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How Scrapbooking Changed My Photography Skills

How Scrapbooking Changed My Photography Skills main article image
Posted on April 23, 2021 by Ronda Cook
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I have been taking photos since I was 10 years old with the Brownie camera I was given as a birthday gift. The picture-taking didn’t stop through the camera models of 110, Polaroid, 35mm, DSLR, phones; and I have thousands of photos to prove it.

Along came the year 2000, when my addiction journey in scrapbooking began, and it wasn’t long before I was deeply immersed in the lifelong hobby. Through the years of attending classes, crops, and reading every single scrapbook magazine available, I started to notice a transformation in my photography skills.

Before I continue, let me preface this by stating that I am NOT a talented or sought-after photographer. I don’t even have an “artist’s eye” or take magnificent photos. I’m simply someone who enjoys capturing memories.

Zoom In

Once I began scrapbooking, I would crop off portions of photos that I didn’t want in my layouts. Doing so made me aware of two things.

  • I would zoom in as close as I could to the subject before snapping the picture.
  • If I couldn’t zoom in close enough, I was aware of what was in the “frame” of my camera lens to make sure it was aesthetically pleasing and that an object wasn’t “growing” out of my subject’s head.

Rule of Thirds

According to Wikipedia, “the rule of thirds is a guideline which applies to the process of composing visual images such as designs, films, paintings, and photographs.” The rule of thirds in photography composition is how you arrange the subject and/or objects within your frame. Using the rule of thirds is easy to understand and a great starting point to producing more appealing images.

Rule of Thirds

Your camera may have a setting to create a “grid” when looking through your viewfinder, but if not, imagine using two horizontal and two vertical lines to divide your frame into nine equal spaces. The four points where the four lines intersect are the four focal points and where your subject and/or important objects should be placed within your frame.

Change the Angle

I found that taking photos from various angles provided a different perspective in my scrapbook layouts. Instead of always shooting from a standing position, I might sit or crouch to be on the same level as my subject. I might even “look up” at my subject to project an impressive stature.

Document the Process

When scrapbooking, you’re documenting memories. With that said, why not document the process as well? For instance, when trying out a new recipe, take photos of each step in the recipe. Here are some other ideas:

  • Document “a day in your life,” or your child’s, a parent’s, etc.
  • Set up your camera to take photos in rapid succession, then scrapbook the results (perfect for sports activities, such as a softball/baseball player at bat)
  • Take photos of all the yummy dishes and décor during a holiday celebration, such as Thanksgiving

Good Job Riley

Thanksgiving 2014

Make a List

When planning for an event that you know you are going to scrapbook, make a list of the images you want to capture. It’s easy to forget when you’re caught up in the busyness of the event. For instance, you may want to capture a photo of each of the guests and/or their family at a milestone birthday party or reunion. Referring back to a list spurs the memory to accomplish your goals.

My absolute favorite photos to scrapbook are the annual trips to the Pumpkin Patch with my kids and grandkids. I love everything associated with Fall – the colors, the smells, the crisp air, pumpkins, hay – everything. During our visits, I would also snap photos of just the pumpkins, corn stalks, and foliage to include in my scrapbook layouts.

Pumpkin Patch 2016

Use Natural Light

Use natural lighting whenever possible, whether it’s outdoors or taking advantage of the natural light from windows. Mornings, late afternoons, and cloudy days provide optimal lighting, especially when photographing people. Avoid taking photos on cloudless days when the sun is high in the sky.

For indoor photos, utilize the natural light from windows if available. Avoid using the flash, which creates harsh lighting and casts unappealing shadows. If you have a camera with manual settings, learn to use them to capture the best palette for your subject or event.

Edit Photos

Regardless of how well you take photos, there are additional options to create a masterpiece through photo editing software on your phone or computer. First off, you can always crop your photos to get rid of distracting elements in the background and to “zoom in” on the subject. Also, they’ve come out with software that allows you to get rid of unwanted persons or objects by erasing them.

Second, you can apply filters to the photos before you print them. Filters can be used to increase brightness and contrast and/or add a wide variety of textures, tones, and special effects to a picture. For instance, try changing images from color to black and white or a sepia tone.

Last, but not least, photo editing software allows you to resize your photos, which is great for incorporating a variety of photo sizes into your scrapbook pages.

Tips for Phone Cameras

I still prefer to take photos with my camera, but I will use my phone to capture a special moment if I don’t have my camera with me. Phone cameras today are so technologically advanced, and you can capture beautiful images with them. Some tips to consider with phone cameras:

  • To keep steady, hold your phone with two hands and let your elbows rest on your chest when taking a photo.
  • Get as close as possible to the subject to avoid distortion when using the zoom feature. Instead of using the zoom, consider taking the photo “as is” and editing it later in your photo editing software.
  • Do not use the flash, even if the lighting is not ideal. Edit your photo later using the “exposure” tool in your editing software.
  • Take several images while you have the opportunity and go through them later to select your favorite shots. You can always delete the takes you don’t like.

Print Your Photos

Print your photos! Now that everything is digital, we’ve stopped printing photos and it’s created photo chaos. We have photos on our phones, our computers, the cloud and social media. The point of taking photos is to capture a moment in time or a specific memory, but what’s the point if we don’t look at them or share them with others. Phones, computers, and digital files can become damaged or corrupt. Formats change and you may not be able to retrieve your photos. You don’t own the photos you post on third-party websites.

At the very least, print out your photos for future generations and if you truly want to celebrate your memories, pick the best photos of a person, place, or event and try some of the following ideas:

  • Create a scrapbook page/book or mini-album
  • Have the photo printed on a canvas to display on the wall
  • Put several in frames and create a photo wall
  • Print on a t-shirt and wear them

Leave a legacy!


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