PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. —
What does taking better photos have to do with the troubles America’s quintessential technology startup is having? Well, start-up and technology, if you think 1880. That’s when Eastman Kodak was founded. It was high tech then to bring photography to the masses. They recently filed for bankruptcy. Digital took over from film. Ironically, they invented the digital camera but never quite made the psychological and corporate pivot from a high-margin company to a lower-margin electronics firm. Hopefully they will find a way to reinvent themselves and come out of bankruptcy all right. They should look at Finland’s Nokia for inspiration. Now a huge global cellphone manufacturer, they started as a paper company, and at one time made rubber galoshes before reinventing themselves as an electronics firm. When I became interested in photography and darkroom developing as a teen, I found Kodak had tons of excellent free pamphlets to help me get started. One of the best was one with a few simple rules for great photography. I’ve long lost the pamphlet, but the concepts have remained with me to this day. Good photographs follow these principles, and bad photos can almost always be shown to violate them. Number-one rule, get close to your subject. Fill the frame with the person you are shooting. What makes the better wedding photo? One taken from the back of the church or one taken up close? Similar to that is to choose the right level. When taking photos of children and pets, especially, get down to their level for the photo. Otherwise, if you do not get down, you are taking photos mostly of the tops of their heads. Watch your focus. Most cameras today auto-focus, but know your camera. There are ways to make sure it is focusing on the important part of your photo. If it only focuses on the center when you push the shutter button halfway down, then aim at your subject, push the shutter button down halfway, then adjust your composition before pushing the button all the way down. Avoid the urge to put your photo’s subject at the center. Use the rule of thirds. Imagine your view is divided into three vertical panes. Put your subject on one of the vertical lines between those panes. Choose your moment. Watch for the cute smile, or the flying ball; the action to capture that will make your photo special. Digital lets us take lots of photos, so practice and take as many photos as you want. It used to be that we could spend a week at the beach and afford to shoot only one roll of 36-exposure film. Now we might shoot 36 photos of our kids playing Frisbee. Having said that, though, the next point is to edit mercilessly. Of those 36 photos of Frisbee, you might get one good one. Use that one, and do not show the rest. Delete them even if only to save space on your computer’s hard drive. And lastly, photography is painting with light. Be aware of the light. If it has to be behind your subject, force your camera to use a flash to fill in light on the front of your subject. And be aware that the flash’s light only reaches a few feet. I can’t tell you how many times I saw someone take a flash photo at night out of an airplane’s window. Do they really expect their flash to illuminate a city 5,000 feet below? Kodak’s founder, George Eastman, would be proud of its legacy. While he first made it possible for anyone to shoot pictures, he would be thrilled to see most people now carry a camera with them always. The one in their phone. Read more at the link page at bit.ly/ FamilyTech. Mark is the author of the ebook, “Get Productive Fast with Evernote.” Details at Mark’s blog, markstout.blogspot. com; Email .