A few simple rules
If you’re new to photography and would like to take better photographs, whether it’s with a dslr or a small compact, then with a few simple rules you’ll be able to take some really good shots.
Know your camera
It may seem an obvious thing to do, but get to know your camera. It’s surprising how many people don’t know what the switches and dials on their camera actually do. So read the manual; most cameras have a quick start guide to help you get going if you don’t want to trawl through the whole manual.
Most digital cameras, whether they’re modest point and shoot compacts or higher end dslr’s, will do a pretty good job in auto mode; just point at your subject, focus, and take the picture, allowing your camera to do the calculations such as white balance, hue, saturation etc for you.
But if you’re feeling adventurous, then try out your camera’s other exposure modes; most will have portrait, landscape, action and night portrait modes amongst others.
Using portrait mode will give your subject softer , more natural skin tones. If your subject is far from the background such as outside in the garden, the background will appear out of focus (bokeh) allowing your subject to stand out
Image by Luigi Moranti
In landscape mode the greens and blues are more vivid
Image by NeilsPhotography
In action mode, priority is given to a fast shutter speed to freeze the action.
Image by grodo
Use this mode to photograph small objects such as flowers and insects.
Image by madmarv
As the name suggests this mode is for photographing a in low light situations such as night-time.
Image by maxintosh
Get in close
Some subjects look really good when they fill the frame. An excellent example is shown below of a Flamingo by Richard Step. By getting in really close Richard has shown the details of the flamingo’s colourful plumage and made the image look quite abstract; a stunning image!.
This technique works with people as well. Take a look at the wonderful image below of a young boy by Kaleid. By zooming-in to the boy’s face, along with the soft lighting, has made what could have been an ordinary photo into something special.
So try it yourself, next time you’re photographing a suitable subject, get-in really close.
When photographing someone, instead of looking straght at the camera, why not try getting them to focus on something to one side (as above), this will give a more natural look and will help to prevent red-eye and always focus on the eyes.
Try a different angle
When photographing, try looking at the subject from a different angle; perhaps photographing someone from above or crouching down and looking up. To maximise the colours, try shooting a flower from low on the ground, or as I have done here; a familiar churchyard scene photographed from the church tower (below).
I think we’ve all seen many photos, whether it’s friends or familys holiday snaps, or photos displayed online, of crooked horizons, even though they can be simply rectified with the simplest editing software. A crooked horizon can spoil an otherwise great image. So the answer is to make sure that your horizon looks straight when taking your picture. For more info on this topic, take a look at our other post.
Keep your horizon level!
After shooting session, you will probably look at the lcd screen and feel pleased that the images look good, only to find that when you’ve downloaded your images to your computer some look out of focus.So, the rule is: don’t trust your lcd screen. Yes, I know that with most dslr’s you can use the zoom tool to zoom in to check whether an image looks sharp or not, but I still can’t always tell, even using my three inch lcd screen (even with my reading glasses on!) but maybe that’s just me, and I’m overdue for a eye check-up. The point is, take a little more time to focus on your subject then you won’t be disappointed later.
Locking the focus
If you have your camera set to AF (auto focus) you’ll find that it does a pretty good job of focusing, but if your subject is not in the centre of the viewfinder, you may find that when you compose your shot, your cameras AF may focus on something in the foreground or the background instead, leaving your main subject blurry and out of focus.
To avoid this, you just need to lock the focus by pressing the shutter release button half way down to focus on your main subject which is off centre (as below), then, keeping the button pressed half way down, recompose your shot, then press the shutter release all the way down to take the picture.
There is another way to take a picture when the subject is off centre; some digital cameras allow you to move your AF point; the AF point is the small red circle or rectangle you see through your viewfinder, but this can be a little time consuming if your not too familier with your camera.
A lovely portrait by Sektordua where the main subject is off centre
If your aim is to get a clear, sharp picture with the lowest amount of noise (grain), set your iso level to the lowest possible setting that you can. For photographing on a bright sunny day, set your iso level to 100 or 200 (or lower if your camera allows it, more-so if your using a tripod). If you want more info on iso levels, check out our other post: Beginners guide to taking perfectly blurr-free