ARCHIVE 230 – 5 SIMPLE WAYS TO TAKE BETTER PICTURES

 

 

UPDATE – I first put out  this post in 2013, at a time when I knew that some of the new followers of this blog were just starting out in photography.  It was an attempt to give some useful, basic tips – for those who would like tips or advice on photography, I’m always available, it is a core part of me.  I’m not saying by any means that I’m an expert in the subject, but I will try to help where I can.

 

I’m still hearing from others who are just starting out, and so here is this post once again.  The points made are as valid as ever, and I hope it will continue to be useful.

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Here are what I hope will be some useful tips, especially for those relatively new to photography.  There’s nothing complicated here – these are just things I do, and I’m sharing them for anyone interested. 

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If anyone has additional ideas – let’s hear them!

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KEEP YOUR GEAR SIMPLE – LESS IS MORE!

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If you’re a professional photographer you may have no choice but to lug vast amounts of gear around because you’re photographing for someone else and you NEED to get those shots.  But if you take the more relaxed and sensible option of being amateur, you’re the boss – you can choose just how much gear to carry >>> and I urge you to travel light!

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Don’t carry lenses that will cover every photo opportunity The Universe can ever throw at you.  If you do, your load will be a real physical burden and, when something with visual potential appears, you’ll have more decisions to make about which lens to use – rather than just going at whatever it is with whatever lens is on your camera at the time.

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Just carry one or maybe two lenses, and get into the mindset that tells you that this lens or two lenses are what you’re going to use.  Make it clear to yourself – and keep it clear – that if you miss a shot due to not having the right gear with you, well that’s just how it is.  More photographic opportunities will always appear, and being restricted in our optical options in this way really sharpens our photographic skills.

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And of course you can cheat a little by taking a zoom.  I use a 70-300 a lot, but if I’m not sure about the sorts of shots I’m looking for, then I’ll add a 16-35 or 12-24 – but I’m still only carrying two lenses – and I’ve found that I usually end up using only one of them.  This is a hardware version of the famous KISS principle for photographic composition – “Keep It Simple, Stupid!”  It applies to gear too!

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But, talking about zooms, remember that zooming in and out on a subject is no substitute for moving around and look at it from all possible angles – another basic tip for good photos is to keep moving around, continually altering our viewpoint so as to be continually receiving new visual stimuli and ideas.

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EXCLUDE ANYTHING EXTRANEOUS FROM THE FRAME

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My blogging colleague Andy Beel  and I are simply amazed at the numbers of images that fail on this basic point.  These are pictures that contain things unrelated to – and often markedly detracting from – the images’ subjects.  I recently posted a colour photo of an elderly woman standing in a doorway.   But before posting it I made sure of excluding two things, which are shown below.

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newq_0158EXAMPLE

First, the left hand frame of the original image is a vertical mass of reds, dark blues, pinks and other colours markedly different from the rest of the picture’s quite limited palette – this was simple to crop out.  Had I left it in, it would have proved an irresistible attraction to every pair is eyes viewing the image >>> it would immediately have drawn everyone’s attention away from the woman and so have ruined the shot.

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And, second, there is a small yellow reflection across the woman’s back, which with the limited colour palette would again have been a significant distraction: I reduced the brightness of this yellow by desaturating it.  Here is the final image:

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newq_0158X

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Extraneous items are best excluded from images at the point of capture.  Move around to alter your viewpoint and use your viewfinder/screen to exclude them.  As a general point here, its best to get as many aspects of an image right at capture if at all possible, as this can often save huge headaches later on.

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It may be possible to crop things out of an image post-capture of course, but keep in mind the way that any cropping alters the picture’s compositional balance.  And things can of course be removed digitally by cloning and so on – but getting it as near right as possible at capture is the thing.  Try to get OUT of the mindset that assumes that any shortcomings in an image at point of capture can be made good digitally later – this ain’t the way to go, AT ALL!!!

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ALWAYS CHECK BACKGROUNDS

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Some pictures require front to back sharpness.  But others have a subject in the foreground that needs to be isolated, if only a little, from the backdrop.  If attempting this second sort of image, always pay great attention to the background, and especially so if it if non-uniform and/or has much light falling on it.  Shoot at larger apertures to reduce depth of field, and always use the camera’s depth of field preview button to get an estimate of how intrusive the background is going to be.  And ALWAYS REMEMBER that the effect that you see when using the depth of field button is probably going to be less than the effect that you will see on the finished picture!

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Simple fact: an intrusive background can totally wreck a picture.

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ALWAYS CHECK THE PERIPHERY OF THE IMAGE

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Immediately prior to taking a photo, get into the CONSTANT habit of quickly running your eye around the edges of the frame, to ensure that there is nothing unwanted there.  We’ve all seen the portraits with telegraph poles sprouting out of the subjects’ heads, and the idyllic landscapes with a pile of litter on one corner.

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Assuming you are not taking a frantic grab shot, get into the habit of performing this simple check with EACH AND EVERY photo you that take.

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DON’T BE AFRAID TO USE HIGH ISO SENSITIVITIES

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I find it frustrating that so many photographers are wary of seeing what their cameras can do at higher ISOs – just look at photo mags, and the great majority of images were shot at 800 ISO or below – in many cases 400 ISO or below – when we’re now using cameras that can handle 12,000 or 25,000 ISO – even 100,000 ISO in some cases!

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Everyone is after that great Holy Grail, image quality, but, to my mind, what matters is first an image’s content, then its composition, with factors like sharpness, noise, colour balance and so on coming some way third.  So, use lower ISOs by all means, but when the light fails or you need greater depth of field, ratchet up those high ISOs and go for it!

 

I hope these points are useful.

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Adrian

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About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.

13 Responses to ARCHIVE 230 – 5 SIMPLE WAYS TO TAKE BETTER PICTURES

  1. bluebrightly says:

    Great advice to not carry too much, and I love your example for keeping extraneous things out of the frame – that’s so perfect! Good advice is worth repeating!

    Like

  2. Helen Cherry says:

    Excellent advice Adrian ( unless you’re entering photo competitions where pin sharpness is almost always still the holy grail ! )
    I am about to go mirrorless because I just don’t have the back (or knee and ankle on right leg) to keep carrying a lot of weight around

    Like

  3. Sallyann says:

    I remember the picture, and the post, well.
    I never did get much further than beginner on the photography scale of things, and the tips you shared then are just as welcome now.
    My enjoyment of the photos, the photographed, and the photographing however, still grows daily.
    Thanks. ☺

    Like

  4. Sue says:

    Some good points for beginners, and maybe not-so-beginners can benefit, too!

    Like

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