Most people agree that taking a good photographer is harder than it looks. Anyone can pick up a camera, point and shoot it, but it takes real skill and forethought to capture an image worthy of framing over the mantle.
During this time of year, with leaves changing color, it may be tempting to step outside and shoot haphazardly.
For two amateur photographers, making the jump from yearbook quality to magazine quality photos took time, patience and a few tips from an experienced pro.
Harold Rush and Don Kisseberth are one of two students taking the intermediate photography class at Gila Community College this fall semester.
They say changing the way they think about photography, from rigid and scientific to artistic, has dramatically improved the quality of their images. Their three simple tips will help any level photographer.
Take the camera off auto. Use the manual settings to adjust for light and speed.
Frame the scene so you have something in the foreground and background.
Place subjects interestingly in the frame. Avoid placing someone in the middle of the shot, instead put them off to the side in one of the “sweet spots.” In photography, a photo can be broken into nine areas if you place three lines going both vertically and horizontally. Placing a subject where two of the lines intersect (a sweet spot or the rule of thirds) creates visual interest.
While these tips may seem obvious, they make the difference between so-so and professional worthy photos, Kisseberth said.
Kisseberth, a retired engineer, started taking photographs as a child. He said the thrill of developing photos in a darkroom and watching images appear hooked him early on.
However, as he got older, and responsibilities grew, he gradually drifted away from taking quality photos. His focus lens switched from photos to family.
“I still took pictures all around,” he said. “But I took snapshots on automatic.”
When digital cameras became popular in 2003, Kisseberth decided to try one out on a fly-fishing trip. He will never know how good that camera worked because he quickly dropped it in the water.
“I am happy my wife let me get another one,” he said.
Even with a better, more expensive digital camera, a Nikon D50-SLR, Kisseberth found himself shooting on auto.
“I thought this is ridiculous,” he said, “I need to learn how to do this right.”
Kisseberth picked up books on photography and then joined Payson’s photography club. At his first photography meeting, Kisseberth heard photographer Tom Brossart discuss making photos and a GCC class he was teaching on the same topic.
Kisseberth decided to register and “finally learn how to do things right.”
During the first semester, he learned the basics of his camera and of making photos. During this semester, he said his photos have improved tremendously by developing his photographer’s eye.
“For me I view everything symmetrically. My wife is an artist and I am trying now to be more artistic with my shots.”
Instead of rushing to take a shot, Kisseberth said he now takes his time to walk around a subject and pick out what he really wants to share.
Landscapes, with their overall beauty, are his favorite thing to shoot.
This is in stark contrast to Rush, a retired dentist, who enjoys the intricacy of taking micro shots.
Rush said his eye is drawn naturally to flowers and insects. He loves blurring out the background so the details of a subject pop out.
But like Kisseberth, Rush found it difficult to take artistic shots because he tended to view the world scientifically.
“I am working hard to be creative,” he said, “and learning what is pleasing to the eye.”
Rush said he often takes great close-ups, but then later finds himself cropping them in Photoshop because he centered the subject in the middle of the shot.
While this may be pleasing to him, it is not considered good photography.
“I am trying to listen, learn and figure out what the accepted thing is,” he said. “When I get feedback it reinforces me.”
One of the most important things he has learned this semester is “don’t take photos, make photos.”
“Our instructor has been instrumental on how to make photos and not just a snapshot.”
To make a photo, Rush walks around an area looking for the best light, then lines up his shot so there is no obstructions in the background.
To learn more about the photography club, attend one of the meetings held free at 7 p.m. the second Monday of each month at the Rim Country Health and Retirement Community, 807 W. Longhorn Road.
To learn more about Gila Community College, call the school at (928) 468-8039.