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Tip for better snapshots

Welcome to December! The crazy season is upon us with parties, catch-ups and those special family gatherings. Perhaps you’re going away somewhere special over the holidays? Whatever your situation, I’d like to share some tips with you to help get the best holiday snaps you can.

If you were reading Blackcurrant last year then you’ll realise this is a bit of a re-hash, but it’s still a good refresher to have.

Ok, let’s start with the basics.

Charge the camera and where possible keep a spare battery and memory card with you. 

Write your phone number and name on your memory cards in case you get separated at some point. I also like to take a photo of a piece of paper or a computer screen that has my name, phone number, drivers lic number and the camera serial number in case me and the camera get separated. That way I might, just might, get my camera (or at least the photos) back if anything happens to it. For a really funny example of this, please click here.

Read your camera manual and work out how to turn the flash on and off and how to override the auto flash settings if using Auto mode.

Always endeavour to copy your photos to your computer on the same day you take them. More about this later on.


My late father in law was great, a very funny man who kept his little ixus point and shoot with him at all times. He was also the master of slightly-awkward-shots-taken-at-arms-length-looking-up-a-nose. If he was still with us, I’d totally be getting him something like these.

Joby make a range of funky little tripods for snapshot cameras, SLR cameras, camcorders, mobile phones, ipads etc. Some are magnetic like this one and all are bendy little balls of awesome to hold your camera where-ever you need it. Stick one in your bag. You can buy them at heaps of places such as the Photojojo store or direct from Joby.

Another cool contraption is an extending pole that you can hold yourself at arms length. It means you can get yourself and a friend into a photo without having to hand your camera over to a stranger. Perfect!

Tripods add stability and assist when the camera is on auto and wants to try and take your photo at a really shocking shutter/iso combination.

Buy the Gorillapod at the Photojojo Store!


Yep, I’m going to remind you once again about your rule of thirds. This is a grid of 9 squares. When you are taking a photo, think of The Brady Bunch. Alice was always in the middle. Your hero of the photo isn’t Alice, it’s the other Bradys. Put your subject on one of these intersections.

Some cameras will have a rule of thirds diagram when you look at the photo, if not, don’t worry. You’ll soon get the hang of putting your subject off-centre. When you’re doing this, make sure your camera realises you’ve done this and either manually change the focus point, tap the screen, use your smile shutter or do whatever it is you do with your particular camera to ensure things are sharp where they should be.

© Kell Rowe 2011

In the photo above, my model’s face is slightly left of centre. The line of the building and the edge of the door lead you into the picture and add depth (perspective). Try to have your model looking into the frame rather than out of it and use lines to add interest.

My friend Sandy is in the bottom left third with the horizon neatly dividing the top third of the photo. A tiny white sailboat sits on an intersection of another third.

In this photo below, I’ve broken the rules a little. My subject IS centre with my second subject off to the left. The triangular composition between the two people and the playground add interest. Without them, the photograph would be a little static.

© Kell Rowe 2011

When you’re composing photos, it’s important to remember that what you can see in 3 dimensions will show flat in a photo. A tree, fence or the horizon might seem a long way off but can easily mar an otherwise lovely photo by sticking out of peoples’ heads or through parts of their body. For example:

Nice pic right? Wrong! He has a pole impaling his neck.

Poor Jason has a pole impaling his neck.

Make sure to keep an eye on the horizon at the beach too and try to restrict it to the top or bottom third of your photo and not beheading anyone.

Try to make sure that hands are visible and don’t look awkward and if your female friends aren’t pregnant, try to avoid posing them with hands on their stomachs.

For casual, realistic photos, take them at the table, chatting etc. Casually sit back and capture the action and realistic interactions. Get down to eye level with kids playing on the floor etc.

Adam at Easter

Fill flash

Often when it’s bright and sunny or ambient light, your camera may decide that it doesn’t need flash. Unless you’ve mastered your manual settings I suggest using a camera mode that lets you force the flash to on. When it’s bright and sunny outside, your flash can help to fill in harsh shadows and make your subject pop off the background. When used inside it can add sharpness where your camera may wish to use a shallow depth of field and high ISO. It’s especially important to use the flash where your subject’s background is much, much brighter than the light your subject is in. Unless you’re going for a silhouette of course.

Have a play around before your special events and see what you think.

Back it up!

To make life simpler for you I recommend you go through and do a quick cull of photos on the camera either as you take them or not long afterwards. Be brutal if you have to. Start with obviously junk shots and get rid of those.

I like to get into a habit of transferring my photos to my computer as soon as I get home. I don’t advise keeping things in the My documents or My pictures folder. Many years ago when I was first starting out on the internet, my dad told me that hackers like to target C drives. As a result, all of his business files were on a separate hard-drive. These days you can pick up external hard disk drives for quite cheap.

By all means keep a copy on your computer hard-disk, in fact I wouldn’t suggest otherwise, but keep it in a folder that means something to you. Generally speaking, I categorise my files by year>month>topic or date

When the files are onto your computer you can go through using My Computer, whatever the Apple equivelent is or use an editing/cataloging program such as Lightroom. Again, weed out the ones you’re not happy with now you can see them bigger.

Transfer the files to an external drive so you have at least 2 copies. A Cd is also a very good idea but you may wish to edit your pictures first.


Working in a photo lab I often see people come in with memory cards that are chock full of photos and then they have to sort through 200+ to get to the ones they want. My advice is to buy a USB stick or two. They’re under $10 at Officeworks. Transfer only the files you want to print on that day.

If you wish to edit your files before you print them, try using free software or websites such as Picnik, or Gimp.

Many of the photo kiosks I go to use the colour-space SRGB which is the same as the web. Using a different profile on your files at home or in camera can make the prints look a little muddy or with colour shift when printing. Profiles are a complicated area and different labs use different ones (my pro lab uses Adobe RGB). Unfortunately, not all photo kiosk staff will be able to tell you which theirs uses, but see how you go. To find out more about this check your camera manual or settings. Just a heads up – JPEG is not a colour space, it’s a file type.

It is worth paying a little bit extra and taking your pictures to a proper camera shop or pro lab and talking with the staff about how best to print and display your image. You may be pleasantly surprised with the difference.

That’s all I have for you for now. If you’d like more information on aperture, shutter speed etc, please click the green folder icon on my site which will show you the categories available. Select tutorials.

Thanks for reading and happy holidays!

I have just listed a great range of gifts in my Etsy shop. They are all in-stock and ready to ship. Here are some examples:

© Kell Rowe

© Kell Rowe

© Kell Rowe

© Kell Rowe

Please visit to purchase. Thanks again!


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