Dear amateur photographer, there are a few things you need to know about taking good pictures. It does not depend on the equipment alone and it is not enough that you have a brand new camera. Your ability counts too. Sadly, you don’t yet have much ability because you are a beginning photographer, right? Photography progression will take you through the steps to develop into becoming a great photographer.
Assuming this is your first time to using your camera, let us go over the basics step-by-step. First, what do you need to know?
Understanding your camera
While the camera is modeled after the human eye, the images captured are never quite the same as we see them with our own eyes. Things will appear normal in your eyes but they will appear different when you download or print the image. Why? Because the human eye makes corrections both within the eye and the brain to make objects appear “normal” with the correct amount of light and color. You need to understand your camera and understand how you and it can make adjustments and corrections for various situations. Let’s get started by learning some basic terms, just so you know the parts of the camera at least.
Here are a few:
Pixels – Pixel comes from Picture Element. These are the small squares or tiles that make a digital picture and these are what capture the light on the digital sensor inside of the camera behind the lens. One camera’s pixel may be larger than another. Generally a 12 megapixel compact camera will make smaller prints than that of a DSLR camera with the same megapixels. The pixels in the DSLR will be larger and thus gather more information (light).
Aperture – This is the opening of the lens formed by the diaphragm. Like the iris of your eye it adjusts the amount of light entering into the camera.
Aspect ratio – This is a ratio of the horizontal measurements vs. the height. Usually, it is 4:3 for compact digital cameras, computer monitors and TV screens. DSLR and 35mm cameras are 3:2.
Anti-shake –First, find out whether you camera has it. Sometimes called image stabilization, this feature allows the camera to adjust for minor movement thus reducing chances for blurred images.
Memory card – You need to have a few of these, or a big capacity one in your early days so that you can shoot many images. Additionally, you need the card reader to transfer data from the memory card to the computer.
These are just a few terms and we will explore more later on.
Lighting and light conditions
Photography means “drawing with light” so understanding light is essential to taking good pictures. You will have to watch the light, learn where the shadows are falling, what type of light it is and how these variables affect your subject. For an amateur photographer, always make sure the sun is behind you. If you are photographing a person, you could make them face side ways a bit so they do not squint at the camera. As you learn more about photography, you will know of different ways to manipulate light, shadow and flash to achieve different effects such as silhouette.
Depth of Field (DOF)
Depth of field is the range of distance of a given subject that appears acceptably sharp. The DOF varies depending on the type of camera, aperture setting and focusing distance. In very close up or “macro” shots, like a picture of a flower petal, the DOF is very short, meaning that only the petal is in sharp focus. Everything before and beyond the petal are out of focus. Conversely, in long landscape shots of mountains the DOF is very long and everything is in focus.
What would you like to photograph?
What area of photography piques your interest? Is it nature? People? Pets? Sports? Once you decide, you can now start looking for techniques to master on how to take good pictures. There are techniques and camera settings unique for every type of photography. For example, if you want to photograph your dog, you can try moving around him and shooting at his eye level to take the best shot or angle of your subject. Remember, every day is a learning experience. Research the type of photography you are most interested in to see how others are doing it.
Many new photographers make a mistake because they look for perfection. Don’t! Suppose you are after the photograph of a butterfly, will you wait to get closer and risk losing it? Forget about the knobs and buttons. Shoot first, practice being quick. Some of the most beautiful pictures are taken at a whim, without much notice.
Try Different Shutter Speeds and Aperture Settings
Now, I know you are an amateur photographer right now but this is the stuff that makes professionals. Initially you let your camera decide how to adjust these using the “AUTO” setting but as you progress you must experiment with your camera settings to understand how these affect your image. We will delve into these settings later. The more you know how to control your camera the better you will be at taking good pictures.
This is very important, but we almost left it out, didn’t we? If you are taking the picture of a kid, dog, or person, focus on them, let them almost fill the frame. Choose plain backgrounds that do not distract from your subject and watch for branches and poles that look like they are sticking out of heads. We will discuss the “Rule of Thirds” later. Just know that unless you are taking a full portrait, it is best to have your main subject of center filling only one third (left, right, up or down) of your image. By doing this the eye is naturally drawn into the photograph making for a more interesting picture. Some cameras have grid lines in the viewer that you can use to set up your shot.
Keep It Steady
Use a tripod whenever you can. A tripod will give you the time to make adjustments with your camera and subject while reducing the blur and shake experienced when holding the camera. It is especially important for low light settings or long exposure settings. Learn how to use the “Self-Timer” feature to activate the shutter button to reduce camera shake. Practice holding your camera, while holding your breath, and then slowly press the shutter button. Keeping your elbows close to your body will give you a more stability when shooting.
To take beautiful pictures is not as hard as it seems. Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time so just keeping your camera with you is a great start.
Refer to your camera’s manual often and get out there and shoot away. That is the one way to know your camera.
Lastly, to master the art of how to take good pictures, have an expert evaluate your pictures and suggest improvements. To take beautiful pictures, learn the technique then practice, practice, practice makes perfect.