The photography industry has exploded over the past decade with digital technologies and online sharing platforms. As a professional photographer common questions I get asked are “how can I take good photos?” or “how do I improve my photos?” In this article I will provide 5 steps to taking better photos with your DSLR camera for beginning photographers.
- Lighting is key
This is number one on the list because it is the most important factor in the outcome of your photo. Lighting is everything in photography. The sooner you begin to understand how lighting affects your photos and how you can control the amount of light let into your camera the better your photos will be. A general rule of thumb for professional photographers is to shoot early in the morning within an hour of sunrise and late afternoon before the sunset. This lighting gives the best results in camera, provides the finest exposures, and helps avoid harsh shadows that occur mid-day when the sun is highest in the sky. If you are taking photos of people using early morning or late afternoon light will also avoid squinting. You can use a light reflector to bounce light from the opposite direction. For more information on how to control your light settings and use reflectors properly read our Natural Light Photography Article.
- Control Your White Balance
White balance (WB) is important because it collaborates directly with light, light being the single most important factor of photography. White Balance process of removing unrealistic color casts, so that objects appear most natural to real color. The process of adjusting colors to primarily get rid of color casts, in order to match the picture with what we saw when the photo was captured. Setting your white balance correctly controls the color temperature of your photo. When shooting outdoors there is the option to select direct sunlight, shade or cloudy. For indoor photography the options are based on the type of lighting in the setting such as fluorescent or incandescent light options. Using the proper white balance will capture the most amount of color detail for photos that appear sharp as well as color balanced.
- Understand depth of field
We all love a portrait with a nicely blurred background, for me personally my main shooting style is to try and capture photos with creamy bokeh backgrounds. Understanding Depth of field (DOF) and how exposure with Aperture aka F-Stop increases or decreases what is in focus will push your photo creativity to the limits. I often find myself shooting in Aperture mode on my camera because I can quickly and easily adjust the DOF to create the perfect photo. For a quick intro into Aperture settings, the wider you have your lens aperture open the softer your background and portraits will be. The more you have your lens closed, more will be in focus and a less blurred background. The lower the aperture aka F-stop the more your camera lens is open and the higher you set your F-stop the more your lens is closed. This means F-stop 2 will have a much more blurred background then F-stop 12 because your lens is wide open at F-stop 2 and almost fully closed at F-stop 12. I cannot express enough how important it is to fully understand your aperture settings and controlling the F-stop. A good tip to also remember is the closer you are to your subject the softer the background becomes.
- Mind your background
Paying attention to your background as well as your subject is something you can do right away to improve your photos. This is something that often gets over looked in the beginning steps of photography but plays a big role in better photos. Often, only the subject is focused on while the photo is being taken and the background is left to be distracting. The more photos you take the more natural it will be to focus on your subject while paying attention to your background. Don’t be afraid to move your subject so that the background is not so busy or distracting, be sure there is nothing sticking out of people’s heads such a tree branch in the background. Sometimes if you move your angle from just straight on it will completely change the background, see my example below, the subject did not move I moved my angle.
- Read your camera manual
This speaks for itself and may be easy to blow off because a camera manual is lengthy verbiage full of terminology you may not be familiar with but study your camera manual from front to back, learn it and understand it. If you are not familiar with a photography term look it up with one of the many online resources. The more you know your camera and the more your understand photography terminology the easier it will be for your to expand your photography skills. Knowing what your specific camera can do and how to use it is a valuable tool to taking better photos.
Apply these photography tips by selecting an object and location that you can take the time to adjust the camera settings and see your results. Adjust your Aperture setting (Fstop) from F2 and then take a photo with the camera Aperture to F14. Review your results, then take the same photos again adjusting your white balance and see the various color cast your photos have on each white balance setting. Remember to move your angle for different perspectives, shooting below, above and directly in front of the subject.