How to Take Professional Pictures:
10 Digital Photography Tips from the Pros
In today’s world, most cameras are able to make up for and compensate for random and common human errors. However one thing a camera will probably never be able to do is compose a great shot by itself. Below are 10 digital photography tips from our in-house professional photographer and some of our partnered photographers that will help you take a great photo!
- If you’re shooting digital, capture all the pixels you can. It’s the amount of pixels per square inch that gives quality to your images, so always shoot at your camera’s highest possible resolution.
- Decide what you’re really taking a picture of, and center your efforts on taking the best possible photo of this subject, be it a person, place, thing, or even mood. Be sure to keep anything that would distract out of the picture. A clean background will emphasize your subject and have a stronger visual impact.
- Try to zoom or move in to fill the frame with your subject. That way you can truly make an impact. Even cutting into the subject a bit can be dynamic and lend the image an intimate mood. Use the Macro or Flower mode for small subjects. Even the simplest object takes on new fascination in Macro mode.
- One of the most important aspects of composition is the Rule of Thirds. The concept, discovered by the Greeks, is simple. Imagine a tic-tac-toe grid across your frame, and place the subject at 1 of the 4 line intersections. The strongest and most visually interesting place for your subject is usually at one of these points
- Most cameras focus on whatever is in the middle of the frame. As we just learned, that’s rarely the best place for your subject, so it may be out of focus. To combat this, center the subject and press the shutter button down halfway to lock in the focus. Then reframe the picture and press the shutter button all the way to take the shot with perfect sharpness.
- A polarizer is one filter every photographer should have for general outdoor shooting. It works with both single-lens reflex cameras and point-and-shoot cameras – just hold the polarizer in front of the lens. By reducing the glare, the polarizer gives your shots noticeably richer and more saturated colors, especially with skies.
- In-camera meters try to make your subject 18% gray. But some subjects are vastly darker or lighter than that, so it’s easy for your meter to get tricked and turn a snowy hillside into a dark, muddy mess. What you need to do is trick your meter back. The most reliable way to do this is to use an 18% gray card like the one made by Kodak. To use it, place the card in the same light as your subject. Then point your camera at it, filling the frame. Lock in this exposure by pressing the shutter button halfway, then recompose and shoot with perfect exposure still set.If you don’t have a gray card, do the same thing with something in the scene that seems 18% gray. This may be your own hand, a rock, or the grass in the same light as your subject.
- For stellar outdoor shooting, use these tips for the 3 main times of day:
- Middle of the day: Harsh midday sunlight is especially problematic, because of dark shadows in the eye sockets, under the nose, and in other unflattering crags. A terrific solution is your camera’s Fill Flash mode, where the camera exposes for the background first, then adds just enough flash to illuminate your subject. Use Fill Flash midday to lighten dark shadows and even on cloudy days to brighten faces and separate them from the background.
- Early/late day: For scenic shots, the light is usually best very early or very late in the day. That’s when you get the warm tones and long shadows of professional nature work. Of course, people and animals also look great in this light. You can even experiment with Fill Flash to balance a glowing sidelight from the sun where the face is mostly in shadow.
- End of day/Magic Hour: The part of the day when the sun has just set or is just about to rise is known as Magic Hour. Its brightly diffused light is the darling of photographers of car ads and other hard-to-light surfaces. This evenly distributed, pinkish light is also terrific for shooting people. A similarly flattering light is that of cloudy days.
- Indoor photography can be especially tricky, so remember these tips:
- Without a flash, indoor lighting lends a funny color cast to your images. To correct this, set your white balance if shooting digital. If using film, buy the type that’s balanced for your type of room lighting.
- To combat harsh shadows from an indoor flash, try covering it with diffusion material. Even bathroom tissue or a white T-shirt works.
- Light from a north-facing window can be exceptionally flattering. Try a “window-light” portrait, in which a person (or object) is placed next to a window without direct sunlight coming through and then, often, turned to the side so that only part of the face is illuminated by the window’s even light.
- Make sure you understand the different modes of your camera:
- To control certain aspects of your exposure in order to produce desired effects, take the camera out of automatic or P mode, and try the other exposure modes:
- A or AV (aperture value) mode: This allows you to set the aperture while the camera sets the appropriate shutter speed. You might use AV mode to lower the shutter speed to create a shallow depth of field (like f/4.0), which will blur the background and result in clean, snappy portraits.
- TV (time value) mode: Here, you control the shutter speed and the camera sets the aperture. You might use TV mode when you know you need at least 1/1000 to capture a flock of bicyclists as they fly by your lens, but you want the camera to decide the appropriate aperture for that speed. In both these cases, if there isn’t enough light to compensate, your image may still be underexposed. This will usually be signified by a flashing number in your camera’s LCD screen where exposure is read.
Good luck to all of you budding pros out there! We can’t wait to see what kind of shots you take!