Your passion shows in your pictures.
For you to get any better at photography you are going to have to have fun. If you are not having a great time taking pictures and looking at your results you can forget getting much better. You might be able to stuff some ideas into your head, but it will fade fast and you will not improve (how’s your algebra doing these days?) So we command you to have a great time, find the subject that you are interested in and enjoy looking at, then start taking photos of that. What is your passion? tattooed girls, nudes, cars, bands, mountains, bikes, mountain bikes, guitars, lamas what ever it is that floats your boat: that’s where you start your photography. You will be interested motivated and knowledgeable. You will already have some expertise and probably know people who like that stuff too whom might just be interested in your images too. Jane just said something seriously funny in the background, alas I can’t write here, it is a bit too rude: but I bet her “favourite subject” would make an amazing photography book! Find what you like and shoot it.
Basically when you boil it down to the absolute basics, photography is putting a rectangle frame around a bit of a view. Where you put that frame encloses a composition and can change the most boring scene of nothingness in to an image that can lift the hearts of men, inspire the people to great things, and even give the person who framed it money and fame. So it is worth trying quite hard to do it well. There are some interesting rules regarding framing a shot that you probably expect me to say are rubbish and you should ignore and do your own thing. Maybe, but listen first. Portrait or landscape? Always remember that you can turn the camera 90 degrees and shoot the image longways, most of the time including a great deal of background around a figure dilutes the connection between the viewer and the subject of the image, cropping the human face or standing figure closely usually needs a tall rectangle aka the portrait frame. In the most basic incidence portrait framing gets closer to people, more personal. Rule of thirds, simply this means “do not put the main subject of the photograph right in the middle of the picture as it is boring, do not put it right on the edge as that is strange, put it a third of the way in. In fact to give a picture some nice thirds balance you imaginarily draw 4 lines on the image, 2 down and 2 accross, each line about one third of the way in to the image. Where they cross is where you put the subject, it sounds too simple to be any good but people have analysed hundreds of the most successful images and the majority of them obey the rule. Lines, if you have lines in the image these will tend to lead peoples eyes along them, so frame those lines so they lead somewhere interesting. Balance, putting all the action on one side of the image can look very lopsided, in most cases try and balance the frame with an object on the other side, of similar contrast and total area. As an extension of this, often man made landscapes have very detailed symmetry this can make very interesting compositions, even more interesting is when a single object breaks the symmetry and by doing so draws some compositional attention to itself. Frame within a frame. A powerful device to make an image work is to use natural elements in the photograph to frame a subject, an image of a subject in a doorway framed evenly in portrait is the classical example. Foreground, mid-ground, background. Any image with depth will draw you into the composition, landscape images often fail if there is no foreground to give them a sense of depth, leaving them flat and distant. Of course in some images flat and distant is exactly what you want. You can’t loose.
Photoshop or one of the other programs that do the same thing, are able to make just about any photograph “better”. The only problem is how better can a good photo get? Too much photoshop i.e. something that is very obviously retouched is quite an obvious look, but of course it does not have to be, sometimes a subtle blueing of the sky can make a good photograph into a great image, sometimes it can make a good image look like a cheesy holiday website. It is all in application, and that of course is where using photoshop is just another part of photography, using the same judgment and choices you use when taking photographs. In other words, pure photography that does not use image manipulation is not pure, it is just missing an opportunity to make better images. Something we have long observed when you do some photoshop to you r picture you spend time thinking about how to make it better, quite often you see that you ,issued an opportunity while taking the image to have done the same thing with no extra effort, that sinks in while you spend 20 mins removing a bush in the background that could have been so easily avoided. that will make you think a little next time you take an image, and that will make you a better photographer.
There is no wrong or right with photography, exposure is no exception. Exposure is the amount of light that gets to the chip, it is limited in a number of ways. Over expose and the image will look bright, washed out, the black areas may become grey. Under exposure is the opposite, less light reaching the imaging chip means the picture looks darker, white areas will acquire tone, colours will saturate, dark areas of the images may block together and become deep black. Light meters will try and estimate the “correct” exposure based on the scene in front of the camera and the available light level, but this can only be a clever guess, and of course it is always worth trying to experiment with your exposure, taking several identical shots while changing just the exposure is called “exposure bracketing” and is well worth trying to vary your exposure the creative possibilities will be endless, don’t give up trying to see if you might get a better shot. The only thing that is certain is that if you are not happy with your own image nobody is going to care why, they are going to look at your image and make their mind up as to what they think of it. Nobody can say what is correct, but it is an area where all photographers should take control form time to time when things do not look right.
The exact point of focus, is very important in certain images. By default most autofocus systems focus on the nearest object that is not at ground level, i.e. usually the nearest person. Most modern cameras have some type of facial recognition mode, i.e. they look at the scene and find the peoples faces and focus on those, generally this is correct, as out of focus faces are a basic no no and are annoying. Where these systems often come unstuck are when there is something in the foreground of an image (that is meant to be a landscape or at least a picture of something further away) the auto focus will focus on the obstruction leaving the true subject blurry. In that case you need to take over the focus to manual and precisely decide where you need the attention to be “focused” It is a basic but crucially important part of the image, the areas that are sharp verses those that are not. It is also a factor that can be used creatively to shape the way people look at an image. You can creatively steer the viewer to seeing the image in a different way by choosing to focus on a obscure part of the scene. It can be a creative tool par excellence. Have no fear of manual focus, use it when you need it.
This one is easy, don’t be lazy move around, take an alternative image from a slightly different position and then compare it to your first image. take you camera with you to work and shoot things that you know but from different angles. Viewpoint is a great deal of what makes an image work, if you would like to improve you photographs try and find a better position. It is amazing how moving even a small distance can radically alter your image. Sometimes moving to the next mountain is required, but work on the premiss that the grass is always greener, and you will see that your photography improves immediately.
Photography is about light, and a simple understanding of the main characteristics of the electromagnetic particle/wave is going to help with your picture taking. Brightness, this is the amount of light, light travels though transparent mediums like air in straight lines, as it radiates out from it’s source it spreads out and so the brightness is reduced, this reduction in brightness follows the well know inverse square law. This means that the fall off is much more evident if one is close to the bright source, so if two people are close to a lamp but one is a little closer the difference in their relative brightness is huge, objects lie the sun are so far away that a distance of even miles will have no measurable effect on fall off. But close to the light is another story. Light can either be hard or harsh, ie it comes from a small source like a bare bulb, then it will have very clear and sharp shadows. Or the light can be soft, and come from a large surface light, this light leaves soft blurry shadow with gradual changes of light going from bright to soft shadow. light can have a different temperature, well light just has slight colour, from a golden orange yellow in the morning to a hard midday cold blue coming of the frozen sky. you will have to play about but the effects in your photography are dramatic and powerful, when you use them right.
The aperture is the size of the hole on your camera that lets light in, it is controlled by a simple device that can reduce the amount of light getting to the chip (or film) by making the hole smaller. It has an interesting side effect, the smaller the hole the more of the scene is in focus. Conversely if the hole at its largest (maximum aperture) only a small slice of distance is in focus. This effect is called depth of field, and a narrow depth of field can look really great when photographing people under natural light (i.e. not flash) the subject will appear sharply in focus while the background will be dreamily out of focus. Conversely, when shooting landscapes a small aperture will keep everything from the nearest blades of grass to the mountain tops in perfectly sharp. Most cameras have mode that lets you select the aperture as the priority setting called amazingly: aperture priority mode!
By all means learn everything about photography, but in the meantime get out there and take photos, you probably have a lot more talent than you know, and your modern camera has the intelligence built right into it to help you find your amazing abilities. When people start to get into photography one of the first things they want to do is take control of their equipment, this is obviously the way the professionals do it…No? well I have news for you. We use auto settings and program modes a lot, personally I will use any damn thing I can that will help get the shot with the minimum of bother. Taking photographs should be easy, the easier it is the more different ideas you can try in a given time. The quicker it is, the more you can concentrate on the important stuff like being imaginative and creative. Real professionals use the simplest way to get the best result, and a lot of time that involves using a program mode or auto focus. If you are just at the beginning of your photographic journey and you are about to take a photo that feels special, set the camera to automatic and shoot an image, then look at it and see what could be better, and try again. If you feel you still need more knowledge, (maybe you haven’t quite mastered the delicate art of manual colour temperature adjustment), don’t give up and go home to read a book, take the picture another way, even on the simplest “idiot” setting on the camera. Taking several slightly different pictures will be a better lesson about taking pictures than you could get anywhere. 99% of digital cameras record the setting used so you can study your steps later, remember there are no mistakes just lost opportunities. Years ago people had to spend years learning the complicated control balancing act and some physics to fly a helicopter, now with computers anyone can get in a modern helicopter and fly anywhere they want with about an hours explanation, that means you can spend years learning all about the world from the air, instead of spending all that time in a classroom dreaming about the day when someone lets you risk your life and their helicopter. There are 16 years olds making $200,000 a year as fashion photographers these days. Just do it.
The best time to take photographs is the hour of so after dawn, the second best time is the hour or so before sunset. This is because the light is nice, the sun is low and so it does not make such harsh shadows, the light can be golden which looks warm & rich and so photographs sweet. If it is midday try not to photograph people out and about in the high sun, wait for the sun to get low, and if your camera tries to turn on the flash before dark, consider trying the shot with the flash off, you will probably love the result. But hey there are no rules!
Funny who free stuff always seems a bit of a rip off…
It is a pity – but some of you are not able to employ, the world’s best professional photographers.
So you would like to take fantastic pictures all by yourselves? No need to pay anyone to teach you, just try, take your own great stuff. It is not that hard. If you try and fail, to you, we say well done, you have just learned something “the right way”.
We love photography and enjoy sharing our professional and commercial photography knowledge. We have seen the laughable advice given on some expensive online photography courses and by some of the self-appointed internet photo gurus – you do not need it- just read this page and get out and take some images, you will start to improve today. Here at Photography-Factory.co.uk we work as a cooperative team and we are always trying new ideas and learning, so in a year or two when you are really doing great work you can comeback and teach us, who knows, if you have really developed, we might even offer you a job. If you have really found your mojo we could become your 1st fans. Everyone has one great book in them – maybe yours is a photography one!