10 Tips to Take A Beautiful Photograph
With experience from my journey and a lot of research, I’ve curated these 10 genuine tips that will help you regardless of where you are in your journey. These tips are not going to teach you the principles or laws of photography like the other articles out there, rather they’ll remind you that photography is an art and that sometimes, in order to reach your maximum potential you might have to break some rules. Alright, let’s dive right into it!
Your photographs tell a story. Follow these steps and you’ll turn your photographs into an experience!
- Choose Where to Stand Thoughtfully -
Let’s get the fundamentals out of the way. It is a very basic concept in Photography to ‘not’ stand against the light when taking a photograph. This is done to basically light your subject up because standing against the light will tend to make your subject appear darker as the light source is behind it. A direct counter to this would be using a flash but let’s not go down that road and stick to natural light for now (not to discourage you of flash, but to stress on the beauty natural light has). Now that we have the fundamentals laid, let’s move up. What do you do when standing with the light behind you isn’t really giving the best results? Here’s the answer — You’ve got to move around! Get closer, go further, sit, crawl or lie down in the sand if you have to and see what angle goes best to the message and the emotions you’re trying to convey in your photograph. You’d be amazed to know the amount of work professional photographers put in moving around their subject and choosing the best angle for the photograph. This is one of the most crucial elements of a beautiful photograph. Once you’ve spotted the magic angle for your photograph, trust me you’ll know. And now that you know where to stand, being at the right place at the right time to snap that perfect click can be everything when working with natural light. Have a look at the examples below.
On a ladder
Prone on the ground
2. Get the Best of Aperture —
Aperture refers to the opening of a lens’ diaphragm through which light passes and is calibrated in f/stops which is written in numbers such as 1.4, 2.0, 2.8, 4.0 and so on. To keep it simple and clear, I’ve narrowed down the concept of aperture and its effects on depth of field in two equations:
(a) Small f/stop with focus on subject = high exposure = low depth of field of the background = blur background
(b) Large f/stop with focus on subject = low exposure = high depth of field of the background = sharp background
(a) Small F/stop
(b) Large F/stop
3. Get the Best of Shutter Speed -
Shutter Speed revolves around this basic concept — the longer your shutter stays open, the more motion and light it will have time to record and the shorter the time your shutter remains open, the more motion it will freeze. The speed of the shutter is measured in seconds and written in numbers as well as fractions such as 2", 1", 1/10", 1/20", 1/100", 1/250" and so on. So, when I say slow shutter speed it is actually a big number such 1, 2, 3 seconds, etc. And when I say fast shutter speed it is actually a smaller number like 1/10th, 1/250th or 1/500th of a second. So, here are your two equations:
(a) Fast shutter speed = high exposure = visible motion trace
(b) Slow shutter speed = low exposure = motion freeze
(a) Fast Shutter Speed
(b) Slow Shutter Speed
4. Take an oath to use the ‘Manual’ Mode and nothing but the ‘Manual’ Mode -
The ‘Manual’ mode or the ‘M’ mode on your camera is the most complex yet the most flexible mode for taking photographs. The reason why I’m asking you to take an oath is because using the manual mode is neither going to be easy nor convenient, but if you use the manual mode every time you take photographs, you’re bound to master it. Make it a habit to switch to the ‘M’ mode for the first couple of shots every time you turn on your camera. Over time, you’re going to reach a point when looking at a subject will give you an idea of the approximate camera settings in your head that you can use to get a beautiful photograph. This is the main motive here. Believe me when I say this, this skill that you’ll acquire using the manual mode will help you in ways you can’t imagine. You’d be looking at things and imagining the different settings you can play around with and the different types of photographs you could be taking of the same subject, all in your head! Not just that, it will also help you in identifying true potentials for great photographs around you. Throw a tripod in the combo and the results are going to be phenomenal!
The highway I always saw from my balcony — Shutter Speed: 10" | Tripod | Aperture: 19.0
The mosque I used to go to every Friday — Shutter Speed: 15" | Tripod | Aperture: 22.0
5. Use Image Editing Softwares -
If you’ve read around you’ll know that Digital Photography is an art. Editing photographs is also an art! In other words, to bring out the best of your art and take it to its full potential you’re going to have to learn to edit your photographs. If you’re telling yourself “Psshhh, I’m never going to need to learn image editing”, trust me you’re going to realize this far down the road when you’ll have good capturing skills but zero editing skills and will in-turn fall just that much short in bringing out the best in your photographs. So, my advice is instead of having to face that bitter frustration in the future and then being forced to learn it, make a small effort today. Start slow and while you’re working on your photography skills, take some time out and work on your editing skills. Learn something new everyday. I’m not saying that you need to know the ins and outs of all the Adobe softwares to take a beautiful photograph. No, that is most certainly not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, if you start learning image editing you’re going to have a much better understanding of what the technical qualities of a beautiful photograph are, what a histogram is and how to read it, how do shadows and highlights work, why do professional photographers shoot in RAW file formats, what role does color composition have in making a photograph extraordinary from ordinary or how the tiny goblins in your camera work. These are some of the core concepts of the Digital Photography world. So, if you want to take your photographs to perfection, you’re going to have to use Image Editing softwares. Yeah, there’s no way around it. Try the simple ones. Some easy-to-use, free and dynamic image editing softwares that I started with are Snapseed (for iPhone) and Google’s Nik Collection (for desktop).
Snapped on an iPhone 6s
Edited on an iPhone 6s using Snapseed
6. Symmetry is a friend -
Don’t rush into taking a photograph. Be patient about it and while you’re looking through that lens, try to find elements with which you can create a pattern or a symmetry in your photograph and try to think of ways to align them into the photograph. Sometimes, this is all the difference there is between a good photograph and a beautiful photograph. Make it a practice in your head to recognize patterns and symmetries in your surroundings. Remember its an art, set your creativity free and watch your photographs come to life!
7. Join Flickr -
Join Flickr today and join some groups in your niche and start posting your photographs. Getting exposure and criticism on your photographs is critical for the development of your skills. Some groups allow 1 photograph per day whereas other allow up to 10! Getting this exposure is necessary because its going to give you a good idea of where you stand in your journey and what you need to work on to make your photographs look beautiful.
8. Break The Habit -
Remember, you don’t ‘have’ anything. You don’t ‘have’ to put your subject in the typical locations on your grid. Put your subject in the center of your photograph or hell you don’t even need a subject. Take photographs of patterns or convey a message. Be creative! There are so many intelligent ways to take a photograph, don’t restrict yourself by sticking to the rules. Set yourself free, open your mind, go beyond the typical perspectives of taking a photograph and most importantly, have fun!
9. Whip out your Phone -
Do you know that you can take jaw-dropping amazing photographs with your phone? Your phone’s camera has more potential than you realize. Especially the new phones coming out these days having cameras with exceptional functionalities, such as the iPhone 7 that has a dual lens camera. Of course, they are still not as efficient as a Digital SLR camera but they’ve come a long way. All I’m saying is, whenever you feel like there’s an opportunity for a beautiful photograph, whip out your phone and turn on your phone’s camera. Play with whatever your phone’s camera settings have to offer — focus, ISO settings and exposure are a few examples. This will give you much better idea of what the photograph would look like when you take it with your DSLR camera. This usually comes in handy when estimating a photograph’s potential or finding out if there is any real potential for a beautiful photograph.
Snapped this during a video on a iPhone 6s
Stunning clarity on the iPhone 6s with slight re-touching on Snapseed
10. Saturate your surroundings -
Before you decide to take your camera outdoors, try to make sure that you have saturated all interesting subjects inside your house. Take pictures of everything around you. Toy with the natural light coming in through the bedroom window or use a table lamp to light a subject. You’d be surprised with the results you get just by being a little creative with things around the house. Some cool things to photograph could be fridge magnets, flower vases, action figures, your pets, etc. Try to photograph things that have detail to them. You’ll see that there is actually a bunch of things around you that have the potential to make a beautiful photograph. After you’re done with objects around the house, go to your backyard or your garden. You’re bound to find something interesting there.
Put your batteries on charge, its going be a busy day for your camera. I hope this article made a difference in your photography or motivated you and helped you in your journey in some way :)