shake. If you’re not using a tripod, try and lean against something solid – and remember, squeeze, don’t jab the shutter button.
- Beware of ‘red-eye’ if you’re using built-in flash. Nowadays, most cameras have a special setting to counter this effect.
- When photographing two people (at a presentation, say), avoid showing them too much in profile. Ask them to look towards you or change your position so that one of them is more full-face. And avoid that hole-in-the-middle problem by getting them to stand close together.
- Cameras with auto-focus usually take their cue from the centre of the picture. If the part of the subject which you want to be in sharpest focus isn’t going to be in the centre of the picture as you want to frame it, you can ‘fool’ most cameras by putting the main subject in the centre of the frame, half-pressing the shutter button, re-framing as you wish and then squeezing the shutter button the rest of the way.
- Take notice of the what’s behind your subject. You don’t want readers to miss the point because the background’s too fussy – or too interesting!
- If your camera uses film, set it to the highest shutter speed practicable in the prevailing light conditions. That way, you’ll minimise camera shake and increase the depth of focus.
- Set a digital camera to the highest quality available so that your pictures are sharp and detailed. Picture editors can work wonders, but no-one can restore detail that’s not there in the first place.
- When transferring digital photographs to your computer, keep the resolution (quality) as high as you can. If a program gives you the choice of (say) Web or Print, choose Print.
- If you’ve taken a picture with a digital camera, send it to us in digital form: if you send us a printout and we have to scan it, quality suffers unnecessarily. Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. And please send it in the highest resolution possible in order to preserve the quality.
- Your digital camera will probably store the image in either the JPEG (‘something.jpg’) or TIFF (‘something.tif’) format. Either is suitable for forwarding to us; but if you have to edit a JPEG, save it under a different file name or you’ll lose quality in the original.
- When submitting a print made from a film, make it a decent size such as 150 x 100 mm or more. That way, we won’t lose too much detail when we scan it.
- Make sure we know what the picture’s about. If you’re attaching a photograph of your vicar abseiling down the church tower, say so in the covering email – and give the file a meaningful name, such as Abseiling vicar, rather than IMG000457.jpg.
- If you’re sending in a print, please label it; but don’t write on the back – unless you want readers to see your note to the Editor written backwards across the published photograph. Instead, write on a sticky label and attach that to the back of the print.
If you follow this advice you’ll maximise your chances of publication – though we can’t give any guarantee that your picture will appear in print. If it doesn’t, don’t be disheartened: it may be something quite simple like lack of space that has forced us reluctantly to omit your masterpiece.