by Art Piccio . December 3rd, 2015
While we all love having nice gear, the whole point of photography is to take great pictures, not to talk about who spent the most money for their gear. The people who enjoy that more than taking pictures are probably more properly described as camera enthusiasts.
That said, it doesn’t hurt to have a $3,000 DSLR, but most photographers –even pros — rarely get to make full use of the functionality of any modern camera within a real world context.
But better technology and more complex cameras in general, have not improved the quality of most pictures we see day-to-day. And as the holidays are upon us, we are treated to dreary album after album of bad photos taken with some amazing technology.
Here are simple pointers anyone can use with any camera that nearly always result in better shots.
Simply moving closer not only helps you remove pointless, potentially embarrassing photobombs from the edges of your frame, it can help strengthen the subject in your photo so that it’s apparent that that’s what you want people to look at. You’ll also find your pictures have more coherent detail and that you’re cropping a lot less often.
The world does not start and end at your eye level. One reason so many amateur photo sets look so bland is that almost invariably they’re taken standing up, and purely at eye level. This usually means boring pictures with boring dynamics.
It makes a world of difference for example, to kneel down to take a picture of a dog, or a toddler. By getting down to that level, you are offering an idea of how your subjects experience things. Shooting from a standing position, with the camera angled down is normally far less interesting.
Speaking of angles, try to shoot subjects in as natural an angle as possible unless you think you have a reason not to. This means that ships at sea for example, should be shot horizontally, with the actual horizon as level as possible. In this case a tilted horizon would not only be distracting, but just look plain terrible.
Sometimes though, you don’t want natural — you want something interesting, as in the case of action shots for instance. Skateboarding pics for example, tends to look so much better when shot at a low angle. Group pictures can also look great when you shoot from a higher vantage point and your subjects are all looking up at you.
A camera flash tends to bring out imperfections in skin tone that people generally don’t want, and they often look kind of sleazy when paired with a dark background.
Camera flashes have their place, but if you don’t have an idea how to use flash effectively yet, adjusting the ISO settings on your camera can help you get more appealing portraits.
If you do have the option though to use a flash though, a bounce flash or an appropriate aperture lens for shooting in lower light can also give great results compared to most built-in flashes.
Shots from below the chin can be very unflattering, as the jaw definition we often associate with attractive pictures can easily get lost.
If you could, it can be worth your while to ask the subject to jut their chin forward, like in this mind blowing video below.
If you didn’t watch that video, you should. The difference it makes is nothing less than astonishing.
This is one thing people back in the analog era just had to do that we don’t really do as often these days. Back when the cost of film was an important consideration, most people tried to make their shots count, so fewer frivolous shots were taken.
The digital era is mostly a great thing, and the prospect of taking near infinite numbers of photos for peanuts is nothing to sneeze at. But the idea you should make your shots count is still important because
a.) you still have to end up sifting through all of them.
b.) you will take better pictures if only because every picture you take will now have a specific purpose.
This is not a knock on spray-and-pray photography, which is a good way of nailing a good shot in nearly any situation. Just don’t take pictures mindlessly.
If you’re sending a portfolio, or even just uploading an album to Facebook, don’t send multiple shots of the same subject — especially if they’re from the same angle. This will only dilute the power of your photos, even the ones that are actually good.
And most of your photos will be terrible, trust us. Every album of 100 photos will have probably less than 20 that are good, and less than 5 that jump out at you. This is natural, and it’s true for everybody.
But if people see your bad pictures together with your few good ones, then all of a sudden, they don’t seem so good anymore. You owe it to yourself and others to only show what you believe in. Keep doing this enough, and we promise, you will get better at avoiding lousy shots and those 20 out of 100 acceptable pictures will stretch out to 30. Probably.
Understand what you like about pictures you keep. Did you like how it was composed? Was there something about the lighting you liked? Did the colors jump at you in a way you wanted? This is the first step to taking more pictures that you truly enjoy.
photo credits: my a850 via photopin (license), Xenon flash; Bill Ebbesen
What other simple, non-techy tips can you teach others? Comment below