I get it, you want to take better photos but you don’t want to have to learn all that technical stuff, the do’s and don’ts of photography etc etc. Or maybe I am wrong and you do? Either way if you have a smartphone, a point and shoot, a complex DSLR or mirrorless camera – basically any kind of equipment – these 3 tips, under the guidance of a professional photographer (me), will improve your photos dramatically. If afterwards you do want to dive much deeper into photography, I offer a photography course that teaches you everything you need to know to get started with photography, and beyond.
The rule of thirds is your friend. How does it work? Very simple. Imagine a grid of three lines horizontally and vertically when you take a photo. Now place your subject onto one of the points where these lines cross. That’s it. Some cameras will allow you to set a grid on your display or in your viewfinder. To find this, check your camera’s manual or play around for a moment through your settings.
Now why does the rule of thirds work? Because you give the viewer longer to get lost in the story. When your subject is in the middle, it is static and your viewer’s eyes have no other place to look at. You will see many photos being composed using the rule of thirds as it creates a much more dramatic photo with much more depth. Of course you do not have to compose every shot this way, photography is a creative art, you are free to be creative. However, the rule of thirds is used by many professional photographers as you are able to get the viewer to gaze longer within the shot than when your subject is just sat in the middle. Take a look at these two images, do you feel the difference?
Sunrise and sunset – the golden hours. Those two moments of the day produce the most magical images. Most photos taken by professional photographers will be under this lighting, also called soft light. The worst time you can go and take photos, but funnily enough also the time you see most people take photos, is in the middle of the day, with a crystal clear blue sky. Why do so many people take photos under this lightening? Well, it’s much easier to get outside during day time than it is to get up at 06:00 or to stay and wait until the sun sets. And why is this a bad time? Because this produces hard light and creates rather unflattering images. It can work for some photos, for sure, depending on what you want and where you are. If you want to show harshness or heat in a photo, then go for it. Or if you’re shooting in a forest and want some light-beams to shine through the trees, this works as well. For the rest of your photos however you want to stick with soft light i.e. sunset, sunrise or cloudy days. Clouds work as a filter, filtering the harsh lighting away and creating a much softer light. So don’t feel sad next time you want to go out and take photos and it’s cloudy. Any professional photographer would be more than happy to trade a harsh midday sun for a soft light cloudy day. A handy app to have with you is The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE). This is a sun and moon calculator so you can see exactly when and where the light will fall on the land.
I know a few photographers in Canada and when they take a quick snap photo with their phone and post it on Facebook, it looks amazing. How come? Because the landscapes there are incredible. Yes, a good photographer is able to take good photos everywhere. However, here is a truth, just as with models, good locations make better photos. I am not saying you should all go and live in Canada, but if you want your photos to truly shine you should scout around and look for good locations. How? Well, we have a very handy invention for that – the internet. When you travel somewhere beforehand pre check some stunning locations to visit that fit in with what you want to shoot. Once you are in one of those locations it is of course all about observing and truly paying attention to your surroundings and the details that are happening in front of you. Please understand though, that going to these outstanding locations does, at times, require some extra effort. It’s one of those things not many people seem to be realize about photography. Sure pressing the button is easy, but finding and then traveling to those locations is not always. I often venture out for hours through tough terrains, carrying my 15kg a backpack to get to a good location. Of course, that sort of comes with the territory for the type of photography that I do. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Hell yes it is.
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