Tired of deleting more photos than you keep? Hit your image target every time with our sure-fire guide to how to take good photos and get it right in-camera.
Now that the days are getting longer, the photography ‘season’ is just about upon us. So now’s the time to dust off your camera, clean your lenses and sensors, head outdoors and get back to doing what inspires you – taking great pictures.
We’re not talking about going out and recording enough average images to fill a hard-drive that you’ll ‘sort out’ later in Photoshop.
We mean taking pictures that don’t require you to chain yourself to your computer to fix something that could have – and should have – been resolved before the shutter release was even pressed. We’re talking about knowing how to take good photos instinctively.
We are all guilty at one time or another of cutting the odd corner when we’re out shooting, knowing that something can be ‘fixed’ when we’re back at our computer.
But do you really want to spend spring in front of a monitor screen when you could be out taking more photographs instead?
In this tutorial we’ll share our top ten photography ‘must-dos’ that are guaranteed to help you learn how to take good photos instinctively. You’ll learn how to produce better shots in-camera and, most important of all, reduce the time you spend pushing pixels around in Photoshop!
How to take good photos: 01 Think about your shots
Photography doesn’t start when you get your camera out of your kit bag or look through the viewfinder: the process begins when you ‘see’ a potential shot.
Whether that’s physically looking at a sweeping view in front of you or visualising an image in your head, this is the point when you should start asking yourself questions.
What has drawn you to this image? Why do you want to capture it? And what is it that you hope to achieve?
Thinking the image through before you even reach for your camera will help you decide which lens and focal length you need, the aperture and shutter speed to use and where you need to be to take the shot.
It’s all about imagining the picture you want, and then working back to determine what you have to do to realise that shot.
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How to take good photos: 02 Get composition spot-on every time
Whenever you look through your camera’s viewfinder, or line up a shot on the LCD screen, you take your first step towards composing a shot.
There are lots of long-standing ‘rules’ regarding photo composition, many – such as the Golden Spiral and Golden Section – going back to classic painting techniques.
Perhaps the most widely used rules in photography, and certainly one of the easiest to work with in the field, is the Rule of Thirds: it’s simple, yet effective.
Just imagine two lines crossing the frame horizontally, and two crossing it vertically to divide it into thirds.
Positioning key elements on these lines, such as a horizon on one of the horizontal lines, can produce a more dynamic image than having something dead centre in the frame.
Placing key elements at the point where the lines intersect also serves as a powerful compositional device.
Drawing the eye in
Using leading lines and foreground interest can also strengthen a picture. Whether it’s a stream winding away from the camera position, a wall receding into the distance, or the implied leading line of a subject looking into the distance, these will all help to draw a viewer’s eye into a picture – perhaps to a more distant feature that you want to highlight.
At the same time, you don’t want to have a large, blank space in the foreground, so look for something interesting to fill the bottom of the frame and link this to the main subject.
If it’s a landscape you’re shooting, you could look for wild flowers or lichen-covered rocks to add interest in a pastoral photograph, or maybe even something that jars with the image – a discarded carrier bag or some litter will say something equally valid about people’s interaction with the natural environment.
And don’t forget to use your feet to find the perfect position to shoot from.
Above all, when you look through the viewfinder you should be aware of everything you’re looking at – not just the subject, but the way the various picture elements work to attract the eye and whether there are any distractions creeping into the edges of the frame.
Sure, you can crop or clone these out later, but zooming in slightly or taking a step to one side to exclude something isn’t difficult, and highlights the difference between a good photographer and a digital retoucher.
While it can get boring when used in a formulaic way, there’s no doubt that the Rule of Thirds is a valuable tool in your compositional repertoire. This boat would have looked much less attractive if plonked dead centre!
The Golden Spiral is a time-honoured way of creating more visually harmonious compositions. The Rule of Thirds is a simplified version of this ancient formula.
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