Photography is a wonderful, artistic way to pass the time. Although there is a certain eye for it that some people have, anyone can try their hand at it – and you might be surprised at the results! The first thing to remind yourself of is that you don’t need a top-of-the-range camera to produce great photographs. The important thing is the picture, not the camera. But there are many things you can focus on in order to ensure that your photographs do stand out, and we’ll take a look at some of those in this post. If you can pay attention to these things, your photos are bound to be amazing.
Before we get into the real nitty-gritty of taking a great photograph, it’s worth just taking a moment to point out that, very often, what makes the biggest difference to the effect a photo has is its presentation. If you have taken what you feel to be an amazing photo, and it just doesn’t seem right when you see it on the page, it might be that you are presenting it poorly. You need to show your photographs some respect: consider using acrylic prints to produce a photograph that is really going to stand out on a wall – and remember the importance of the frame, too, should you be hoping to hang it.
There is no doubt that light is one of the most important elements in any scene. It might even be the most important of all. After all, it affects everything else that you are trying to control. Actually, it soon becomes clear that when you are taking a photograph, most of what you are doing relates to controlling light. The photographer who controls light well will produce successful photographs again and again; one who does not understand how to do this is unlikely to make the same tracks.
Photography means ‘painting with light’, so it is hardly surprising that learning to control light is going to be important in taking a good photograph. But what do you specifically need to do? Often, the first thing is to consider where the light source is in the scene you are capturing. If you are photographing a subject in a studio, this is obviously something that you control completely. Outside, you need to consider where the sun is and how it is affecting the scene. Even with indoor scenes, you will have to think about what light sources there are. They could be the lamps, ring lights, or a flashbulb from your camera.
Once you are aware of the lighting, you have to place your subject in such a way as to produce the result you want. There is no right and wrong here – it’s all about what you personally are trying to produce. Placement being sorted, you will then need to think about how you are going to control how the light enters the camera – and that is managed by a careful control of the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings.
The Exposure Triangle
This deserves some focus on itself, as alone it is one of the most important things you will need to worry about as a photographer. The exposure triangle is ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. If you can get these perfect, you will find that your photos are much more accomplished. So what are they?
The shutter speed indicates the speed at which the shutter opens and closes. This is measured in a fraction of a second, with slow shutter speeds allowing more light in, and fast speeds allowing less in. The aperture, however, is the hole in the lens, and the larger this is, the more light travels through to the sensor in the camera. With a small aperture, you have a large depth of field; a large aperture produces a small depth of field. Finally, ISO is a way to brighten your photos if you can’t get everything you need from the other two factors. The more ISO you have, the noisier the photo is, so that’s something to be aware of.
If you can gain some control of all this, you will be producing better photographs in no time.
If light control was all that mattered, taking photographs would be as simple as mastering that exposure triangle. But, in fact, there is much more to it, and you also need to make sure that you are focusing on the composition of the piece. Put simply, this is the way in which the piece is laid out – where the objects are, what the view is like, and so on. Amateur photographers often wonder how we can control this that finely, but the truth is that it is always possible, as long as you are happy to move around physically and try out interesting angles and so on.
There are some useful rules of thumb which you can use if you want to provide great composition to your photos. Firstly, there is the rule of thirds, which enables you to split up the screen into squares and make sure that something (or nothing) is placed within each. Then there is the FIbonacci technique, which is a little more complex, but can produce some amazing results.
With lighting and composition mastered, you will then find that you need to turn to the matter of timing. The better the timing, the better the photograph, but what exactly is it, and how do you go about improving it and using it? Actually, timing is a matter of being in the right place at the right time, there is not a great deal you can do about that, except to have patience when you are waiting for something to photograph. Enough patience is going to mean that you produce much better photographs, and it is an important quality for a photographer in its own right.
Once you have mastered these, you will be producing much better photographs in no time. Just remember: it takes time and practice.