I’ll list some additional suggestions that may help improve your photographs. If you have not already read How Can I Take Better Pictures, you might want to check that article as well. Again, these suggestions are sometimes called rules, but like any rule, there are times they can be broken with good result. In most cases, following them will help, but once you become familiar with how they help you will find occasions where going against them works.
- When shooting outdoors, pay attention to the location of the sun.
- If the sun is behind your subject, you are likely to end up with your subject in silhouette. if that is the effect you want, no problem, but if you want to see the subject’s face, clothing, etc, you need to add additional front lighting. The easiest way is to force your camera to fire the flash. This works well when you wish to include people in front of pictures of sunsets & distant scenery. If the flash ends up changing the white balance too much, use a color correcting filter in front of the flash, or in place of the flash you might try any good sized piece of white material as a reflector. Place it out of sightlines so that it reflects sunlight into the faces of the subjects. Be careful to balance the amount of reflected light – if the light hitting your subject from below is too strong, it will give a “Dracula” Low Angle Lighting effect; probably not what you are looking for!
- If you have a choice, position the camera so that the sun is over the photographer’s shoulder & off axis by about 45°. This gives good lighting without shining directly into the subject’s eyes.
- Remember the best times to photograph scenery is during the “Golden Hours”, the time a hour or so after sunrise & an hour or so before sunset. The low angle of the sun produces more interesting shadows, and the additional atmosphere the sunlight travels through adds warmth. Although you may find the light too warm for realistic portraits, it produces beautiful landscapes.
- The sun can be described as a “Point Source” of light, that is a physically small source. Because of this it produces harsh shadows. You will often find your images improve if you soften the light source. You can’t do much to change the sun, but there are a couple of suggestions that can help.
- Wait for a cloud to cover the sun, softening the lighting. Be sure to set your exposure readings with the clouds in place.
- Move your subjects so that the surroundings diffuse the sunlight. Trees, buildings, etc will work to prevent direct sunlight from falling on your subjects. One caution – lots of green leaves or a colorful building may effect the color of light reflecting from your subjects. Take a good look at the faces of your subjects to be sure they haven’t been turned green by light passing through the leaves!
- Lastly, remember that sunless days can be great for some subjects. When you want soft light, get out on those cloudy days. This will work well for macros (closeups) of Flowers & insects, photographs of streams & waterfalls where direct reflections of sunlight might overpower the image, or anytime you want to avoid strong shadows in your image.
- One of the difficult things for photographers to learn is to see in 2 dimensions. Because most of us have two eyes, we see three dimensionally. With the exception of stereographic cameras, our photographic images are going to be flat or two dimensional. Moving everything into one plane changes how things look – your subject may stand out when viewed by eye(s), but becomes blended into the background in the photograph. What looks like a beautifully organized image of objects in the foreground & distance may blend into mush. Of course once you are looking through the viewfinder or at the LCD of your camera you are back to 2 dimensions, but you will probably start composing your image with both eyes open. One trick that may help – close one eye! You have to learn to really look with one eye; your mind will remember what things looked like when you had both open, and fool you even when looking through only one.
- Even though a photograph is only 2 dimensional, including objects in the foreground when shooting landscapes can add interest. Without a foreground, the vastness of a large scenic image may be lost. You can often use objects in the foreground to lead the viewer’s eye to the area of interest in your image. Here is an example from an article at The Luminous Landscape Website.
- Try to build a natural frame around your photograph. Tree branches, buildings, bridges, etc can be used so that they make borders that are part of your image.
- Although I mentioned this in the previous article, it is worth repeating – including a known size reference in an image will give the viewer a sense of scale. It can be a person, your car; any object that lets the viewer know the size of your subject. This works for either large or small subjects. Place a flower against the hand of someone can show how tiny or large the bloom. This is an example that always grabs a viewer, primarily through the use of scale.
I’ll have some more suggestions in the coming weeks!