Ensure a Quality Subject Matter
We all want to make our photos look the best they can. This isn’t the easiest thing to do because horrible pictures can happen even when using a thousand-dollar camera or far less inexpensive equipment. It all depends on whether or not the subject matter is quality and if the viewer is moved by it.
It also helps to know how to use that expensive camera the right way. Simple things can be done to make it easier to create great digital photos without the need for expensive cameras and lighting equipment. While it helps to have an artistic eye for framing the perfect photo, that’s not all there is to it.
Framing the Perfect Photo with the Rule of Thirds
However, framing is important, and there are a few little secrets you can use to stop your photos from just being the usual, glanced at, and ignored snapshots and make them into the eye candy they deserve to be. One thing that helps set up the perfect scene for you is the rule of thirds.
Often, you can program your camera to split the lens into blocks just for this purpose. By placing the central object slightly off-center, rather than putting it directly in the center of the frame, you can add interest to the shot. If you’re clever with it, you can even drag the viewer’s eye toward other aspects of the scene just by using this simple tool.
For example, picture a landscape scene where there is a pond, and behind it is a beautiful field of wildflowers. Nearby is a grove of trees, and to top it all off, the sky looks gorgeous.
Beneath the trees, there is an unusually perfect mix of flowers, creating a masterpiece of color by picking out a random cloud located at the top, right, and standing so that the trees are a little bit further to the left and more central. By placing the flowers near the center of the lens, you can draw the viewer’s eye right down to the pond located at the bottom left of the shot.
Obviously, in nature, wild landscapes don’t always cooperate this nicely, but it gives you an idea of the rule of thirds concept. Plus, it helps to choose the best angles for your shots.
Use Creative Angles to Your Advantage
Picking a good angle involves locating a scene that appeals to your eye, not just any random backdrop, but something that looks as photogenic as possible. In other words, a scene with a little interesting detail in it.
For example, don’t just take a photo of a tree. Take the picture at such an angle that the sun sparks through the branches and leaves of the tree, but not so much that most of the tree is obliterated by the rays of light.
Find a splash of color to make your shot more interesting, such as a colorful child’s toy resting beneath the tree. Walk all the way around that tree if you have to. Get down on your knees, turn the camera on its side. Do whatever you have to do to get that perfect angle for your shot.
The splash of color works well in winter scenes where everything pretty much looks black and white. The trees are barren and dark, the snow is white, the shadows are gray, and that’s pretty much it in terms of color.
Try to find something that does add that bit of a jump start, such as a colorful building, a bright red car, anything that adds that little blast of color to the scene. Then arrange the scene in your camera’s viewfinder to look as appealing as possible to the eye. Again, finding that perfect angle is ideal.
Colors Bring it All to Life
True to life color is great for outdoor landscape shots, but it isn’t easy to achieve right there on the scene. The problem is that if you get the colors and lighting perfect for the grass, trees, rolling hills, and such, the sky will turn from a beautiful, bright blue to a dull white.
With an expensive camera, if you know what you’re doing, you can nullify this lighting effect, but you often get to choose which colors will come out funny with a point-and-shoot type of instrument. If you aim first at the sky, the camera will adjust to the colors there and come out perfect, true to life.
Meanwhile, the rest of the scene has gone dark on you, looking for all the world like the whole world is in silhouette. So basically, you get to choose between a perfect sky or a perfect lawn, but you don’t get both. Such is the world of white balance, and it can be a tasty little challenge.
To fix this problem manually, if you’re using autofocus, simply hold something white up to the lens and let the camera focus on it. This will adjust the white balance of the camera and help you get the colors right in your photo. This works until the light changes again, which is something that natural light tends to do, and then all you need to do is use the white object again.
A perfectly white, unlined sheet of paper works great for this as long as it isn’t too windy. Most cameras, including cell phones, usually have auto white balance settings that work for different situations, such as natural light, indoor lighting, and cloudy or shaded light. These settings are adjusted to give you the best possible white balance for whatever scene you’re trying to shoot.
Focus is Everything in Photography
Focus is everything when you’re talking about photography. Even the most expensive equipment can produce horribly out-of-focus photos if you don’t know how to use it.
Proper focus usually begins with understanding how digital cameras work. It doesn’t matter if you’re only using a cell phone to take your pictures; if you move too much, the shot blurs. If the subject you’re photographing moves, the shot blurs. Sometimes a little blur works for the shot, but most of the time, it doesn’t, so stand still and make sure that whatever you’re snapping stays as still as possible as well.
The beauty of digital photography is that you can take multiple shots because you’re not wasting film. Of course, this assumes that your subject hasn’t run off, gone home, or lost interest. At least one of the photos probably works, and you can delete the rest.
Digital Photos Enable Post Processing Magic
Another great thing about digital shooting is that you can do a lot of work on your pictures after they’re taken. It’s like having your own darkroom inside your computer. However, the poor focus is difficult to fix after the fact, as it mostly just adds pixel noise to the picture. Visual noise is not a welcome part of creating professional quality photos, so reducing it as much as possible is an exercise even the greatest photographers have to work on.
Getting the ‘grain’ out of the shot isn’t easy, but it helps to have good lighting, good focus, and not use digital zoom when taking the picture. If your camera only has digital zoom, then ignore the zoom altogether and walk up closer to your subject, if you can. If you can’t get closer, do your best to get the shot in perfect focus, and crop it later in your photo software. Digital zoom brings the subject in closer but adds more visual noise to the frame. It can also ‘soften’ the shot, creating a slightly blurry effect which is undesirable in a professional quality picture. Also, it helps to use only the highest quality setting on your camera to reduce the visible pixels. Remember, the more pixels you use, the smaller they become, resulting in higher image quality.
Inexpensive Equipment Combined with the Basic Rules of Professional Photography
There you have it. The basic rules of professional photography… Quality, framing, angles, focus, focus, focus. It’s not easy, but keep practicing, and your shots will improve.
You might be surprised at how quickly they improve, in fact. Before you know it, people will be coming to you for their family photos rather than to the overpriced professional photographer down the street, and that’s a big bonus for you and your wallet. As a fun test, consider making an online portfolio of exclusive shots from inexpensive equipment. See how far you can challenge yourself.