The Fire of Images – Some Practical Tips
This is the 4th post of 5 in a series on photography.
- Why I Started To Take Photos
- Why I Continue To Take Photos
- Why I Think You Should Take Photos
- Some Practical Tips
- Photography Announcement
The intention of this post is not to give you expert advice, but to share a few practical photography tips that I’ve picked up, and what works well for me. This is by no means a definitive list – after all there are whole blogs dedicated to this subject! However, it is my hope that by following a few of these suggestions, you’ll gain enough confidence in your photos to start actively sharing them through sites such as Flickr. So, without further ado:
- Cultivating a Photographer’s Eye: So, you’ve started carrying your camera with you, but what to photograph? Well, there are a few things that I look for specifically when out taking photos: colour, perspective, pattern, texture, balance, light, and detail.
Colour: One of the reasons why I don’t take many black and white shots is that I just love colour. My eye is attracted to it, and when I find a profusion of pink or an abundance of aqua, I just can’t help but take a photo. But it’s not just focusing in on one colour; it’s also having the courage to include colour where it adds interest. Bright splashes can really elevate an image!
Perspective: When you compose a photo with an emphasis on perspective, it can really add depth to your image. Taking photographs of roads, paths, lines of trees, waterways etc. can lead the eye through the picture, giving the feeling that you, the viewer, are participating within the image itself.
Pattern: Look out for repetitions as these naturally intrigue. When we regard an image which contains the same objects repeated over and over, we stop looking at the objects and we begin to appreciate their shape, their form. Also, when photographing patterns, remember the golden rule of 3 – groupings of 3, for some reason, always appear pleasing to the eye.
Texture: Photographs which capture texture make me want to put my hand through the surface and touch the rough rock, the satiny petals, the tickley grass, the smooth pebbles. Sometimes, just by paying attention to the variations in the surface of objects you can get wonderful effects. One of my favourite shots does this by including 4 different layers, pebbles, sand, sea and sky, thus combining texture with perspective.
Balance: I suppose out of all these points, this one, along with perspective, most directly tackles issues of composition. When I take a shot, particularly of the landscape, I like to achieve some sense of balance. Often this is achieved through some form of repetition, although not as emphasised as you would find in a pattern. One of the most obvious ways to find balance in a shot is to take a picture of a reflection, but other ways include ensuring equal measures of land/water and sky, foreground and background, or of two contrasting colours. I realise this one sounds more complicated than it is, but it really rewards with great pictures!
Light: This can make or break a good shot. Sometimes, when you are out and about, you’ll find that the quality of light is just magical. It’s at times like this that you need to suppress the flash on your camera, or you may miss out on what made the image special in the first place. Another point that I want to make about light is related to shadows – they can make extremely interesting subjects for photos, but, when you’re focusing on something other than a shadow, make sure that you are not standing/squatting in your own light, and therefore casting your own shadow over your subject. This may sound silly, but I don’t know how many good shots I’ve lost out on because I made this exact mistake!
Detail: They do say that the devil is in the detail, but I only ever find delight! Read on for more on how to get the best out of getting up close…
- Getting Up Close: The fibres in fabric, the stamens of flowers, the barbs of a feather all provide fascinating subjects for a photograph, but in order to do them any justice at all, you are going to have to get acquainted with the macro setting on your camera. Normally this will be indicated on your camera with a flower icon, although I would like to encourage you to use the macro setting for so much more than just flowers. To make the most of macro, you need to hold your camera close to your subject, and keep your fingers well away from the zoom-in function! On my camera, if I half press the button to take my shot, the camera shows me if I have my subject in focus, before I commit to the shot. I find this absolutely vital for taking good macro shots.
- Know Your Camera: While the macro setting may be my favourite, I try not to neglect these other settings on my camera: action, landscape, text, portrait, sunset and night to name but a few. Using the optimum setting for any given shot will really improve your result. If I’m in doubt about which setting to choose, I tend to take one with the auto setting and then another one or two using the different settings on my camera. Afterwards, I load them all onto the computer and make an aesthetic judgment on which looks best, and then I use that as a learning experience when I am faced with a similar choice. This takes me to my main point in getting to know your camera – it is through experimentation that we learn. Allow yourself the freedom to play with your camera, its different settings, its options pertaining to the flash etc, and see what works and what doesn’t. In the age of digital photography, we no longer have to worry about the financial implications of experimenting and failing as we once did with photographic film. So do yourself a favour, take lots of photos and make the most of the options your camera presents you with. Bonus tip: I’ve found the action or sports setting works great with moving water shots!
- Your Editing Suite, Your Play Room: Editing has fundamentally changed my photography. As I mentioned in part 2 of this series, I do process my pictures in order to achieve, not an accurate representation, but an insight into my perspective. The editing suite that I use is iPhoto, which comes with Apple Mac’s iLife. If, however, you use a pc, you may want to try an online editing suite such as Adobe Photoshop Express, which has now linked up with Flickr, making it easier to export your photos to your Flickr account. As I advised with your camera settings, give yourself the freedom and the time to experiment and play with your images. If you’re worried about spoiling them, make duplicate copies and play about to your heart’s content, safe in the knowledge that the original is safe and untampered with. My regular routine when it comes to editing is to rotate my shot (so I can see what I’m looking at!), and then crop it, keeping in mind the points I made about perspective and balance to attain an image that I’m happy with. Then I begin to experiment with brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness and exposure. Normally I find that I make my images darker, with greater contrast, saturation and sharpness, and I ever so slightly lower my exposure. I am not for one minute recommending that you apply this process to all photos though! Experiment, investigate and play until you get the image you are happy with.
Now, I think I’ve gone on for quite enough here, but I hope that some of these tips will help towards increasing your confidence when having a go at taking your own photos, and for sharing them. In tomorrow’s post, which will be the last of the series, I will look a little more at sharing photos before making my announcement, so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out!
I’d like to now turn the floor over to you: Have you found these tips to be valuable? What tips would you like to pass on to others? Do you know of any good blogs to find more photo tips?