To inexperienced photographers, taking a great photo can seem simple: just point and shoot. But anyone who’s tried to learn how to take professional photos knows that there’s a lot more to it than that. From choosing the right subject and setting up a cool composition to finding the best light, it takes a lot of consideration to capture a great photo. If you want to take your photography to the next level, here are some tips to help you learn how to take good pictures. Once you get the hang of these basic pro techniques, it should vastly improve your results.
The best part about knowing how to take professional photos? It leads to new opportunities. The more professional-looking photos you’ll be able to produce, the better your online photography portfolio will look. And the better your online photography portfolio looks, the more photography jobs you will land. Whether your interest is professional or you simply like taking pictures for fun, solid photography skills can be extremely useful for designers and illustrators. Let’s say you’ve armed yourself with one of the best cameras for creatives – what next? This essential photography crash course will show you how to improve your photography skills.
From focusing and composition to white balance and lighting, this guide will cement your basic photography skills, rid you of bad habits and leave you to concentrate on capturing better images. We’ll walk you through how to make the most of the controls on your DSLR to take better pictures (note that we’ll explain procedures for Canon and Nikon cameras, but these techniques will work on cameras made by other manufacturers, too).
You’ll also find plenty of tips on these photography websites, and for DSLR photography beginners (or those who just need a reminder), this DSLR cheat sheet is a handy resource, too. While you’re here, it’s worth taking a look at our guide to the best photo editing apps for polishing your snaps, as well as our guide to perfecting portrait photography. Check out our extensive list of Wedding Photographers in Melbourne to help capture your special moments.
Table of Contents
- 1 Tips To Boost Your Photography Skills
- 2 9 Benefits Of Photography
- 2.1 Photography Affords Immortality
- 2.2 Photography Documents Your Journey Through Life
- 2.3 Photography Is a Wonderful Stress Reliever
- 2.4 Photography Inspires Your Imagination
- 2.5 Photography as a Career Is Possible for Anyone With a True Passion for It
- 2.6 Photography Is a Wonderful, Safe, and Natural Self-Esteem Booster
- 2.7 Photography Brings You Closer to Your Natural Spirituality
- 2.8 Photography Lets You See Things That You May Never Notice Otherwise
- 2.9 Photography Preserves New and Old Memories
Tips To Boost Your Photography Skills
Before starting out on photography, you will need to know the basic camera features to use it to take better pictures. Here are some camera basics that all beginner photographers need to know before starting to shoot.
Aperture: Aperture is the lens diaphragm or opening that lets in light into the camera and controls field depth. The amount of light entering the camera is controlled by adjusting the size or opening of the aperture—the wider the aperture, the light entering the camera and shallower the depth of field. The narrower the aperture, the less the amount of light entering the camera, and the deeper is the depth of field. Learn more about aperture in detail here.
Shutter Speed: Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter remains open to let the light fall on the camera’s sensor. The faster the shutter speed, the shorter the exposure and the lesser the amount of light allowed. Slower shutter speeds let in more light but can cause blurry images. Learn how to creatively use shutter speed for creative images in this article here.
ISO: ISO is the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor to light. Higher the ISO, higher the sensitivity to light, lower the iso value, lower the sensitivity to light. High ISO values can introduce noise in your images, and so it is important to choose your iso values wisely. Learn more about ISO here.
Exposure: Exposure depends on how much light enters your camera and reaches your sensor. Exposure decides how bright or dark your image appears, and exposure can be controlled by adjusting the aperture, shutter speed and iso. More information on controlling exposure can be found here by reading about the exposure triangle, the rule of equivalent exposure and the law of reciprocity. Exposure Triangle shows how exposure, shutter speed and iso work together to get the right exposure.
Histogram: A histogram is a representation of the tonal values in your image. It helps to get the correct exposure on your images. To learn and understand more about the histogram, take a look at how to read the histogram, how to get perfect exposure using histograms and how you can push the histogram beyond its limits.
Focus: Focusing means getting a sharp image recorded in your camera’s sensor. In order to focus, you can use either auto or manual focus. Once you get a grip on autofocus, it is best to master manual focus, as well as a lot of types of photography that do require manual focus. Learn more about the camera’s autofocus system here.
Zoom: In order to zoom into a scene, you need a zoom lens, or you will need to manually walk towards your subject. The zoom functionality is available only in zoom lenses and what it does is make the subject or scene appear closer than its actual distance.
Camera Shooting Modes: The camera’s mode dial has various preset options and shooting modes. Depending on the scenario that you are shooting, it is best to choose the correct shooting mode. Learn more about the various preset options and the camera’s mode settings.
Metering Modes: As you progress in your photography, metering modes are also one of the most important factors that you need to be aware of to get the exposure right under various lighting situations. Learn more about metering modes here.
Raw vs Jpeg: Depending on what format you shoot, you will have to have memory cards in store for your shoot. Raw files are pretty huge compared to jpegs, but the beauty of raw files is that it is uncompressed and loaded with so much detail that you can flexibly work with the file and pull out/recover as many details possible when post-processing. Read more about it here.
Composition is the art of photography that you can learn without a camera. However, since almost everybody on this planet has access to a camera or smartphone, it’s a good place to start for us here.
Correct composition is responsible for the placement of the subject (or point of interest) and proper placement of other elements to guide and help the viewer perceive the photograph properly.
There are several rules for composition which you’ll need to learn. Of course, art doesn’t require rules, but you need to know them to know how to break them.
Some of the basic composition rules that you can start with are:
The Rule of Thirds
Simple as the name itself. You separate the image into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. The intersecting points are the points of interest. If you are shooting portraiture, you would be placing the eyes along with one of the points of intersection, preferably the top ones.
However, if you’re shooting landscapes, you would separate sky/earth with the thirds and place the point of interest (imagine a sunset, in this case, the sun) at one of the points of interest.
Also, even smartphones can show you the grid as an overlay to make it easy for you until you get used to the framing – of course, this can be activated on DSLRs and Mirrorless systems.
Symmetry Within Your Composition
If you don’t fancy the rule of thirds for certain composition, you’d probably want to do it symmetrically. However, the symmetrical composition is quite tricky.
Firstly, you’ll have to place the subject in the centre, the light must guide the eye towards the centre, and all the lines must be straight and symmetrical. It takes both a lot of attention to detail and getting used to having everything straight and parallel in your frame.
You can use the rule of thirds guidelines to align the image properly and symmetrically – so both techniques go hand in hand nicely.
Guiding (or Leading) Lines
This rule can be used in conjunction with the rule of thirds or the symmetrical approach. The goal is to have lines (either real or simulated with light and trickery) to guide the eye toward the point of interest in the photograph.
This applies to both portraiture and landscape (to choose two contrasting photography interests).
However, in portraiture, it should be subtle, while in the landscape, it can be quite direct. Of course, you can break the rule, but you need to be careful about it. The lines should act as a guide, not to remove attention away from the point of interest.
This depends largely on what type of camera you’re using, as although it is harder to achieve with a smartphone, you can still try it out by focusing closer (i.e. performing a macro shot with your smartphone).
On the other hand, with a DSLR, you can achieve this quite easily. The selective focus will create blur in the background and foreground of the picture, thus shifting the attention of the viewer on the element in focus.
The out-of-focus elements, on the other hand, should be decorative and pleasing but not distracting. If this is the case, you might have to reconsider where you are framing your subject (if we’re talking portraiture).
Light is a crucial factor in photography. Photography itself is essentially capturing light, therefore, no light = no photo. However, the quality and position of the light are absolutely imperative too.
The end goal of using light is to add depth to the image, to make it pleasing to the eye and bring out your intended elements.
Often, you’re photographing portraits, you’d want the light to be slightly angular and avoid having it top down. This is the primary reason why photographers avoid portraiture at noon.
The sun is high up and creates shadows that aren’t flattering. The same applies to landscapes, there is no depth in the image when it is evenly lit with harsh shadows, essentially making it messy.
The easiest light setup for portraiture is the “Rembrandt” type of light. It is easy since it requires only one light source, it doesn’t require too much softening in the light source itself, and it can be easily achieved. The results are often always pleasing.
However, on a picture, which is 2-dimensional (rather than the 3-dimensional vision we have), you need some more trickery to be able to induce depth.
Harsh light often stimulates the 2D look more, making the image look more like a drawing rather than a photograph – if that makes sense?
With harsh light, the shadows lack tonal changes, making it look like something out of a comic book. Which, of course, isn’t a bad thing. However, softer light creates depth and makes portraits look more natural and pleasing.
As you might have noticed by now, not all light is created equal. Thus different light sources have different colour temperatures, and if you don’t use the proper white balance, the image can be too blue, too orange, or get pulled towards green and magenta.
Use the Tripod When Necessary
Not all lighting conditions or types of photography allow for hand-holding the camera. There are times when you want to use a slow shutter speed that is slower than what you are capable of hand-holding. For example, long exposure images of water features and clouds, night sky photography, macros, etc. With tripods, you can shoot exposures of several seconds to minutes and create sharp images. Make sure to turn off image stabilization when using the tripod.
How to Photograph?
Read your camera’s manual as this is very important to learn and understand the various features, buttons, menu systems in your camera.
Learn to location scout before the actual shoot for landscape and night sky photography. It is also good to do the same for outdoor portraits, architecture photography, etc. Looking for a wedding photographer in Melbourne? Look no further. Vines of the Yarra Valley has compiled an ultimate list of wedding photo companies to help you choose.
Once you find a good spot, look around for the best light and frame your scene. Make sure you look for the direction and intensity of light and compose your image following the compositional guidelines. Try different settings, like aperture, shutter speed (for long exposure shots), perspectives, focal lengths and other combinations. Do not rush and take your time to compose and shoot.
9 Benefits Of Photography
Photography Affords Immortality
Don’t believe it? Look at all the old photographs your mom or grandmother had around. I have a picture in my china cabinet of a newly married couple in 1911, and I have no idea who it is. (No, Cousin Ann, I don’t care to know.) I mean, it has their names on the back, but I’m not quite sure just where in the family tree they belong. I just think it’s cool. They looked so stiff and formal back then! It sure is different from how we take such natural pictures today. I will be immortalized laughing or smiling in many pictures.
Photography Documents Your Journey Through Life
From your childhood pictures to your child’s pictures to your grandchild’s pictures. From first smiles to first steps to first dates, life can be documented and preserved. Photography captures personal communication that would otherwise be lost forever.
I’ve often noticed something in a photograph that wasn’t apparent when I was snapping the picture. Sometimes it’s a look on a child’s face or an arm around a lover or something that would have been lost forever if not captured in that very moment in time.
Photography Is a Wonderful Stress Reliever
I mean, really, how much can you concentrate on that all-consuming problem when you turn your focus instead to the petals of a flower, the wings of a butterfly, the graceful curves of a majestic mountain, or the dimples of a smiling baby?
Photography Inspires Your Imagination
My sister is a professional photographer, and her creativity while taking photographs of the kids is what moved her (slowly) toward a career as a photographer. She loves finding and replicating such creative poses as a newborn in a net seemingly hanging from the sky. She also loves taking a couple and creating romantic ways for the shared love to be shown.
It has inspired my own creativity, as I help her come up with new ideas. For instance, one day, I was walking on a road with plenty of random cracks in it. The sun was behind me, casting my shadow forward. We talked on the phone about how to capture this one particular couple, and the strength of their union and I mentioned the cracks all around them (symbolizing life in general). However, when it came to their shadows, they were solid. In this way, it showed the strength of the union and how life couldn’t “crack” them.
Photography as a Career Is Possible for Anyone With a True Passion for It
Some people make a living being a photographer. Imagine, if you will, that every picture you’ve ever seen, whether it’s on a billboard, in a magazine, or on TV, was snapped by someone. There are schools, classes, books, and websites where you could learn much more than I could ever tell you. Remember, you have your whole life in front of you. Why not aim for a part-time career on the side?
Photography Is a Wonderful, Safe, and Natural Self-Esteem Booster
My 14-year-old loves the feeling of pride she gets when she takes pictures of her friends, and they turn out good. When she downloads and sees them on the computer, she’s in seventh heaven. And, of course, she loves sharing them with her friends.
Photography Brings You Closer to Your Natural Spirituality
Look around at the wonders of nature. Whether you believe in God or not, you can’t help but feel a stirring at the beauty surrounding you. You simply can’t help but understand how very small you are while realizing how very vast everything else is.
Photography Lets You See Things That You May Never Notice Otherwise
When I look at something, I can’t possibly take in every aspect of my vision. For instance, a beautiful sunset only lasts so long, and I may not notice all aspects of how the colours play on the water (I live in a beach town). The look of the sand (such a simple thing) changes as the sun lowers. All of these aspects are much more evident in a picture, and I can concentrate on the overall view while knowing that the individual components will not be lost forever.
Photography Preserves New and Old Memories
Think of the wife or husband who has lost a spouse. Or the child who lost a parent. With pictures, not only can they have no fear of forgetting their loved one’s face but they can remember exactly what was going on when that picture was snapped, cementing the memory forever. At Vines of the Yarra Valley we have compiled a list of the Best Photographers in Melbourne to help you choose who captures your magical day.