Thursday, 21 March 2013

Tips for taking good photographs

Learn the settings of your camera and what they mean: What is the ISO? What is the shutter speed? What is the aperture, and how do they affect your photos. These are the three main important things in achieving a correctly exposed photograph, and each one is dependent on the other two. Meaning, you cannot adjust one without it affecting the others.

In traditional film photography the ISO refers to how sensitive the film is to light, and is measured in numbers (100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 etc.). The lower the number the less sensitive and the less grainy the film is, the higher the number the more sensitive and the grainer it is. In digital photography the ISO refers to the sensitivity of the image sensor. 

To reduce 'noise' (grain), and have sharper photos, use the lowest ISO possible. If shooting in low light, you will need to use a higher ISO. The draw back of this is that your photos will appear grainer. There are a number of factors to consider when choosing your ISO. Such as how much available light is there, is the subject moving or stationary, are you using a tripod and do you want crisp or grainy photos. 

The shutter speed refers to how long the shutter is open for to let light into the camera. In traditional photography this meant how long the film was exposed to light (remembering that 'photography' literally means writing with light). In digital photography it is referring to the image sensor as opposed to film. 

The shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second. For example 1/60, equals one sixtieth of a second. Or 1/500 equals one five-hundredths of a second. The larger the denominator the quicker the speed = the less time the shutter is opened for. 

You determine the shutter speed based on your light situation (low light will require a slower shutter speed), and whether there is movement. For example, if you want a sharp photo of a moving subject, you will require a quicker shutter speed. Say you wanted to photograph ballet dancers, and you want to capture 'frozen movement', your shutter speed will need to be quite quick, otherwise they will be blurry. Or you might like to actually capture the movement of the dancers, in which case you could have a lower shutter speed to allow for some movement blur.

There are two ways of achieving movement blur. The first is the panning method where you follow the moving subject with your camera. This will mean that the subject in is sharp focus and the background (or everything else in the frame) has movement blur.

Photo by ram reddy

The second is to remain stationary and allow for the moving subject to move through the frame as the shutter is open, thus your subject will have movement blur.

Photo by Ken Driese

The aperture is the size of the hole which lets the light into the camera. The larger the hole the more light is exposed to the image sensor, the smaller the hole allows less light into the camera. Aperture is measured in f-stops, for example f2.8, f4, f5.6, f8, f22 etc. The smaller the f-stop number the larger the hole, the larger the number the smaller the hole. With each f-stop movement, you double or half the size of the hole. 

The most exciting thing about the aperture is that it controls the depth of field. Depth of field refers to how much of the image is in focus. With a shallow DOF only the area you have focused on is in sharp focus, and the foreground and background is blurred. A deep DOF means that most, if not all, of the photograph is in focus.

An easy way to remember how to achieve the desired DOF is the larger the number the larger the depth of field, the smaller the number the smaller the depth of field. 

Shallow DOF are used most effectively in macro photography or portraiture. Deep DOF are used most effectively for landscapes.

Shallow DOF:

Deep DOF:

Remember, that by changing the settings of any of the three elements, it will affect the other two. 

Image quality: Set the camera to take the largest photos possible. The larger the image, the more information it contains and the higher the quality.

White balance: Different light sources throw out different coloured light, and you camera is sensitive to this. Even the difference between a cloudy and a sunny day! Fluro lights throw out a green hue, tungsten bulbs throw out a yellow hue, a cloudy day is bluer than a sunny day, which is yellower. By changing your white balance setting according to what light you are shooting in, you are telling your camera what 'white' is. 

Reduce blur: Use a tripod or brace your self to avoid camera shake and blurry photos.

Rule of thirds- divide your frame into thirds horizontally and vertically. Where the lines intersect should be a point of interest or your subject should be placed. Horizon lines can be placed along one of the thirds.

Copyright Jenna Corcoran

Angle- Change up your position as the photographer. Get down low, or get up high. Different angles and perspectives can create dynamic images. Having said that, also look around you. If something directly in front of you is interesting and photo-worthy, then chances are something behind you is also. Open your eyes and be open to possibilities.

Leading lines- Is there existing lines within your frame which lead the eyes around the composition, or direct the eye to the point of focus? 

Copyright Jenna Corcoran

Abstraction and cropping- You do not need to include EVERYTHING in your image. Deliberate and precise cropping can create dynamic compositions. Fill up your frame, and be mindful of negative space.

Copyright Jenna Corcoran

Straight- Make sure your image is straight. Use lines within the image to square it up, for example the horizon or the edge of a building.

Total awareness- be aware of everything that is within the frame, not just the subject matter, in particular the background. For example, make sure it doesn't appear that a tree (which is in the background) is growing out of your portrait subject's head.

Focus- It's obvious, but focus is so important. Make sure you subject matter is in sharp focus. 

Avoid the flash: Where possible, avoid using the flash, even in low light. It tends to flatten the image and wash everything out. This may sound counter-intuitive, but an example of a good time to use the flash is in harsh light (for example a bright day), to fill in any hard shadows caused by the bright sun. 

Light: The time of day and the type of light is very important for photography (writing with light remember). For outdoor photography, the best light is often early morning or late afternoon. It is generally more diffused (softer light) and not being directly over head it is easier to work with with regards to shadows. 

Break the rules: The above rules can be BROKEN!!!  EXPERIMENT!!!! Art is not about following rules but about discovering ways of presenting what you want the way you want. It's about beautiful accidents. 

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