Obviously, digital photography, although it seems a lot easier than photography in the heydays, is still science. If you don’t understand anything about light, exposure, and the various settings, you will definitely struggle to get the right or the best-looking photos.
Nevertheless, you also should not forget that it’s also about art. As I mentioned in the introduction, I use photography to display my creativity since I don’t know how to draw, dance, or sing. That’s why I definitely enjoy when I take photos at various settings. The ones below are my favorites, and they are also the most basic settings. So you can start practicing your photography skills, I have provided some easy-to-follow tips for you:
Portraits for a lot of people may appear simple. After all, what’s so hard about capturing the face? You simply need to tell your subject to hold still—and that’s basically it! But this is just a portion of the entire process. For me, portraits are the hardest, because usually you’re not just dealing with faces but also emotions and even movements. It’s a lot harder to tell people to follow your instructions, and emotions can change in a split second. If you’re not paying a lot of attention to your subject, you could miss out on a very important moment.
There are plenty of rules, tips, and tricks in taking portraits, and here are some that I follow.
As much as possible, I want to make use of natural light. It also makes everything appear natural—a perfect complement to the rawness of the emotion or movement of the subject. If you haven’t heard of the golden hour, then you should learn to find it as well (it’s actually around early in the morning or dusk). Around this time, you can create soft light, which makes the portrait look even more magical. As an example, look at the picture below:
I also enjoy using soft light when taking photos of couples, especially during engagements or weddings as it makes the photos more romantic.
I also prefer my portraits to be candid, but that also means taking successive photos at a short amount of time. This way I can just select the best shots. Nevertheless, if your subject prefers to have a concept, you can begin with a storyboard so both parties have a very good idea about how the shoot is going to come along.
Since it’s portrait, the focus of the photo will be your subject. That means you should get rid of distractions or other elements. You can physically remove them, find a location with the least distraction, eliminate them during editing, or use some of the basic techniques I shared in the previous chapters—that is, use small aperture or focal ratio to make the background a bit blurry or less focused.
If you’re a photographer, then it’s normal for you to look for nice locations you can use as backgrounds. This also means that sometimes you can’t escape to take photos of landscapes. I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of landscapes since I am not so fond of traveling, but my line of work requires me so. Sometimes the client demands that they see snippets of the locations first before they make a decision. Over the years, therefore, I’ve learned some techniques in shooting landscapes.
One my foremost techniques in landscape photography is to take photos in natural light. It doesn’t matter if such light comes from the stars or the moon. You want the landscape to look as natural as possible. Nevertheless, I strongly advise that you avoid shooting landscapes at night unless your camera is capable of handling higher ISO. Else, the noise will be very clear or the images won’t appear very sharp. You can also apply the golden hour around this time, simply because you will enjoy the rich play of colors.
Unlike in portraits where you have to bring your focus to one or very few subjects, in landscape photography, you need to capture a lot. Fortunately, a lot of cameras these days can already do panorama shots. But just in case your camera doesn’t have it, what you can do is to lower the ISO by around 100 to 200, so the images can truly look crystal clear and vibrant. You can also use a tripod to make sure that your camera remains steady. You can also increase the depth of field by enhancing the focal ratio or number. This way, the background will be part of the focus.
If you need to capture clouds or flowing water such as that of the waterfalls, you can reduce the shutter speed to give it some blurred effect. An example is the picture below: waterfall
When I was still starting out in photography, most of my projects are macro shots. If you can capture the finest details of an object that’s so small, then it means that you’re learning control effectively. I know of some people who are focusing on macro photography, especially those who need to publish works in science journals, travel magazines, and nature media (think of National Geographic).
One of the first things to keep in mind when working with macro is it’s not portrait. These are completely two different things. It’s called macro since you’re trying to magnify the size of the subject to as much as 5 times. This way, the details are very clear or sharp. This is also why most of the subjects in macro are part of nature like flowers and insects. Here’s one of my more favorite macro shots.
When it comes to macro shots, there should be a close relationship between the lens and the subject. You need lenses that are quite powerful—those that are around 150mm or even 200mm. These lenses aren’t very cheap, but you will appreciate the fact that you have excellent distance between the lens and the subject so you don’t disturb the latter and yet the lens can capture the minute details perfectly. Usually too the aperture’s size is increased (or the focal ratio is reduced) in order to eliminate most of the background.
If you can, take macro shots when there’s natural light available or you have the option to bring the ISO down to around 100 or 200. Always remember that in macro shots, details are very important, and so you cannot afford to have any kind of noise to add more grainy textures to your photos.
A lot of people think that it’s difficult to take action shots since more often than not the photos appear blurry. But by now you already know that it all depends on the settings of the camera. The easiest way to take action shots is to simply change the mode or setting of your camera from automatic to action such as sports or fireworks.
But the truth is nothing still beats having more control on the manual settings. True, it can be a challenge, but once you get the hang of it, it’s one of the most engaging and entertaining photo projects that you can do.
What are the guidelines in shooting action-packed activities and subjects?
You need to know more about the activity. In fact, this is a cardinal rule. I remember I was asked to document the inter-school cheer dance competition. Since I don’t know a lot about it, I ended up shooting in the sidelines, where most of the best possible shots are NOT found. It was definitely a disaster. If I had stayed behind the judges’ table or squatted or even taken shots right on the floor, I would have produced amazing photos.
If you want to capture the action, it’s better to use the fast shutter speed than the lower shutter speed. The great thing about this is you can comfortably increase the ISO, which is necessary when you are going to shoot photos of concerts and other events that are held indoors. You can go as high as 1,600; but let me warn you: not all cameras can provide detailed pictures at very high ISOs. It’s best to operate in the optimal ISO range of the camera.
use the continuous shot setting. In this mode, the camera takes pictures in short bursts, like three shots within a second. Later, you can choose the best shot among the series.
always be in the zone. This tip is beyond technical, but it’s just as essential. You cannot afford not to stay focused in what you’re doing because you usually cannot repeat the action; once it’s done, it’s done, and you could have missed a golden shot.