Have you ever taken a picture that was so absolutely stunning, that you thought to yourself, “Someone should pay me for this”? Ever have that one perfect moment captured on film where no one blinked and everything was perfectly in focus? Sometimes you just get lucky and end up with fantastic photographs, but odds are, as an amateur your pictures are going to look less than stellar without a little help. Keep these tips in mind next time you pull out your camera and take your photos from “eh” to “extraordinary”.
Set It Up
Every photographer should know the effects of a sub-par composition. Pick a subject and stick to it. Make sure your subject is clearly the focus and pay attention to the background. You can take a picture of a beautiful woman but the viewer will stray from her beauty if there is something more interesting or jarring behind her.
We can’t always control our lighting when in an outdoor setting but you can make what light you have work for you rather than against you. Use bright, reflective surfaces to bring more light to your subject. Remember that during mid-day, the blues in the color spectrum are reflected more, lending a “cool” quality to the light, whereas early morning and dusk the light will be warmer and redder toned.
Consider experimenting with your viewpoint. The viewer sees what you as the photographer wants them to see so be creative. Break all the rules you learned in your photography class, take some candids upside down.
Framing is important because it shows the viewer clearly what you as the person behind the lens are trying to show them. Use natural elements to keep your subject the focus of the piece. Water, trees and hills or mountains make great frames.
Always remember the Rule of Thirds. When looking through your lens, imagine your composition split into 9 sections with 2 lines horizontally and 2 lines vertically cutting through your picture. The subject of your piece should always be placed where these lines meet, never dead center. This adds depth and interest to your work. Studies have shown that people typically look to these lines and intersections when looking upon a photo, rather than gazing at the center; so using this rule will help your photo flow more naturally for viewers.
If you use all the above steps to help you prepare for getting the perfect shot, you should get a pretty decent one. Sometimes, things don’t always go perfectly though; you end up with red eyes, your subject moved or the lighting just wasn’t right. Luckily, there are plenty of options for editing software and you don’t need to be a pro to learn the basics. Use a sharpening tool to make your photo pop.
Sharpening in your editing software makes the dark colors darker and vice versa with the light colors. Blur out any unnecessary background clutter to make your subject more of the main focus. Play with your color and contrast levels to get just the right look. Use different filters if your original lighting was terrible.
You don’t have to be a professional to take professional looking photos; you just have to know the tools and tricks that the professionals use.
Johnny Rogers is a photographer. He enjoys teaching photography classes and traveling around the U.S. He always has a camera in his hand and uses travel insurance to keep peace of mind while on his adventures across the country.