How to take great digital photos

HOUSTON Yesterday we shopped around for inexpensive portraits, now we are teaching you how to do it yourself.

Professional photographer Steve Toon has a passion for photography.

"I have been doing photography all my life," said Toon.

His specialty work includes portrait and model head shots. It took years of practice for Toon to learn his craft, but he says even beginners can take great pictures with just a few pointers.

Tip number one: Read your camera's instruction manual.

"They don't have to memorize it, just be familiar with what's in there," said Toon.

He says we can't learn how to take great pictures if we don't know how to properly operate our cameras. He says compact digital cameras have so many features that will only enhance our photos if we know how to use them.

Tip number two: Get in closer to the subject. This will eliminate wasted space you don't want in your photo.

"Most cameras these days have wide angle lenses that make the subject further away," said Toon.

Tip number three: Move the subject away from the center of the photograph. Toon says this will make the photograph more interesting.

"A lot of fairly boring pictures are the result of subjects that are right in the middle of the frame," he said.

Tip number four: Pay attention to the background.

Tip number five: Move around your subject. Toon says a common amateur mistake is to take one picture from one angle.

"Take several different photographs from different angles so you can best capture you subject," said Toon.

When it comes to lighting there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Natural light is the best light, so choose a location like a room filled with windows. On that note, be careful not to allow too much light behind the subject, since that will only create a silhouette.

If you know how to operate your camera, increasing the exposure on your camera or flash will fill in those dark spots but you have to know how to use your camera.

Last but not least, Toon says practice, practice, practice.

"You'll get a much more pleasing photograph, much more realistic," he said.

Toon says take plenty of pictures of your children, spouse and pets because digital media is cheap. There is no film or processing required.

With small children it's really hard to get them to focus, so Toon says it's imperative that you get down to eye level with children whether that's bending down or getting down on the floor with them. He says that will create a better picture. Of course catching your children in a good mood is also a plus.

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