Student Pharmacist

Written by student pharmacists for student pharmacists, Student Pharmacist magazine provides the latest on career preparation, leadership, legislative activities and advocacy efforts, patient care projects, APhA–ASP Chapter innovations, life on rotation, tips from new practitioners, and more.

How to capture 1,000 words
Jamila Negatu
/ Categories: Student Magazine

How to capture 1,000 words

By Chris Sedgwick, PharmD

Example of an ideal photo: the subjects are engaged, the background is subtle yet complementary to the subject, and the foreground is not overwhelming.

I am a firm believer that a picture is worth 1,000 words. Photography serves many purposes: photos can tell a story, capture memories, portray emotion, elicit action, show recognition, explain things beyond words, and leave you speechless. Sometimes all at once. Through APhA–ASP, photographs have helped express my passion, recognize accomplishments of my peers, and capture memories and experiences to reflect on. 

Yes, a picture is worth 1,000 words, but an experience is worth 1,000 pictures. I have taken countless photos and I will offer a few tips to help you capture your experiences through photography to help express your passion and recognize accomplishments. And who knows, you just might get your photo published in Student Pharmacist!


The not so good photo    The not so good photo: Notice the wasted space and the distractions in the background, including the additional person.

When composing your shot, there’s more to it than “point-and-shoot.” As a photographer, your job is to capture the subject as well as the setting. As you look through the camera’s viewfinder, think about what story that picture tells. If you were to present the picture to a complete stranger, what would they tell you is happening? What would they say about the atmosphere or the emotions demonstrated by the subjects? If you had one opportunity to capture the essence of the current experience, how would you do so in a single frame of your camera?

As a photographer, especially at events, never forget the importance of the moments. These can come and go in the blink of an eye, sometimes without warning or with little care for where the camera is. Being a photographer in these settings requires being aware of various events taking place, anticipating moments about to occur, and a sense for unique opportunities to capture. 

Next time you are at a wedding, ceremony, or sporting event, take some time to watch the photographers as they constantly scan the event for photo opportunities, position themselves in the heat of the action, and even take control of events to capture certain moments. The actions of the photographer are often overlooked at that moment, but the moment captured can last a 

Photography 101

There are three variables that make up what is called the “exposure triangle,” which balances available light and dictates the characteristics and quality of your photo. 

The aperture works like the iris of your eye, by constricting or expanding based on the amount of light available. Bright settings, such as outdoors on a sunny day, will have constricted aperture, allowing less light into the camera. In a dark room, the aperture may need to be wide open to capture as much light as possible. However, as your aperture widens, your photo will begin to lose focus more easily, decreasing the depth of field. This means that with a wide open aperture, while you may be able to focus your lens on one aspect of your photo, other areas, such as the background, may be blurry. Sometimes, it can be beneficial to bring more attention to your subject by blurring the background. 

Shutter speed describes the amount of time the shutter within the camera is open for it to capture the light of an image. In a bright setting, a fast shutter speed can be used to capture a split second in time. However, in lower light situations, the shutter speed must be slower because you need more time for the same amount of light to be captured. Unfortunately, at slow shutter speeds, a moving subject may turn out blurry. If the camera is moving even the slightest amount, the image may be blurred. In indoor settings, it is often beneficial to use a tripod to hold your camera steady, as the slower shutter speeds are prone to shaky hands, and thus, blurry pictures.

The final piece to the exposure triangle is the ISO, and this can be a tricky concept. ISO describes the sensitivity of the sensor or film that is capturing the image. A high ISO will be more sensitive to light and is a good option in low light situations. However, in brighter settings, the high sensitivity is prone to causing a grainy image. A high ISO is like using a megaphone right next to your ear to listen to music rather than a pair of headphones. 

Achieving the appropriate balance of these three factors can be a tricky concept to grasp, and often take years of experience to master. Fortunately, most cameras have settings based on your desired setting or photograph (action, landscapes, portraits, close-ups). To make the most of your photo opportunities, you need to understand how the variables of the exposure triangle can help you get the best possible photo. 


One common mistake new photographers make has to do with framing (and I do not mean the wordwork to hang your photo in). Consider every square inch and all the edges of the 
potential shot before pressing the shutter. Too much foreground, background, or empty space around the subject often just waste space and can be better used by filling it with your subject. 

There are three types of zoom that may help you achieve proper framing. Digital zoom crops your photo before you take it, but you will instantly lose quality because you are using fewer pixels. This is often the case on cell phone cameras where you can “pinch to zoom” on touch screens. On the contrary, some cameras have an optical zoom, where the lens of the camera extends like a telescope to enlarge the image, while still maintaining the number of pixels in the image. One drawback to this method is that it often requires more light on the subject when using optical zoom, so it may not be optimal for indoor photos. The final, and my personal favorite type of zoom, is available on every type of camera. I call it “zooming with your feet.” In other words, the best method to get a properly framed shot, with the best quality and lighting, is to physically move yourself and your camera closer to your subject. This is the most underused feature used by people today.

The background of your photo is just as important as the subject of your photo. Distracting backgrounds may draw attention away from the subject, while a properly used background can add to the setting or story of your photo. Shooting from the proper angle will allow you to avoid the distracting background. You can also modify what is in the background by removing distracting items for the purpose of the shot. When all else fails, move the subject to a new setting if possible. 

In addition to framing your shot, one instant trick to capturing alluring photographs is the “rule of thirds.” To use this concept, picture your image cut into three equal columns and rows, creating a “tic-tac-toe” grid. The intersections of these lines should be used to target the subjects in your photo. You see this concept used in many photographs, but often overlook the intention nature of choice of framing to achieve this effect. 

Cell phones

These settings may hold true for most mid- to high-end cameras, but be honest, most of you end up using your cell phones to capture “photo-ops.” Although you may not always get the highest quality photographs from your cell phone camera, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

First and foremost, don’t skimp out on photo quality because you want to save some storage space. Go into your phone’s camera settings now and adjust the quality to the highest resolution and quality you can. It may take up slightly more memory, but the quality of every shot you take will be substantial. Although a lower quality setting may appear acceptable on your phone, the pocket size screen can mask the true deficits in quality that will show up on a larger screen or printed photograph.

Along with improvement in cell phone hardware, new apps and software can transform your pictures and turn anyone into an artist on Instagram or Snapchat. However, using these filters can actually decrease the true quality of the photograph when being used for other purposes. Feel free to play around with filters, but be sure to save a copy of the raw photo before making permanent changes that you may not be able to undo later. You can always go back and add filters later. Using your phone’s native camera app rather than the in-app cameras will also ensure the best quality.

When sending images from your phone, don’t compromise the original quality of the photograph by resizing the image to send over the Internet. Your phone may automatically decrease the quality of a photo to send through text message or e-mail. When forwarding these photos directly from your phone, your best option is to 
directly upload them through a file sharing app such as Google Drive or Dropbox, or e-mailing them. 

You are now ready to use photography to capture your APhA–ASP 

In 2016, APhA–ASP is going to seek out more chapter photos that may land on the cover of future Student 
Pharmacist issues. So grab your 
camera, get out there, and start displaying how your chapter lives it “why” through photos. 

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