At first glance, the world of photography is scary and complex. There are so many different terms, techniques and camera settings that your head gets woozy just thinking about it. Don’t worry though, we have all been there. The big secret to becoming a professional photographer is simple – just keep at it. The more pictures you take, the better you become. Period.
When you are not out taking pictures, use your spare time to brush up on some of the basics. Watch a few YouTube videos on some super basic photography stuff, or have it playing in the background while you blog (like I do). After all, there is no point taking a thousand pictures and hoping for a good one, like most of us do. Wouldn’t it be nice to, instead, take a hundred or so photos – and selecting your favorite?
So let’s start brushing up right now! No matter what your skill level is, EVERY photographer should know the following techniques.. These are like the bread and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter of photography. They’re the foundation for basically any other possible technique and skill. So learn them, understand them, and practice them. Practice. Practice, practice.
One of the most basic concepts of photography is composition. The foundation of which, is based on the ever-so-exciting Rule of Thirds. A lot of people use this rule instinctively without even realizing that such a rule exists. More on that later.
The Rule of Thirds is simple – divide your picture into three equal parts vertically and horizontally so you end up with nine squares. It should look like you are about to play a game of tic-tac-toe.
These lines create points of interest in your viewfinder. The most important part of your picture should be where these lines intersect. That is where our brains naturally expect to see the main details of whatever we’re viewing. For example, when shooting a landscape, try and keep your horizon on either top or bottom line. This way, you have a nice balance between the sky and the land in your picture.
The Rule of Thirds is a great tool to make your picture stand out right from beginning. However, avoid looking at it as some sort of law in photography. Learn it, use it, and then look for something new. Good composition can be achieved when using The Rule of Thirds, but great composition will require more work and knowledge.
If you have read our article on How To Shoot in Manual Mode you probably have an idea of what The Depth of Field is. This refers to how much of your picture is going to be in focus. In other words, the larger the depth of field is, the more of your image is going to be in focus. Whilst the smaller the depth of field is, the more blur will happen around your focal point.
I used words large and small, but to better understand how this works it is more practical to refer to the size as deeper (larger) and shallower (smaller). This is because the focal plane is not measured from the left to the right of an image, but rather how far away the object is from your sensor.
To gain control of your Depth of Field, you will have to learn how to set the aperture on your camera correctly. Aperture controls how wide the lens opening is. The smaller the number, the bigger the opening, and the shallower Depth of Field you get. The bigger the number, the smaller the opening and the deeper the Depth of Field will be.
Small number = big opening = loads of light = small depth of field
Big number = small opening = very little light = large depth of field
This technique will be the cornerstone of your photography career. Sharp focus is one of the most important aspects in your pictures. That’s why it is so important to learn how to control the focus, and harness it for your creative needs.
The Golden Hour is not so much of a technique, but rather a time of day when it is best to shoot outside. As you probably know by now, photography is all about capturing the light, and the biggest source of light is always the sun. If it helps, try to think of the outdoors as one big studio. The sun is your big spotlight, the clouds are diffusers and everything else is reflectors.
As you have already observed, the quality of light changes throughout the day. When the sun is high in the sky, everything looks bleached out and there are almost no shadows or character to your pictures. Instead, many photographers use this time to explore the area and find the best places to take pictures of later on in the day.
At sunset or sunrise, the sun is near the horizon. Its light has more golden shade, and it casts long and beautiful shadows. Everything comes alive and gains new qualities. This time is called The Golden Hour. This is when you want to go outside and take pictures. In fact, most pictures of the outdoors are taken during these two hours in the day.
Useful tip – when it’s overcast, the sunlight is diffused by the clouds and you can take beautiful portraits outside. Or, if you are under the canopy in a dense forest, the sun will be diffused by the leaf and you can take some stunning shots as well.
A great tool to help you plan out the best time to shoot your picture is Photographer’s Ephemeris. This website tells you when the sun sets and when the moon rises. And you can download it as an app as well.
When learning new rules and techniques in photography it is important for you to remember that these are not laws. These are merely guidelines to help you learn and begin developing your own unique style.
The Rule of Thirds is great way to introduce yourself to composition, and once you get a hang of it try to play around. Put your subject in the middle, divide your picture in half with the horizon line, and see what happens. Don’t be afraid to experiment, because there is nothing worse than seeing photographers religiously follow a handful of photography techniques blindly. Instead of learning and trying out new things, they do the same technique in each and every picture.
Now think for a moment – have you ever been to a gallery and thought to yourself, “Wow, look at this guy doing the same thing as everyone else. He’s so awesome!”. No, because you want every picture to be unique and tell a different story, not just be technically correct.
What are your favorite techniques? Maybe you got something to add to one of these rules? Let us know your thoughts in comments, and let us help everyone learn together.