Master Photography With These Essential Tips

Every photographer aspires for a high level of skill and the ability to shoot dramatic photos with ease. And anyone can achieve this through lots of research, experience and hard work, but even photographers who’ve been shooting for years find there’s still something new to try. So whether you’re just starting out or you already have some basic skills, hopefully you’ll find some of these tips useful.


#1 Learn to Use Your Camera

Before you get started with anything else it’s important to know how to use your camera (note these tips assume you’re using a DSLR) and at least learn what the basic settings do. I’d highly recommend researching these or asking someone experienced to show you as opposed to trying to figure it out yourself because some of them are a bit tricky to put into practice and you might not learn to use them correctly by yourself.


Here’s a rough list of the key camera settings you need to know about: Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, Exposure, Focal Length, Camera Modes.

And a few others that would be beneficial: White Balance, Metering Modes, Focus Modes.


#2 Try Out Some Composition Techniques

Composing your photos is where your creativity comes into play and you’ll find there’s no rules or right and wrong methods to this. But if you’re just getting started and don’t have a clue how to create an eye catching photo then there’s a few techniques you can try out to help you with this. Some of the most popular techniques photographers use are: foreground, background, the rule of thirds, leading lines, the golden ratio, visual weight and balance.

#3 Shoot Everything

Practicing your newly learnt skills is what will really take your photos to the next level and a good way to do this is by carrying your camera with you everywhere and shooting as many photos as you can, and eventually you’ll start seeing potential photos all over the place. Taking lots of photos of the same subject is a good practice whatever your skill level because firstly you’ll learn new ways of taking your photos and what works and doesn’t work, and secondly you’ve got more chance you’ll take a decent photo.


#4 Add Depth To Your Photos

Incorporating the illusion of depth into your photos is useful to emphasize the scale and size of subjects in your scene and can turn a two dimensional, flat looking photo into a three dimensional one that you could imagine jumping into.


There’s many ways to add depth to your photos and we’ll cover a few of the most common techniques.

-The easiest method to help emphasize the distance between you and the background is to include foreground interest, which basically means placing subjects in the part of your photo nearest to the camera and usually towards the bottom half of the photo.

-Another technique you can try to lead the viewers eye further into the photo is by incorporating leading lines which are subjects of different shapes such as a straight or curved line like a road or river for example.

-Using a shorter focal length or a wide angle lens can give your photo a sense of scale and make subjects appear much bigger if you’re using a wide angle lens.

#5 Good and Bad Lighting

Taking advantage of the many types of lighting is key to a dramatic photo, but on the other hand bad lighting can result in an unattractive and boring photo.


Shooting Outside

The time when lighting is at it’s best when you’re shooting outside is in the morning and evening when the sun is low in the sky. At these times the light is more dramatic creating longer shadows with stronger shapes and textures. But a more specific time that photographers like to shoot at is when the sun is on the horizon because it casts a beautiful, soft golden light. On the other hand the worst time to shoot is on an overcast day because the light is very flat on these days and your subjects will lack color and contrast. But there are some types of photography that work well on an overcast day such as shooting portraits because the clouds act as a giant soft box creating a natural, soft light.


Shooting Inside

If you’re shooting inside for example portraits or building interiors in a room with windows then using sunlight to your advantage will give your photos a natural, bright look. If you can’t use sunlight then the next best choices are using a flashgun with diffuser or studio lighting, which can also create a natural looking light. You might be tempted to use your on camera flash for lighting but in most cases this will give unnatural looking results with harsh shadows and overexposed areas.


#6 Try Out Different Angles

A common mistake beginner’s and even experienced photographers make is shooting only at eye level from a view which people see everyday when you could be benefiting from some potentially interesting angles, so instead try getting down low or finding a higher location to shoot from. Another good practice is trying out different spots in your chosen location and moving around to include different subjects in your foreground or background so you don’t miss out on any potentially better angles.

#7 Edit Your Photos

Using photo editing software can have a huge effect on your final photo and nearly all professional photographers edit their photos to some degree. But you don’t have to do a huge amount of tweaking so your photo no longer resembles what you originally shot (although many photographers do this and get great results), but correcting things you didn’t quite get right such as the contrast, sharpness, levels and saturation can be beneficial.


#8 Common Mistakes Made by Beginners

Everyone makes mistakes at some point and you’ll find this is true for professionals as well, but learning how to spot some of the most common ones will help you prevent them.


Blurry Photos

The most common reasons for a blurry photo are camera shake and slow shutter speeds. Camera shake is caused by the natural shaking of your hands which you can combat by using faster shutter speeds or a tripod. The shutter speed as a rough guide should be equal to your focal length or faster. For example with a focal length of 60mm you would need a shutter speed of 1/60th second or faster as a rough guide.


Excessively Dark or Light Photos

This one you’ll come across a lot and often you won’t get it spot on whatever your skill level, and a good way to learn to do this is by shooting then tweaking the settings until you get the right results. You’ll find that even when you think you’ve got all the correct settings, sometimes your photos come out looking too dark or light, and the technical terms for these are underexposure (too dark) and overexposure (too light). To overcome this the best method is using exposure compensation which is a button on your camera that usually has a +/- symbol on it and you can set this in increments for example +1, +3, -1 or -3. Basically this works by changing the aperture or shutter speed and the brightness as a result, depending on which shooting mode you choose.


Out of Focus Photos

There’s a couple of common problems you’ll come across when you’re focusing, including an out of focus subject and the wrong subject in focus.

-It’s unlikely that everything in your photo will be out of focus unless you’re shooting in manual mode or in certain focus modes because your camera simply won’t allow you to take the photo until it focuses on a subject.

-But often you’ll find that the wrong subjects are in focus so one way to remedy this when using single area AF is by placing your subject in the center of the frame or on one of the selected focus points then press and hold the shutter button halfway down to focus on that subject, then you’re free to move the camera around and it will stay focused on that point.

-Another reason for an out of focus photo is you’re using the wrong aperture for the situation. For example if you’re taking landscapes shots and using a wide aperture then only some of the scene will be in focus, so you would need to set a narrower aperture instead.

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