I didn’t study photography and haven’t done a single course in photography or editing. Everything I know is thanks to trial and error and the abundance of online resources. If I can take a good photograph, trust me, you can too. Over the course of this series of ‘Top Tips’ photography blogs, I will take you through some of the basics of photography and point you in the direction to start taking some seriously kick-ass pictures. OK here we go:
Top Tip 1.
Understand camera settings.
So many people have pretty good cameras at hand but are not getting the most out of them. If you are lucky enough to have a camera, do yourself a giant favour and get to grips with the basics of how your camera works and what the basic settings control. It is important to understand the 3 basic elements of photography (ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed) and how they all determine the exposure of your image. Exposure is how much light has been exposed to the image sensor or if you’re old school then the photographic film. An over exposed image looks washed out or too bright due to too much light being captured. An under exposed image is when not enough light has been captured therefore making the image too dark. If you know and understand these 3 basic elements and how they influence exposure then you are well on your way to shooting amazing photographs.
Top Tip 2.
Get off auto!
Once you know and understand the 3 basic elements of photography, put your new found knowledge to use and get off Auto. Auto restricts your ability to make creative decisions and inhibits you from developing your own personal style. When you understand the basics of your camera (ISO, aperture, shutter speed) and have the confidence to switch to manual, the way you use the camera and the level of enjoyment you get out of it will be amped up tremendously.
Top Tip 3.
Use online resources.
We are well and truly in the age of the internet and thank goodness for that. Right at your fingertips (with a bit of patience if you are in Zimbabwe) is a portal akin to Alice’s rabbit hole to Wonderland. I am continually amazed by how many talented creatives give their tricks and secrets so freely. YouTube has an awesome hoard of informative videos to take you from zero to hero in a few clicks. I don’t have any particular go-to channels, but rather use YouTube as a search engine to solve the questions I need answered at that point in time. There are a few fantastic videos that cover the ins and outs of Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed as well as the more complex functions of your camera or editing program.
Top Tip 4.
Most cameras will you give the option to shoot in either JPEG or RAW. When taking your photographs in JPEG format, the camera will compress the image information and you will get a pretty much finished image that is ‘cooked’ in the camera – a benefit of this is a smaller file size but it will also limit what changes you can make in the post production process. Shooting Raw sounds racier and scarier than it is – it simply means that your camera captures exactly what is viewed through the sensor at that time and it does not compress the information in your image. Shooting in RAW gives you much more space to play and tweak your image in the editing process. It allows you to fix things in post production that you aren’t quite happy with – say exposure and white balance for example – giving you a polished, professional-looking image at the highest quality.
Top Tip 5.
Get down and dirty with post production to come out clean.
Just trust me, you need to get yourself a photo editing program. I use Adobe Lightroom but I know plenty photographers who like to use Photoshop and Apple Aperture. I find that the editing process is where an image really comes alive and where you are able to put your own unique style on your photographs. I don’t mean you should superimpose salivating and roaring lions into a family portrait shot; quite the reverse, I believe the integrity of the image should be kept as close to the original as possible. But adjusting your tone, lifting the shadows or turning up the vibrance can make an OK image into a fantastic one. Software programs such as Apple Aperture or Adobe Lightroom give you the freedom to fine-tune your photographs (whether they’re RAW or JPEG). But please for the sake of everyone, DO NOT OVER DO IT; an overly saturated, overly contrasted image can make an interesting picture look very cheap and nasty. Keep it minimal and classy 😉
Top Tip 6.
“If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.” – Jim Richardson.
This is one of my favourite photography quotes of all time and is some of the best advice you can give a photographer. If you want to take cool pictures, get out there and put yourself in front of cool stuff and your photographs will instantly gain heat. Although a sunset will almost always look amazing, my favourite photographs are those that tell creative stories with images that we would normally over look – a scuffed pair of shoes or a line of people queuing for a bus. That is the great thing about photography, each of us is witness to the world in our own unique way – our individual creativity and perceptions will shape what we choose to capture and how we choose to look at it, so do what you dig and take some pictures while you are at it.
Check back in next week for more photography Top Tips and How To’s.