Most of us will not take photography as a very serious event. We take it rather informally and don’t spend too much time with the composition, posing or lighting of our subjects. By spending a little extra time and effort beforehand, we can greatly improve the quality of our photographs. One of the great advantages of digital cameras is the fact that you can always delete photographs that you are not satisfied with. This is significantly less expensive than film where you need to shoot lots of rolls of film with no way to see your results immediately. Another advantage is the ability to actually edit or post process the photographs that you have taken. Still, editing is not going to be your silver bullet. You should strive to take a great first picture and then only rely on editing if you absolutely must.
Although some of the features of digital photography are different, most of the same old rules of photography apply. The rules for taking a good photograph still remain the same and a great deal of research has gone into the subject. This research has evolved to a point where an amateur photographer can greatly improve his photos by employing a few simple, yet effective techniques/
Steady as she goes!
Tripods are great for taking sharp, clear photographs. They are also somewhat cumbersome to carry around with you where ever you go. If you find yourself without a tripod, then the following tip will help you steady your hands when you take the photograph: Hold the camera the way you usually do; adopt the most comfortable and natural grip by using two hands. Next, hold the camera steady by placing your arms close to your body and draw your elbows close towards your belly or chest. Stand with your feet a little less than shoulder-width apart. Alternatively you may want to lean against a tree or a wall to afford you further stability.
Take your time and get the shot right
As the photographer, you will need to direct your subjects accordingly to give you the best composition. When working with people, don’t be afraid to tell them how to stand, whether they need to move in closer or step back. Ask them to remove any distracting accessories like sunglasses that reflect sunlight back into your camera. You are essentially the director and you need to tell your cast how they should act.
On the same subject of composition, try to avoid the ‘busy’ backgrounds. Try to get your subject or subjects to move to a less distracting environment. Busy backgrounds or environments will more than likely take too much attention away from your subjects and should be avoided. If avoidance is not possible, then try to come in much closer on your subject to blot out any distracting elements in the background.
In people photography, always go for an angle of eye-level. Eye-level composition will allow you to get more detail into your photographs rather than higher or lower angles. You can easily capture the emotions and expressions of your subject if you shoot at eye-level. Being at eye-level does not necessarily mean that your subject always has to look into the camera.
When taking photographs of wildlife or people, the key is to move in close and fill the frame. If you are unable to step in closer, then use your zoom lens to get closer. You need to be mindful, however, that any distance less than three feet can be too close and may result in less than optimal photographs. For distances such as this, you will need to get special lenses.
One other critical factor that will be discussed in subsequent articles is lighting. The light you need to shoot under should not be harsh, like the mid-day sun. Harsh light casts shadows and alters colors yielding disappointing results. The best way to shoot a subject in sunlight is with the sun behind you. Be wary that your own shadow does not creep into the shot. Also pay attention to your subject. Do not make them stand directly facing the sun which may force them to squint.
Practice these tips whenever you take photographs so that you can learn to use these techniques as if they were second nature to you. This can dramatically improve your photographs without the need for additional, more expensive equipment.
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You can also see photography resources (some free) from Photography Equipment & Resources