Ways to take a photo


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It was the famous photojournalist Robert Capa who once said “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” He was talking about getting in amongst the action. If you feel like your images aren’t ‘popping’, take a step or two closer to your subject. Fill the frame with your subject and see how much better your photo will look without so much wasted space. The closer you are to the subject, the better you can see their facial expressions too.

When photographing people, especially while in countries with different cultures and languages, it can be hard to communicate. In certain countries if you photograph someone you are not ‘supposed’ to photograph, it can get ugly and rough very quickly if you are not careful. So out of respect you should always ask permission. 

I have started shooting a series of school children in Pakistan. These are all posed portraits and they are looking down the lens. My guide helps me with the language and I limit myself to smiling, shaking hands, giving ‘hi-five’ and showing them the image on the back of my camera once it is done. You would be amazed how quickly people open up.

Andrea Francolini is a well known Italian born, Sydney based sports photographer. He is also the founder of My First School, as trust which has the aim to facilitate educations in Northern Pakistan. You can see his work here.

You might think that you should only use flash at night time or indoors, but that’s not the case at all. If it is an extremely bright day outside and the sun is creating harsh shadows on your subject, switch on your flash. By forcing extra light onto your subject, you will be able to fill in those ugly shadows and create an even exposure.

Having expensive camera equipment doesn’t always mean that you’ll take good photos. I’ve seen some absolutely amazing images shot with nothing more than a smart phone. Instead of having ten different lenses, invest in some fantastic photography books. By looking at the work of the masters, not only do you get inspired, you come away with ideas to improve your own photos.

This is a technique to use when you want to draw attention to something in your photograph. By framing a scene or a subject, say with a window or an archway, you lead the viewer’s eye to the primary focal point.

Never shoot with the sun directly behind you. It creates boring, flat light on the subject. If you shoot with the light source to the side or behind the subject, you are able to shape with the light, creating a more interesting photo.

This tip isn’t in direct relation to TAKING photos, but it does affect the look of photos. When it comes to watermarks, the smaller the better. And if you can avoid using them, do.

Chances are, unless you are a paid professional, there’s not much of a chance of your photos getting nicked. But in reality, they won’t prevent your images from getting stolen. They only distract from the fabulous image that you’ve created, because once you’ve slapped a watermark all over it, that’s all the viewer will be looking at. The only way you can prevent your images from being stolen is to not publish them on the internet.

This means make eye-contact, engage and listen to your subject. With the eyes – lower that camera and be human. Bring the camera up for a decisive shot. But remember to lower it, like you’re coming up for air, to check in with your subject. Don’t treat them like a science experiment under a microscope. Being there with your subject shows them respect, levels the playing field in terms of power dynamics, and calms them down. You’ll get much more natural images this way.

Being aware of your shutter speed means the difference between taking a blurry photo and a sharp photo. It all depends on what you are after. If you are shooting a sporting event or children running around in the backyard, you probably want your subjects to be in focus. To capture fast action you will have to use a shutter speed over 1/500th of a second, if not 1/1000th to 1/2000th. On the opposite end of the scale, you might want to capture the long streaks of a car’s tail lights running through your shot. Therefore you would change your camera’s shutter speed to a long exposure. This could be one second, ten seconds, or even longer.

I shoot with two prime lenses and one camera; A 28mm and a 35mm. I use the 35mm lens 70% and the 28mm lens 30% of time. It takes some time to get used to it, but once you work it out, shooting primes is the only way to go. It means you have to work with what you have and you can’t be lazy. Basically, this means more pictures and less fiddling around with zooming and maybe missing moments. It also helps for consistency. If you’re working on a project or a series, keeping the same focal lengths is a great way to maintain a powerful sense of consistency.

Like ABC Open! Not only will you be able to publish your photos for the rest of the country to see, you’ll be part of an active group that offers feedback on how great you are going. You can learn new things to help you improve your technique, and you might even make some new photography buddies.

Even when you’re not shooting, shoot with your mind. Practice noticing expressions and light conditions. Work out how you’d compose a picture of that scene over there that interests you, and what sort of exposure you might use to capture it best.

You can’t take great photos if you don’t have a camera on you, can you? DSLR, point-and-shoot or smart phone, it doesn’t really matter. As long as you have access to a camera, you’re able to capture those spontaneous and unique moments in life that you might have otherwise missed.

Minimize the belly-button photograph. This is a reference to Moholy Nagy of the Bauhaus movement in photography (which was all about lines of perspective). In other words, perspectives are more engaging when we crouch down, or lie down, or elevate our position in reference to the subject. Look at how changing your perspective can change the visual language and implied power dynamics of the image. Crouching low can make your subject more dynamic, whereas gaining height on your subject can often minimize their presence in the image. One of my favorite exercises is to make my students lie down and take pictures, often in the dirt. I am a little cheeky.
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I’ve been shooting a lot of protests lately. Basically, they’re just a lot of people really close to one another; often moving. After having made many mistakes with getting my exposures right, I worked out that if the sun is behind me and in the face of protestors I will set exposure compensation to underexpose by a stop to bring out even tonal range. When the sun is behind the protestors I like to over expose just slightly to bring out the shadow details on their faces. This could apply to street photography when the light is in front or behind your subject.
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The key is to get it right in the camera first, so you don’t HAVE to spend time editing. Over working a photo in editing software very rarely looks good, unless you are trying to achieve a super-artsy effect. If it takes you longer than ten minutes to alter your photo, maybe think about going back out into the field to re-shoot it.

I often use a recipe from Life Magazine picture editors for building a story narrative. I look for: over-all shots or scene-setters, interaction, action, portraits, details, medium shots and of course the signature image. Having this list in my head helps me start photographing a story that sometimes isn’t visually apparent until you get into it. This is great when you’re in a crowded or busy place.

Photo by Sean MacEntee

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