When it comes to composition, it’s important to create a balanced photo. But you should also try to create something unique. You don’t want to keep showing the world the same thing over and over, right? One of my favorite ways to create unique photos is to use creative angles. Now, there’s no set way of doing this. But I recommend you get down on the ground, underneath your subject. Shoot up, and see what type of shot you get. Then move to the side. Try that angle. Walk around your subject. Aim to get an image every few steps. Finally, shoot down at your subject. See what that produces. If you just experiment with a few different angles, you’re guaranteed to come away with unique looking shots. Because that’s what different angles do: They give you perspectives that nobody’s ever seen before. So don’t be afraid to try out new angles. You never know what you might find!
Now, it’s important to include a main subject. But you should also pay attention to the surroundings of that subject. In particular, you should make sure you simplify the surroundings as much as possible. If there are several colors, try to reduce them down as much as you can. If there are any additional elements that dominate the photo, get rid of them. You see, the best photos tend to be ultra-simple: A main subject. A nice background. And that’s all. In fact, simplicity is often the hallmark of a truly strong composition. So don’t get caught up trying to include all sorts of beauty in your composition. Keep it simple!
Composition starts with an impressive main subject. Now, your main subject should be something that stands out. Something that anchors your entire photo. This could be anything discrete: a flower, a person, a bird, you name it. But what’s important is that you include a main subject, and that it stands alone. If you’re struggling to find a subject to use in your photo, ask yourself: What drew me to this scene in the first place? What is it that I want to portray here? That should give you a sense of the best main subject. Next, try to figure out how you can isolate the main subject as much as possible. Angle yourself so that any distractions are removed from the scene. If you have to, move the distractions yourself. Notice the way the main subject (a flower) is isolated in this photo: That’s exactly what you want to achieve.
Many photographers worry about image sharpness. And for good reason: it’s so easy to end up with an image that’s just soft–and that softness will completely ruin your photo. But the key to capturing sharp photos is simple: You just have to choose the right shutter speed. Now, shutter speed is the length of time your camera sensor is open to the world when it takes the photo. A long shutter speed keeps the camera taking a photo for a long time; a short shutter speed makes photo-taking almost instant. And the shorter your shutter speed, the less likely the image is to blur. This photo was taken with a long shutter speed. Notice how the wave is blurred: Part of this depends on your subject. If you’re shooting a flying bird you need an ultra-fast shutter speed, because the bird itself is moving very fast. This photo required a fast shutter speed to freeze the action: But if you’re shooting an ambling tortoise, you’ll need a very slow shutter speed, because there’s nothing much that needs to be frozen. Make sense? You can select the shutter speed on your camera–one way is to put the camera into Manual mode. Another way is to use Shutter Priority mode. (Both of these modes should be easy to access via your camera’s main dial or menu.) Just make sure that, if you’re shooting a fast-moving object, you use a fast shutter speed–something in the area of 1/500s and beyond. And no matter what, don’t drop down below 1/60s of a second or so, unless you’re using a tripod. Because even if your subject isn’t moving, your hands will shake a tiny amount, resulting in blur.
Unlike frontlight, backlight is a lot more dramatic. As indicated above, it’ll get you images like this: And it can also get you some of the most stunning photos of all: Silhouettes. Now, backlight comes from behind your subject. To find backlight, you just need to point your camera into the sun. (You should also be careful not to actually look at the sun through your lens. That could seriously damage your eyes.) To actually create a silhouette, you’re going to need to focus on a large object, one that is framed against the sky. It often helps to get down low! Then you should use exposure compensation to underexpose your photo–to make it very dark, so dark that there’s no detail in your main object. And you’ll come away with a striking silhouette.
Frontlight comes from in front of your subject (and over the shoulder of you, the photographer). And frontlight is amazing for giving you nice, even lighting. This is because frontlight hits your subject from your perspective–and your camera is able to capture a photo that’s very well lit. However, you should only shoot frontlight when the sun is truly low in the sky (that is, during the golden hours). You don’t want to end up with an overly harsh shot. I took this photo using frontlight: Notice that the shot is very even, but isn’t particularly dramatic. It’s colorful, but doesn’t hit you over the head. Frontlight is like that; a bit more subtle. Compare that to backlight, which adds a lot of drama: Related Post: Natural Light Photography (11 Easy to Implement Tips)
Exposure refers to the level of brightness in an image. The goal of photography is to capture an even exposure–one that’s no so bright you lose detail in the whites, and not so dark you lose detail in the blacks. But taking an evenly exposed photo isn’t always an easy task. You’re often faced with subjects that have both dark tones and light tones–which makes them very difficult to deal with. That’s why you have to set your exposure very carefully. Fortunately, all modern cameras have very good built-in meters, which analyze the scene and indicate which exposure is best. Unfortunately, camera meters aren’t always accurate. That’s where you come in; you’ve got to make corrections when the exposure is wrong. Two main cases to consider are when the scene is filled with dark tones, and when the scene is filled with light tones. If your scene is very dark, such as a nightscape, you’re going to need to darken the image to get the correct exposure. (Counterintuitive, I know! But the technical explanation for this is beyond the scope of the article.) You can use exposure compensation on your camera, which allows you to darken the image a bit. If your scene is very light, such as a snowscape, you’re going to need to brighten the image to get the correct exposure. You can lighten the image with exposure compensation. Related Post: Exposure Triangle Explained (Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO)
Midday light is what you get when you go out while the sun is high in the sky and the day is clear. Now, you’d think that midday light would work well for photography. It’s very bright, after all! But here’s the problem: Midday light is a bit too bright. It’s so bright that it’s harsh, causing all sorts of contrast in your photos that looks, well, bad. Plus, midday light beats down on your subject from above. This results in unpleasant shadows all over your images. That’s why you should avoid bright midday light, and instead search for better lighting: the soft light of a cloudy day, or the golden light of morning and evening. One exception to this rule is in black and white photography. Because black and white images tend to look better with lots of contrast, sunny midday lighting actually works quite well. But unless you’re shooting in black and white, if it’s sunny and midday, I recommend you stay home.
Even though golden light is my favorite type of light for photography… …cloudy light is really good, too. Now, cloudy light isn’t quite as dramatic as golden-hour lighting. But it has its perks. First of all, clouds diffuse the light, so that the scene is given a subtler, softer look. This allows you to capture photos with high-contrast subjects (e.g., both black tones and white tones)–because you don’t have to deal with the blacks becoming too dark and the whites becoming too bright. Clouds also help bring out color. The soft light actually makes colors seem more saturated. So it’s often a good idea to use cloudy light if you’re shooting colorful subjects, such as flowers. Note that you should pay attention to the quality of the clouds before shooting. If the clouds are very thick and it’s late in the day, you may not have enough light to capture beautiful photos. On the other hand, if the clouds are too thin and it’s the middle of the day, you’ll end up with harsh midday lighting, just the same as if there were no clouds at all. Which brings me to the next photography tip for beginners:
If you want amazing photos, you’ve got to have great light. Because light is essential to photography. It’s the first thing you should think about when trying to capture beautiful photos. But what counts as amazing light? The best type of light for pretty much any genre of photography is golden-hour lighting. This is the light when the sun is low in the sky, about an hour or two before sunset and after sunrise. During the golden hours, the sun casts a lovely glow over the entire scene. This helps light your images evenly (which is generally a good thing). It also helps you capture nice colors and details. In truth, it’s pretty tough to go wrong with golden-hour lighting. It really is that good. It’ll take any lackluster photo–and transform it into something amazing. Related Post: The Importance of Light in Photography