DSLR cameras have made photography much easier than in the days of loading cameras and fumbling with film. But what I see happening is an onslaught of budding photographers setting their cameras to automatic and skipping past the fundamentals. Things like cranking up ISO levels to pixelated disproportions. And including the entire kitchen sink in the frame, in lieu of a focused subject. There’s nothing wrong with creative experimentation for sure, and there is always more to learn. But in hopes of filling in some of those gaps, I’m creating my first series on photo tips and tricks as a dedicated section of GoTechMom.com. If you find it helpful, or would like to contribute, please come back often.
Now, let’s talk composition. What are the most important things to remember when composing a photo? Essentially, they can be nailed down to five things.
1. Keep it simple. Don’t over-complicated the photo by including distractions from your subject. When I first started shooting, my favorite lens was a Tamron 10-24mm wide angle lens which can fit half of the planet into one shot. It also creates a sense of photojournalistic style, with slightly distorted images in the foreground and on the sides. I love this lens because I don’t like to capture images “exactly” as they look in reality. I want my photos to look “better” or at least more dramatic. But now, rather than capture the whole kitchen sink, I’ve shifted my focus to a singular subject in the photo. Mind you, I still look for breathtaking landscapes to include as a backdrop, but I always have a singular subject in the foreground, even if it’s a last-minute leaf, crab or rock. Remember, less is always more.
2. Look for leading lines that direct your eye to your subject. Your eyes are pretty smart and easily take cues. If you stand in the right place, you can create an angle on a handrail driving the eye from left to right, pointing to your subject leaning against it. To get a sense of lines, composition and perspective, try shooting people from above ground, say, going across a crosswalk, or traveling up and down stairs. Make sure you only include enough information necessary in the shot without any clutter. It’s also wise to never center your subject in the middle as it makes for a less interesting composition.
3. Look for interesting patterns for backgrounds and contrasting colors for foregrounds. Eyes are comfortable with patterns and consistency. Things like patterned flower dresses, the repetition of bricks in a brick wall, and bright colors of graffiti all make for great backgrounds. Position a repetitious pattern behind a contrasting color and texture of your subject and you’re halfway home to creating a great shot. I spotted the guy above in bright yellow taking a smoking break on his balcony. The combination of contrasting colors, diagonal lines and great lighting simply begged for me to get the shot.
4. Watch your corners of the frame. Don’t let unnecessary images creep in. It’s easy enough to get so focused on your subject you forget to watch your corners. Did someone just walk into your background? Is there a trash can in the background you didn’t notice at first? Sometimes you can crop your shot later, but too often there’s a pole, power line, or other random object that’s just enough to blow your whole picture. Remember, corners are pixels too.
5. Get the shot. Moments don’t last forever. Most often, I prefer to shoot in AV priority mode to control depth of field for portraits (F5) and landscapes (F22). And TV priority mode to control shutter speed for action shots (fast), water streams (slow) and fireworks (bulb). That said, a huge part of photography is simply being present in the moment and staying connected to the subject you’re shooting. Don’t miss the moment by fumbling with settings. Be prepared to quickly switch to Program mode (P), which is the same as automatic but with control over your ISO, flash and white balance. Have your program mode set with proper ISO (100 ISO if outside in bright light; 400 ISO and up for indoors. Take a test shot with the ISO high enough so it’s not blurry) Because more important than taking the PERFECT photograph, is simply GETTING the shot.
What are your favorite tips or tricks for composing a great shot? Please share them with us below. Got a great shot to share? Post your best photos on our facebook page here. Happy shooting!