Top Tips For Taking Better Photographs
A good photograph speaks a thousand words, and taking a good photograph involves nothing more than a little bit of thought. Whilst high end equipment and professional training does help, even the most amateur photographer can improve their images by taking a moment to clearly think about what you are trying to capture. Whether you are a seasoned professional or just take photos as a hobby, these top tips will help take your photographs to the next level:
Taking a photo of a static subject is one thing, but you will also need the skills to take amazing photos of moving subjects. Not everything is going to sit and wait for you to focus your camera, so instead you should master focusing on moving subjects. Choose a Continuous or AI Servo mode on your camera and lock focus on your subject by half pressing the shutter button. Your camera should continue to focus as your subject moves around, so all you need to do is fully press the shutter button when you’re ready to capture your photograph.
By default, a camera will focus using the central focus point, which is often enough for many situations but for a more creative shot it is worthwhile taking control and understanding the focus yourself. You should learn how to get your camera to focus on a specific point, and this will vary between devices so research the procedure for your camera for selecting individual focus points.
If you often shoot in raw, you might not bother setting the correct white balance because you can change it in post-production. It is vital to get white balance correct in-camera in order to properly assess the exposure and colours of your shots to get the best results. Most cameras auto white balance settings do a good job in most lighting conditions, but it isn’t perfect and sometimes you will benefit from using the manual preset values or setting a custom white balance.
It can be confusing knowing how to adjust the exposure in your shot, and a lot of the time the adjustment you need to make is the opposite of what you might first think. You can use your camera’s exposure compensation function to darken and lighten your image. If you are photographing a light subject then often cameras will under-expose the image, if this happens you can press and hold the exposure compensation button and increase the exposure by turning the dial and then re-taking the shot. The opposite is the true for dark subjects and over exposure.
One of the easiest and quickest ways to check the exposure of an image is to use your camera’s Histogram display. This will show you the distribution of exposure as your shoot, and it is important to recognise the characteristics of both under and over exposure. If the graph goes off the left-hand side and there is a gap to the right of the histogram, then your image is under-exposed. The opposite is true for when your image is over-exposed.
Whilst the exposure compensation can adjust the overall exposure and is good enough for most subjects, there will also be occasions when the brightness range of the subject is too large for your camera to capture the details in both the highlights and the shadows. This is what is known as the dynamic range and will vary from camera to camera. Practicing with the histogram and highlight warnings will help you to learn when conditions do and don’t work for your camera. Most cameras offer a built-in system to deal with this problem, such as Active D-lighting on Nikons and Auto Lighting Optimiser on Canons.
When you shoot in RAW you will capture more highlight and shadow details that you will in JPEG mode, but you still might not be able to capture it all in high-contract situations. RAW files make it easier to recover more details from the shadows than from the highlights, so when shooting try to get as much highlight detail as possible and recover the shadow details later.
As well as choosing what to shoot and the settings to use to shoot it, learning the basics of compositions will improve your photography skills. There are loads of theories and rules out there, but the most important thing to think about is where to position the main subject in your image. It is tempting to always put yur subject in the centre, but to avoid static-looking compositions you can try placing the subject off centre slightly.