JoziFolk - images of everyday life in South Africa

  

How to be a better photographer - right now!

 

 Bend your legs but be careful!

 Yes, I know, photography is a life-long journey where constant perfection is unattainable and learning is never done.
 It's the same with martial arts - or so I'm told - but sometimes you don't want to spend two years learning to do the 'crouching dragon' stance properly but just need a quick efficient way to kick a mugger in the nuts and immobilize so you can get to safety.
 The same applies to photography. Certainly, it's nice and unquestionably beneficial to attend a photography course, or complete one online (hint there's a good one advertised on this page) but is there anything you can do to improve your photos and make you a better photographer immediately, or at least by tomorrow?
 Absolutely!
 
Control the light.

 Photography is all about light and knowing how to use it to your advantage. Whenever possible, take your photos during the "Golden Hour", when the sun has just risen or an hour before it sets.
 If that's not possible, avoid taking shots - especially of people - in the harsh, midday, sun. Bright, overhead light causes "raccoon eye" shadows. Move your subject into open shade, for example, the shady side of a building but make sure the shade is even shade, as a subject under a tree can result in mottled patterns when beams of sunlight shine through gaps in the leaves.
 Ignore the antiquated advice dictating the sun should be behind you, shining onto the face of the subject. That was appropriate 80 years ago, when film emulsions peaked at ISO 25. Nowadays, that particular advice guarantees a picture of a subject with squinting eyes.
 Turn your subject away from the sun and use fill-in flash or a white reflector (a sheet of newspaper or a white towel works well) to bounce light into the darker areas.
 Should you place the sun directly behind your subject, be careful not to get light bleed-off into your lens - use the subject to block the light-rays shining directly into your camera. Remember, in this case, your camera will likely be fooled and will set the exposure to match the bright light behind and on the sides of your subject, resulting in a blacked-out, silhouette-like subject. You'll either need to use a flash or reflector, to pump light into the scene to reduce contrast or adjust your camera's exposure-compensation settings to allow two stops MORE light onto the sensor. You could also lock metering on a dark part of the image, recompose and shoot.
 Bear in mind the latter methods may well result in blown highlights in the background.

Bend your legs (especially when photographing kids and pets)

 The generally-considered, most attractive camera-height, when photographing people, is at the chest-height of the person (or animal) being photographed. That single tip will instantly 'elevate' your people and animal images. Don't be afraid to get down and dirty.

Get the subject away from the centre of the frame.

 Before you click the shutter, take a few moments to examine what is inside the frame of your viewfinder or camera's screen. Move so the subject is to one side or the other. Change composition to see what looks best.
 Read up on the rules of composition and then break them when necessary. Study paintings of the great masters - they were not only masters of painting but also masters of composition.
 When photographing landscapes decide on a point of interest and use natural lines and diagonals to lead the viewer's eye to it. Those 'lines' could be roads, rivers or mountain ranges.

Check the background

 Sod's Law says you'll only see the tree growing out of the subject's head, or the two dogs mating on the side of the image, when you get home and display the image on your laptop.
 Take a moment to look, really look, at the contents of your frame before tripping the shutter.

Slow down and think

Think what you want the final image to be and exactly how it should look. Take your time to study the frame, while keeping in mind the tips listed above. Only press the shutter when you are consciously in control.

 Great photography is not about equipment. It's about vision and thought and we all have that in some measure.



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