I am fairly new to photography…or should I say studying photography. I have always enjoyed taking photos throughout the years but not to the degree I have since getting a digital camera. There was too much waiting before. I would take my pictures and be very excited in the beginning but then I would delay getting the film developed or forget to pick them up for weeks. I’m pretty much an impulsive person. I want to have what I want when I want it…thank you very much. So digital photography is perfect for me. I can snap the photos I’m so excited about and come home and downwload them and Voila! … there they are to enjoy and share with others.
I am not a professional by any stretch of the matter, but have learned quite a bit in my design and photography classes about images and manipulating images. Some of it is so simple, you wonder how did you didn’t already intrinsically know it? Other things take more time to learn but you can get there with practice. I’m going to share with you what I know. I’ll be posting different topics and tutorials here as I put them together. For now, some just basic things you can do to start improving your photography. These are simple things I did that really started to make a difference right away.
Read Your Manual
I know it sounds daunting, but the best thing you can do to start taking better photographs is to sit down and learn what your camera can do. I have always just taken my cameras out of the box and used the automatic settings. Once I read my manual and learned how to use the different settings, I started taking different and better photos. I learned how to adjust the white balance for different lighting scenarios. There are simple buttons on most cameras that allow you to switch between a sunny situation or cloudy one or indoors. You want to use these (if you don’t have other manual controls) because your camera will automatically adjust for those situations. I’ll talk about lighting in another post, but the short of it is each lighting scenario gives off a different cast of light. For instance, most photos shot indoors have that yellowy, warm glow. That is from normal inside lighting. Your whites in your pictures will alwasy have a yellow tone unless you do something to change it. Using the correct setting on your camera for whatever light you are shooting in will put an automatic correction to the photo. For most point and shoot cameras, it won’t be like using more manual settings and adjusting things yourself, but it’s better than not having done it and you will see a noticable change in the colors on your photographs.
Most of us are too far away from our subject. When you spot something you want to take a photo of, snap it once and then move in closer and snap it again. I bet you will like the closer photos better. Often times, if you can get your subject to fill the frame of your viewfinder on your camera, the photo will turn out more interesting and have more detail. It will be more interesting for your viewer.
Think About It
Each time you look in the viewfinder, you really need to think about what you are trying to say or show. I used to just snap away without giving much thought as to where my subject was lined up in the photo, what direction they were facing, how much of the sence was in the photo. These are all things you need to think about and actually take the time to compose your shot. I mean, if you have the time, move around the subject and see what composition makes the subject at it’s best.
There is a design principal knows as, many other things, the Rule of Thirds….
When looking through your viewfinder, you want to be able to mentally break it down into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Without getting too technical, you want to be able to place your main subject in one of the areas represented by the green circles. These areas usually provide the most visual interest in a shot when placed there. You usually do not want to place something in the middle of your photo. It is too static and boring. When shooting a scene with a horizon line, place it either at the top third or bottom third. So for instance, say you are shooting at the ocean. You want the area where the ocean meets the sky and that line that results from it to be placed either at the top or bottom of your photo…not in the middle. It will make it much more visually appealing for your viewer. It adds a sense of movement to your photos. I’ll cover more on this topic later. For now, try out thinking about this next time you compose your shot. It will make a difference.
Try A Different Angle
Most photos that I have come across that I find really exciting aren’t usually because it is some item or subject that I have never seen before. It’s usually because it is a common subject shot from an angle that I’m not used to seeing it in. Flowers are really popular currently being shot from down below, or what appears from down below as if you are on the ground looking up at the flower and sky. Try it! Get on the ground and shoot something from below, or stand on something and get it from the top, etc. The point is to try and shoot it in a new and interesting way. Tilting your camera ever so slightly to give something a different angle is a great tool as well. It mixes it up and gives fresh appeal to your photos.
Look At The Light
When composing your shot, you want to think about how the light is hitting your subject. Another one of those topics that I’ll cover more in depth later, but want you to start thinking about. Where is the light hitting your subject? Is it making them squint, giving off harsh shadows, softly falling across something? Usually, your photos will turn out better if you can use natural lighting. Side lighting is nice too because it adds depth and interest. You want to make sure though that there isn’t too harsh of shadows or contrast. Think about the time of day you are going to shoot. Early in the morning or befor sunset gives off some of the prettiest light to shoot in outdoors.
Make Sure You Are In Focus
Often times, photos appear blurry because you didn’t focus the camera ahead befor taking the shot. Most automatic cameras operate such that you need to push the shutter release button halfway down to focus. Through the viewfinder, you will see when this happens usually with a green light coming on or XX signs where the focus is. You want to make sure you are focused on the area that you want the most clear in the photo.
Learn To Edit Your Photos
Most cameras or computers come with some type of photo editing software. Your photos will look a whole lot better if you apply a little bit of photo editing to them. Learn the program that comes with your camera. Often times, it is just a quick click of a button to take care of red eye or crop a picture. These simple things will really make a difference in the long run. If you want to take it a step further you can get an editing program like Photoshop Elements, which is a more user friendly version of the main program. There are other programs that are free to download and use as well. Gimp is a free image editing program that people use for photo retouching. There are tons of free tutorials and support groups online for learning more about photo editing.
Take Note of What You Like
Look online at photo sharing sites such as Flickr to see what excites you and then try to emulate that next time you take pictures. I have spent countless hours looking online at different photographers, looking for photo tutorials, anything to help me learn more about photography. Sometimes just making a mental note about what you like in a photo help you set off in a new direction.
Hopefully, this will help a bit to get you going in a new direction with your photos. My photos have really taken off by thinking of some of these simple things before I hit the shutter button. More to come later! Anyone have other simple tips to share?