Photography 101: Following these simple rules will improve your photography skills tremendously. These lessons are usually taught in any basic photography class.
1. Set your camera to manual position: If you want to control the outcome of your pictures you must learn how to use the shutter and aperture settings. Leaving the camera set on program or auto lets the camera control the settings.
2. Lighting. The lighting on a photograph can change the mood or interpretation of a subject. Avoid the harsh light during midday if possible. It produces strong shadows on subjects and makes the image look more contrasty. Try for even lighting. For instance, early morning or late afternoon the color of the daylight usually changes to a warmer color and appears more even and can have a dramatic effect on a subject. Shooting on an overcast day can produce really good results for close personal subjects because the shadows and lighting aren’t as harsh. Use your flash outside when photographing people. It fills in all those dark shadows under the eyes and balances the whole picture. You can see the difference by comparing the two photos below.
3. Framing & Composition. The rule of thirds is a basic technique to keep in mind when photographing subjects. Although it may be possible to capture a compelling image without using this tip, it remains a textbook guideline to help with image composition. Avoid putting the horizon in the middle of the frame when photographing sunsets, beaches and other landscapes. While looking through the camera’s viewfinder divide the picture into thirds both horizontal and vertically like the diagram below. Then move the camera or zoom the main subject in or out of the middle of the picture and place it closer to the green dot areas of the frame.
On the following two photos you notice that the rule can be applied in post processing as well. In photo editing software we cropped the image applying the rule of thirds and added a warm color to the sky to make the image look more dramatic.
4. Photo Filters. If you are serious about photography you should have a camera with a detachable lens. There are several filters on the market available that screw right on the end of the lens. Two must have filters are the UV and a Polarizer. You should keep a UV filter on the lens to protect it from being damaged or scratched at all times. The UV filter does little to affect the quality of the images and is used mostly for protection. A polarizing filter will make your outside photos pop. It helps eliminate haze, reflections on glass, water and it makes the sky appear a rich darker blue. You will get the best results when you are approximately 90 degrees to the sun. You turn the lens filter as you look through the viewfinder until you achieve the desired position. The images below top without lens filter and the image on the bottom with a polarizing filter.
5. Turn your camera. If you want to get more subject matter in the frame you can turn the camera upright or vertical and change the composition completely. I see so many people taking photos and cutting their subjects out of the frame because they just didn’t think about turning the camera vertical. You can cut clutter or other distraction in a photo by the turning the camera as well.
If you have photo editing software and the images are in decent resolution you can always crop the images when reviewing them. Just keep these five basic rules in mind and you will be “shooting like a pro” in no time.