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Take great photos

Take great photos

Go to:
• Shoot great video
• Record great audio
Take great photos
Want to compose your pictures like a pro? Our CNN photo experts say these are the top tips to remember when you are out in the field.

Use the rule of thirds
When taking a picture, it's not surprising that your first instinct may be to place the subject smack dab in the center of the frame. But for a more compelling composition, imagine the scene that you're going to photograph with imaginary lines dissecting the frame into three sections, horizontally and vertically. Rather than always placing the subject in the center of the frame, put it in one-third of the frame - just a bit off-center. This placement gives the subject room to "move" in or out of the frame; it also adds pizzazz to the overall photograph, showing the viewer the environment the subject is in.

Know how to use your flash
In low-light situations, use a tripod, film with a high ISO rating or a flash that is balanced with the available light. You can also try using your flash with a slower shutter speed. Take the flash off your camera and avoid pointing it directly at the subject. You can bounce the flash off the ceiling or wall if your camera has the ability. And keep this in mind: The best flash photographs are those in which you can't tell if the photographer used a flash.

Take as many photos as you can
It's always better to have more material than you think you need. And who knows, the photographs you take on a whim may turn out better than your planned shots.

Check the background
Try to avoid distracting backgrounds. Plain backgrounds often work best. And don't forget to make sure your subject doesn't have anything sticking out of his or her head, like a tree or a utility pole. (It happens more than you think.)

Keep it steady
You've got to hold your camera steady to get a quality shot. A tripod comes in handy, but you can also try to use something to prop your elbows on to help steady the camera.

Frame your elements
Try using elements from the foreground of a scene, like tree branches, to create a frame within the edges of your photograph. The use of framing draws the viewer to the main subject and helps to add depth and interest.

Map out the story
Think ahead about what shots you'll need. You can even write out a script if you are shooting a narrative. And remember to vary your shots. It takes different angles to tell a complete story.

Light it up
Be sure to consider the quality of the natural light around you when you're taking your pictures. The great, golden light available in the afternoons and early evenings is much more illuminating and flattering than the harsh daylight in the middle of the day. Always remember to keep the Sun at your back.

Get close
The best shots are often the most simple, get in close to your subject to capture emotion and intimacy. So, no matter what story you are telling, always be sure to get plenty of close-ups.

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Shoot great video

Shoot great video

Go to:
• Take great photos
• Record great audio
Shoot great video
If you want to shoot great video, look no further. We've compiled these tips from CNN video producers and editors that will help you do everything from frame your shot to use available lighting to your advantage.

Make sure to have plenty of material to work with
When taking video, the general rule is the more material, the better. You need to make sure to have lots of B-roll, or alternate material, in order to add dimension and secondary footage to a story. B-roll helps with cutaways and gives a much more fluid look to a package.

Use the rule of thirds
The rule of thirds, or "golden cut," is a compositional rule to help frame your shots in a more natural and engaging method. Since your TV monitor is a rectangle, you should visually divide it into horizontal thirds, and line subjects up a little bit off center. If your subject is directly in the middle of a shot, it will be wooden and stiff. But if you use the rule of thirds, you anticipate your subject's movement and allow for some background information to be in the frame.

Use a tripod
Many tripods are available at retail stores for $15 to $50, and they can be a worthwhile investment. They'll make your shots steady and sure.

Hold your shot
If you hold your shot for at least seven seconds, even if it won't need to be that long, you ensure that you get plenty of usable material.

Always think about the lighting
Have well-lit surroundings, and always use daylight whenever possible. Avoid fluorescent lighting if you can. And don't be afraid to move the shot - if you're in a poorly lit situation, ask your subject to move outdoors or to a better-lit area.

Even though it's video, don't forget the sound!
If you don't have sound with your video, your viewers are missing a huge part of the story. The more natural, or background, sound you can tape, the better. Try pointing your camera at the ground for a few minutes to absorb some natural sound at the event you're covering, whether it's a concert or a protest. You can use that as a bed for background sound later on when you're editing.

Avoid pans, zooms and dissolves
You may feel like getting crazy with some of your shots, but every video expert we talked to said video clips are simply better when they use static shots. If you must use a pan, it should be tight and quick. An overuse of dissolves tells viewers that there just wasn't enough material to make the story work. Static shots make a video look cleaner and more professional.

Bring an extra battery
Don't get caught with a dead camera in the middle of a great story. Other things to keep in your bag: extra tapes, a notebook and pen, and something to eat (just in case).

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Record great audio

Record great audio

Go to:
• Take great photos
• Shoot great video
Record great audio
Looking to record great audio and get compelling sound clips? We've asked experts at CNN, from sound technicians to radio correspondents, for their thoughts. Some of their top audio tips follow.

A stick microphone is an important investment
Portable recorders will definitely require that you use a microphone for the best possible sound. A good general investment is an omnidirectional microphone, which picks up sounds from all directions.

Pay attention to how you hold the microphone
Hold the microphone firmly and steadily at its base. Position it four to six inches away from the interviewee's mouth - but the louder the surroundings, the closer you should hold it.

If you've got a long interview, your arm will probably start to tire - but no worries. Simply ask your subject to pause for a moment and switch to the other arm. And always handle the microphone yourself.

Always wear headphones when you're recording
You may unconsciously filter out background noise when you're recording audio, but a microphone is very unforgiving. It will pick up rustles, faraway traffic, wind - so always wear headphones to make sure you're noticing exactly what your microphone is picking up.

Block sound if possible
You'd be surprised how much external sound can be picked up by recording devices. So be creative when recording audio and use whatever you can think of to block sound, such as your body, a wall or a windscreen. If there's noise or wind, stand in front of the interviewee to block it. And if you're outside and the noise is simply too loud to block, a car can make a handy interviewing space.

Shut up when shooting
Audio equipment can be super-sensitive, so keep quiet and keep down the noise of others working with you. You may want to laugh, cough or "mmm-hmm" your assent to your subject, but resist the urge.

Get compelling and clear clips via editing
The cut is the key to helping you tell the story with the newsmaker or a witness of an event. It must be newsworthy, it must be brief and it must be compelling. You don't want to use a cut that says what you say. For example, you don't want to say, "The governor says his new budget does not include taxes," and then play a cut of the governor saying, "There are no new taxes in my new budget." You want to set up the audio: "The governor says there is no reason to penalize the people for the overspending of their elected leaders." Then play the cut from the governor: "There will be no new taxes in my new budget."

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