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How To Take A Great Photo!

29 October 2007

Last week I introduced the topic How Busy People Take Great Photos and how you don’t need an expensive professional camera to get outstanding results.

This week I’ve written up some tips to help turn an average photo into a great photo!

1) Get in close to the object – fill the picture with the object, play with the camera’s macro setting.

Example 1

Example 1 : During our recent camping holiday, we stopped by the side of the road to take a picture of a termite hill. It was bigger than I was! It was huge!

In the left photo, I stood some way back and took a standard profile photo of it. Very plain. In the right photo, I’ve gone right up to the object and stooped down low, resulting in a more dramatic photo. I also wanted to bring out the texture of the mound, so I made sure the sun shone at an angle that allowed the lumps to cast shadows.

2) Lighting – as a general rule, natural diffused lighting is always best. Look at how the way the light falls on the object carefully in order use it to your best advantage. Try not to use the flash. I wrote about turning off the flash here.

Example 2

Example 2 : Left photo with flash – harsh shadows, too bright and lots of glare. Right without flash – crisp and natural image.

3) Composition – Try interesting angles, don’t always put your object in the centre, add some depth, be mindful of how your eye will move through the image.

Example 3

Example 3 : Again, during our holiday, we stopped to take a picture of this amusing road sign.

In the left photo, although the subject fills the whole frame, it looks very plain. In the right photo, I put the main subject in the bottom left of the frame and added depth by including the striking perspective of the long straight road.

4) Focus on the essence of the object / story – whether it’s the texture, or the strange form, or the eyes, choose one and run with it.

5) Design your photo – Before you take the snap, try rearranging some objects, change the background, add props, or change the position to change the shadow and light.

Example 4 and 5

Example 4 & 5 : The other day, I wrote about Sean’s New Bike and wanted to take a picture for my post.

It was a very sunny day, and after taking a few photos of the bike – by itself – I realised that a boring photo of a bike won’t actually ADD anything to my story. Plus the sunlight was too strong, making lots of distracting shadows, and the colour of the bike got lost against the green grass and the pattern of the brick paving.

So I brought the bike to the deep shade (ie: indirect, diffuse lighting) of my gazebo, set the bike up against a light and plain coloured insect screen, and sat my smiling son on top of it! Although only half the bike appears in the photo, I believe the photo focuses much more on the essence of the image and narrative.

6) Know When To Stop – Sometimes too much changing, experimenting and playing with this and that, can distract you from the essence of the image and make it look fake or staged, rather than capture the natural beauty of the moment. Plus it take a lot of time.

In my experience, I’ve often found that my first or second photographs were the ones I end up choosing, even if I took a hundred snaps!