Taking the picture

In natural light photography, think of yourself as an artist, using light as your paintbrush. It takes time and practice to become proficient, but even your first efforts will probably surprise you with their expressiveness. Keep the following points in mind:

• Don't skimp on setup. When you're working with existing light, the work you do before you shoot is what determines the quality of your results. Take a moment to review your camera's aperture-priority, self-timer, and white balance settings. If you need a tripod, borrow or improvise one so you don't get frustrated trying to hold the camera steady.

• Don't be too quick to delete shots from the camera before viewing them on your computer. Existing-light shots sometimes contain subtleties that don't appear on tiny LCD screens. Images that looked uninteresting on your camera's two-inch display may surprise you when you see them full size.

• Be patient with yourself. With time and practice, you'll be able to calibrate your eyes so they see shadows the same way your camera does. You'll spend less and less time testing before the shoot, and more time creating your classic image.

• Be patient with your model. During a long exposure, fidgety people mean blurry portraits. (Of course, you can use this effect to your advantage, too, if you want to create a moody interior picture with ghostlike subjects.) As the photographer, you set the tone for the shoot. It's your job to persuade your models to sit still, put them at ease if they're nervous, and chat with them when they're bored.

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