“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
― Ansel Adams
Here are some invaluable advice to all the photographers. These are the basics which you must know. Do you agree or disagree? Leave a comment to let us know your view.
1. Get low to the ground
We all love a good scenic shot, but too often these look like average snapshots. We all seem to have to learn the lesson that a great view does not equal a great picture.
The fact is, most great photography of scenery gives the illusion that you can walk right into the picture. This is done by getting low to the ground so your foreground is a close-up of a pattern, plants, or some sort of formation on the ground.
The next time you are in that beautiful location, don’t take the picture while standing up at your full height. Rather, crouch down and view the scene that way. As you look through the viewfinder or at the LCD, worry most about the foreground (or the bottom third) of your picture.
The background will take care of itself, as that is what caused you to put the camera up to your eyes the first place.
2. The Best Camera is the one that you can Afford.
Purchase what you can afford and that includes lens and accessories. Going into debt to sustain the hobby of photography will make it stressful and cost you negatively.
If you want to go directly to a higher end DSLR camera that will serve you well for a few years. Save up if you need to as full frame DSLRs are worth every penny if you choose wisely.
3. Get a Speedlite / External Flash.
You don’t need expensive and high tech equipments to create high quality artificial lighting setup. Branded ones from Nikon or Canon will cost you in excess of $300. But there are some fantastic manufacturers who provide great flash units for fraction of that price. One of my all time favorite is from Yongnuo. They also make radio triggers and other accessories. Check out Yongnuo’s Flash. It comes for less than $70 and is top recommended flash for anyone who is starting to learn about artificial lighting.
4. Bokeh vs Blur.
Shoot with both shallow and wide depth-of-field when you are not sure. Not every shot has to be shot wide open at f/1.8 on your light sucking lens. Sometimes isolating the subject is appropriate, sometimes preserving foreground or background details provides important context to the photograph. A prime lens will greatly increase you capability to shoot under low light as well as pleasant background blur called bokeh. The first prime lens that anyone should get right after their kit lens is the very popular nifty fifty 50mm f1.8 Lens. It costs just $100 and is absolute value for money. If budget permits then 85mm f1.8 will be a professional choice.
5. Shoot, Experiment, Learn & Shoot Again.
It’s a repetitive process but it will never get boring. Come up with new ideas. Your first images are likely enough going to be tragic. They will depress you. You will improve. As you improve, celebrate your little victories, and continue to raise your personal bar. Remember that the first person who should be happy with the photographs is ‘You’. There is always an opportunity to do things differently. What you photograph is different and how people will see it may differ. Photography is a game of perception.
6. Fill the frame
This cannot be overstated enough.
We all tend to put some background elements in our picture so that our viewers will recognize the location or context of the picture. The trouble is, beginners always put way too much context in the picture and it dilutes the subject. In any event, we humans are amazingly perceptive and can place context of the photo with only the tiniest of clues.
Next time, try to include just the subject.
7. Put your subject slightly off center
Almost no great pictures have the subject right in the middle of the picture. In addition, key lines are almost never in the middle of the picture. Here are some guidelines to keep you from centering items in your frame:
- Decide what your subject is, and then move it a little bit off-center.
- If you have a horizon line, don’t put it right in the middle, but a little towards the top or little towards the bottom. If you want to accentuate the sky, put the horizon line a little toward the bottom. Conversely, if you want to accentuate the foreground, put the horizon line a little higher in the picture.
- If you are photographing a person, put them slightly to the side (usually opposite the size to which they are looking so it looks like they are looking into the picture).
You will be surprised at the results this little change makes to your compositions.
8. Make it darker
Different levels of exposure create different moods. This is especially true of underexposure. It creates a sense of drama and sometimes mystery. Another benefit of slightly underexposing your images is that it makes your colors appear more saturated. Don’t overdo it, but next time try to knock the exposure level down a touch.
9. Get close
A close cousin to the “fill the frame” tip (it bears repeating) is to get close to your subject. Now get closer. Now get closer still. You actually still might not be close enough. Keep at it.
10. Wait for action
So, you’ve got a great scene lined up. Maybe it is a landscape, maybe an urban scene. Go ahead and take the shot, but then recognize that you probably just got the same shot as everyone else.
The scene isn’t going anywhere. Wait for an interesting development. That might be a person walking through the scene. It might be a flock of birds. It can be anything, so keep your eyes open. That extra something can be the thing that sets your picture apart from countless pictures of the same thing.
You don’t need to wait around all day, but another minute or two might make all the difference.
11. Frame the subject
Oftentimes you will find yourself before an interesting subject, but with no interesting background. A great solution to this problem is to use a frame within your frame. It can be a complete frame, or a partial. The most obvious examples are doorways, windows, and tree branches, but almost anything can be used.
12. Fortify yourself
Right before you go out to take pictures, look at the best photography you can find. If you don’t already have your favorite place(s), start with the Popular page at 500px. Doing this right before you head out seems to always lead to better pictures being taken.
I know you don’t believe me, but it makes a BIG difference. Try it and your will be a believer.
13. Take multiple exposures
Don’t just take one picture and walk off, assuming you’ve nailed it. Take pictures from different angles. Get low, then get higher. Get behind your subject and then in front of it. Pros call this “working the scene” and it is not uncommon for them to take dozens of pictures of the same thing from slightly different perspectives.
Remember that with digital photography it costs nothing to take pictures – so take advantage of this and take a lot of them.
14. Delete, delete, delete (or at least don’t show anybody)
Related to the prior tip, after you are done shooting don’t show people all the different pictures you just took of the same thing!
When you look at a great picture hanging on a wall, or on the cover of a magazine, they don’t also show you the 300 other pictures the photographer took that day that aren’t quite as good. They just show you the very best one.
Take a page from their book and only show your best pictures. That may be a limiting factor now, but you will be surprised how fast your collection of great pictures grows.
Print Your Photos.
Everything is going the digital way. But, print your photos that you are proud of. It is a completely different feeling to see them on paper. This will also keep you motivated.
Do it today
These are all tips you can put into action today. You don’t need any special equipment. The total cost of all extra gear needed to put these tips into action is $0. So give them a try and you should see immediate improvement.