In these days where everyone seems to have a camera on their phone or a digital camera, taking photos has never been so popular or so easy. But there is still a difference between taking photos and capturing a great photo. Here I will go through some things to think about when taking your photos to help you capture the best images you can.
When taking your photos you may already have a subject in mind, for instance if you have a family occasion or you are going walking and want to capture a particular view. If not and you just want some practice, try just taking a walk with your camera and seeing what inspires you. Some of the most beautiful things I’ve seen have been when I was least expecting them. The two most common things to photograph – and with good reason! – are either landscapes or people. This is what I will focus on whilst taking about taking photographs, however, most of tips for taking these types of photo can be transferred to taking photos of other things too.
Quite simply, composition is the way in which things are arranged within the picture. The best way to create a great composition is to use what is known as ‘the rule of thirds’. Don’t worry you don’t have to be a maths genius to work it out! Just try to imagine that your picture has two horizontal lines and two vertical lines across it.
When you are taking your photo, try to get it so that things fall either on the lines or at the points where the lines cross each other. Don’t feel that you have to put the main object of your photo in the centre at all. It creates a much more interesting composition if you position it on one of the lines. This rule applies to landscapes too. If your shot includes a horizon, don’t have the horizon across the centre of the picture as this splits the picture in half and the eye isn’t sure which half to be drawn to. However, if your horizon is on the bottom line this gives more prominence to the sky in your picture. Alternatively having the horizon on the top line gives more emphasis to the ground.
You can also use the lines of the objects within your photo to create different types of feelings within your picture. Slanted lines give your picture a sense of action, converging lines give the impression of depth and distance within your picture and curved lines create a calm feeling.
This picture is a great example. You can see that the rule of thirds has been used by placing the horizon on the top line giving prominence to the ground while the natural lines created by the rows of lavender converge in the distance giving the picture a real sense of depth. This is especially important to consider if you’re going to translate your work into large canvas prints or wall hangings, as the larger the image is displayed, the more impact this will make.
If you are using natural light as the main source of light for your photograph then either the beginning or the end of the day is best. It is at these times that the light is softest. Overcast days are also good for taking photos outside. During the middle of the day the sun is overhead and creates a harsh white light. The flash on your camera will also provide light. You can combine the natural light with the light from the flash. If your camera has a ‘slow flash’ or ‘synchro flash’ setting (sometimes referred to as night time mode), this will use a slower shutter speed allowing the camera more time to balance the light for the best shot. This creates a much better photograph than just using the auto flash mode, but be careful to keep very steady while taking the shot. Photos taken with a slower shutter speed can turn out slightly blurry if your hands have shaken slightly whilst taking the shot. A tripod would come in handy in this situation.
You will need to think about the direction of your light source to get the best shot. Lighting from the side can produce the most interesting results on landscapes and on people. As I mentioned before, the beginning and end of the day are the best times for taking photos as the light is softer but it is also usually side light at these times too. As you can see in this photo, the soft side light really highlights the textures and colours in the landscape that may have been obscured by harsher lighting such at midday sun.
I’ve already touched on the subject of colour within photos already while talking about the lighting in a picture as this can affect the colours but there are also the colours that we choose to include in the subject of the photo. Often there are associations with different types of colour or colour combinations. Blues and greens or colours that are close to each other on the colour wheel give a relaxed harmonising effect while colours like red, or bold contrasting colours give a sense of vibrancy. Alternatively you may choose to use a black and white shot. You can experiment with the contrast on black and white shots to get different effects. While being in black and white doesn’t automatically make a photo look more artistic, when used well, the removal of colour from a photo allows you to concentrate much more on the actual subject which can make it a much more intimate style of picture.