Whether you are a beginner or more experienced with photography, here are some of our favorite tips that will help you improve your photography!
4. The Exposure Triangle
For many in photography, the relationship between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO can be confusing. Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO make up the three sides of the exposure triangle. They work together to produce a photo that is properly exposed. If one variable changes, at least one of the others must also change to maintain the correct exposure.
Using Auto Mode takes care of these controls, but you pay the price of not getting your photos to look the way you wanted them, and often disappointing.
I’ve provided the triangle for you up above, so save the image and e-mail it to yourself so you can be quick to pull it up on your phone when you’re in doubt.
To get engaging photos, you need to be engaged with what you’re doing. Don’t just fly by on autopilot. Instead, put thought into your composition.
That starts with knowing the basics of how to compose your photos. Don’t cut off important parts of your subject with the edge of your frame. Keep your horizons level, and try to eliminate any distractions in your photo by adjusting your composition. You can take a crooked photo and re-crop it in post-editing, but then you will end up losing information in your picture that may be necessary.
See if your photo has a sense of balance and simplicity. And if the photo doesn’t look good on your first try, keep experimenting until you get it right. Do not rush, slow down and take your time.
The elements of composition are patterns, texture, symmetry, asymmetry, depth of field, lines, curves, frames, contrast, color, viewpoint, depth, negative space, filled space, foreground, background, visual tension, and shapes. Use one or more of these elements to create a composition that works for your image.
2. Take Your Time
Landscape photography is time dependent so I understand why many people rush. The sun setting isn’t going to wait for you, that boat being illuminated by the moon isn’t going to hold until your settings are right, that wild animal isn’t going to stay there until you get a better position. It’s easy to make mistakes in photography if you aren’t careful.
The best way around this is to slow down and take your time whenever possible.
First, double-check your camera settings. If you’re shooting outdoor portraits on a sunny day, but you’re using last night’s settings for photographing the Milky Way, something is terribly wrong. Slow down and take the time to get it right. Change them before you leave the house while you’re checking your batteries and memory card.
Then, keep the same mindset for every other important decision. Is your composition as good as possible? Did you focus in the right place? Have you done everything possible to improve the lighting conditions?
And don’t listen to people who tell you to avoid reviewing photos in the field. Sure, it’s a bad idea to review photos when something amazing is happening in front of you, but you’ll almost always have some downtime between shots. Figure out the problems with an image in the field – not back at your computer.
1. Lighting, Lighting, Lighting
To me, lighting is the most important thing in photography. Even the word photography breaks down to exactly that: the word “photography” was created from the Greek roots phōto’s meaning “light” and graphé meaning “drawing”, together meaning “drawing with light”. Without understanding lighting your photography simply can not get better, no matter how many presets you throw on it.
Often, the goal is to balance the light’s intensity between your subject and background. Even if you’re photographing a gorgeous sunset the photo could be ruined by a completely dark and silhouetted foreground.
The easiest way to solve this is to pay attention to the direction and softness of the light. If the light is too harsh, you could get bad shadows going across your subject, which is especially a problem for portrait photography.
If the light is coming from an unflattering angle, see what you can do to move the light source (in a studio) or move the subject (outdoors) – or wait until the light is better (landscape photography).
Also, if you’re taking handheld pictures, make sure there is enough light. If not, use a flash (I’ve sometimes used a flash light, head lamp, or even the light on my phone) or move where it’s brighter. The easiest way to get bland, discolored photos is to shoot in environments without enough light.
Don’t over-expose the highlights. When you are picking your camera settings, it is critical to avoid overexposing highlights in a photo. It’s simply impossible to recover all the detail from white areas of a photo.
It’s pretty easy to keep your highlights intact, but this is where shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are so important. These are the only camera settings that directly affect the brightness of a photo (ignoring flash settings, of course).
When you’re taking photos, watch the camera screen to see if there is any overexposure through your eye or histogram. If there is, the first thing you should do is lower your ISO to its base value (usually ISO 100) and go up from there. If it’s already there, use faster shutter speed. That will take care of the issue. As for aperture, make sure it isn’t set to a crazy value (f/32, f/45, etc.) and you’ll be set.