Intern's Guide to D.C. Photography | The Washington Center

Intern's Guide to D.C. Photography

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this certainly rings true in Washington, D.C. The nation's capital is a city worth photographing every day, and even the most random of corners will make great snapshots for your social media followers.


You don’t have to be a professional photographer or need a top-of-the-line digital camera to deliver an Instagram-worthy picture. Just consider these few tips, and you will see your pictures go from random snapshots to images that tell a story.


1. Be aware of light conditions

My photography professor always said that photography is all about light and passion. This is to say that an essential element of a good picture is illumination.


A common mistake that can ruin a good picture is to point your lens to where the sun is shining. This will cause your phone/camera to adjust the brightness of the picture, which will cause your shades to look darker or your highlights to look brighter.


To fix this, make sure your subject is facing the light source or that your main lighting is coming from the side. Just by taking the picture from the other side of the statue, I was able to transform the image below.


Image: United States Marine Corps Memorial, Arlington


Another resource you can use instead of adjusting the angle of your light source is to activate high-dynamic-range imaging (HDR) on your cell phone. HDR uses multiple expositions and levels of brightness of the same picture to make a more balanced composition of the image.


In a nutshell, it takes a few pictures at different levels of brightness and keeps the best of each. Most modern smartphones have this built-in, so you just need to activate in the camera options!


In the images below, you'll see how the high dynamic range allows us see the details in the sky and in the building. Learn more about HDR.


Image: Columbus Circle, Union Station.


2. Pay attention to your subject

An important aspect to keep in mind when taking pictures is to respect your subject. Don’t cut their feet off, or chop off half of their heads. Be mindful when taking a photograph that, unless you're looking for a specific effect, you want as much of your subject to be in the frame as possible.


Image: Kato pretending to punch me. Ha! #Kickboxer, Philadelphia Museum of Art.


3. Be intentional

Take a picture of everything that "speaks" to you, but do so with intent. Try to express a story through your picture and do it in a way so that an outside observer could understand why that moment is important for you.


To create the picture below, I tried to think from the perspective of a person paying respect to their loved one in the only way they can. A white rose in a bronze plate. And a witness to it, the glare of the sunshine. Use your pictures to tell a story.


Image: National 9/11 Memorial


At the same time, don't be afraid of taking the "typical" picture. If you're impressed by how tall the Washington Monument is, by all means, snap the picture even if you can't fit it in the frame. Maybe you're with a hundred tourists in front of the White House taking the same picture or trying to take a picture of the Capitol from Pennsylvania Avenue (which is more difficult than it seems - see below). Either way, go for it!


Image: (Left: Getty Images, 2013. Right: My attempt of replicating the picture)


4. Be in your picture

Finally, something that I often forget is to be IN your pictures and not only behind the camera. A picture of the Capitol is not as great as a picture of YOU with the Capitol. Let people know that you are there and let them see you.


We've all heard the phrase “pictures or it didn't happen." I'm not saying I totally agree with that, but I know my mother would prefer seeing me in front of the White House than just the building itself.


Images: Manassas National Battlefield Park, The White House and the Washington Monument.


For those of you who are interning with TWC this semester, share your pictures using the handle @twcinternships and #TWCSpring2017. Also, check out the TWC Instagrammers and fellow blogger Lydia’s great pictures around the city. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Until next week,

Read Daniel's previous blog posts

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