Five Tips to Improve your Photography

In this age of social media, we are constantly surrounded by photographs – these can range from photographs of our homes, families and friends, snaps from our holidays, various images of places we’d like to visit, mapping technology in news stories, to images of advertisements, magazines and celebrities… The list is never ending, even before anyone mentions the term ‘selfie’.

Photographs are part of our everyday communication, and being a part of a fully integrated communications agency, we utilise photos constantly. They help inspire our ideas and pitches we give to clients, as well as utilising our social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook during and after an event. It is easy to forget that photography is also a modern artform. On Friday 13th October, The Association of Photographers announced their winning entries for The Association of Photographers Awards 2017. The AOP Awards are arguably the most prestigious and highly respected awards ceremony  for professional photographers, worldwide. With 12 categories, and over 50 individual images, the awards showcase just how impressive these images can be. What most people don’t know, is that the AOP awards, along with many other photography awards, also runs an open category for amateur photographers.

Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily advise submitting your favourite selfie next year, I do have 5 basic photography tips for anyone looking to improve their photography skills. These are by no means exhaustive – photography can be much more complex – but they are all good things to consider when starting out.

1 – What is the subject of your photo?

Consider what it is you want your image to focus on. It sounds simple enough, but it’s always worth an extra thought. Are you photographing a building? A person? Or a landscape? If so, what is it that you specifically like about the subject?

Cameras do not work like your eyes. They take a 2D image of something without the same focus, depth of field, or lighting that your eyes automatically adjust to. So, the person looking at your photo won’t necessarily focus on the detail you like best, unless you guide them to it.

This does not simply mean zooming in on your subject or detail until it fills the image. It’s all about composition. This means placing the important detail in the most eye-catching place in your photo, from the best viewpoint you can manage, whilst reminding the viewer that your subject is actually 3D.

2 – Viewpoint

The place you take your photograph from has a huge effect on the final photograph. Again, a camera will not capture quite as much as our eyes will. So, consider where you are in relation to your subject carefully- Are you taking your photo from eye level? Are you above, or below the subject?

Looking down at something will make whatever you are photographing seem smaller. It’s great if you are mapping a journey, or taking a photograph of an insect perhaps, but not so great if you’re trying to show how large and impressive a building really is. Similarly, looking up at something will make the image  seem imposing or important. That’s not ideal if you are photographing a person you want to look friendly and approachable!

Shooting at eye level may mean needing to step back to get a building or landscape in the frame. It is always worth moving around with the camera when you’re testing your photo at eye level, as zooming in and out may not always work. . By digitally zooming, you often lose details in your photo, which means you have ‘less to play with’ when you’re editing. For example, if you’re photographing someone’s face, it’s always worth getting the head and shoulders in fully, so that when you upload the image onto a social media site, your subject doesn’t look like a ‘floating head’. Which brings me on to my next step.

viewpoint op.2

3 – Composition

Composition is where the subject is in your final image. Whilst you can edit photos (cropping and editing) to improve this, it’s always worth considering when you take your photo. My biggest tip here would be something called ‘The Rule of Thirds’.

Imagine that your image is divided into 9 equal segments by two vertical and two horizontal lines. The Rule of Thirds says that you should position the most important elements in your scene along these lines, or at the points where they intersect. This adds balance and interest to your photo, drawing the eye and reminding our brains that the photo is a snapshot of something bigger. This makes the audience imagine the story that your photograph might be helping to illustrate.

It is also worth remembering that the eye is drawn to lines, like the horizon in landscape photographs for example. However, these don’t have to be straight lines. A twisting road, or a curved stairway, or the folds in smart clothing even, will pull a viewer into the photograph, almost taking them on a journey with you to the place the photograph was taken.

As every good selfie taker will know – always check your background! Don’t detract from the focus of your image with forgotten faces in the background, or blemishes on an otherwise block colour – This really comes into play in my next tip.

4 – Depth

The human eye naturally recognises layers in our surroundings,  giving us a sense of our 3D world, without even knowing.– This sense is something that the average eye does, and can somewhat make our brain take for granted. In a 2D photograph we must give our eyes something to work with, to replicate this, otherwise our photograph may look fake, wrong, or odd.

Depth in photography means giving our images a foreground, middle ground, and background. This can include visuals of different distances from your camera, but be sure to not make these points of reference more interesting than your subject! Depending on what you are photographing, your subject may be in the middle ground or foreground, so try to keep you background as plain as possible.

Photography Blog Photo 4.jpg

5 – Lighting

Whatever you are photographing it’s important to consider how your subject is lit. With too little or not enough light there is no photograph, you could come away with an all-black or all-white image. This is called under or over exposure.

Outdoor images are harder to control, however if it is a really sunny day, perhaps take your photograph from a shaded spot, or if it’s very gloomy, try to find a light source to include in your foreground – a lit lamppost in front of a big office block instantly gives your photo added mood, whilst also helping you see the building itself.

Indoor images are easier to control. But just because the room is lit, it doesn’t necessarily point and shoot. From certain angles, you will cast shadows across your photographs. This can block out your subject – when there is too much light behind the subject and not in front – leaving you only able to distinguish outlines, but this can also work to your advantage. For example, by moving a lamp to the side of your subject you can add more depth to the photograph, because the audience can see more layers in your room.

Photography Blog Photo 5

Take a look at the gallery below, where Joseph Keys (drp’s inhouse Photographer) and I have chosen a selection of drp event imagery to emphasise what we are talking about…

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Emily Saunders-Madden – Admin Assistant

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