What constitutes professional photographs? As much as we would like to deny it, not all photographs were created equal; that casual shot of your weekday lunch probably won’t make the cut for this week’s edition of Food & Wine Magazine.
So what gives? Everyone can take a photo, but not everyone can take a good photo. Despite the fact that most of us ‘average Joe’s are usually just trying to record a moment or subject, not win a prize in a photo contest for technical excellence or appear on TIME magazine, there is something very important to remember about taking that spare-of-the-moment picture – Chances are, you won’t be able to take that exact image again. That moment in time will be gone. Thus, it’s best if you can record that image the best you can at the time.
Without further ado, here are 5 quick tips on how to improve your photography.
What makes the photo? Simply placing the subject in the middle of the shot is, more often than not, clichéd and boring. The “Rule of Thirds” one of the first things that budding digital photographers learn about in classes on photography and rightly so as it is the basis for well balanced and interesting shots. This is one of the most common tips that pop up when it comes to improving your photos.
To break it down, you cut your frame into thirds by using both horizontal and vertical lines. You then place your point of interest over the cross sections of the grid. Placing your subject on the lines/intersects will result in a more engaging photo.
Finding the perfect balance between light and shadows is key. The lighting of a shot can either make or break the photo.
See where the light is coming from, and use it to your advantage, whether it is natural light coming from the sun, or an artificial source like a lamp. How can you use the lighting to make your photos better? Observe how the light interacts with the scene and the subject – Is it highlighting an area or casting interesting shadows? These are all things you can utilise to make an ordinary photo, extraordinary.
You can also use flash during the day. You might think that you should only use flash at night time or indoors, but that’s not the case at all. If it is an extremely bright day outside and the sun is creating harsh shadows on your subject, switch on your flash. By forcing extra light onto your subject, you will be able to fill in those ugly shadows and create an even exposure.
Backlighting creates a silhouette and lends an interesting perspective to the photo.
Complementary palettes, jarring combinations, striking contrast. Different colors contribute different things; a good photo would tap on colors to set the mood.
When photos have too many colors spewing out from them, they’re often hard to look at. While there are certainly exceptions to the case and a masterfully crafted photograph can still present a myriad of colors well, we’d advise beginners to try to focus on having one or two colors predominately featuring in your photograph. It will be more pleasing to the eye and will help set the tone of the image.
Eye contact with the subject(s)
There are three types of eye contact to consider when taking a portrait, along with different situations where each may be particularly appropriate. Eye contact (or the lack of) plays a big role in setting the mood during portrait photography – whether it’s for a formal portrait, or a candid snapshot!
1. Direct Eye Contact
With the subject looking right into lens, a connection is created between the viewer and the subject. This connection is defined by the expression held – it could be seductive, angry, or even terrified.
2. Eye Contact Between Subjects
Unlike direct eye contact, having two different subjects looking at each other is a way to depict the relationship between them. The viewer becomes an observer, and is no longer “involved” in the photograph.
This is commonly done to represent a loving relationship, like for example almost any wedding shot, but it could equally be chosen to represent hate, anger, or fear. If you’re wanting to capture some form of atmosphere in a scene, this can be a great way to do so. This visual connection needn’t just be between two people. It could involve anything, from a child having fun with their dog, to someone thoughtfully arranging a bunch of flowers.
3. No Eye Contact
Finally, we come to the idea of a sole person looking away from the camera – or any other obvious subject. This very much puts the viewer in “observation mode”, and it can feel as though you’re gaining a glimpse into the thoughts and private moment of the person portrayed. When the subject is looking away into the distant unknown or is lost in the recesses of their mind, it usually creates a thought-provoking and pensive photo.
Depth of Field
Controlled by factors such as aperture and focal length, depth of field (DoF) usually refers to how much of the picture is in focus.
If you are new to photography you may not yet be taking advantage of how DoF can enhance your photos. A basic definition of depth of field is: the zone of acceptable sharpness within a photo that will appear in focus. In every picture there is a certain area of your image in front of, and behind the subject that will appear in focus.
What if you just have a point and shoot camera, or don’t know how to change those settings? Even with a point and shoot camera, there are ways to control your depth of field. For example, in the Scene Modes menu, look for a symbol of a human head, which is the setting for portraits. This will give you a narrow depth of field. In the same menu there is also a mountain symbol, which is a setting for landscapes, which will give you a deeper depth of field.
We hope these tips have been helpful to you. If you would like to share your pictures with us, feel free to write in or even tag us on Facebook! Happy shooting!