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Photography covers a remarkably vast range of subjects from art to science. All the information on the web can give you a real headache when you first get going. So whether you are in it for a hobby or for a profession, you still need to start with the basics. With that being said, we have spent countless hours sourcing the web for the most relevant topics to get you on your way to shooting great professional photos.
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15. Using The Rule Of Thirds
The rule of thirds is one of the most important "rules" in photographic composition. If comes from the theory that the human eye will naturally focus to intersection points that occur when a photo is split into thirds
The idea is to focus your subject on any of the intersecting points of the grid. It is often natural to center your subject when taking a picture but your photos will feel more natural if you use this rule. A good example would be a photo of the sun setting over the ocean. Placing the horizon on the lower or upper line will fell more natural to the human eye when viewing the photo.
14. Understanding Aperture
Ever wonder what it is that makes a camera work? We could spend a whole week explaining that but one important thing to know is how to properly use aperture.
Aperture is the size of the opening in the lens in which light travels. When you hit the shutter release button a hole opens up allowing your camera image sensor to catch a glimpse of the subject you are wanting to capture. The aperture that you set will determine the size of that hole. The larger the hole the more light that gets let in - the smaller the hole the less light.
Aperture is measured in 'f-stops'. They are often referred to as 'f/number' - for example f/2.8, f/5.6, f/22.
To save you confusion. Large apertures (where lots of light gets through) are given smaller f/numbers. So f/2.8 is in fact a much larger aperture then f/22.
13. Depth Of Field
Photography is a two-dimensional medium. You can create depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and the background. Overlapping is a good technique to achieve this. The human eye will naturally separate the layers creating an image with more depth.
Often a photo's subject is to small and gets cluttered by its surroundings. By cropping tight around the subject you will eliminate the distractions from the background therefore making your subject stand out and be the main focus.
11. Choice Of Background
How often have you seen a photo where the subject is perfect but the background lacks interest? Our cameras flatten the foreground and the background so it is important we choose a background that suites our subject and feels natural.
10. Using Flash
We all know it. Flash is a super important aspect of photography. We use it to fill shadows on a face for portrait photography, fill light for cathedrals and wedding photography. The list goes on for its use. Play around with a camera mounted flash or a strobe to get the best out of your images.
9. White Balance
If anything can you ruin your photos, its white balance. White Balance (WB) is the process of removing the unrealistic color casts so that objects that appear white to the naked eye are rendered white in your photos. Our eyes are very good at judging what is white under different light conditions, but digital cameras often have issues determining what is true white and will create unsightly blue, green and even orange color casts. Understanding white balance will help you avoid this common problem and save you tons of post edit time.
So how do you go about finding the correct white balance? Well the easiest way is to put your camera on auto white balance (AWB). But sometimes you will need more control and need to set it yourself. To set if yourself and have full control you need to understand color temperature. Color temperature is the is the spectrum of light which is radiated off a 'blackbody'. A black body is any object that absorbs all incident light — neither reflecting it or allowing light to pass through.
Take a look at this chart below. The chart below is a rule-of-thumb for the temperature we see in our everyday light sources. Notice how the higher the 'K' the cooler the temperature is? On the opposite end the warmer colors have a lower 'K'. Wait, hold on — What does this 'K' mean anyway? 'K' is the symbol for Kelvins. It's what the people making the big bucks use to measure light temperatures. This will give you the general temperature, or kelvins, to use when setting your white balance. If you happen to be shooting an outdoor senior portrait then you should set the color temperature somewhere between 6500 and 8000 kelvins.
So lets see how setting different color temperatures can change the color on a single photo. Fortunately, most modern digital cameras make this easy for us by having set presets we can dial into to. If your shooting with a top mounted camera flash you would dial to the flash symbol. This would set your camera in the color temperature range of 5000 - 5500 K. You can also set your camera to AWB and have the camera figure it out. But remember that the auto function will not always be accurate. Oh, and a little bit of a pro tip — If you change your white balance because you are shooting outside and then move inside after. Please remember to switch back the white balance or set the camera to AWB or you will be spending a lot of time fixing color correction.
In very basic terms, ISO is how sensitive your camera is to light. The lower the ISO number the less sensitive and the higher the ISO number increases the sensitivity of light. When you are shooting a photo in low-light you would want to use a higher ISO number to allow more light. This is used in conjunction with Aperture and Shutter Speed to create the perfect photo. An auto ISO mode is available on most digital cameras to take most of the guess work out of the equation.
7. Focal Length
Focal length is the measurement of distance from the center of the lens to the subject. The most common measurement of focal length is in millimeters (mm). A good thing to know is the less focal length you are using will give you a wider field of view. A standard lens that would come with your DSLR is most likely a 18-55mm. There are many options to increase the focal range buy using a longer telephoto lens. These are available from 250mm and up.
6. Character Study
The best photos are the ones that make you feel emotion for the subject. Whether it be an old man with a hat and a beard or a sunset beach photo. If you can create the emotion in the photo as it was when you took the shot, you will have very moving photography and get great complements.
You might already know about histograms. If you don't then listen up because these things are pretty awesome. Unfortunately, many photographers over look this simple tool and they are sure missing out. Especially if you are using strobes for lighting. A lot of people will tell you that a good photograph must have a nice even histogram. This is so far from the truth and you must immediately set fire to whoever told you that.
A histogram will tell you from left to right, the dark, mid and light tones in your photo and from top to bottom it will tell you how many pixels are being used. As I said earlier, not every photo needs to have an even histogram. You need to adjust to whatever photo style you are going for. Most photos I take I am interested more in the histogram then the preview window. It is easier to tell where you have hot spots and shadows in your photo this way.
4. Symmetry and Patterns
We are surrounded by them. Both man-made and natural patterns. You can use patterns in symmetry to make for an interesting photo where it may not be expected. This is a great way to bring attention and a focal point to your subject.
3. Raw vs. Jpeg
Should you be shooting raw? If you are anything like me then you are probably happily shooting jpeg. But every now and then this questions comes to mind. Well let me say that there are advantages of both. With that being said most digital cameras allow the option to shoot Jpeg and Raw simultaneously. Jpeg is no doubt easier due to the fact that your camera's image sensor does all the work for you. But when shooting in jpeg you will have a slight loss of quality and are limited in color correction do to the file formatting the image for you. Shooting raw allows you to control the image manually and focus on a range of things like highlights and shadows for a particular color.
2. Keep It Steady
Use a tripod or a flat surface to get a nice sharp image. Shaky hands in photography is just as bad as cutting the grass with scissors. It just will not look right. Hold the camera still, take a deep breath then snap the photo. Allowing more light with a faster shutter speed will also help sharpen your image.
Think outside of the box and try something you have never done before. Shoot something unique and you might be surprised. Good thing we are in the age of digital images so we can delete the ones we want without concern. Fire off tons of shots and choose the one you like best. Try driving to locations you normally wouldn't expect to see someone photograph. You never know whether an idea will work until you try it.