Photography is an incredibly powerful thing. It can document events, tell stories, influence opinions, and entertain us. It can also help make a business successful. Good photography can make or break whatever you are trying to do with it.
Because phones are everywhere these days, we are all out there snapping billions of pictures every day. But what we have in quantity doesn’t make a difference in quality, and when you are trying to do something more important than a quick selfie with your new haircut, it takes a basic understanding of two key parts of how to take good photographs.
The Technical Side
We are so accustomed to popping off photos with our cell phones that we forget just how many variables go into taking a photograph. An actual camera–one that isn’t part of a cell phone–is a complex piece of equipment. While almost anybody can grab a camera and take a photo, it has many different functions and settings that must be utilized correctly to create something that’s memorable or useful.
Whether you want to get photos to build your business or create some memorable shots of your family, you need to know some things about the camera. Before you start, get the answers to some questions. What’s an F-stop? How do you use a flash properly? Should you use a filter to get the right look? If you’re printing your photos, how do you choose sizes, papers, and finishes? How should you do things differently if the photos are to be used in an electronic format?
Think about lighting. We’ve all seen those unintentional silhouettes–photos that got washed out by the background. You see this a lot when people in a shady place like a hotel balcony are photographed against a bright background, such as a sunrise. The camera calibrates light based on the brightest thing in view, so if your subjects are dark, they will disappear. Practice different angles and positions to get the ideal result.
There are plenty of resources out there to help you learn about your camera, not the least of them being its owner’s manual. Learn a little and experiment a lot to see what you can do with your camera. Even if you’re just using your cell phone, the particular platform you’re using has functions that you should understand.
The Design Side
Some people think that designing good photos is just something you have a knack for. While it’s true that some of us have a better eye than others for this aspect of photography, there are some basic rules that can help you bypass a lot of hard lessons.
Find examples of photos that feature a good layout. Learn about things like leading lines. These are elements in the photo that help draw the viewer’s eye toward the subject. A good example of this is a photo of someone standing on a scenic country road. The edges of the pavement draw you toward the image of the person.
Look at photos that do a good job with backgrounds. A busy area behind the subject of the photo is distracting. That’s why many studio portraits of families, students, and so forth use a backdrop that is blurry. It may have some color in it, but nothing is sharply defined that will draw the viewer’s attention away from the subject.
You also want to avoid boring shots like a bunch of people sitting around at a lecture. Find ways to put some action and life into those shots by zooming in on someone taking notes or capturing the photo from behind the speaker. Again, experimentation is key and is the only real way to make your photos the best they can be.
A picture is still worth a thousand words, and whether your purpose in taking it is personal or profitable, you need to know how to take a great photo. A good understanding of how a camera works and how you can create great photos will help you say the right thousand words.