LEGENDARY fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld once said: “What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.” Indeed, those immersed in photography find that pictures are not just posters or “selfies” but an art form that captures not only an image, but the soul, emotions, and that simple, fleeting moment in time that we often overlook in our daily lives.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, the art of taking photos is made up of part in-born talent and part carefully procured knowledge. It is also less about the equipment that one uses than the “eye” one has for taking snapshots in time that go above and beyond representing something as it is — they represent something as it could be.
While it certainly helps to have top of the line equipment, you can accomplish a whole lot with a simple, basic camera. Here are some tips to taking good pictures:
Go down to the level of your subject
A common mistake people make is shooting pictures while standing, so the photo is tilted downwards. If you are shooting something close to the ground — children, pets, flowers and such — go down to their level. You can capture much more natural expressions that way, and your subject won’t be looking up at you, they’ll be looking straight at you.
Avoid using the built-in flash whenever possible
Using the built-in flash is one of the best ways to spoil a perfectly good photo. Instead, try to light the space up as much as possible — turning on all the lights, opening your windows and curtains, moving away from the shadows would really help. The flash often creates hard photos that nobody likes looking at; and most built-in flashes aren’t powerful enough to light up far away objects anyway.
Move around as much as possible
It’s obviously much less of a hassle to use the zoom on your camera instead of moving yourself somewhere else, but often, walking just a few feet away can dramatically improve your picture. Walk around a bit and try taking pictures from various angles; you’d be surprised at how different the same object or landscape can look by you moving a few feet to the side.
Especially in low light situations, keeping still will help reduce blur tremendously. If you have shaky hands, try using a tripod; and if you don’t have one, place your camera on a steady surface (be creative, almost anything can serve as a good surface) and compose your shot.
Take multiple shots of the same thing
Unlike the old cameras that you had to be “stingy” with using up the roll of film, you can take as many photos as you like with a digital camera and delete them later. This is especially useful if you’re shooting things that move (people, cars, planes, pets and so on) because they will typically look different in every shot. By having several different but similar shots of the same subject, you can nit-pick and choose which one looks best to keep.
If you have a DSLR
Invest in prime lens
For the quality and price, you’d be hard-pressed to find a zoom lens that can rival a similarly priced prime lens in terms of speed, sharpness, and bokeh (the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out of focus parts of an image produced by a lens).
Prime lenses are often overlooked, and take some getting used to because you’re stuck with the same focal length. But many a seasoned photographer have found that using prime lenses forces them to walk around and get creative in composing pictures as opposed to zoom lenses that don’t require much moving around. Prime lenses also have wider apertures than zoom lenses, enabling you to take better pictures in low light.
Learn how to use the knobs and dials
Since the prices of entry-level DSLRs have dropped so much in recent years, every Tom, Dick and Harry now seem to own a DSLR and is using a highly versatile camera in “auto” mode.
Those knobs, dials and buttons have purposes, so learn how to use them. There is a great deal of difference between shooting everything in auto mode and tinkering with the settings yourself. If you haven’t the time, at least learn what the various modes on the dial are for. They do half the work for you and leave the other half at your disposal!
Post-process your pictures
No, you don’t have to learn how to use Photoshop with its hundred-and-one features. There are tons of simple post-processing software out there that can help beautify your shots. Some are web-based (Photobucket), while others can be downloaded (Picasa, Adobe Lightroom).
You can easily tweak colour, contrast, sharpness and fix things such as red eye and chromatic aberration that come with some lenses.
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 21, 2014.