Open Season: 7 Ideas for Shooting Different Photographs

Closeup photo of insect by David Clode from

Photo by David Clode from

During the photo club’s “open” competitions, it may be tempting to look through past images and choose one of your best. It’s understandable — how else are you going to show off those shots from Prague or Bora Bora? However, it’s also possible to use this assignment to push yourself to do something new. But what? Maybe these ideas will inspire your best image yet.

1. Do something completely different

If you shoot landscapes, try street photography. If your images are usually straightforward, try going abstract. Crawl around your backyard with a macro lens. Fail hard. Fail often. Progress is ugly.

2. Give yourself an assignment

Pick a subject, and spend the month shooting only that. At the point you’ve exhausted all your options, you may break through to something truly unexpected and exceptional.

3. Change your perspective

Spend a day shooting from the hip, or the foot, or a ladder. Again, forcing yourself to stick with it may yield some surprising results.

4. Go somewhere new

National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson once said, “If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.” Maybe it’s time for a local road trip.

5. Look on someone else’s paper

Go out to a site like 500px. See what others are shooting. Find something that inspires
you, and see if you can recreate it or give it your own personal spin.

6. Focus

Give yourself one thing to pay special attention to: triangles, reflections, bright spots… Whether you have your camera or not, spending a month looking for one thing will force your brain to see everything in a new way.

7. Buy, rent or borrow

Maybe it’s time for some new equipment. Try a fisheye lens, flash gels, a neutral density filter, or even a drone. Or start working with an interesting prop: a mirror, glass ball, or prism.

Angled perspective of building by Pauline Loroy

Photo by Pauline Loroy from

6 Tips for Smart(er)phone Shooting

By Darren Wiedman

Phone cameras have come a long way in a very short time. It may not be as good as your DSLR, but it’s a lot easier to carry. Here are a few tips for better shots.

1. Keep it clean

Our phones take a lot more abuse than our regular cameras. And it’s really easy to get your fingers on the lens. Take a few seconds to clean it before shooting.

2. Pokus focus

Remember to tap the screen at the point you want in focus. This also sets the exposure based on that spot. Some phones have tap-and-hold options for even more control.

3. Get closer

Most cell phones use digital zoom. Swiping your fingers to bring the image closer is really just cropping, which creates a grainier image. It’s better to move in as close as you can, get the shot, and crop it in post.

4. Use the grid

Go into your camera settings and turn on your grid. This will help you keep the rule of thirds in mind when you’re composing your shot.

5. Go steady

Camera shake is a common problem with phone photography. (You have to “tap” it just to capture the image.) When possible, set your camera on a stable surface (table, fence post, etc.) especially in low light. It’s easy to get blurry photos otherwise.

6. Post your images

Make use of your phone’s post-production tools or third-party apps to tweak the image. It’s not cheating. Here are a few that the internet seems to like. (Use at your own risk.)

Smartphone camera taking picture out airplane window

Photo by Matthew Kerslake on Unsplash

  • Camera +
  • Camera FV-5
  • Camera Zoom FX
  • Diptic
  • EyeM
  • Gelo
  • Instagram
  • Paper Camera
  • Photo Editor by Aviary
  • Pixlr
  • Prisma
  • Snapseed
  • VSCO Cam
  • XnViewFX

What’s Wrong with This Picture?

By Darren Wiedman

Ever look at one of your photos and think something was off but you just didn’t know what? Here’s a short list of composition “rules” and tips that can help you create better images.

Rule of Thirds

rule of thirds

Rule of thirds

This is a fundamental rule that applies to all art in general. (See the image at right.) Visually divide your image into thirds. Make sure the most interesting parts of your photo are happening near the cross hairs, not dead center. Put horizon lines on the top or bottom third. Put trees or wall edges on the left or right third. As with any “rule,” this can be broken. Just have a good reason for doing so.

Golden Ratio

This is the Rule of Thirds 2.0. There’s not enough space to describe it here. Look up Fibonacci’s Ratio online to get the idea. Rule of Odds If you have a choice between photographing three cute kittens or four cute kittens, always go with three, or five, or seven. Studies have shown that people find an odd number of subjects more appealing. Probably because people themselves are odd.


This is a variation of the last point. Try to find three points of interest that form a triangle. One point could even be out of the shot. Patterns Symmetry or repeating elements can greatly enhance composition. Also, using the subject to break a pattern can be very striking.

Leading Lines

Is there something in your shot that points to the subject? A fence? A road? The direction of someone’s gaze? The viewer’s eye will follow obvious or even implied lines.

More on Lines

Images with diagonal lines create a sense of action, imbalance, and depth. Horizontal lines have a calming effect because of their implied stability. Vertical lines can communicate power, strength, or growth.


There is a natural frame around every photo. But if you can create an additional frame within the photo that surrounds your subject, it will help lead the viewer’s eye there.

Point of View

This is actually one of the basics. Shooting down on something will give the feeling of dominance. Shooting up gives the subject the upper hand. Shooting on the same level has a way of pulling the viewer into the action, a great technique for kids and pets.

The Final Frontier

One of the key things in your shot is the stuff that isn’t there. Space. If you photograph a running dog, give him some room to run to. If your model is looking off camera, crop her toward the edge she isn’t looking at. Choose uncluttered backgrounds. Everything that isn’t in the shot boosts the visual impact of what is.


Before you click “Submit”

Photo of finger touching water in nature by Fredrick Suwandi on Unsplash

Photo by Fredrick Suwandi on Unsplash

By Darren Wiedman

Our February contest judge, photographer Luke Edmonson, offered some great tips on how to check an image for obvious flaws. Perhaps his advice — and a little more from the internet — will give us a better chance of winning contests.

Turn it upside down

This is one that Luke Edmonson mentioned in his critiques. The eye is usually drawn to the brightest part of a photo. To see what that is objectively, turn your image upside down. The bright spots will suddenly jump out. Keep them if they are important. If not, tone them down or crop them out.

Eliminate distractions

Ideally everything in the shot should have a reason for being there. This is a tip best heeded while you’re shooting because it may be difficult to remove distracting elements in post. But if you can, do.

Flip it

Another one from Luke: try flipping the image so what’s on the right moves to the left. Sometimes this will make a big difference in the composition. Obviously this won’t work if there are words in the image.

Falling water

Be sure your horizon lines are level. You may have noticed this in your friend’s vacation
photos from the beach. Everyone is having fun in the shot, but your eye keeps going to the tilted ocean in the background.


The main subject of your photo needs to be sharp. Seems like an obvious point, but it’s amazing how often this comment is made by judges. Remember to view your images at
100% or closer to be sure the key part of your image is sharp.

Chromatic aberration

This is a fancy term for colored fringes around edges of high-contrast subject matter, e.g. rocks against a blue sky. This can happen with lower-grade lenses and a lot of post-production work on the image.

So what?

Yet another tip from Luke, “be bolder in saying something (as the photographer) versus just simply declaring.” Does your image tell a story or show something in a unique way? Are you rewarding the viewer for taking the time to look at your photo? “Find something … and present it in a way that if you had not, perhaps no one would ever see its beauty.”

Tips for Getting Backlit

By Darren Wiedman

Here’s a little advice from the internet on shooting backlit images, just in time (hopefully) for our April competition.


Shoot RAW

Backlit photo of brunet young womanWe should all be doing this anyway. A RAW file contains all the glorious info your camera captured in the shot. JPEGs compress the image and trash some of the data. But it’s that data that you might need to save an image in post, especially by bringing up the shadows to compensate for the strong backlight.

Spot your subject

Set your camera to spot metering and point it at your subject. This will ensure that your subject is exposed correctly, although it will tend to blowout the background. Or you can expose for the background if you want a silhouette.

Don’t lose focus

Just as your own eyes don’t see well when looking into a bright light, cameras struggle a bit too. To help your camera, have your model block the sun as you use auto focus. Then switch to manual. Repeat as necessary.

Light up your foreground

If you expose for the bright background, your foreground will probably be underexposed. Add some light with a reflector or flash to help compensate. You can even shoot with a white building behind you, or wear white and be your own reflector.

Keep your camera shaded

Sometimes lens flares can be a great effect. But if you want to avoid them, find a location for your camera that keeps it out of the light source. Shoot by the side of a building or near some tree branches, or use a lens hood or even your hand as a shade.

Black and white photo of cactus backlitOr add some flare

If you like those little geometric spots of light in random places on your photos, be sure the light hits your lens. A wide aperature will produce the best results. Be careful not to look through your camera directly into the sun.

Friday Night Fireworks at Grapevine Lake

From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the city of Grapevine is shooting fireworks at Grapevine Lake.  Several club members have taken advantage of this opportunity to practice capturing fireworks and work on night photography.  The fireworks start promptly at 9:30pm and last for approximately 12 minutes.

This is a lot of fun, in spite of the heat.  So call a fellow member and join the fun.  I’m sure someone from the club will be there just about any Friday evening during the firework displays.

Below are a few photos:

Penn Farm at Cedar Hill State Park

Whether you are interested in old building structures, cedar rail fences, or open spaces, Penn Farm is a nice place to visit. You don’t need to be a photographer to enjoy the farm….bring the family and explore the history of the area.

There were 14 club members who met at the historic Penn Farm at Cedar Hill State Park on Saturday, Feb 22nd. Penn Farm was owned and operated by the Penn family for over a century. The farm affords us a look back in history at old farm equipment and reconstructed & historic buildings from the mid 1800’s into the 1900’s.

There were a multitude of photo opportunities here including old barns, chicken coops, farm equipment and old tractors, windmills, cedar fences, the old homestead, and much more. Some photographers were fascinated with the weathered wood and textures found in the old barns while others were enamored with all the old farm equipment. There was even a buzzard or two who seemed to pose for photos at times.

Below are a few of the photos contributed by Michele Dan, Dick Graves, Paul Harris, Lynne Harris, Denise Remfert, and Bill Webb.

a_36_Bill1 a_35_Michele7 a_31_Dick3 a_30_DSC00840_HDR a_26_Dick6 a_25_DSCF2466_HDR a_24_Michele3 SONY DSC a_18_Michele4 a_16_DSC00842 a_15a_Michele1 a_14_Bill2 a_12_Denise2b_11_Bill3 b_17_Michele1 b_19_DSC00936

Giving Back with Photography

During the past few years, I have tried to use my passion for photography to help promote causes I feel strongly about.  Whether for your church or other charitable and civic organizations, photography can tell a story that hopefully makes people sit back, take notice, and want to participate themselves.

On the last Saturday in January, I had the opportunity to tell a story with photos showing those fighting blood cancers, some literally in their own lives and some through donation of their time and money to help those fighting these cancers.

The event was the Big D Climb that benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  I am a member of the North Texas Chapter board of trustees for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, so this is a cause close to my heart.  Participants in this event climb 52 floors in the Fountain Place building in downtown Dallas raising money to fund patient services and research.  Some participate for the athletic aspect of the event, others trying to promote teamwork in their organization and some because of a dear friend or family member that is dealing with leukemia or lymphoma in their lives.  But all, regardless of their reason, help to raise money for a great cause.

It is hard to photograph an event that spans 52 floors of a large building, especially on the bottom floor where everything begins and on the 52nd floor where thankfully (for most people) it ends.  Had I thought about it ahead of time, I would have recruited one or two other members of the photo club to help provide better coverage.  Groups and individuals are milling around on the bottom floor waiting for their time to start, from first responders climbing the stairs in all of their heavy gear to those wearing the lightest of running outfits.

_DSC8597 LLS Big D Climb Jan 2014_

Lainey’s family and friends

_DSC8501 LLS Big D Climb Jan 2014_

First responders from the Greenville TX FD

One of the key objectives, in photographing an event like this is, capturing images that show the stories of those that are in the fight against blood cancer.  Included in that group was our honored hero for the event, Lainey Thomas, a beautiful 2-year-old girl who is currently in the middle of her treatments for leukemia, Dallas Police Department Senior Cpl. Curtis Steger, the father of Zach Steger, who is fighting lymphoma and “Julia’s Team”, the second grade classmates of Julia Brown, who is currently fighting her battle with leukemia.  Last, but not least was Loan Huynh, a fellow member of the board of trustees and two-time survivor of leukemia, who had over 150 of her colleagues from Ivie, Inc. participating to support her.  These are just  a few of the people living with blood cancer that are being supported, but they and others like them are the reason over 1,300 people push themselves to complete the difficult climb.

_DSC8489 LLS Big D Climb Jan 2014_

Lainey and her big sister Avery

_DSC8538 LLS Big D Climb Jan 2014_

Zach’s dad

_DSC8608 LLS Big D Climb Jan 2014_

Julia’s classmates and teacher

_DSC8850 LLS Big D Climb Jan 2014_


_DSC8657 LLS Big D Climb Jan 2014_

The Ivie Inc. Stair Force One

I took over 700 photos, in 6 hours, to capture some of the moments and individuals that made the day special.  The better ones are shared on the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Big D Climb Facebook page at so participants can show their friends and family what the event is about and how they were able to support a great cause by taking on and beating the challenge of climbing 52 floors, all the while helping those fighting blood cancers to have a better chance of beating the disease.

So, my challenge for you is, look for opportunities wherever you are to use your photographic skills to promote an event or organization.  You will find it a very fulfilling challenge.

_DSC8478 LLS Big D Climb Jan 2014_

Firefighter from Mabank TX FD

_DSC8496 LLS Big D Climb Jan 2014_

Clowns from Mabank FD with Lainey and her mom.

_DSC8504 LLS Big D Climb Jan 2014_

The Zach Pack

_DSC8697 LLS Big D Climb Jan 2014_

Lainey’s dad as he passes her sign at the 52nd floor finish

_DSC8724 LLS Big D Climb Jan 2014_

Julia’s classmates sending photo from the top of the climb

_DSC8479 LLS Big D Climb Jan 2014_-Edit

Dallas PD Chiefs Brown and Reyes

(NOTE: I could not determine how to make photos show side by side on the page so the flow is not as smooth as I would have liked)



Fort Worth Stock Show Outing

On Saturday, January 18, the Trinity Arts Photo Club held its first field trip of 2014 at the Fort Worth Stock Show to take in the sights and capture a few images while doing so.  If you like anything that is Western, this is the place to be in January in Fort Worth.  The weather was fabulous too.

After collecting ourselves, we started in the livestock exhibition buildings, wandering among sheep, cows, steer, horses and pigeons.   Yes, pigeons.  We had opportunities to photograph the owners grooming and cleaning their animals as well as putting some of them (generally horses) through their paces.  I never knew that the animal fashionistas used industrial sized hair dryers to groom their beasts at an event like this, but they do.  Since the livestock are in buildings, some with windows and some without, we were presented with various lighting challenges, depending on which building we were in.

After taking images from every imaginable angle of occupants in the livestock buildings, we made our way out to the Midway, where children of all ages were riding rides, playing carnival games and eating food that rots your teeth.  But no…even on such a beautiful day, the crowd on the midway was sparse, making is tougher to photograph the various rides in motion…since they were often not in motion.  But we gave it the old college try, and made the best of it under the circumstances, getting some nice images in the process as you see below.  Tripods were an absolute necessity for sharp shots, especially after the sun went down.  They also allowed for long exposure images of the spinning rides creating blurs and bringing the lights to life in the process.

Overall, it was a great first event for all that attended and we hope to see many more club members at future events.


_DSC7922 FW Stock Show TAPC Jan 2014_ _DSC7929 FW Stock Show TAPC Jan 2014_

_DSC7962 FW Stock Show TAPC Jan 2014__HDR-Edit _DSC8387 FW Stock Show TAPC Jan 2014_-Edit (2) NLA_3483 NLA_3450 Working Cowboys corny dog 7174  small 7155 small SONY DSC SONY DSC DSC07502 DSC07488