Day 5: Shooting photos

Some basics

Every photographer has their own style and approach. Here are just a few basic tips to get you started:

Use natural light whenever possible. Direct sunlight and backlighting should be avoided. Partial sun or diffused sun is best, and try to replicate that in other settings if possible (such as by drawing a translucent shade).

The focal points in this image are at intersections of the lines.

Your goal is to fill the frame with everything you want the viewer to see, and nothing you don’t. Do this by getting into the right position, not by cropping. Don’t leave a bunch of headroom. Put interesting points off center by following the rule of thirds. Look for symmetry. Find ways to balance the photo (so that not all the stuff is on one side). Sometimes it’s possible to “frame” the image, by putting trees or buildings along the edge.

What is this a photo of?

Be aware of the background. Use a dark background when shooting portraits. Make sure nothing in the background distracts from the main image (such as shooting people with road signs coming out of their heads).

This poor fellow has something coming out of his head.

Zoom with your feet
If you think you’re close enough to your subject, take another few steps closer. If your photos aren’t good enough, get closer. When you use your lens or camera to zoom in on a photo, the photo loses quality. Always, always, always zoom with your feet when it’s possible.

Be up-front with your subjects
Approach your subjects, identify who you are, and tell them what you are doing and where their photos are going. You’ll need to get their names anyway. It’s best to do this before shooting, but sometimes the moment happens before you can approach them. Make conversation before, during and after your shoot.

Avoid posing people
A posed photograph is not news; it’s an illustration crafted by the photographer. This is fine for some portraits, when the only goal is to show what a person looks like. Otherwise, your goal is to reflect what really happened and tell a news story. For instance, if someone receives an award, shoot the moment when the certificate is given and they’re shaking hands, not when they’re standing there smiling into the camera.

Spend time with your subjects
The more time you spend with your subjects, the more comfortable they become. When you spend time, you build a relationship. When you build a relationship, that relationship shows in the photographs.

Consider your angles

  • High: Takes power away from people
  • Low: Gives people power
  • Eye-level: Neither takes power away nor gives power to people