8 Tips for Taking Damn Good Photos
"What the hell is this?"
You've heard it before. It's the oft-sputtered angst of a neophyte in total shock that his highly anticipated out-of-the-can of images didn't quite fare as expected. If you don't want to be that guy, then learning a few key elements of photography can elevate you from rookie status to skilled photographer in no time. Below are a few of the essentials to help you launch.
1. Know Your Equipment
Whether you own $190 iPhone or a $4500 Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, today's tech comes loaded with a sailor's catch of features and accessories. But just like a luxury car, sadly, few of them are ever explored or used at all. Yeah, we get it. The user manual is thick, and you don't have time. Knowing how your camera works, however, gives you an arsenal of onboard tools for the trade that makes you look like a genius just by turning the knob to the next setting.
There's enough material written on camera lighting to fill AT&T stadium. Ok, bad analogy, but you can never learn too much about proper lighting. Most photographers prefer natural lighting over artificial. It creates a warm feel that looks better through the lens. If you shoot outside, you'll get the best sunlight during the early-mid morning and early evening hours. Noonday light washes out photos and creates awkward shadows. Plus it's just too hot.
3. What's Your Angle?
Ever notice that most women who take selfies do so with the phone elevated in the air? There's a reason for this, and you can probably guess it. In photography angles are everything. No, the camera doesn't add ten pounds; but you might if you shoot your subject from the wrong angle.
Quick tips: Keep the camera elevated at eye level or higher; shoot your subject from the side instead of head on; pay attention to clothing and how it enhances the body; and, find the right pose that compliments someone's best features.
4. 'Dude, that looks 'shopped.'
There's a difference between enhancement and total bullshit, and most people pick up on it right away. Scroll down your Facebook feed, and you'll notice that many of the people in the photos look like they just stepped out of Panem.
Modern software can transform any ugly schmuck into Chris Hemsworth. But if you're not Thor, then you're not fooling anyone. Editing software such as Lightroom and Photoshop is designed to be used sparingly and in good taste. The rule of thumb? Less is more. Make needed adjustment to highlight certain features, but ease up off the heavy contrast and coloring just a bit.
A good photo is not just the subject. It's everything in the entire frame. When taking a picture consider what's in the background. Create an entire concept with both the subject and the landscape. This adds value to the photo and draws your viewers in. Be aware of background 'noise' that may distract from the subject. What's that guy doing back there with half his face cut off??
6. The Right Lens
A key component to a capturing a killer photo can be choosing the right lens with an aperture that can catch the right amount of light. Not all lenses are created equal or perform the same function. If you want close-up pictures, use a macro lens. Want one far away? A telephoto lens will do that. Other lens types include wide-angle, fish-eye, tilt and shift, soft-focus, infrared. Standard lenses are also available for novice photographers who just getting started.
7. Forget Posing. Go Candid
Children hate to pose and act like spoiled little brats during a photo shoot. Guess what? So do adults. Too many posed shots are quite the yawner and don't stir a good conversation. An effective photographer is better at hit-and-run then a dealer on the West Side.
Rather than settle for predictable poses, go for the candids. Look for the shots that nobody expected. Capture the memorable moments that tell the story. They're the ones that make people laugh and cry. And rarely does this ever happen in posed shooting.
8. Get It Right Out of the Can
All the equipment and all the post-editing image software in the world can't make up for a talented, well-trained photographer. It's the equivalent of recording an album with shitty guitars and drums, but expecting it to sound like 'Dark Side of The Moon'. If you take your hobby or career seriously, then learn your craft.
Get the fundamentals down and get the pictures correct out of the can rather than hoping to cover up a multitude of sins in the post. An effective photographer can go into almost setting and come out with amazing raw images straight from the camera roll.