Whether you are a beginning, amateur, or aspiring photographer, these following tips should help you in creating more professional looking photos. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments!
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Step 1: Tip #1: Rule of Thirds
In my opinion, this tip has the most potential to improve the appearance of the photos you take.
Many cameras, including the ones built into smartphones, have the ability to superimpose a 3x3 grid onto the viewfinder or screen of the phone.
Essentially, the rule of thirds makes a photo more visually appealing and balanced. To accomplish this, line up the horizon with one of the lines if you are taking a photo of a landscape. If photographing a specific subject, place the subject at the intersection point of two of the lines on the grid.
In this photo that I took during a June evening with my DJI Mavic Pro, the horizon is clearly lined up with the bottom line on the 3x3 graph, giving it a balanced look.
Step 2: Tip #2: Golden Hour
Shooting during golden hour, a termed used to describe the time just after sunrise and just before sunset, makes photos look far more professional than those taken during noon in direct sunlight. Taking photos during golden hour improves the saturation, contrast, and warmth of the photo, while photos taken under direct sunlight tend to be bleached/washed out.
The first photo was taken at an old quarry 48 minutes before the sunset. Taking photos during this time also has the effect of long, distinct shadows, as seen in this photo taken during the spring.
The second photo was taken 58 minutes before sunset. The effects of golden hour are clearly manifested in this picture: the brilliant green of the grass, the high contrast, and the long shadows.
Step 3: Tip #3: Leading Lines
Use lines you find, either in nature or architecture, to lead the eyes of the viewer throughout the photo or directly to the subject.
The first photo, which I took while on vacation at Delap's Cove, Nova Scotia, uses the birch tree in the foreground, as well as the trunks of the trees in the background, to lead one's eye throughout the photo. The path also leads the viewer's eyes from the center of the photo towards the left, adding to the depth of field of the photo, which I will address in the following tip.
The second photo, an aerial view of the point where the Welland Canal meets Lake Ontario, uses the sidewalk to lead one's eyes in between the trees on the right side of the picture.
Step 4: Tip #4: Depth of Field
Depth of field, essentially, is the area in front of and behind the focal point of lens of a camera. A low depth of field allows one to take a photo of a subject that will stick out from the background and the foreground, which will be out of focus, while a large depth of field keeps a large range of the photo in focus.
Low Depth of Field
- Wide aperture (the lower the f-stop (the ratio of the pupil of the lens to its focal length), the lower the depth of field)
Large Depth of Field
- Narrow aperture (the higher the f-stop, the larger the depth of field)
I generally shoot photos with a low depth of field because I like the way the subject stands out from the background and foreground when using a low aperture, as shown in this photo of a knife.
Step 5: Tip #5: Point of View
Another one of my favorite tips is to find unique perspectives from which to take pictures. One way to attain this has become increasingly popular in the past few years: drones. Using a drone will give you a new point of view from which to take photos of a location where you thought there were no more pictures to take.
Aerial photos are not the only idiosyncratic perspective from which to take photos. Though attempting to reach these perspectives might be uncomfortable, the result will be worth it. Try lying down, kneeling, looking upwards while walking through a city, and using a camera in portrait and landscape orientation to achieve individualistic perspectives.
To take the picture of the Koenigsegg Agera RS, which I took at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, my friends lifted me onto their shoulders so I could get above the crowds of people in front of us to attain this unique perspective.
The second picture is an aerial shot of a combine, a perspective that I saw the for the first time when I captured this picture.
The third picture is another unique perspective: a view of a dolphin breaking the surface of the ocean from a hundred feet up.
The final picture is a very unique photo, especially considering the fact that I used a phone to take it. I held my phone against the eyepiece of a telescope to capture this photo of the moon.
Step 6: Tip #6: Use Inclement Weather to Your Advantage
Next time it is snowing, raining, foggy, etc., get outside with your camera. Weather can be a great addition to your photos, as seen with the snow in the following photos of cardinals, as well as the fog surrounding the wind turbines and along the Bay of Fundy. Just be sure that your camera is protected from any precipitation.
Step 7: Tip #7: Filling the Frame
Keep the focus on your subject by filling the frame of the photo with only your subject, thus removing distractions that will take away from the subject.
Filling the frame can be done either when you take the photo or during post-production:
While Taking the Photo
- Use the optical zoom of your camera
- Walking closer to the subject
- Crop the photo so that the frame is filled by the subject (it is preferable to fill the frame while taking the photo because cropping the photo will reduce the resolution)
As shown in this photo of a Nissan GT-R, filling the frame with the car greatly diminished the distractions that might be in the background and kept the viewer's eyes on the subject.
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