Monday, July 25, 2016

How to Take Better Photos

     Eight years ago, I bought my first DSLR and decided I wanted to pursue photography.  I didn't have plans to make any money from it, but just wanted a new hobby that I could enjoy that also allowed plenty of room for learning and growth.  I've never had any formal training, and pretty much learned everything I know from the glorious internet or fellow photo enthusiast friends.  DISCLAIMER:  This post is about my personal style of shooting, and how I aim to take better photos and grow as a photographer.  This is just my approach, and by no means am I saying this is the best approach.  

     For me, a good photograph has two things going for it - exposure and composition.  I like to see a good balance of highlights and shadows, and of course something about the photo has to draw you in.  There are so many resources about how to get good exposure, so for this post, I will focus on composition.  In order to get good composition, I try to recycle these three ideas (and I'm sure they're nothing new to most people).  When I'm shooting, I try to use one of these concepts to create a pleasing composition in my photos.  They are:  the rule of thirds, simplifying, and using a different perspective.

The Rule of Thirds - Anyone that has ever dabbled in photography has probably heard of or used the rule of thirds.  Even our cell phones have this combination of two horizontal and two vertical lines to help us take better photographs.  If I'm struggling to take a good photo, I always fall back on this rule and try to frame my photos so that the subject or point of interest falls on one of the intersections of the vertical and horizontal lines.  Will it always make for an amazing picture?  No.  However, it will still probably look better than if you were to just point your camera at something and just click. 

Simplifying - There are some people out there that are naturally "artsy".  I am not one of those people.  Despite this, I feel like anyone can get better at photography with tons of practice.  You have not practiced enough until you have 20 photos of the meal you're about to eat, I always say!  I think photos that use negative space to simplify and showcase its subject are particularly striking.  You can combine this with the rule of thirds and get some pretty cool images.  I also really like how simplifying the composition makes for a very clean image with less distraction. 

Using a Different Perspective - If I can't get a good composition going with the other two techniques, I'll rely on taking the picture from different perspectives aside from where I am standing.  I'd try taking the photo from above (very popular with food photography), from a lower perspective (which looks particularly cool if you are photographing small children - it's like seeing the world from their eyes), or from the perspective of a bystander (this lends itself to a very photo journalistic feel when done well).  This may seem strange, but sometimes I'll ask myself, Where could someone be hiding in this setting, and what would this scene look like from where they are?  Then I'll go there, and try to frame the shot. 

Simplifying with lots and lots of negative space

Rule of thirds, against a simple faded backdrop

Lower perspective and rule of thirds

Rule of thirds against a simple backdrop

     When I was scouring for images to include in this post, I came across a bunch of photos from 2008 of my red and leopard print shoes (that I can't believe I'm admitting to owning on the internet).  I still remember my cell phone ringing that day, and it was my best friend on the other end.  She asked me what I was doing, and my response was simply, "I'm taking pictures of my shoes."

     I truly believe the only way to get better is to keep practicing and to not be afraid of trying something new.  Practice taking photos of inanimate objects if you are shy, or go somewhere new (near or far) if you're adventurous.  I love working on my photography even in the most mundane settings.  What are your favorite tips/techniques for taking better photos? I'd love to hear them! 

     Happy shooting! :)