No extra photography equipment or editing software necessary here, just a point and shoot, smartphone or SLR camera (if you have one) with the lens that came in the box.
1. You don’t need another lens yet
Photography tip number 1: Forget those who poo-poo kit lenses shipped with new cameras. True, their build quality isn’t great and they probably struggle a bit in low-light, but take a look at Andrew Gibson.
In his post why your kit lens is better than you think, he explains how his entry level Canon 350 and ‘inferior’ 18-55mm stock lens got him into Practical Photography magazine.
2. Stop. Using. Automatic. Right. Now.
Automatic mode ends up with something like the above picture: unwanted reflections, over-exposure, a cheap flat look, shadows where you don’t want them and too much darkness where the flash couldn’t quite reach.
Bone up on the aperture, shutter speed and ISO basics (Adam Dachis nails what you need to know here) and find an abridged version of your camera instructions created by a helpful online soul (or just read the original).
As well as full manual (M), the top of your camera probably comes with these options. Experiment with each of them.
Manually control the flash, ISO (to take photos in darker situations), white balance (the overall image colour temperature, typically ranging from orange to blues) and adjust your image brightness.
Aperture priority (Av or A)
Change the depth of field (i.e. the ‘DSLR blurry background’ look). Low numbers (4.5 and under) give more blur, higher keeps more in focus.
Shutter speed priority (Tv or S)
Particularly useful for fast moving sport action to keep the subject in focus.
3. And be sparing with on-board flash
It’s the in-built flash that mostly creates that cheap look. Turn it off and use other light sources (especially natural) for a more deft touch as above.
Generally , shoot with light behind you to show the subject the most clearly, side angles for more interesting shadows and shooting into it for a silhouette.
Also, look to the environment for extra options. White walls can reflect the light to the other side of the subject, if needed.
4. Try ‘the rule of cubes’ not just thirds
Go beyond the rule of thirds (splitting the scene into horizontal and vertical thirds, then placing the subject on a line). Think depth too – foreground, mid and background for context.
Take this (admittedly) fairly average still above. The focal point is the woman in the white jacket. Having people in the foreground and background shows the context of a bustling corridor.
5. Then don’t
Some argue there’s a ‘rule of quarters’ or power quadrants, where you place important aspects into the four corners. Believers of this MIGHT point to something like this image from Moonfruit website customers I See You, where the young girl smiling in the foreground is the main visual anchor.
Others could say it’s still thirds (the two girls in the background and the front girl’s left eye is pretty much on a corner intersection) or that there’s no principle at all except capturing a candid moment.
Whichever, don’t get fixated, try whatever works.
6. Direct the viewer
Point of view
The one most of us know: shooting from above makes something look smaller and innocent, below (like the camel photo) more powerful and level to make it more natural or humanised.
We like to follow lines (look at any classic road photo or spiral, the eye wants to see where it leads). So when thinking about composition, take a minute to consider the visual journey of the viewer.
Use of light, dark, space and fill can also lead the viewer.
Take the above image by Lucca Messer. Maybe you saw the woman on the right first because of her skin tone and clothes that contrast with the rest of the image, was surprised by the Queen Elizabeth II mask then a bit confused by the horse at then end. You can catch more of his work on his Moonfruit website here.
Practise makes perfect
Get to know your camera, practise as much as possible and experiment. You don’t need to be an expert but decent images on your blog and website massively improves what people think about your idea, product or service.
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