In Part 1 of this Introduction to Photography series I provided some tips for taking better photos that I first shared in an Introduction to Photography course that I ran at our local Community Resource centre back in 2012.
These are general basic tips aimed at the beginner photographer starting out with a point and shoot or entry level dslr camera. In the future I might write some additional posts on more advanced techniques and more in depth articles for advanced camera users, particularly in relation to equine photography, but for the moment I am just focusing on the basic information aimed at helping new photographers take better photos.
How to take sharp in focus photos:
These are the things that need to be taken into consideration if you are having problems with taking photos that are nicely focused. Some of these points apply whether you have a point and shoot or a dslr camera and some of these points such as aperture and shutter speed require significant further in depth study.
- Make sure you are not too close for the camera to focus.
- Check the focus point is locked on subject before taking photo
- Hold the camera correctly and steady to keep it stabilized
- Check how you are standing to avoid camera shake
- Make sure there is enough light for the exposure
- Check the focus point is on the subject before shooting
- Use ‘Sports’ mode or faster shutter speeds for moving objects
- Clean the camera lens and viewfinder with a lens cloth
- Use a lens and aperture that is suitable for what you are photographing ie a fast (f2.8) lens is needed for sports but not for landscapes (eg f11, f16)
- Use a tripod
- Increase ISO in low light situations
- Pre-focus – half press shutter release button before pressing fully to take the shot.
- Back button focus (BBF) if you use a dslr camera that allows this function
- Point and shoot and most entry level dslr cameras have specific modes that are best suited for specific subjects such as portraits, landscapes and sports (these will be discussed a bit later).
Finding the Light
Good lighting is the biggest key to successful photographs – this is particularly important for basic or entry level cameras. This doesn’t mean the subject always needs to be facing direct light from the sun or flash, but the subject does need to be evenly well lit.
For portraits, positioning the subject in open shade and utilizing reflected light or fill flash rather than a strong direct light will produce photos with better depth, colour and dramatic interest.
Landscape photos are generally best if you take them with the sun behind you as everything in front of you will be evenly lit without harsh shadows – utilizing early morning and late evening for landscape photography will also produce better results than during the middle of the day.
Composition tips for better photographs
Use the edges of the viewfinder to frame the subject
- Take a photo of the full scene. Then be selective, move closer to the main subject – consider what you are taking a photo of.
- Watch out for distracting elements – trees or poles growing of peoples heads, rubbish, power lines and move around or zoom in to remove them.
- Tell a story with close ups of the subject
- Keep the camera and horizon line straight
- Find the focal point – the main point of interest and highlight it.
- Use the Rule of Thirds
- Zoom in to the subject so that it doesn’t get lost in the image.
Rule of thirds: To add dramatic interest to your photos and to create pleasing compositions, use the rule of thirds for composing each photo rather than placing the subject dead centre of the photo. Some cameras will have a little grid that you can display over the image in the viewfinder or LCD display to help you with this.
Place important elements of the subject or scene at any of the four points where the lines cross. Place horizon lines along the top or bottom horizontal lines. This can also be done when you crop the photo in post production.
Once you are familiar with using the Rule of Thirds you can experiment with breaking it and see how dramatically it can change a scene.
I hope this second installment has answered a few questions you may have had and given you a few things to work on the next time you use your camera.
In the final installment (Part 3) of this article, I will discuss how to use the various Camera Modes from the basic Automatic Modes (Portraits, Landscapes, Sports) to the more advanced modes on dslr cameras Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual.