It’s the easiest thing in the world to take a photo. You aim and press, and you’ve captured a moment, which in time will turn into a treasured memory. But did you know that with just a little bit more effort and barely any time, you can turn those captures into something more? Something that offers the subject the respect it deserves. Something that is a pleasure to look at even before the shimmer of nostalgia is sprinkled onto it by time, and something you’ll be proud to share.
With these five basic steps, you will notice an immediate improvement in your photos. Once you’ve started giving it just a little bit more thought, it’ll become a natural part of your photography.
1. Get low, get high — it’s all about perspective
The easiest and most natural way is to photograph from the level of your own eyes. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s just one of many viewpoints — and perspective is essential to the way we relate to a photograph.
Shot at human eye level.
Want to expand your perspective? Don’t be afraid to move, crouch, or if you’re up to it, lie down before taking your photo. Climb up on a chair even. If you’re photographing a child, get down to their eye-level and see what a difference it makes to your photo.
2. Less space, more content
Do you tend to point and shoot, without composing the photo? This leads to two very common outcomes. One of them being a lot of unnecessary space around the subject, the other we’ll discuss in step three below.
Does the person you’re photographing take up only a small portion of the image? Most of the time, that’s unintentional, and it just makes it harder to enjoy the look of the subject, whether it’s a person, flower, or a sculpture.
Try filling the frame with a face. Don’t be afraid to get closer (unless you’re photographing a venomous snake).
3. A view askew (off-centered)
The other common result of pointing and shooting is that the subject almost always ends up being in the center of the frame. Sometimes, that works beautifully, but most of the time it’s just boring.
If you’re photographing a person, try to place them (particularly their eyes) off-center in the image. Be aware of their movement or line of sight, and leave room for that. Meaning, place the subject to the side they’re not moving into or looking at, and put more space in front of them in the direction they’re facing.
The statue is entered in the frame here and the image is very static (boring).
In this image there is more room in front of the statue in the direction the hand is pointing, leaving room for the little bird to “fly”.
To learn more about composition, check out these composition tips.
4. When too much is just right
If you’ve been doing photography for a while, you’ve probably heard how important it is to control the exposure of your images correctly (in other words avoiding both too little and too much light. It’s a basic rule of photography, but let me suggest that you try breaking it.
In my experience, too little light is more of a problem than too much, and sometimes, too much is just perfect — especially if your subject is backlit.
Try it and see what you think!
5. Space is cheap
Don’t worry about taking too many photos. Really! One of the great things about digital photography is that you can snap loads of shots and choose among them later for the best ones to keep. Don’t miss a moment because you hoped to capture it perfectly in one go.
Try taking photos the way you would normally, then experiment with the steps presented above. When you look through your photos, choose the ones you like and delete the rest. Think a bit about why you like the ones you kept and why you chose to delete some. It’s a fun, easy, and cheap way to learn and to find your own style.
As always, rules are meant to be broken! But remember that the more familiar you are with the rules, the more creative your breaking of them can be. If you try out any of these steps, I’d love to see your creations in the comments below!