With the rise of digital cameras and even advances in phone cameras, it is becoming easier than ever before to take professional looking photos without breaking the bank on high-priced cameras and lenses. But even the best camera is only as good as the photographer holding it. While it is possible to take professional looking photos with even a camera phone, it is also important to master a few basics to do so.
Here are 4 tips for taking your photography to the next level.
Depth of Field
Depth of field refers to the differences in focus between objects in the foreground and those in the background. Amateur photos tend to have a uniform look between the foreground and background. Professional photos will often show people or objects in the foreground in crisp, sharp detail with a somewhat hazy background or vice-versa. Once impossible to achieve on a phone camera, newer camera phones and apps give you the ability to achieve a shallow depth of field—or at least give the appearance of one by blurring out the background.
Photography is often referred to as “painting with light” because of the essential nature of lighting in photography. You don’t need to have a professional lighting kit to master a few basics of lighting. Some important things to know about lighting are that overhead lights often cast harsh downward shadows and lights that shine up from below create a similar effect.
Similarly, the sun can be your best friend or worst enemy. Facing the sun when taking a picture will result in bright white spots, or what is referred to as being “blown out.” When you have your subjects face into the sun, however, it often causes them to squint and make strange faces. The best use of light is to find a spot where the sun is neither directly in front of or behind your subject and preferably under some form of shading such as a tree or overhang. For night shots, you’ll want to make sure you have a good flash with filters in your travel camera bag.
Professional photographers are skilled in the art of framing subjects in what is known as the “rule of thirds.” This means that you generally don’t want your subjects dominating the center of the frame, but rather want them slightly off center to the left or to the right. Similarly, you want subjects framed in the lower one-third of the frame rather than dead center. Be careful of harsh shadows, however. It’s better to have your subjects in direct sunlight than have harsh shadows angling across their face.
This is particularly important when you are taking a photo of a large group of people. While you can simply group people together and go for it, you will end up with a much more interesting and professional photo in the end if you actually place individuals to form a more attractive composition. This includes putting taller people in the center of the group, with shorter people to the left and right or seating people in front of a row of standing people. Positioning people in order of height also creates interesting composition as does positioning groups on one side of a photo with a large object “anchoring” the other side.
Photography Requires Practice
Like almost anything else in life, practice makes perfect—or at least creates significant improvement. The great thing about digital photography is that pictures can easily be deleted, so don’t be afraid to play around with lighting, composition, and depth of field. The more you simply play and experiment with different settings on either your camera or even your phone camera, the more adept you will become at getting just the right effect every time to create stellar, professional looking photos.