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5 Photography Ideas – How to take really good pictures

Looking back through my portfolio the other day, I had an epiphany – The key to good pictures is in the Subject, not the Camera.

I was sat flicking through all of my images when I noticed that the good pictures that get the best social feedback are the ones with a striking subject in them, not the ones with the best photographic skill. That makes perfect sense when you step back for a second.

During my architecture degree, one of my friends wrote an essay questioning whether Architects design buildings for the Client, or for the Approval of other Architects. I wonder if the same thing applies with photography. To get really good pictures, the viewer wants to feel connected or moved on one level or another by the Subject. It is a fair assumption that they are not really interested in the photographic skill.

Read my 5 top tips on how to get good pictures below:

1. Subject

 It's easy to get jealous of the gear other photographers have


It’s easy to get jealous of the gear other photographers have

As I have pointed out already, the most important aspect of any photograph is the subject. What are you photographing? When we see photographers like Chase Jarvis walking around with over £15,000 worth of gear around their neck, it is easy to see how we can get caught up in worrying about having a big fancy lens with a huge hood on it, or the latest shiny gear. However when it comes down to it, what is more important, having a Nikon D4 in your hand, or getting a stunning image rich in emotion? You can do that with a £100 compact.

2. Composition

Get the basics right! It is impossible to summarize the basics of composition in a blog section, let alone and whole blog! Below is a stripped out set of rules that I try to stick to. They help me get good pictures as they encourage me to think about the rest of my composition, kind of like taking a deep breath.

Portrait Photography – Create a diagonal

With the subject looking straight on, you’ll never get good pictures. Damien Lovegrove is an expect on both lighting and posing with a wealth of knowledge, I recommend everyone at least checks out his website. He teaches that the best way to avoid a ‘mug shot’ is to create a diagonal with the shoulders or eyes, break the image up a bit and break the rules, it will help relax both the subject and the image.

Landscape Photography – Use leading lines and the rule of thirds

Move the subject around and you will soon find that good pictures aren’t necessarily conventional pictures. Sometimes using a treeline, strong horizontal element or even obscuring part of the image can great a more dramatic image. Check out a post I wrote a while back on the rule of thirds.

Still Life Photography – Get your light right and take your time

Sometimes the composition of your light and the indirect elements are more important than the subject itself, think about what draws the eye to your desired subject, and on the other hand, are there any distracting elements in the way?

Yes there are more areas of photography, but these are some basic ‘rules of thumb’.

3.  Focus

This is an easy one really, don’t let the numbers fool you. There are two main things to consider here and both are controlled by aperture (the f numbers). Whenever possible, set your lens to f7-f10 to get the sharpest focus on a subject. However, people will probably scream if I leave it at that. Depth of Field (DoF) is very very important as well. You have probably read before that lens’ perform optimally at apertures in the mid range, that is just basic physics, but a wide aperture like f1.2 to 2.8 will have a very shallow DoF. In other words, the area that is IN focus will be very thin, but the area OUT of focus will be very large, giving a nice blurry background (Bokeh). Consider whether the background has important elements in that add to the context, or just distract i.e, do you want them in focus or out of focus?

 

Not all good pictures are sharp and technical


My Favourite Image

Good pictures don’t have to be razor sharp. This is my favourite photograph ever taken. The subject is full of emotion, the context and people around him add to the image, and strangely the slightly soft focus helps to draw the attention on to his expression. Everything about this image is just perfect in my opinion.

4. Lighting

Lighting and shadow can make a photograph distracting and hard to read. It is a difficult skill to master and I am no pro! Damien Lovegrove’s tutorial videos along with some others on Youtube are very useful and will help you master lighting to get good pictures, but unfortunately it is just a subject that you have to practice. Have a look at peoples Lighting Diagrams to gain an understanding, it has helped me a lot!

5. Do Some Research

I don’t mean research about photographic technique, even though that’s helpful… and you’re doing it now, but rather I recommend that you learn about the field that you are interested in. The image below is from Alex Nail’s Blog and is a very dramatic one, however he has said numerous times that whilst people say landscape photography is just being in the right place at the right time, it takes a huge amount of effort to be IN the right place AT the right time. One has to learn about the area they are photographing, know the terrain, and be familiar with sun position (or moon) among others. Likewise, a documentary photographer needs to be familiar with the place they are photographing to get really good pictures, that way they can learn about the history and culture.

Alex Nail Photography


Alex is a great photographer with a lot of get up and go, check him out!

 

I’m sure Chase, Damien and all other photographers will agree with me that the model camera in your hand is irrelevant if you know how to use it. All of the people I have mentioned are worth looking at, as they all produce amazing images, but the most important thing that I have learnt from them, is they all pay close attention to the SUBJECT they are photographing, not just the technique. Ultimately it comes hand in hand but don’t get too wrapped up in your technique as that will develop in time. Find a subject you love and photograph the hell out of it! If you’re still interested in it, you know it’s worth pursuing!

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