This article is a little different from my other articles. I don’t want you to think of this as a tutorial but more like a guide. Over the last few months, I’ve met quite a few people who were interested in photography but were unfamiliar with some of its basic aspects. I understand that starting out in photography can be hard especially if you have just started. In this guide, I’ll try covering all those things, plus some tips on how to get some really awesome shots.
First things first, let’s go through the basic.
Know your camera
When first starting out, you are going to want to learn everything about your camera. The camera you’re using is going to give you some flexibility and creativity with it. Whether you are using a DSLR, SLR, point, and shoot or even a mobile phone camera. You’d want to know how to use everything possible with it.
As the name suggests, it controls how long your image is exposed.The moment you press the shutter button, light is let into your camera and the shutter speed controls how long this light is let in. Depending upon the value you can make it really slow in like 8 seconds, 10 seconds or even 32 seconds, longer times mean brighter images (although you might want to use a tripod or something to keep your camera stable when using a longer exposure). Longer exposures might help you capture some really nice motion trails or with astrophotography.
What is the aperture? Well, that’s the opening that lets light into your camera when you click photos. Depending upon the aperture size, it can either be a small opening or a large opening. The difference is that a larger aperture will give you a shallower depth of field. You can increase the aperture size to get some really cool bokeh effect. (However, due to the fixed aperture on a mobile phone camera you don’t have that level of flexibility.)
ISO tells your camera how sensitive it needs to be to light. You can think of it as the digital equivalent to film speed. ISO is something that you’d only want to crank up when you have poorly lit surroundings. Essentially what ISO does is that it trades off image quality for brightness. Increasing the ISO values will make the images brighter but, it will also increase the noise levels and the output is a bright but grainy image. So when deciding the value of ISO it is the lower the better, personally, I’d suggest not going above 400 unless you really, really need to.
Now, here are some tips that would help you in framing your composition better.
Rule of thirds
The rule of thirds is one of the most useful composition techniques in photography. It’s an important concept to learn as it can be used in all types of photography to produce images which are more engaging and better balanced.
Imagine that your image is divided into a 3×3 grid. The rule of thirds says that you should position the most important elements in your scene along these lines, or at the points where they intersect.
Sometimes, placing your main subject off-centre, as with the rule of thirds, can create a photo that feels a little empty. You should balance the “weight” of your subject by including another object of lesser importance to fill the space.
When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn along lines in the image. By thinking about how you place lines in your composition, you can affect the way one views the image, pulling them into the picture, towards the subject, or on a journey “through” the scene. There are many different types of line – straight, diagonal, curvy, zigzag, radial etc – and each can be used to enhance our photo’s composition.
Symmetry and patterns
Either natural or man-made, symmetry and patterns can make for very eye-catching compositions, particularly in situations where they are not expected.
Perhaps one of the most important tips is to carefully decide where you’ll shoot the photo from. Viewpoint has a massive impact on our shot and the mood that it conveys. Rather than just shooting at eye-level, try holding the camera high above or down below, at ground level, up close to your subject and so on. Keep experimenting with different camera angles and you’ll get a good idea of the viewpoint that you might want in your next shot.
How many times have you clicked a photo and thought it will look really awesome? But the final image lacks impact because the subject blends into a busy background. Well, the human eye is good at distinguishing different elements in a scene, but a camera is not. The camera tends to flatten the foreground and the background and this can sometimes ruin an otherwise great photo. Solution: look around for a plain and unobtrusive background and compose your shot so that it doesn’t distract or detract from the subject.
Because photography is a two-dimensional medium, we have to choose our composition carefully to conveys the sense of depth that was present in the actual scene. Emphasize your scene’s depth by including interesting subjects at varying distances from the camera. The human eye naturally recognizes these layers and mentally separates them out adding a sense of depth to the image.
The world is full of objects that make perfect natural frames, like trees, archways, and holes. Try placing them around your subject, they can help you in isolating the main subject from the outside world. The result is a more focused image which draws your eye naturally to the main point of interest.
At times the image lacks the punch because the subject is too small and gets lost among the surroundings. By cropping tight around the subject, you can eliminate the background “noise” and make sure that the subject gets the viewer’s undivided attention.
This is one of the most common mistakes I’ve seen people make. People add filters just for the sake of it. Personally, I don’t like putting filters on my shots at all but sometimes, however, a subtle filter looks nice and might add to the dramatic feel of the scene but please DON’T EVER, EVER overdo it, it looks horrible.
Composition in photography is far from science. All the points that I mentioned above, consider them as a guide. If they don’t work in your scene, ignore them; if you find a great composition that contradicts them, then go ahead and shoot it anyway. But they can often prove to be spot on, and are worth at least considering whenever you are out and about with your camera.