Photography Tips For Beginners
"When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice." - Robert Frank
Many of the students that come to our photography courses and workshops in Costa Rica are surprised with how much their photography improves in just the first few days of class. Photography is a form of storytelling, and learning new techniques is like expanding your vocabulary. Here are 4 simple tips that will improve your photography, even if you are using a basic point-and-shoot camera.
1. Sunset Photos
Sunsets are amazing, and something you will definitely want to try and capture to share with your friends. It can be challenging to get an image that represents the amazing colors you see, but here are a few tricks to help. If you are just photographing the sunset (landscape without people) and aren't getting the colors you want in your photo, try grabbing the light reading from a different area of the sky. Most point-and-shoots lock focus and light readings when you push the shutter button halfway and hold, so try aiming the camera at different areas of the sky, holding the button halfway to lock the light reading and focus, then returning to the original cropping or angle and pushing down the rest of the way to take the photo.
If you want a photo of people in the foreground with a sunset in the background, make sure to set your camera to flash. If it is on the auto-flash setting it probably won't flash (because it is reading the light from the sun) and your subject(s) will be underexposed (too dark), so make sure it is set to flash (usually represented by a lightning bolt symbol). You might have to experiment to find the proper distance between yourself and your subjects, but with most point-and-shoot cameras you want to be about 6-8 feet away from your subjects to light them properly with the flash. The flash will light up your subjects but not affect the sunset colors in the distance.
2. Camera Phone Magic
With the rapidly improving image quality of cel phones these days, even professional photographers are admitting that their camera of choice for snapshots is the Iphone. If you have an Iphone there are some great photography apps out there that can improve and enhance your cel phone snaps. Some of my favorites are Instagram, IDarkroom, PS Express, Photosynth, and Hipstamatic. Instagram and Hipstamatic give you retro filters to simulate old film style photographs, PS Express gives you simple editing tools, Photosynth allows you to take and stitch photos together for full 360 degree omnidirectional images, and IDarkroom is another editing program that offers a range of filters and adjustment tools. Experiment, experiment, experiment is the advice here.
3. Be Conscious of Your Backgrounds
One of the most important steps to becoming a better photographer is starting to seek out the best compositions, thinking not just about the subject but also about your backgrounds. Try a new angle with a more interesting or "clutter-free" background.
4. Be Aware of the Light Source
Light is the single most important factor in photography, so always be aware of the direction that the light is coming from and the relation is has with your subject. Also be aware that the time of day (and relative angle of light from the sun) is VERY important. Professional photographers shooting in natural light love the angle of light during early morning and late afternoon, since often mid-day sun is too intense and unflattering for portraits.
The most important thing to remember is keep shooting. It is only through experience and experimentation that you will improve! For more photography tips follow our blog or join us for a photography course in Costa Rica.