Thursday, December 10, 2009

How to take a great picture

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I get questions and emails all of the time about the camera I use and my photography skills. I have to say, I’m completely honored that you would even ask. I must preface this post by saying, I know very little about photography and am NOT an expert in any stretch of the imagination. I would be offending professional photographers by claiming as much.

I do love photography though, and have for years. I first knew I loved taking photos in an 8th grade photography class – the kind where we actually went into a dark room and developed our own photos. Seriously, that is still one of the coolest skills I’ve ever learned. I couldn’t do it now to save my life, but thankfully, I don’t have to cause of this little guy:202493562 That's my camera. The prices of digital cameras has gone down so much over the years. My dream is to have a big, fancy, wide-lens camera someday. But that’s a minimum $600 purchase, and needless to say, it’s waaaaay down on the list. ;)

I have learned a few tricks with my humble little camera that help to take some great pictures, and I thought I would share them with you. I used some Christmas decor as examples. (You know I had to sneak them in!)

First suggestion rule – avoid using the flash at all costs. This is especially important when taking pictures around your home. I fell asleep on the sofa this afternoon, so I didn’t take pics till it was dark (5 p.m.!), and even a darker picture is better than one with flash:

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A flash completely washes out the subject, and kind of morphs the true colors. See how the flowers above left look pink, and the walls look purple? Yup. That’s what I mean. And it’s just too harsh for my taste, I would much prefer a slightly darker picture any day.

Taking pictures without the flash takes some practice. You need a steady hand. I lean my arm on anything I can – a chair, the wall, my knee. Otherwise you get blurry pictures. Sometimes, a picture without the flash just won’t take right – I’ve had this happen numerous times.

Suggestion No. 2 – be creative with angles. Instead of taking all of your pictures head on, consider taking them from the side. It just makes it more interesting, in my itty bitty opinion. The example on the left is with flash, straight on, the one on the right is no flash, from the side:

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Again, a bit softer, a whole lot more interesting.

Even the cheapest digital cameras have tools you can use. Mine has a close up option that I use all the time. It allows me to get right up on the detail. You may have to take a few pictures to get the result you want -- the camera may focus in on different subjects in the frame in each picture.

In the pic on the left, it focused on the glittery branch. On the right, the leaves. I think either one is super cool:

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Suggestion No. 3 – try cropping pictures or focusing on specific parts of the subject to make a more interesting photo:

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Cropped: No, I’m not callin’ you a…

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Sorry, I couldn’t resist. You KNOW it was going through some of your minds. I know my Squeezies. I do.

Here are suggestions one through three put into practice on a wider shot:

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One final tip – use different angles whenever you can. Including other items in the background makes the picture a bit more interesting:

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Getting shots like this may take some gymnastics on your part. I’ve been in some interesting positions trying to get a picture with a unique angle. Just make sure no one is watching. :)

By the way, the floral arrangement is just a glass vase with lights inside. I wrapped ribbon around it to hide the wires:

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I have taken all of our favorite pictures of the Bub. Taking my own was SO much less stressful than trying to get a good shot at a photographer. That has always stressed me out! I guess it’s the money factor. ;)

I took all of the photos that go up our staircase wall:

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I had my camera with me at all times when he was little, and with a little cropping and black and white action, a picture taken in the middle of Old Navy turned into one of my favorites:

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We have been so incredibly fortunate to travel to some amazing places because of hubby’s job. I look back on pictures and feel like they were a dream…I doubt I’ll visit places like this again, but who knows?

I like finding the unique architectural designs or taking pictures from different angles. (Most of these are scanned so the quality isn’t great):

A coliseum in London:

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Fire escape in NYC:

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Notice it’s not centered? On purpose! But a quick crop will fix it if that gives you the hives. :)

Roof of the Pearl Harbor Memorial:

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Looking through a window at Westminster Abbey:

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Sorry this quality is so bad! The staircase was what first caught my eye on this one. Then the gorgeous window. Then I realized what was framed perfectly inside the window, so without a flash, the beautiful staircase disappeared a bit, but I was OK with that when I saw the result.

One of my all time favorite NYC pictures:liberty

Edinburgh Castle:

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St. Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey:

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Isn’t that seriously fantastic??

Pali Lookout, Honolulu:

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Otherwise known as, the windiest place on EARTH:

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Sorry Ali, I had to do it. ;)

The point in showing you these is you can create beautiful art for cheap (or free, if you have a decent printer!). I mean, I know a trip to a fab location isn’t free, but try looking at the buildings and nature around you in a different way. Play with the cropping, with black and white. Pictures from your own back yard can turn into works of art.

I have my photos on the walls all over our house – I would much rather use them than expensive art any day.

P.S. Is Live Writer being squirrely lately for anyone else?

79 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post! I just had an experience with returning a digital camera last week that had me so upset I had to post about it. I have been wondering about a Sony Cybershot and this just confirmed that I will research this and get one.

    Thanks for the tips!

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  2. These are beautiful. I love your tips too, I also love photography and trying to get cool angles in on things. Thanks for such a great blog, its like a breath of fresh designing air after a long day of cleaning for the realives to come!

    http://stayhomeandplay.blogspot.com

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  3. pk @ Room Remix
    Thanks so much for the tips! I was just telling my husband tonight that I REALLY need to learn how to USE my camera, rather than just point and click, so that I can take better photos. This was helpful advice. Thanks again!

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  4. Thanks for all the information! I loved all the pictures you posted. How wonderful to have gone to all those beautiful places!

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  5. Hi! This is such a great post! Thanks for the tips! I have so much to learn! Your pictures are wonderful, by the way. Happy day!

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  6. I seriously thought you had a photography degree or something..Your pictures are beautiful!

    Happy Blogging!
    Heather

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  7. I totally agree with the no flash. I only use it if I have too. I just got back from a trip to NYC and I believe I only used my flash a total of about 4 times. The photos have such a great softness about them. (Plus I didn't look like such a tourist b/c I didn't have flash bulbs going off every 23 seconds.) LOL

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  8. Great tips, thanks for taking the time to share. My picture taking could definitely use some improvement.

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  9. Do yoy read minds??? I just spent most of yesterday googling how to take better pictures? I have found also, that it helps to get adventurous with your digital camera on manual mode, to play around with it's different functions . . .it ook me 3 years with the same camera to figure
    that out!

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  10. Sarah, I just did a post to my blog today with Live Writer, have not had any problems..what is happening with it??

    I am also a camera nut. I take pics of everything. It's just who I am! LOL

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  11. I am anti-flash as well- it takes away from the depth of people and things, it really does. Try bumping up your ISO in a low light situation (just barely enough to quicken your shutter speed). This will help with blur.

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  12. Love your travel photos, especially the staircase...looks vintage. Stunning! Janell

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  13. Great tips, great trips.
    And Yes. Livewriter is giving my the hives lately. It won't upload more than 2 pictures at once and the other day it wouldn't upload my post at all.
    If you have posted with livewriter and then you go into blogger editor to add the categories (or change a link for example) does that screw up you layout as well? It does mine, hate that that happens every time.

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  14. the travel photos are wonderful! Thanks so much for posting that, it's like you read my mind..I've been wanting to take better pictures but just don't want to point and shoot anymore..these will definitely help out. I just purchased a Nikon L100 and hoping to produce better pics. now:)

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  15. Hi Sarah. Thanks for sharing all the great tips. I need a new camera so bad. We have one of those early Sony's which was way expensive (at least for me $800.00 range). It is so out of date and takes really horrid pics now. But what I like about it is the rechargable battery. Do you spend a fortune in batteries? I tried a little kodak or something a few years ago and couldn't believe how short the battery life was.

    Your pics are fantastic and WOW on the locations you've visited.

    Merry Christmas & Hugs...Tracy

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  16. I have this same camera and it frustrates me to no end! Your post has helped me to see that maybe I'm the problem. I will have to try the no flash trick. I want to go and take a picture of something now. :)

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  17. I loved all of your tips!!! and pictures!!! My favorite part of Pearl Harbor is the ceiling, I have so many pictures with the flag right in one of the openings. And as an added note, we have been on the Pali when there was no wind, none..... our visitors thought we were crazy to talk up the wind and temp

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  18. You have really inspired me to get my camera out and practice taking better pictures, I have 3 children who will be the perfect subjects. Plus I get to travel with hubby for his job too and want to take better photos of our travels. Thanks for this wonderful post!

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  19. Thank you for your photo tips! I only have a point and shoot and I have been seen doing gymnastics too, trying to get a good shot. I really appreciate your advice, I will keep honing my photo skills, thanks to you and not give up on the cheapo camera! BTW, I love your photos and your ideas! Thank you so much for sharing!

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  20. Your photos are great. Thanks for the tips !

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  21. Great post today. Lots of gals will put these tips to good use over the holidays.

    Di
    The Blue Ridge Gal

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  22. Your pictures are fabulous and wonderful tips. Thanks for sharing. I will try some different shots and angles. Hugs, Marty

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  23. Thank you for writing this! You've given me some pointers that I can really use. My husband has a nice camera, but all I know how to do is point and shoot. Thanks to you, though, I'll now be pointing and shooting a bit more artfully!

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  24. Thanks for the great tips. But, ummm, I don't even know how to turn the flash off of my little digital. (blushes here). And, really - can you tell us what your husband's job is? I want my man to do it - whatever it is!

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  25. Sony Cyber Shot is a great point and shoot camera and makes the better of the small camera pics that I have seen. I have one that I carry in my purse all the time. It has held up really well since I have been carrying it for 4 yrs. now. Great pics from it. I find that when shooting lights inside (Christmas lights esp) it is easier to use the Sony then it is my Nikon D40, no using a flash with that requires a tripod. Great blog.

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  26. Thanks for the tips. I just started shooting without the flash and it makes a huge difference in my photos. Going to try more interesting angles too!

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  27. Thanks for this post! You always take great photos. Thanks for the tips!!!!

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  28. Great photos! I so miss my Sony Cyber Shot. I'm using a Casio now that my MIL bought me as a Christmas present a few years ago. And thanks for inspiring me to actually put up the pictures I've taken on the walls!

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  29. Wow! Thanks for the post with a normal everyday digital camera. I always read how to's that are addressed to one of the digital SLR's but, like you, one is on my list, but way, way down. (600??? Eeek!!) Anyhow, thanks for the everyday inspiration. :)

    BTW, made your easy. peasy Christmas bulb wreath. It is GORGE!!! I am getting sooooo many compliments on it and it is all thanks to you!

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  30. Thank you for the post! You take awesome pics. I too Love to take pics. My hubby bought me an awesome camera for christmas last year but I haven't learned enough about it to take great pics yet. Thanks for the tips! :)

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  31. We have the same camera, but mine is black. :) I didn't know about the close-up feature...is it a button? Mine seems to focus automatically when I get in close to something....

    I am KICKING myself now for taking my girls to the portrait studio on Tuesday. I didn't spend a ton of money, but I definitely spent some, and I know I could have taken them to one of the historic homes in Olde Towne and done my own for so much less.

    Your photos are beautiful, and I was pleased to see that I already follow some of your "rules." ;) The flash thing I need to work on, but our house is sooooo dark once the sun starts going down. I try to do pics in the early morning or late afternoon, but you know how that goes with kids. ;)

    Great post, Sarah!

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  32. I also wanted to thank you for the info on creating a button. I had no idea there was a site out there like that. I’m not sure I did it correctly but I’ll get the hang of it :0)
    Thanks for doing this! I’m always down for photography tips and I love that you use a point and click (uhh I think that’s what they call them). I sooooo want one of those fancy-smancy SLR cameras. My fiancée was super close to getting me one for Christmas this year but I talked him out of it…..what was I thinking! No, we really just don’t have the money for it. I’m shocked he was even thinking about buying one. I can think of a million other things we could do with that money but a little part of me wishes I was not so stinking frugal. I can’t imagine a time when I would be willing to throw down $600 or more for a camera but never say never right? We even looked at used ones and they are not much cheaper than a new one which I guess it good because that means that the technology is not advancing quickly so if you do fork over the money the chances of it keeping its value are high.
    Oh…our Christmas party is tomorrow, our sink is FULL of dishes, the house is a mess, and I have a ton of baking to do. I’m going to try and keep calm today and not let it get the best of me. I’ll be setting a timer for each room. That was a great idea!
    Ha I love the part with the hands too (Target Black Friday add). I showed my finacee the clip when I posted it and I was cracking up while he did not even crack a smile. I had to explain why it was so funny.
    Sorry this ended up being so long :o)

    http://domesticprincessintraining.blogspot.com

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  33. WOW! All I can say is that you take wonderful pics and I find indoor pics to be the MOST challenging....grrr. In Michigan we have almost six months of dreariness and I detest flash, too because it takes the color and does strange things with it. MY FAVORITE of your photos today is the Statue of Liberty, what an awesome shot!
    MERRY CHRISTMAS!
    XOXO
    Joni

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  34. Can i ask how do you crop pictures??

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  35. I always admire the pictures on your staircase. I'm so into Photography is sick cause I get mad the not ONE person can take a decent picture of me (maybe is me?) I tell them all those tips and they still put the flash on, UGH.
    BTW, a great book to get if you are starting to get in to Photography: "Designing with photos".

    I'm dreaming of a Nikon D40 :)

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  36. A statue of liberty picture *squeeze* I don't know if you remember the story I left on the ABCDimages giveaway {which I won!-and got in the mail a few weeks ago and adore} *ahem* I am sure you remember because we are ebff's! But your picture made me sigh :)
    I LOVE the digital age!!!!

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  37. It is so nice to know that I can take pics like that with my little point and shoot. Thanks!

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  38. This post is awesome!!! Love all the pics you took, so special & unique especially b/c they were done by you! Great job!

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  39. Thanks for the tips; it was a nice reminder. I have to say I agree with the tip about the flash. I absolutely love my camera (Sony cybershot) b/c I can take pictures w/o the flash and it doesn't blur. I very rarely use the flash. I also have to agree about the pics. of my family. I have been taking ours and they look great; if I do say so myself.

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  40. Thanks for sharing all the tips! I am in love with my digital...no fear of messing up!! Sometimes the unexpected crazy pics are the best!

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  41. Great tips!!! I have a sony cybershot too. It is the second one I have owned. They are great cameras!!

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  42. I love your photos, I am going to try some of these tecniques on my jewellry. I have been taking awful pictures, but yours are so beautiful. Thanks for the tips.

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  43. I really can't thank you enough. I take terrible pictures ALL the time! I usually just hand the camera to my sweetie and let him handle it.
    I want you to know that I find something I can use in every post you write - and to thank you and ask you(I mean beg) not to stop!

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  44. Thanks for the tips! I love your photography!! Great job!

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  45. Thanks so much for your photo tips. I've been hating some of my shots and just shooting aimlessly hoping one will look good if I take several of the same subject. These tips are really going to help!

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  46. Great tips! I've also started not using the flash & it's amazing the difference it makes in the end! I liked your tip of putting your subject "off-center", that's something I am trying to work on :)....
    Blessings,
    Stacey
    ps--your photos are just beautiful!!

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  47. Thanks for the photography post. It made me feel so much better about my own little point and shoot that has a taped on battery door and many dents. It takes really really good pictures when I get everything right. I have a tripod which helps tremendously with hand shake. Like you I would love to get a big daddy camera - someday.

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  48. OMG! I soo needed these tips! I am never happy with my photos. I really think I just need to sit down and study my camera manual instead of using the auto setting for everything. I'm always so impressed by your photography.....and the subjects of your photography. Thanks for the great tips!

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  49. Last night I read your, All I Know About Blogging, and began to cry and can't seem to stop. I did it all wrong from the name , pics everything. I have a huge collection of decor mags that I have collected since the 1990s. I wanted to share ideas with folks on how to decorate their homes for little of nothing. The only down to earth blogs are my originals showing how I did my home. I wanted to name my blog "Signature Style" but the computer said it was already taken. So I ended up naming it a place I always dreamed of being before I became a cancer grandmother trying to raise a grandaughter. I can't stop the tears. It has all been for nothing and I feel so stupid. Everytime I post a comment on someone else's blog I have to type in my long www.rivieraboardwalk.blogspot.com in because my "signature style" keeps showing up. I just feel like shutting the blog down and selling the mags on ebay. Dug, like it matters anyway. I don't know why I am even writing to you about this. Maybe it will stop my crying. Your blog is great and you are bubbly and people need happy so keep up the good work and thanks for listening. Merry Xmas nancy

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  50. great post!! I ALWAYS use my flash, but i totally see the difference you are talking about now!! I have the same camera as you except it's 4.1 mega pixels. So what setting do you use most of the time??? I would really like to try w/out the flash like you suggested!!! Did you know that our camera is right up there w/ a Nikon??? yes, it is!!!!

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  51. If I ask nicely, will you pretty please come live with me? For just a little while? You know, until you redecorate and teach me? I love to decorate and feel like I do "alright" but you have some way cool ideas!!!

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  52. i put some pictures on my blog that i had done a couple of nights ago... they are not as goos as yours though!!

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  53. thank you so much for all the tips! I have the same camera as you do, so I will try these things in the future. I always thought it was the camera, but must be me LOL...I always see people write blogs on photography tips but they always use really large, expensive cameras, so that would be why I assumed it was the fault of my camera...so do you ever get spots when you take a picture, if so, how would I fix that, because it happens all the time. :)

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  54. thank you so much for all the tips! I have the same camera as you do, so I will try these things in the future. I always thought it was the camera, but must be me LOL...I always see people write blogs on photography tips but they always use really large, expensive cameras, so that would be why I assumed it was the fault of my camera...so do you ever get spots when you take a picture, if so, how would I fix that, because it happens all the time. :)

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  55. I know you did this post just for me! :). I have been trying to *not* use the flash at all and be steady at the same time. I've found late afternoon sun on my kitchen table works well if I'm just trying to shoot one item. Thanks! I'm going to mess around more w/my macro setting, too.

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  56. Bravo! If there was a such thing as a blog post standing ovation consider it done! I have the same camera and have taken soooo many dreadful pictures with it that I was just one more bad picture away from freecycling it. Thank you for saving my camera (and the hundreds of dollars I was planning to spend on an SLR) and for the extremely helpful and simplistic photography "suggestions". As always..You rock!

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  57. Thanks for your tips! I really need help with taking pics! Man, I'm so bad at it! Thanks for teaching us how do make our own art! You seriously inspire me! The "HO" joke was hilarious!

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  58. I love the sony cybershot(that's my same one). I think they are the best! Thanks for the different tips, especially holding your arm on somthing to keep it steady (which should be obvious) but I have lots of pictures I would love to take without the flash but I don't because I am always too shaky. I too would love to have the $600 camera, so thanks for helping me feel better that I don't :)

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  59. way to take the fear out of taking photos! I think there's one more thing to keep in mind: the pros take lots and lots of shots of the same thing to get it "right" w/ digital there is no reason why we can't do that too. Hate 70% of the photos? Delete them and keep the good ones!

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  60. Dont you love Scotland and England! I think driving through the rolling hills in the Scottish countryside is just divine. :)

    Sarah

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  61. Hi Sarah, just also wanted to add, it make a difference the size of the photo one uses on their blog, I think that the bigger the picture, the more dramatic and appealing rather than having a small pic on your blog page....
    Sarah

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  62. Sarah,can I comment twice? Well I just did LOL.

    I am going to try using less flash..honest, i think you are right about the colors, flash just washes a lot of things out.

    I have a Kodak M1033 for about a year and a half and love it..has enough doo dads to play with such as close up, sunlight, etc..but fits in my purse, also has a battery charger which is real important to me because the Kodaks do have a short battery life..

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  63. Sarah - Such a timely post! Thanks so very much for this!!! You know, you should do what Mrs. Lime does (http://www.brooklynlimestone.com)... she sells some of her photography. I realize it's of sentimental value to you and your family, however I think many would love your work. I adore the shot of the Westminster Abbey. I'd purchase that one in a heartbeat. It's amazing! Thanks again.

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  64. GREAT Tips!!

    I have one of the big, fancy cameras and must say that I think your pics are even better than mine!! This post is helpful and definitely shows everyone how even a simple point & shoot can take beautiful pics when utilizing your tips!!

    Thank for sharing!!

    Tiffany @ Mine Are Spectacular!

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  65. That is very helpful, thanks!!

    You should give yourself more credit, you take awesome photos!

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  66. Thank you SO much for this post! I am learning about my digital camera, blogging and whatever else at the moment. :-) I love unique photos, nothing posed, the unexpected. Love your blog too!

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  67. I love your rule about Flash Photography and not using it. It is a great rule!! I would have never thought.

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  68. Thanks for the camera tips, I need all the help I can get. Your photo of Pali Lookout in Hawaii reminded me of the last time I was there and I was in that wind tunnel wearing a skirt...try to keep a skirt from flying up over your head in that place!

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  69. Amen! (Can I just "amen" all of your suggestions?)

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  70. Yay Photography! :-)
    Boo Windows Live Writer! :-(

    Layla

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  71. Great tips! I need to work on the angle one a bit! The flash rule I knew about and it certainly makes a huge difference!

    blessings
    mary

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  72. We have an older Sony Cybershot that we are actually upgrading today (after I dropped it not once, but twice and addled its brain). Your photos are just gorgeous!

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  73. This is such great advice. It drives me nuts every time I see someone using their flash.

    Your Christmas decor looks wonderful this year :)

    rue

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  74. Thanks for sharing some tips and tricks. It is amazing what a flash can do to a picture!

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  75. I really like you photos of nyc... and I have the same camera!

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  76. Your humble little camera takes fab photos!

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  77. Thanks Sarah!! you're pretty FABULOUS you know?!
    Great post!!

    ~TidyMom

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  78. I just got a new camera and I'm totally going to practice some of your tricks to taking great pics!! Thanks!!!

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I LOVE your comments, thank you! (I read every single one.)

If you have a specific question I will do my best to answer you back here! Be sure to check out the FAQs tab at the top of the site and my Projects page for paint colors and DIY projects as well.

THANKS so much for reading!