Cottage Magpie School of Photography (CMSoP)
Whew! I hope everyone had a great weekend. I took a few days off there to work on the house, and while it was nice to do that, I missed all you guys! I know I've said it before, but let me say again, thank you, thank you, thank you! Everyone's comments and nice words have really helped me to continue working on this blog, quilting, my day job--all that stuff! I really appreciate it! THANK YOU! And I also want to thank those of you who have said nice things about the photography here. The photography here has been one of the things I have struggled the most with since starting the blog (you can definitely see that on the earlier posts), so this means a lot to me, so thank you again for that. So, given the outpouring of love and affection, I have decided, after much deliberation, long, hard thought, and careful study, to give back by creating the Cottage Magpie School of Photography (CMSoP). This groundbreaking online learning experience school consists, in entirety, of the Cottage Magpie School of Photography Commandments, of which there are nine. I will outline for you here, starting with CMSoP Commandment #1: 1. Thou shalt use a small, inexpensive digital snapshot camera. Why digital? Because otherwise there's no way to tell whether or not you're getting anything good. Why small and inexpensive? Because who has the money for big and spendy? Sure the pros use big, fancy large-format cameras like a Hasselblad. But who has the money for that? And who has the time to learn how to use it? Not me, that's who. So I, along with all other graduates of the CMSoP, use a small, inexpensive snapshot camera that I also use to take photos on vacations and stuff like that. It is tiny and silver and fits in my purse. Specifically, it's a Nikon Coolpix L4, which you can't get anymore, but you wouldn't want to because you can get a better camera for cheaper (like the Nikon Coolpix L11, wich they have online at Staples for $120). The only things you need besides the most megapixels you can afford is a "macro" or close-up setting (usually denoted with a flower icon or something similar) and a zoom lens. And no, I did not research this carefully. I went to the Fred Meyer (a local grocery and more type store) and asked for cheap and good and they gave me that one. (Well, actually, to be honest, I sent Hubby to do it.) 2. Thou shalt take a quantity of photos in a strict ratio of 4,027 photos for each photo to be displayed publicly. It's all a matter of statistics. Infinite monkeys and all that. You take enough pictures, eventually you're going to get one that's not terrible. Theoretically. Anyway, that's what I do. Of course, it didn't help that I started my blog in winter time. Which I don't recommend, by the way. Why? I'm so glad you asked (I know I'm the only one, but it's my school, so you're out of luck). To answer your insightful question, let's move on to CMSoP Commandments 3, 4 and 5: 3. Thou shalt find good light.4. Thou shalt find good light.5. Thou shalt find good light. Yes, it's that important. I know a lot of people talk about the quality of "good" light in some kind of esoteric way, and frankly, I don't know what the heck they mean. What's good light, anyway? When the angels sing? Sparkles dance across the surface of the moon? I have no idea. So let me tell you what "good light" means in the Cottage Magpie School of Photography: Good light means bright enough that you can take a hand-held picture without flash and it won't look like you smeared Vaseline on the lens. Generally this means daylight.Turning on all the lights in the room and taking a picture that looks yellow doesn't count. And neither does using flash. Which leads us to Commandment #6: 6. Thou shalt NOT use flash. EVER. This is because position of the light is important too. Generally, I try to situate myself and the thing I'm shooting (we'll call that the "subject") so the light is coming from the side. Mostly from the side and maybe a little coming over the back is usually the best. We all know that having all the light coming over the back of the subject tends to create silhouettes. Which is find if that's what you're going for. But usually it's not. So avoid that. What you may not know is that having all the light coming from the from the front (i.e. over your shoulder), doesn't work either. The subject will look flat and dull. If you use flash, that accentuates that effect, plus makes the subject look washed out. Never, ever, ever, use flash. If you need flash, you haven't been following Commandments #1-#5. Look, I know professional photographers use all kinds of lights and flashes and all that stuff. Because they have the time and money for that sort of thing. More power to 'em. I don't have the time or the money for big fancy setups. So I have to work with what I have. But I've never, and I mean never, seen a camera-mounted flash take a decent picture. Ever. Let me also say that just going outside isn't going to work either if it's noon. The light in that case is coming from directly overhead and isn't going to give you anything worth looking at. If you are insane disciplined enough to get up at 5am, then shoot outside then. Otherwise I like to shoot next to a window. That forces the light to come from the side. Anyway, the best way to see this is to look at the readout on your digital camera and move around the subject and see the light change as your relationship to the source of light changes. Also, refer again to CMSoP Commandment #2. 7. Thou shalt use close-ups to hide the crappy lack of style in the immediate surroundings. You know why all those photos in magazines look fantastic? Not just because of the professional photographer and a team of assistants with light packages, etc.., but because of the team of creative people there, not the least of which is the stylist. Now, the thing about the stylist is that not only do they know how to make things look good, they know how to make them look photogenic. This means putting objects in places in the frame that make for a good composition. In fact, if you look carefully at photo spreads in magazines, you will start to notice that objects are moved in different shots--the stylist has pulled a chair or accessory into frame for one shot, then pushed it back for another. And hey, I like looking at pretty shots of things, even if they're not real. But I don't have a stylist. Nor do I have the time or money for one. So I just keep getting closer and closer to the subject until anything offending is out of the shot. Crop, crop, crop. I bet you thought the close-ups were an artistic decision, right? Ha! Wrong! They're a necessity! 8. Thou shalt have the attention span of a gnat. It helps to be insatiably curious and easily distractible when taking pictures. For example, when I was taking pictures of the Big Dipper quilt blocks, I got distracted by the edges of the fabric. I thought, wow, those are kind of cool. So I took a photo. Groovy, man! What if I got closer? Oh yeah, that's so cool! And I just kept getting closer and closer and taking shot after shot until I took the picture at the top of the page. 9. Thou shalt figure out what works and use it over and over and over and over. I'm sure that real photographers constantly push and challenge themselves to come up with new and inventive ways to take a photo. I think that's admirable, I really do. But I've got better things to do. Like adding to my stash. So I just keep doing the same thing. Once you figure out how to get a good picture from your camera, go with that. Okay! Congratulations! You have now read and absorbed, in entirety, the groundbreaking online learning experience we like to call the Cottage Magpie School of Photography (CMSoP). You are now a graduate and can feel empowered to go forth and photograph. Me, I'm going shopping. Fabric, anyone?