A photographer friend of mine has been giving me some serious pointers on how to take better pictures. Over the past couple of weeks he has shown me four simple little rules that he guarantees will turn me into an award winning photographer. I don’t know about that, but I must admit that my shutter skills have improved dramatically since he’s been working with me. I have been so satisfied with the results that I decided to share them with everyone on AC as well.
Find a Subject
Great photographs have great subjects in them, so find a subject and stick with it. Don’t just fire random shots all over the place. While there are many interesting photographs that have come out of random shooting, only one shot out of several hundred in that set usually make it. Consider the differences between a random shot of Arlington National Cemetery and a well chosen shot of the headstone of a famous American war hero in Arlington National Cemetery. The latter is the one that’s going to move the hearts and minds of your viewers.
Think Outside the Shot
There isn’t a person, place or thing out there that hasn’t been photographed hundreds of times and at a variety of different angles. Think outside the shot and try to be more original. Think about that gravestone in Arlington National Cemetery again. It has probably been photographed many times before, so what sets your photograph apart from everyone else’s? Ask yourself this question every time you get ready to hit the shutter button. Think about how distance and angle change the perspective of the photograph and try to use them to portray a particular thought, emotion or opinion about your subject.
The Subject Is Not the Center of Your Photo
Never place your subject in the center of the photograph. The local area and background of the subject is usually what makes it interesting to look at. For example, what would set that single gravestone in Arlington National Cemetery apart from every other gravestone in that cemetery? Think about how it the emotion of the image would change if you put it to the right of your shot and set it in the back of a flat bed truck making its way toward a funeral procession on the left. That is the photograph that will move the hearts of your viewers into mourning. Offset your subject and try to use as much of the surrounding area that you can to capture the emotion of the photograph. Taking a picture is a lot like writing a sentence; a subject without a verb makes no sense whatsoever.
Proper lighting is crucial to taking great photographs. Bright light will haze your photographs and bring out all of the unwanted details of your subject. Low light will cast shadows and hide all of the interesting details of your subject. Late morning and early evening are the best times to shoot out doors. If you shoot indoors, invest in a set of contractor lights or at least an inexpensive flood lamp. You can also buy some cheap lamp shades in different colors and use the material from them to shade your lights with. Red shades warm your subjects and blue shades cool them.
Also, watch the position of your light and pay attention to how it falls on your subject. Never shoot with the light behind your subject. You want the light to be behind you, preferably over your left or right shoulders.
The great thing about these techniques is that they work with any camera. I use an inexpensive digital camera or the camera on my iPhone and I have been able to produce the same results as my friend does with his expensive high definition camera. Give these a try and see what you come up with. You might just surprise yourself.