Text: © Garry Benson 2014
Images: © Garry Benson 2014
Here are some simple tips and rules that can help you to create better pictures. Use them to lead you to create that extraordinary picture. Remember though, there are exceptions to every rule, so you think something will look good, don’t be afraid to try it!
This seems like a little thing, but often times just taking a pause before pressing the button and really looking through the view finder or in the LCD can go a long way to improving your shots. Check that everything is in the viewfinder that you want or that there isn’t too much there. Also, check that the camera is straight and level. I see so many shots that have the skyline askew – if you don’t have editing software you can adjust the level in iPhoto if you are a Mac user.
Try to use the highest image resolution available so that you can crop or edit the image without too much loss of image quality. You might have a smaller number of shots on your memory card but continually delete those shots that don’t work and you’ll free up space.
If you’re shooting a person try to watch that objects behind the subject do not seem cluttered around the subject’s head. An example might be a plant growing out of their head, a lamp or a bright building directly behind someone’s head which will tend to detract from the picture. On the other hand, do it intentionally and end up with a goofy shot like the above.
Try shooting your subject from different angles not just straight on. Often times a unique point of view can really add dimension to a picture.
Don’t be afraid to climb up that hill, stand on a chair, or even lie on your back. Great artists will go to great lengths to get that perfect shot! Try turning the camera 90 degrees and taking a vertical shot instead of a horizontal shot.
This particular technique works great when shooting a picture of one or two persons. If you’re working with children often the best technique is to get down to their level – the eye line really works well and they’re more comfortable.
You will undoubtedly notice that time lag between pressing the shutter release and the exposure. This delay is necessary because your camera needs a little time for pre shot calibration and to balance the colours. Just hold the camera steady for a little longer than usual until you get used to the time delay and take the shutter to the first pressure. It’s like shooting a rifle – target shooters squeeze the first pressure then lineup their shot.
There is also a delay between shots as the camera processes the previous images. Some new cameras have buffers that let you continue shooting during the processing time, which is great for fast action photography. If your camera doesn’t have a buffer you’ll have to wait between shots, so look for a camera with fast shot to shot time.
If your camera lets you to override the auto focus, you’ll want to use this feature if you take a lot of action shots, or if you are shooting through glass like this shot through my bedroom window. Even if your camera has a buffer, the auto focus may not react fast enough to give you sharp pictures if you shoot too quickly or the light is too low.
Have you ever noticed that your shots sometimes have a cool, clammy feel to them? If so, you’re not alone. The default white balance setting for digital cameras is auto, which is fine for most snapshots, but tends to be a bit on the “cool” side.
When shooting outdoor portraits and sunny landscapes, try changing your white balance setting from auto to cloudy. That’s right, cloudy. Why? This adjustment is like putting a mild warming filter on your camera. It increases the reds and yellows resulting in richer, warmer pictures.
Often your shots will look slightly underexposed or darker on auto exposure. But this means you have a lot better detail in shadow and highlight areas that you can edit with your image editing software.
© Garry Benson 2014
If your shots are consistently overexposed check the setting – you may be using an extremely high exposure setting like 2400 or 3600. In bright sunlight the camera can’t cope if you’re on a manual setting.
Get your camera out and go through the menus one by one. There are probably different menu settings for Record and Playback, and most display data such as shutter speed, aperture and date & time. Mine even has a Travel Date setting that tells me how many days I have left until I arrive in Bali!