There is something absolutely wonderful about a photograph. They capture special moments and help us remember memories that can get lost in our busy minds. I think most of us always have some means of taking a photo. I certainly always have my camera with me and if not my phone is usually at hand.
All is fantastic until you press that button and the image you see on your camera just isn’t the one you see in front of you – queue your disappointed face and very frustrated family members who are left standing around whilst you try to get it right! You’ve tried fiddling with the settings, attempted to read the manual or asked Google for the answer but still your camera just doesn’t do what you want it to do.
You’ve decided that you just aren’t a photographer or you will just have to go and buy a bigger and better camera. Now buying a bigger and better camera is certainly fun. I certainly know all about that but I can guarantee the equipment you use is only a tiny part of how fantastic images are created and as for the idea that you aren’t a photographer, well lets just ditch that here. Like anything with the right knowledge and guidance you can release your inner photographic genius and be unstoppable!
So here are three things that you can do to improve your images and two of them have nothing to do with your camera at all. I’m afraid reading this will not give you an excuse to hit the camera shops but you will be able to grab that fantastic family photo without everyone moaning.
So first things first and lets start with the most important and that is
This is what photography is all about.
Your camera records light. It doesn’t see a tree or your child just light. If you can understand how your camera sees light you are well on your way to creating fabulous images everytime.
So armed with a moody teenager (my daughter) I took two images to show you how light can affect your images. I put my camera onto Automatic and let it decide what the image should look like and as you can see they are very different.
What is going on?
The image on the right is a situation that happens many times – the window or light is behind my lovely Lily. My camera is looking at all the light in the picture and the majority is brighter than Lily. This leads to a problem. I know that I would love to see Lily but my camera doesn’t know that (it’s a machine) and makes a decision based on an average. So we get a very dark Lily and although Lily would probably be happier to be hiding in the shadows I’m not a happy mum!
So I asked Lily to turn around so she is facing the light. Now my camera and I are in agreement. Lily is the star of my picture and we can now see her. I am now a smiley mum!
If you are shooting in Automatic or have a camera that doesn’t allow you to control things such as Aperture or Shutter Speed knowing where your light is and how to use it can improve your images enormously.
Tip 1 – Know where your light is coming from and make sure it’s behind you.
This comes under the heading of composition which is an enormous subject with lots of rules just begging to be broken but many of them are a really useful starting point to improving your images.
I’m just going to talk about distractions.
When you are taking a picture its really easy to be concentrating so hard on your subject that you don’t see what else is happening in your image.
I again used my girls to demonstrate this in a rather ridiculous way but hopefully you will get the idea!
The image of Lily on the right is much better without the distraction of Emmas’ elbow in the left image. My dog, Jazz, running away in the background of the image on the right also highlights the distraction issue. I didn’t notice that when I took the image!
When you take a picture you convert a 3D view into a 2D image. Things that just weren’t obvious when you looked with your eyes – your brain filters out and decides where things are in relation to each other, are suddenly very obvious when you look at the photograph. So Jazz running around in the background wasn’t important at the time but now when I look at the photograph that’s what I keep seeing. It makes me laugh but maybe not how I wanted my image to look.
There are lots of things that can be a distraction in a image. Some examples might be bright light, a pink bush amongst a lot of green ones, a red post box, a car going past the list is endless.
Tip 2 – Keep your eyes open for things that will distract you from looking at the subject of your picture.
This last tip is to do with your camera and again this is where you camera is acting as a machine rather than as a photographer. You are the photographer so need to be in control of your camera and not the other way around.
So hands up how many people have images like this?
Its a great picture of my out of control bamboo but not a great picture of Lily!
Have you noticed all those little dots or boxes that flash up when you press the shutter? That’s your camera deciding whats important in your image and what it should focus on. It’s actually guessing. You will notice if you keep pressing it will change its mind virtually every time!
This is where you need to have a fiddle. Have a hunt through those menus because somewhere in there will be the option to control what your camera focuses on. You want to be in control of what your camera chooses. Left to its own devices it can get it wrong. It’s making a decision based on physics rather than emotion and that’s not great for your photographs.
Tip 3 – Take control of what your camera focuses on.
Three simple ways to start creating better images without buying a new camera.