What’s Shutter Speed Got to Do With It? How to Take Better Photos.

Want to take better photos? The key is practice, practice, practice. And, if you get the chance to practice in the company of a pro, do it! Taking a photo tour with a legit photographer gives you the chance to ask all kinds of dumb questions and to correct one or two things that will immediately improve your shots.

take-better-photos-walking-tour

Wandering around the Donaldson Farm, I kept waiting for the big tractors to talk to me as if I was in a Disney cartoon. Photo: The Open Suitcase LLC

Getting the chance to bum around with a professional photographer with an all access pass is a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. And you don’t have to have tons of equipment or years of experience to have a great time and to learn to take better photos. I self-identify as a beginner-intermediate when it comes to using my DSLR camera, meaning I still have to think really, really hard about whether the aperture needs to be big or small to get a crisply focused background.

As a contributing writer with TravelingMom, I was introduced to Rick Gerrity. He’s a Lumix luminary and one of the “professors” with Unique University. He teaches a number of different classes and workshops and does road trips and tours that put you behind your camera in interesting places.

What I like most about taking walking tours with a pro, is that you have the chance to convey your frustration with your skills or your camera and get immediate troubleshooting assistance. Saturday’s group was small; 15 of us headed out to Donaldson Farms in Hackettstown, New Jersey. The Donaldson family has worked this bucolic land since 1906 so their passion spans generations. They rolled out the welcome mat for us, lent us their beautiful daughter Kieran for our photo shoot, and permitted us to wander all over their public farm and an abandoned dairy barn property they own nearby.How to Take Better Photos

Over the course of 5 perfect autumn hours, we rolled around in the dirt, squinted through viewfinders, and played with Wallace and Gromit, a pair of very friendly goats. I was as happy as a pig in poop. Technically, I spent the day trying to figure out where to position myself relative to the pesky sun to avoid overexposure and my shadow. As we wandered around, I kept recalling lines from a favorite short story of mine, Guy de Maupassant’s The Farmer’s Wife, so I’ve included quotes as captions.

pit bull in Polaris utility vehicle

“Our two dogs behind us, in the empty part of the hencoop, were standing up and sniffing the air of the plains, where they scented game.” – The Farmer’s Wife, Guy de Maupassant

apple tree orchard

“I love this soil; I have my very roots in it.” – The Farmer’s Wife, Guy de Maupassant

dairy barn

“…the vehicle entered one of those orchard farmyards and drew up before in old structure falling into decay…” – The Farmer’s Wife, Guy de Maupassant

kieran-horse

“At this period my mother’s chambermaid was one of the prettiest girls you could see, fair-haired, slender and sprightly in manner, a genuine soubrette of the old type that no longer exists.” – The Farmer’s Wife, Guy de Maupassant

windows

“One perceived an odor of milk, apples, smoke, that indescribable smell peculiar to old farmhouses; …the odor of time, and of things that have passed away.”-The Farmer’s Wife, Guy de Maupassant

If you’d like to take better photos, check out local photography walking tours in your area. If none are available, try to identify one technical component you’d like to work on, such as composition or exposure. Read your camera manual or watch a tutorial. Then find an interesting destination to explore through your camera lens and shoot away! I keep practicing because I get so annoyed when I upload photos that I think are good and find out that they’re out of focus.

If you could improve one thing about your photos, what would it be?

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