We are living in the golden age of Photography where images and visuals reign supreme. Everybody seems to own a DSLR camera or a fancy Smartphone and is constantly producing pictures. We bring you some tips that will ensure that your photos become a talking point and earn you accolades.
1. Know your camera
Take out time to acquaint yourself with your camera. You never know when the perfect Photo opportunity may strike. Fumbling around may cost you your baby’s first smile or you may come back from a vacation with disappointing under-exposed photos. So, make sure you know how to adroitly change to the right settings to take the perfect shot. And if you find the details too intimidating, enroll yourself in a workshop that will make your camera your best friend.
2. Try Composing differently
The best way to take arresting photos is to ensure that you take care while composing the shot. Search the internet and you’ll find dozens of rules for composition like the ‘Rule of Thirds’ that tells you to place the subject of the photo off center at 1/3rd the length or breadth of the photo. Most photographers will advise you to shoot landscapes with wide angle lens. Or even the eponymous rule about shooting along diagonals or leading lines in a picture. While these rules are there for a reason – they obviously make your photos look better, we suggest you ditch the rules and go by your gut feeling once in a while. Imagine how you would want the final image to look and then go ahead and shoot it that way. If you’re happy with it, that’s all that matters.
3. Understand Light
This one is pretty obvious. The advent of Photography wouldn’t really be possible without light. But do you really understand light and how it can make or break your photos? All of the World’s best Photographers will tell you that the best shots they’ve taken are probably at dawn or dusk. That bewitching Golden hour is a delight to shoot. Skies that look like an Impressionist Painter’s canvas, soft light that falls on subjects at oblique angles and long graceful shadows are what most dream photos are made of.
Try shooting someone standing at a window with the sun’s rays falling at a slanting angle filtered by the glass or mesh shutters and you’ll find yourself with a stunning image. Use lamps, LED lights and your camera flash when you don’t have access to sunlight. Understand the nuances, intensity and texture of light and what it does to your photos. This is best done with practice. So, what are you waiting for?
4. See before you Shoot
It’s one thing to ‘look’ at something or someone and a completely different thing to actually ‘see’. We suggest you take out time to see your subject and imagine the resulting image before you look through the viewfinder. Are you getting the most flattering picture of your subject? Would it make a difference if you took two steps to the right? What if you lower your angle? Always ask yourself these questions and push yourself to get the best possible photos.
Famous photographer Ansel Adams said “Photography, as a powerful medium…offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.” He also suggested that if a photographer can produce 12 great pictures in a year, he can rest on his laurels. So make sure you focus on quality rather than quantity.
5. Use Contrast Effectively
Nobody enjoys seeing dull lifeless photos. One of the best ways to inject life into a photo is by introduction of contrast. It doesn’t have to be blaring or distracting. Even subtle contrast can work wonders.
If your subject wears a grey pull-over in pictures while vacationing on a gloomy day in London, you’ll find them merging in with the background, looking indistinct. Ask them to switch to a bright coloured sweater and see the difference. Why do you think the Brits insist on bright red in their phone booths, double decker buses or even on the uniform of their Palace Guard?
You can also use a Polarizing Filter to get deeper and crisper colours. By increasing saturation and decreasing reflections, these Filters generate contrast that makes your pictures stand out. This is especially true when you are shooting landscapes or foliage.
6. Maximise the use of Shallow Depth of Field
Achieve a shallow depth of field in your photos and you’re halfway there to calling yourself a good photographer. That’s a perception most people harbour. Amateurs are constantly in awe of photos that show a crisp in-focus subject with a blurry background. While it makes for great pictures, it’s not the be all and end all of photography. And you’ll realise it is surprisingly easy to take pictures with a shallow depth of field.
Start with placing your subject at a considerable distance from the background. The more distance between the two, the shallower the depth of field. You can also get nice blurry backgrounds by choose a large Aperture (the smaller the number the larger the aperture). We suggest you take a few shots at different apertures and see how it affects the background in your shots. Another effective way is to invest in a zoom lens with different aperture options. The kit lens that you get with your DSLR has a focal range of 18-55 mm and it will give you a maximum aperture of f3.5 at 18mm and f5.6 at 55mm. Experiment with different lenses until you get the desired effect.
7. Make Long Exposures work for you
By choosing the shutter speed in your pictures, you exercise a lot of creative control. Understanding and using shutter speed to your advantage can help you shoot star trails, light trails, soft waterfalls and blurry water. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Learning how to set the right shutter speed in low light and at night can make a vast difference to your photos. There’s no need to pop the flash for every night time photo. Shooting with a longer shutter speed will get you professional looking photos that are vibrant and crisp. Just make sure you keep your camera steady by using a tripod or balancing it on a flat surface.
8. Capture Movement
Sporting action or moving subjects doesn’t always have to result in blurry, out of focus pictures. With the right skill set, you can get beautiful shots of your subjects in motion.
To do this right, we suggest you use the panning technique. To begin, choose a shutter speed that’s about two steps lower than necessary. So if you were to use a speed of 1/250, use 1/60 instead. Keep your finger half down on the shutter to lock down the focus on the subject, then press down to take the photo as you pan along with the subject as it moves. This will ensure that your subject is in focus and has blurry movement lines that follow the movement of your camera as you panned along with the subject.
9. Keep it clutter free
Now here is a tip that will always come handy. It applies to both your camera set up and how you frame your pictures. A lot of photographers travel with far too many lenses, filters and other paraphernalia. The end result is a bulky bag that makes it difficult for you to find what you are looking for. Zero down on equipment you are comfortable with and use regularly. And then carry only that. It will make it easier for you and help you enjoy photography more.
The same rule applies to your pictures. Busy photos with cluttered backgrounds are never too appealing. Look for ways to cut out the clutter. This can be down by choosing a simple background, using a shallow depth of field, switching to monochrome or zooming in to crop the subject. If an object is not adding anything to your subject, remove it from your frame. Crisp, clean pictures usually score over busy, chaotic ones.
10. Keep a healthy attitude
The most important tip we can give you is to maintain your zeal and enthusiasm as a photographer. Bad weather conditions or accidental errors can sometimes take away the joy of photography. A smile, positive attitude and determination to beat the odds will serve you in good stead.
Always be prepared for the worst and make sure you give it your best. Your positivity will definitely shine through in your photos. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for contingencies. So always make sure you carry an umbrella and some extra memory cards.