Professional cameras are getting cheaper, and the cameras in our smartphones are getting better. If 2014 was the year that everybody was a DJ, 2015 is the year of the photographer.
Whether you recently bought a camera and are unhappy with the results, or whether you just want some tips for your Instagram account, this article will give you a good overview of photography, with simple tips on composition that are sure to improve your snapping game.
Use Your Eyes
A common mistake that a lot of photographers make is sticking their eyes in the viewfinder as soon as they see a shot they like, and composing the shot through the camera. Doing this means you can miss out on components of the photo that can take it from good to great.
Check out the scene with your eyes first, pick out the shot in your head, and then pull out the camera and execute.
Rule of Thirds
This is a very well known concept in photography, and can help you avoiding taking boring photographs with the subject smack in the middle. All you have to do is cut up your picture into thirds, vertically and horizontally, and place your subject in one of the four intersection points.
This may sound difficult, but the photograph below demonstrates the concept clearly. If your subject is too big to clearly fit on one of the points, choose the part of the subject that you are most interested in (eyes in a portrait for example) and put it there.
Flash is sometimes necessary in really dark conditions, but I would advise avoiding it wherever possible, because it tends to ‘burn’ the picture – ruining shadows, highlights, and making the subject much brighter than the background. This makes images look amateurish. If you have to use flash, try to distance yourself as much as possible from your subject and zoom in. An example of a ‘burned’ photo is shown below.
Simplify the Scene
When you look at something with you eyes, your brain picks out the interesting stuff but the camera shoots everything in the frame without discrimination. Try to exclude stuff you don’t want in the picture to give it a ‘cleaner’ feel. This is not always possible, of course.
Use Leading Lines
If your subject is not very clear or is very small, you can lead your audience to the subject using lines, like a pavement or electric wires (or a conveniently located wooden fence like in the photograph below).
Frame Your Shots
Using your composition to create a frame inside your shots can really clean up the look of your photograph and give it context, or create an interesting contrast. The frame doesn’t have to be all around or perfect, you can work with what you have and see how it goes. An example of a frame composition is shown below.
Now, you can pick up your camera/phone, go outside, and start taking beautiful pictures! Just a second, though, I have a couple of final tips. Watch out for your own shadow/reflection, because nothing is worse than loading up a supposedly brilliant photo onto your computer only to discover that your shadow photobombed it. If you are shooting a movable subject, a person for example, think of all your lighting options, as in where you and the subject stand with respect to the light source. As a rule of thumb, keep the light source behind you for a well-lit subject.