In this post, I thought I’d give a little summary of some things you can do to improve your photography. (I go into a bit more detail in some of my other photography posts, but here I’d just like to touch on a few important things to consider.)
And, no, you don’t need the latest and greatest DSLR (or any DSLR!) With just a few tips, your photos will improve, whether you are using your phone or a pro camera.
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I’ll just get this little talk out of the way, before I move on. One of the best ways to have control over your final image, is to shoot in manual mode. Understanding how and why this is true is a big part of improving your photography. I really wish I had learned manual mode from the first day I had my first DSLR in 2008. My daughter was taught that way, and her photography skills grew amazingly fast.
I learned manual a few months after I got my DSLR. I often switched over to Program mode, (P on the mode dial of most DSLRS), when I wasn’t feeling confident, and I still occasionally use it for grab and go photos. (Program mode automates the exposure, but still gives you control over other elements like ISO, focus, etc. MUCH better than pure auto mode, and a good choice if you want an auto mode with a little bit of creative control.) I think I would have progressed more quickly if I had just learned manual from day one, though.
Remember, a beautifully composed photo in nice light will shine, even if shot on auto. Some of my favorite photos are from my early DSLR days, and they were shot on Program mode (with a 50mm 1.8 lens.)
Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority are options too. I gave a little info about these in this post.
There are a lot of composition “rules” that will help you create better images. (Keep in mind, “rules” are often meant to be broken when it comes to art!)
- New photographers will often place their subject directly in the center of the photo, and while that can result in a great photo, it is often not the most interesting location. The rule of thirds is a great way to help you compose photos that are more pleasing to the eye.
The rule of thirds simply means you mentally split up the view into thirds, vertically and horizontally, like a grid, and place the important elements of your photo along those lines or at the points where they intersect.
- Another composition rule that often works is to fill the frame. That insures the main subject gets the attention.
- Also, look for “frames” to place around your subject. Is there a great doorway, tree branches, an archway, etc. to place your subject in? That will draw the eye where you want it to go.
- Try different angles and points of view. Shoot from above or below, etc.
There are many other ways to improve your composition, so have fun with it!
In good light, photos are sharper and more detailed. Emotions can be captured, just by light alone.
For indoor scenes, look for your available sources of light, (lamps, flash, or hopefully, sun streaming through glass.) A big window or sliding door are perfect light sources inside during the day. If the sunlight is too harsh, hang a sheer curtain on the window or door to soften the light a little.
I talked a bit about shooting in natural light indoors in this post. At night, flash is often needed inside, but consider an external flash that fits into the hotshoe of your camera. With this type of flash, you can bounce the light off of a ceiling or wall and avoid heavy shadows and the “deer in headlights” look.
A lens with a bigger aperture of 1.8, 1.4, or 1.2 (a “fast” lens), will let in more light, so in low light, that is what you’ll need if you don’t want to shoot at way high ISOs. Even a lens with a 2.8 aperture will be better in this regard than a “kit” lens. One of the least expensive ways to achieve better pictures in low light is with the 50mm 1.8 lens.
Light changes a lot outside, obviously. Early morning and just before dusk are the times with the nicest outdoor light, but sometimes we’ll be shooting in the middle of the day. If your subjects are facing the sun in mid-day, they will be squinting, so consider changing their direction or finding some open shade (just inside the edges of tree branches or just under the edge of a covered deck.) Just a small change of location will give more even, less harsh light.
If there is no open shade at all, you can use a scrim/diffuser, (held by a willing family member or friend), or, surprisingly, using a little bit of flash will even out the light when shooting portraits of people. Yes, flash outside! I first heard about using fill flash outside from a photography teacher, and honestly, I thought he was crazy. But experiment with it – sometimes a tiny touch of flash is a good thing when shooting portraits outside.
And, of course, timing is an important factor in photography. With practice, you’ll improve your ability to snap the shutter at just the right moment.
A Great Resource
ClickinMoms – A wonderful site with forums, tutorials, classes, critique, and much more. Friendly and gentle (which isn’t always true of some photography help sites.) I have been a member of ClickinMoms for years and have always loved getting quick answers to my questions and lots of help to improve my photography.
Most of all, enjoy your photography!