How to Take Good Pictures

cute-girlTaking good photographs requires long-time learning and a solid foundation. Many people believe that having a good camera will produce them good images, but that couldn’t be further than the truth. Proper photography techniques go further than having a $$$$$$ camera, though that’s not to knock good equipment. One must have the right tools for the task. The following article features 18 tips that can improve your photography.

1) Understand Exposure

The three main settings of the exposure triangle are ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. It is important to understand how each of these settings can affect how a camera takes a photograph as well as how each of them interacts with one another. It is utmost important for a photograph to be exposed properly. An improperly exposed image will come out all black (severely underexposed) or all white (severely overexposed), which cannot be corrected in post-processing. Blown out highlights and shadows have zero image data, so they cannot be post-processed.

2) Tack-Sharp Focus

A crucial element of a highly-regarded photograph is tack-sharp focus, meaning the subject is properly focused and appears sharp and clear. The opposite of tack-sharp focus is when the subjects appear mildly to severely blurred. There are three main ways to achieve tack-sharp focus.

The first way is by making sure that the shutter speed is fast enough. The longer the shutter is open, the greater the likelihood of introducing motion either to the camera or the subject. The rule of thumb is for the shutter speed to be equal to the inverse of the lens focal length (e.g. 1/85 or faster for an 85 mm lens), though a slower speed can be used if you have steady arms, a tripod, image stabilization technology, or a stationary subject.

The second way to improve focus is to use a tripod to reduce camera shake.

another-cute-girlThe third way is to have solid handholding technique: holding the camera by the grip in one hand and by cupping the bottom of the lens with the other hand. It is also important to lock your elbows in by the sides of your body to keep steady. Try to have the length of your forearms be underneath the weight of the camera. That way, your arms are not straining to hold the camera up, but rather, it is resting effortlessly on the skeletal structure of your arms. An extension of this technique is to crouch down on one knee and rest your elbow on your other knee.

3) Understand the Camera

It is important to read your camera manual, learn all the functions, and features and understand how they can affect your ability to take a picture. You may not need to know every single function, but it would be wise to know thoroughly all the ones that can affect your images and your style. You may also want to setup your camera in a way that enhances your workflow so you can work faster.

4) Master Manual Mode

First of all let me say that there is nothing wrong with P or auto mode. That technology was made for a reason. That said, to truly take your photography to the next level, you need to understand the ins and outs of shooting in full manual. Once you achieve that, you will be fully in control of the exposure and details of your photographs. Auto mode doesn’t always understand what you intend as your subject or how you want it to be exposed. It does not understand if you want motion to be blurred or to be frozen. But when you shoot in manual, you can control all these factors.

5) Take Your Camera Everywhere

You never know when you might encounter an opportunity for a great photograph, and in my experience, that is usually the whenever you leave your camera at home. The greatest moments of inspiration are often unplanned for, though if you had forgotten your camera, these moments are lost definitely.

6) Composition

fashionComposition is a principle of art that is related to how elements are arranged and placed in a work of art. It relates to how a photograph is balanced and framed. There is no right or wrong way to approach composition, and there is no logical process through which it can be learned. An artists’ uniqueness and style is often associated with how they approach composition.

Some of the basic composition techniques taught to beginners are the rule of thirds, avoiding clutter and tangent objects, and blurring the background (bokeh).

7) Break Rules for Artistic Effect

The beauty about composition and art is that all of the rules taught to beginners can be broken and still be considered good art. It’s about being deliberate. So, a photograph can intentionally have sharp background & clutter, which adds context, contrast, and color.

8) Fill the Frame with Subject

This is another suggestion relating to composition. Don’t be afraid to close in on the subject and fill the frame with it. This way, other distracting elements are excluded from view.

9) Dynamic Perspectives

photojournalismChoosing interesting angles to shoot from can create an alluring effect. For example, try shooting high above the subject or lower to the ground for unique perspectives. A lower perspective of a person in a photograph can make that person appear more powerful and strong.

10) Keep the Image Simple

It is generally best to take a photograph with as few elements as possible. Too many points of interest will confuse the audience. If you look at famous paintings throughout history, you will find that these paintings feature one main subject which is highlighted in several ways. For instance, only one person will be in full view with other people around turned away or looking at the one person. That person would be the subject. It is subtle but obvious if you know what to look for.

11) Find Light

In case you haven’t noticed already, photography is a craft which is primarily based on light. One might say that a photographer is a magician of light. So, when you are photographing, you need to find sources of light, whether they be natural (the sun) or artificial (flash, strobes).

12) How to Use Flash

Think of flash as a portable sun. Flash can be used to light up dark situations or, in harsh lighting, to fill in shadows and give an even brightening of the subject.

13) Buy Books, Not Gear

booksSometimes, investing in more gear is not beneficial. Instead, buying books and courses will vastly improve your photography. The vast majority of photographers need education to get to the next level; in which case, having more gear will not improve their style or technique.

14) Be Present

Make eye contact, engage, and listen to your subject. They are not experiments in a petri dish. When photographing people for portraits it is important to establish and maintain a good connection with them. If you want them to look or feel a certain way, you must be the one to guide them to be that way. If you want that special moment where they smile at something that catches their eye, that situation must be produced by you, whether it be directly or indirectly.

15) Shoot with Your Mind

Get your mind in the zone everywhere you go. Think about photography and imagine how you would compose a scene in front of you and what kind of exposure (aperture, shutter speed, ISO) you would use. Imagine what kind of photograph would be achieved with certain exposure settings. This way, you are constantly practicing and challenging yourself to understand and improve your photography.

16) Golden Hour & Blue Hour

sunsetGolden hour refers to the time when the sun sets and rises when the sky is fiery and reddish. During these times, colors more vibrant and light softer, which are very photogenic elements.

Also, there is a twilight period called “blue hour” which is when the sun is below the horizon before sunrise and after sunset during which the sky is a deep blue, during which time beautiful photographs can also be taken. In urban areas lights will also still be on, giving a night sky effect without being too dark for photographs.

17) Shoot in Shade

During bright sunny days, aim to shoot in shade to get even exposure and avoid harsh, high-contrast shadows & highlights.

18) Avoid Harsh Lighting

Harsh lights, such as under a bright afternoon sun, not only makes people uncomfortable but also casts high-contrast shadows and highlights, which are not very photogenic. If you have to shoot with harsh sunlight and shade is not an option, you remedy the harsh lighting by having it behind the subjects, so that at least their faces are in shade. With couples, you can have one person create shade for the other to hide under. Play around with their positioning. You can also try having them turn slightly towards the light source if you want a little light to play with (or use fill-flash, reflectors, and/or light diffusers).

Written by: Brandon Yuong