Do you ever look at great photos and find yourself analysing why everything just seems to work so well?
Great photography has become incredibly accessible, with amazing phone cameras on hand to capture beautiful photos of everyday moments. And as I’m sure you’ve heard many times, it really isn’t just the camera that creates a good photo. Cheap point and shoot film cameras, even old iPhones, can capture incredible images.
There are a whole host of different components that can lead to great photos, not just the camera that you use. From rare and unusual subject matter (like a sighting of a rare bird, or a lucky moment!), to lighting and composition. The technical side of photography can seem overwhelming at times. But looking past things like ‘manual’ mode and megapixels, here are some points that can improve your photos even just in plain ol’ auto mode!
Whether you’re using a phone, a cheap point and shoot film camera, or a top notch digital camera, hopefully you’ll find something here to improve and enhance your shots!
1. Go in for a Close Up
Instead of looking at the big picture (literally!), look a little closer. The texture of a stone wall, a cluster of blossom, a seashell that you hold up to the light. Having a close up photo of an object with a far away background can create an image with an amazing depth of field.
It can create a beautiful blurry background whilst the object in the foreground remains pin sharp (this is often referred to as bokeh). Even your phone can create beautiful, buttery bokeh. Just get something up close to the lens, from roughly 30cm away, to as close as the object will stay in focus!
It’s a simple concept, but a misaligned archway, or a slightly wonky landscape can really throw the balance of a photo off. Make the most of the rotate/straightening tool whilst editing on your smart phone or editing app. Or even better, before you take a photo, turn on your cameras grid display in the view finder, to help you keep photos symmetrical and level.
Symmetry draws in the human eye, and when it’s done well it can really capture someones attention and they ‘see’ what you were trying to capture, instead of being distracted by a diagonal horizon. A misaligned photo distracts the viewer from what you’re really trying to show, be that the horizon with a glowing sunrise, or the view through a stone archway.
3. Rule of thirds
Another subtle yet intriguing feature that can be used in great photos. This is a photography ‘rule’ or practice that is often done unconsciously. When you’re lining up a scene for a photo, you may do this subconsciously as your mind prefers the way the scene looks when you line up the scene a certain way…
Imagine a grid placed over your photo, divided into 9 sections. 3 equal thirds vertically and 3 equal thirds horizontally. Whether you position the sky to take up the top two thirds of the image (to highlight a beautiful sunrise), or you position a subject off to the right hand side of an image where it sits in-between the middle and right thirds.
It sounds a bit stuffy and technical… but it really doesn’t have to be followed strictly, and can easily be broken to create beautiful imagery, so don’t ever feel constrained by it.
Just think of it like this: Your subject doesn’t always need to be right in the centre of your image. Positioning a tree, person or street, offset to the left or right third just helps to create a little intrigue, it draws the eye.
4. Different Angles & Perspectives
Have you ever been out and about and spotted photographers getting into all sorts of unusual positions with their camera? Lying on the floor to get a wide angled shot of skyscrapers, pointing their camera to the floor at what just seems to be a puddle… Intriguing photos often show something a little bit different, that just breathes a completely new perspective into something.
Look for reflections in bodies of water, lakes, rock pools, and yes, even puddles! As long as there isn’t direct sunlight reflecting on it, and the water is fairly still, you can get some really unique texture in a photo.
Change perspective: Get down amongst a forest floor, or get yourself to an elevated position above a scene, just try something a bit different! Things like drones have been brilliant at giving us never before seen perspectives of scenes and landscapes too. Just, y’know, take care not to break laws, or endanger yourself and others!
5. Editing with Presets and Filters
Filters and presets are incredible photography editing tools. They can take a dull or flat looking image and transform it into a deep and layered scene. They truly can transform a photo in seconds.
Most phones or laptops come with very basic photo editing tools, and there are plenty of free mobile apps like Snapseed and VSCO, as well as the editing tools you can find on Instagram. I highly recommend using the free Lightroom app for mobiles, or even subscribing to Adobe Lightroom for computers/laptops if photography is a real hobby, or if you use it for work. The variety of tools that you can utilise is incredible, from deepening colours, to increasing shadows and contrast. It can give your photos a really professional finesse, as funnily enough, most professionals rely on tools like Lightroom!