Skip to main content.

California Camping Menu

California Camping Sites

Brief Photography Tips - Outdoor Photography Guide

Bookmark and Share

In this brief photography tips article you will learn about the selection of a camera—Snapshots vs. real pictures—How to make a photograph from start to finish

Aside from our own pleasant recollections, an album of photographs can be the most satisfactory reminder of the good times we have had on some vacation or outdoor trip.

Photography has been made so easy and so inexpensive by modern methods that every one should have some kind of a camera. Small instruments capable of taking really excellent pictures within their limits can be bought for five dollars or even less. Of course we cannot hope often to obtain pictures that will be really artistic with such a small outfit, but sometimes the inexpensive cameras will give remarkably good results.

Snapshot pictures seem to fill such an important place in our outdoor life that no vacation or excursion trip seems to be complete unless some one takes along a camera.

The modern way of taking pictures, which is simply pressing a button and sending a film to the professional to "do the rest," including developing, printing and mounting, is really not photography. Almost any one can take pictures with a small hand camera. The manufacturers have perfected instruments so complete for this kind of work that there is very little for us to do beyond being sure that we have an unexposed section of film in place and that we have sufficient light to obtain a picture. Of course we must have the focus right and must be sure we are pointing at what we wish to take.

Real photography is quite different from snapshot work. It is a hobby so fascinating and with such great possibilities that there is scarcely anything that will give a boy or girl more real pleasure in life and a better opportunity to be outdoors than to become an expert outdoor photographer. Unfortunately it is a rather expensive pastime, but even with a moderate priced instrument we can obtain excellent results under the right conditions. I have seen a prize-winning picture in an exhibition that was made with a cigar box, with a pinhole in one end for a lens.

Even though one does not care to become an expert photographer, by all means get a camera and make snapshots. It is quite a common idea for an amateur to attribute his failures to defects in his material or outfit. You may be sure when you fail it is your own fault. Dealers in photographic supplies constantly have complaints from customers about defective materials, and certainly nine out of every ten of these cases are simply due to the carelessness of the operator with perfectly good material.

It is well for a beginner in photography to start with a simple snapshot camera. They can be bought for three or four dollars up to twenty-five. Such cameras are used with films, and simply require the operator to expose his film in plenty of light and with the proper attention to the distance that the object to be photographed may be from the camera. Until we can accurately estimate distances, such as 8, 15, 25 or more feet, it will be far safer to pace off the distance, remembering that a long step for a boy is about equivalent to three feet. Some cameras have a universal focus and require no adjusting, but an adjustable camera will usually give better results.

Some cameras are so constructed that they may be used either as a hand machine or on a tripod for view work. They can also be adapted either to films or plates and be operated with the ground glass for focussing, or if desired, the focussing scale and view finder may be used.

The size of our camera will depend largely upon our purse. The cost of the camera itself is not the only thing to consider. All the plates and supplies increase in proportion to the size of our instrument. A good all around size is 4x5, or if we really wish to become photographers the 5x7 is a standard. A number of new sizes have recently been introduced and have proven very satisfactory. Perhaps the best size for a snapshot camera is 3 1/4 x 5 1/2.

There are a great many makes of cameras on the market, but even at the risk of advertising one firm more than another it is only fair to say that there is really nothing better in pocket snapshot machines than the kodaks. In view cameras it is different. There are instruments of a dozen makes any of which will produce excellent results. The tests to apply in selecting a view camera are its workmanship, compactness, and the various attachments and conveniences it has. The salesman from whom you purchase will explain fully just what its possibilities are, especially if you take some experienced person with you who can ask questions.

Suppose you begin photographing with a simple "snapshot" outfit. The first thing to remember is that there is absolutely no excuse for the large percentages of failures that beginners have in making pictures, and which are due solely to their own carelessness and inattention to simple details. First of all, immediately after making an exposure, be sure to form the habit of turning the key until a fresh film comes into place; then you will never be troubled with the question whether you have exposed the film or not. Every professional photographer who develops for amateurs handles many films in which some of the negatives are blank and some are double negatives with two pictures on one film. This is solely the fault of the photographer, who was never quite sure and would first make the mistake of exposing a film twice, then turning the roll without exposing it at all. If you are really in doubt, it is better to turn the roll to the next number, as you thus simply lose a film but preserve both negatives; if, on the other hand, you make a double exposure, you will lose both pictures.

The snapshot photographer should never take a picture unless he really wants it and unless he is pretty certain of making a picture. Snapping here and there without a proper condition of light, focus, or subject is a very bad habit to contract. Until you can make at least eight good pictures out of ten you are not a photographer. No average lower than this should satisfy you. Do not blame the lens for your failures. In recent years the art of making lenses has advanced wonderfully, and while the one in your camera may not be an expensive one or capable of a wide range of use, it is at least adapted to the purpose of your instrument or you may be sure that the manufacturers would never have used it.

We should not consider the snapshot expert who merely presses the button as a real photographer, even though he obtains fine pictures. No one deserves this name who does not understand the operations of the dark room. One who has experienced the wonderful sensation of working in a faint yellow-ruby light and by the application of certain mysterious chemicals of seeing a picture gradually come into view on the creamy surface of a dry plate will never again be satisfied to push the button and allow some one else "to do the rest." However, if you do not wish to go into photography extensively you may at least learn just what limits your hand camera has, and at the end of the season in place of a lot of ill-timed pictures you can have an album full of creditable prints for which no apology will be necessary.

It is quite beyond the limits of this chapter to go into photography fully, but some of the simple principles may be of use to the boy or girl who has taken up the subject. The modern snapshot camera even of small size has great possibilities. With a clear negative we can have an enlargement made on bromide paper that will be a source of great satisfaction. The actual making of enlargements is usually beyond the limits of an amateur's outfit. In this part of photographic work it will be better to patronize a professional.

To become an expert photographer and one whose work will be worth while, we must really make a study of the subject. The modern outfits and chemicals make it very easy for us if we do our part.

The basis of successful work is a good lens, which is really the eye of the camera. In selecting it we should get just as good a one as we can afford. There are a great many excellent makes of lenses on the market and even the stock types that are supplied with moderate-priced cameras are of very good quality. The two distinct types of lenses are the "rapid rectilinear" and the "anastigmatic," which names refer to their optical properties in distributing the light. For our purpose all we need to know is that the higher price we pay the better our lenses will be, and in addition to this the further fact that the best kind of results can be obtained by any lens provided that we do not try to force it to do work for which it is not adapted.

To understand photography we must first of all get a clear notion of the use and purpose of the stops, as the various openings or apertures are called that the lens is provided with. A "fast" lens is one that will give a sharp picture at a maximum opening, and such lenses are both the most expensive and the most universal in their application. Lenses of this class are used in making instantaneous pictures with very rapid exposures, and for ordinary view or portrait work will produce no better results than much slower and less expensive types.

Perhaps the best way to understand photography as an art rather than a "push the button" pastime is to take up the process of making a picture step by step. To begin with, the real photographer will use plates instead of films, as much better pictures usually are possible by their use. Dry plates come a dozen in a box, usually packed face to face—that is, with the film or sensitive sides facing. The plate-holder must be loaded in a dark room or dark closet, with absolutely no exposure to daylight or any artificial light whatever except a very faint light from a dark-room lantern, a combination of ruby and yellow glass or paper. We should always test our dark room and light by means of a plate before we trust them to actual working conditions. Take a fresh plate and cover it half with a piece of cardboard, or if it is in a holder draw the slide half way out and allow the dark-room light to strike it for five minutes, then develop the plate just as you would an exposed negative, and if the test plate shows the effect of the exposure and darkens, we shall need to make our light safer either by adding a sheet or two of yellow or ruby paper or we must examine our room carefully to stop up any cracks where rays of white light may enter. We must remember that a plate sensitive enough to record instantaneous exposures of 1-500 of a second must be sensitive to any tiny ray of outside light also. Almost any room will make a dark room, especially if it is used at night. By drawing the shades and by doing our work in a far corner of the room away from outside light we are comparatively safe. Of course an electric street lamp or other bright light would have to be shut out, but this can easily be done by pinning up a blanket over the window. When we have loaded our plate-holders we are ready to make a picture. Suppose, for example, it is to be a house or a vista of some kind such as a group of trees or a bit of water: the first thing of importance is to obtain a point of view that will not only give us the picture we desire but that will leave out any undesirable features that we do not care to take. Some cameras are provided with a small view finder for snapshot work, and this may often be used to get a general idea of what the picture will be.

Successful photography consists largely in knowing just what to take and what to omit. Sometimes an ugly piece of fence or a post will spoil an otherwise excellent picture. We must also remember that in a photograph our colours are expressed in black and white, and therefore a picture that depends on its colour contrast for its beauty, such as autumn foliage or a sunset, may be disappointing as a photograph.

When we have decided upon our subject, the next step is to set our camera in the proper position to permit the plate to take in what we wish. Usually it will be necessary to shift our position several times until we find the proper position. The tripod should be firmly set on the ground and the camera made as level as possible. The camera should then be focussed with the stop or diaphragm wide open. The fact that the image is inverted as it appears on the ground glass will at first be confusing to a beginner, but we soon become accustomed to it and never give it a thought. Our focussing cloth should be tightly drawn about the head to keep out as much outside light as possible. At first we have some difficulty in seeing the image on the ground glass, but after we learn to look at the glass and not through it we should have no further trouble in this respect. By moving the lens backward and forward we finally strike a position where the principal image to be photographed will appear sharp and clear. The camera is then in focus, but we shall discover that other objects more in the background or foreground will appear blurred and confused. Often it is desirable to have a blurred or "fuzzy" background, but if we desire to bring the indistinct objects in focus we must "stop down" our lens first by trying the No. 8 stop, and if this does not accomplish the results the No. 16, and so on until we get what we wish. As we look at the image on the ground glass, it will be evident that as we stop down our lens, the more remote objects are gradually brought into view with a sharp outline, we shall discover that the image on the ground glass becomes less and less distinct, which shows very clearly that we are admitting less light, and the lesson to be learned is that when we make the exposure we must give a corresponding increase in time as the amount of light admitted decreases. An exposure that would give a perfect picture at No. 8 may be very much under-exposed at No. 32 diaphragm.

Having focussed our camera and set the stop, we then close the shutter, insert the plate-holder in the back of the camera and carefully draw the slide. Omitting to pull the slide is a common mistake with beginners. We are now ready to decide just what exposure to give our plate. Rules for exposure are almost useless, but in general it may be said that the modern plates are lightning fast and that in bright sunlight at midday the average exposures will not be over 1-25 of a second. An "exposure meter" will prove to be of great assistance to a beginner, but such arrangements are not often used by experts except in doubtful cases. We soon find that we can guess at average exposures with considerable accuracy, especially if we adopt a certain brand of plate and become accustomed to its working qualities. Of course all of these speeds must be indicated on the shutter, and all we can do is to set our shutter at this point and squeeze the bulb. Correct judgment in exposure will only come after experience. In taking interior views or making pictures on dark days we shall be less likely to make a mistake than in bright sunlight. I have made two interior views, to one of which I gave ten minutes and the other an hour, with practically the same result in the negative. An over-exposed plate is flat, which means that the print will lack contrast and be unsatisfactory as a photograph.

After the bulb is squeezed and the exposure made we are ready to develop our plate and to see what result we have obtained. Of course in practice we make a number of exposures before we begin to develop. Some photographers use numbered plate-holders and keep a record of the pictures, time of day and of exposure, stop and any other items of interest. We now take the plate-holder in our dark room and prepare our developer. There are a great many developers on the market and we can scarcely make a mistake with any of them. Probably the best of all is "pyro," but the fact that it stains the fingers is a serious objection to it for amateur use, and almost any other developer, such as metol, eikonogen or hydroquinon will be better.

These stock developers usually come in dry salts, which must be dissolved and mixed. All of this work must be done in the light so we can see that we are getting the proper proportions and that the chemicals are thoroughly in solution. The developing trays should be washed thoroughly and placed conveniently at hand so that we can find them in the dark. In addition to developers we must have what is called the "hypo" fixing bath. This is a solution of hyposulphite of soda, a chemical which is used in development and which renders the plate no longer sensitive to light, but dissolves that part which has not been acted upon by the developer. The hypo should be in a tray or box placed conveniently at hand but not so located that it will be liable to become mixed with the developer or in any way to splash or spot the plate. We must always wash the hands thoroughly after immersing a plate in the hypo before handling a fresh plate, as a very few drops will ruin a negative.

After we have prepared the hypo and the developer we are ready to develop the plate. Place it face side up in the tray and quickly pour the developer over it, being sure that the solution covers the surface immediately, to avoid unequal development. While we should not develop in a strong red or yellow light we can at least place our tray in such a position that we may watch the process of bringing up the image out of the creamy surface of the plate. This is the most fascinating part of photography. First the high lights will appear and then the shadows, and then after an instant the whole image will come into view and then begin to fade away. To know at what point development should stop will only come by experience with negatives of all sorts of classes. Generally speaking, when the image fades from view and begins to appear through the film on the glass side we should wash it quickly and immerse it in the hypo. The "fixing" in hypo will take probably five minutes and should be continued until the white coating is thoroughly dissolved. The plate may then be brought safely to the light and should be washed thoroughly either in running water for half an hour or in at least twelve changes of fresh water. Care must be taken not to touch the film side of the plate during development or fixing, as the gelatine coating becomes very soft and will show the slightest scratch or abrasion. We must dry the plate away from dust, sunlight, or artificial heat. After it is dry we are ready to make a print.

Photographic printing papers are of two classes—those which are used in direct sunlight and upon which the image gradually appears, and those which are similar to plates and which are given a very short time exposure in artificial light and the picture developed just as we should a plate. The beginner will probably have more uniform success with sunlight paper after the simple process of toning and fixing is learned, although the developing papers are extremely simple to handle and give better results.

The final step of trimming and mounting the print is too simple to require explanation.

There are a great many things that might be said about photography, but in a book of this kind only the most simple facts are stated. If you become a photographer you will soon learn many of the fine points.

Our negatives should all be kept carefully in labelled envelopes and a record kept in a book of some kind.

When we really become expert as a photographer, there are many opportunities to make our hobby pay. The publishers of nearly all the magazines experience the greatest difficulty in securing the kind of pictures they wish to reproduce. This is remarkable when so many people are taking pictures. If one wishes to sell pictures, it is important to study the class of materials that the magazines use. Then, if we can secure good results, we can be almost sure of disposing of some of our work and, in addition to the money, have the satisfaction of seeing our pictures published.


Camping Resources

Free Services

Free Text Messages
Free Picture Messages
Free Fax
Free Calls Anywhere

Follow Us