How the Camera Works
The first thing that should be understood in order to take a great picture is how to work the camera. The biggest problem that photographers face is the pictures they take don’t turn out like the way they actually saw them. This is because the camera doesn't “see” things the way our eyes do. The photographers who learn how to “see” the way that the camera does are able to take great pictures. Knowing the controls of the camera makes it possible to make the picture turn out the way the scene was originally viewed. Aperture is one of the biggest things that affect the way the picture turns out. Aperture refers to the size of the hole in the lens which changes the amount of light let into the image sensor and changes the depth of field of the picture. When using aperture, the lower the f/stop the bigger the opening in the lens, the more light let in, and the shallower the depth of field. The higher the f/stop the smaller the opening in the lens, less light let in, the wider the depth of field. Depth of field can be used to isolate the subject of a photo. This is very useful to keep the viewer’s eye from getting distracted by all of the “stuff” in the background. This will help to keep the mind thinking about what is important in the photo not some obscure detail in the background that distracts the viewer and causes them to lose interest in the photograph.
The purpose of shutter speed is to let the camera know how long to keep its shutter open and allow light into the camera. With a short shutter speed the motion in the picture can be frozen and create a crisp image. The problem with fast shutter is that it lets in less light causing the picture to be under exposed. International Standards Organization (ISO) is the film speed of a camera and can be sped up to make the image brighter to compensate for the under exposure of fast shutter speeds. The problem with increasing the ISO is that it creates specs on the picture known as grain. If the camera is set to a long shutter speed motion will be captured as a blur. This can be useful for taking pictures of things such as running water in streams and will make the water look smooth and flowing instead of frozen at one particular moment. If the picture becomes overexposed from the long shutter speeds it can be compensated by lowering the ISO or by putting on a neutral density filter which reduces the amount of light passing through it. There are also many other filters which allow lots more creative control in taking pictures. Some of these filters include UV filter, star filter, polarized filter, and colored filters. Filters are used by attaching them to the end of the camera’s lens.
The different types of lenses are another important aspect that one should understand. There are three main types of lenses macro, wide angle, and telephoto. Macro lenses are made for close up shots of the subject that other lenses won’t allow due to how they work. They also tend to have the ability to go to a very low f/stop which allows shallow depth of field that is common in macro photography. Then next type of lens is the wide angle lens which allows much wider views than other lenses and can cause distortion in the edges. These types of lenses are good for landscape shots and group picture shots in a small room or area. The other kind of lens is the telephoto lens which is designed for zooming over large distances. It can be very useful for sporting events for close ups of the people playing without having to be in the way of the game. They are also useful to be able to take pictures of things which are too dangerous to approach such as wild animals. Also if the subject is just too far away and there is no way to reach it to get the picture that has been conceptualized, then a telephoto lens will be the best to get the job done.
One of the biggest factors that set a great photo apart from an “ok” one is composition. There are many composition guide lines that have been developed by people who have studied art and found commonalities between the photographs that many people consider to be great photos. One of the composition guide lines is the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds states that if there were to be two lines evenly spaced vertically and two lines evenly spaced horizontally across the picture, that would look like a tic tac toe board, if the subject were placed at the intersections of the lines it creates more interest in the photograph. Another suggestion for composition is to balance the main objects in the photo to strengthen the photograph. Also framing within the photograph creates more interest in it. The frame doesn’t have to be perfectly focused but it will help to prevent the eye from wandering off of the picture. In landscape photography with rivers finding a bend in the river that creates an S shape creates a stronger photograph. If the river is winding and bending through the picture it is more entertaining to the eye than a strait segment of river. Leading lines are the major lines in a photograph that direct the viewers eye around the picture. They can be used to create a strong composition if they are used correctly. Having lines that go off the page will make the viewers eye go off of the picture, therefore, making them lose interest in the picture. Horizontal lines can be used to show stability and lack of change or timelessness. The use of vertical lines in a picture gives the feeling of growth as well as stability. Vertical lines also give off a peaceful mood. Diagonal lines make the picture more dynamic and show activity within the picture. Irregular or jagged lines convey a mood of unease, tension, and dread.
Elements of a Great Photo
One element of a great photo is it tells a story. This is the reason people look at pictures, to get the story behind the image. When looking at a photo the viewer wants to know “who” the person is that they are looking at or the story behind the shot. When taking a picture of a child who has just won their soccer game, including the soccer field will show that it was winning the game that brought the child joy instead of the subject just a happy kid. To make the picture even better it needs to make the viewer feel an emotion. Adding emotion to a photo will make viewers have more of a connection to the picture. By practicing thinking about the emotion that one wishes to convey in a photo they can increase the emotion displayed in the picture. The story and emotions displayed need to present a theme that the viewers can relate to. By having a theme it makes the picture more personal because others can relate to that specific theme.
Make sure to not over crowd a photo with lots of unimportant “stuff”. Simplicity makes picture much stronger. To better apply simplicity in to one’s photography they might think, “What makes this photo interesting?” Then once decided they would crop away unnecessary extra in the picture. This will help the viewer to keep interest in the photo because it doesn't have dull and unnecessary extra background.
Another element that a great photography should have is good exposure. Under exposed photographs are unpleasing to the eye and unless they were purposefully under exposed for dramatic effect it will cause the viewer to lose interest in the photograph. Even a photo that has been under exposed for dramatic effect has parts that are exposed properly and are pleasing to the eye; it just has to be used correctly to not loose the viewer’s attention. Different types of light in the photograph can make it good or bad. If there is harsh lighting it adds strong lines between the shadows and the light which isn't pleasing to the eye. By adding a fill light the harsh shadows become soft light that is more pleasing to the eye. Another type of lighting to avoid is horror lighting. Horror lighting is when the light is coming from below and is casting shadows in the subject’s eyes and casts other unpleasant shadows. There is also always ambient light in the photo which is the atmospheric light of the scene. Adding fill lights, hair lights, background lights, and other lighting can fill in under exposed shadows and create separation between the subjects and the background. Filling the frame is an important element to a great photograph. If there is dead space in the photo it can leave it dull and uninteresting. The dead space can leave the photo empty and make the subject get lost. The dead space over powers the image and the viewer is less likely to notice the interesting pare. Dead space can, however, be used for dramatic effect if one knows how to use it correctly. It can be used to make a feeling of emptiness and loneliness.
Useful Hints When Taking Pictures
To be able to take a great photograph one must try taking pictures at different vantage points. Taking pictures from different heights changes the impression of the subject that the viewer takes. From a high vantage point the photo has a contemporary look and has less background allowing the viewer to focus on the subject’s face. From a low vantage point the subject had added emphasis and size. A low vantage point also ands weight and importance to the subject. It is also a good way to photograph children. It puts the viewer in their perspective and minimizes distortion.
Focus in a picture is important to be able to take a great photograph. While it is fairly obvious it is very important none the less. The subject should be what is in focus, if not the viewer will be distracted by what is in focus. With the autofocus features of today’s cameras it is a lot harder to not have the picture in focus so many people take that for granted and don’t make sure that their picture is in perfect focus. One good way to make the picture be even sharper and get rid of blur is to use a tripod. This will stabilize the camera and will also cause more thought to be put into each shot before it is taken because it requires more setup consequently making frequently better images.
There are three different ways that movement is captured to create a great picture. The first technique is to freeze the motion with fast shutter speeds. This way of capturing the picture leaves a crisp image with no blur if done correctly. The big disadvantage of this technique is that it requires fast shutter speed which makes it so less light enters the lens causing low lighting and consequently under exposed pictures. Another way to capture motion in a picture is to have what is moving blurred. If a person is waving their arm then it will be blurred in the area that they were moving it. This technique is good for flowing water and moving objects were details aren't desired but fluid movement is. This technique can be acquired by setting a long shutter speed. The last way to capture motion is by panning the subject. This is achieved by moving the camera along with the moving subject consequently keeping the subject in focus while the background is blurred.
In order to have a great picture the background can’t be ignored. The background should complement the subject and if possible frame the subject. Framing the subject keeps the viewer’s eye drawn to the subject and helps to keep the eye from wandering off of the page. To get a better background one can try moving around the subject to decide what the best background is. Another option is to use a shallow depth of field to create a bokeh in the background which is intentional blur that has creative quality. Another consideration to put into the background is putting a landmark that everyone is familiar with. This can be beneficial or detract from the image depending on the purpose of the picture. To create a stronger connection with the picture, add a landmark that people can connect to such as the statue of liberty. In an image were more emphasis is wanted on the subject keep known landmarks out of the picture to keep the viewer from being distracted by the landmark.
Using natural lighting is another way to make an image stronger. Using natural lighting from the sun keeps a natural look. It also keeps the picture from having problems lighting can bring such as red eye and horror lighting. Knowing how to use a flash and man made lighting can be used to greatly enhance pictures lacking the necessary light to properly expose an image. Flash can be used to create contrast, fill shadows, help backlight subjects, and create separation between subject and background. Make sure to use a flash or turn up the ISO to properly expose an image or both because and underexposed image will never be a great photograph. Under exposure can ruin an otherwise perfect picture.
There is several ways in which one should prepare in order to be able to take great pictures. One must know how to use the camera and all of its functions properly. One must know how composition works to be able to create a balanced and pleasing image to the eye. They must know the elements that are in a great photograph such as telling a story, theme, emotion, and simplicity. Also one must take into consideration all the small things such as vantage point, lighting, movement, and blur. When one takes all these things into consideration a great photograph may be made every time that they take a picture weather it be with a high quality SLR or even a cheap compact point-n-shoot camera. While many people own cameras very few know what it is that makes a great picture.