Monday, January 12, 2009

How to take great photographs

Perhaps a bold title but true none the less. We shall define great for the sake of this post as simply a photograph that captures your vision and also follows some basic guidelines of photography.

  • Step One: Get yourself and your camera in position to take the photo. Sounds simple but often overlooked. You cannot take photos of Lions in Africa unless you go to Africa; find the lions and have the necessary kind of gear to capture the shot; more about gear later. Scouting, looking and thinking can make great improvements to your photos. Take time to look at what's in the frame, ask yourself what shouldn't be there and then check the light. Could this shot be improved if I were in a better position, keep asking these questions. Edit out everything that is not the photo and then set your exposure, white balance etc.
  • Step Two: Composition. Use books, the internet or library to obtain some grasp of how geometry and light play a role in making memorable photographs. The rule of thirds is a good place to start but nothing is cast in stone there will always be exceptions to the rules.
  • Step Three: Gear. Probably the most talked about and discussed aspect of photogrpahy is the type of equipment one uses. The first professional advice I received after buying my first SLR in 1980 was this, find the right tool for the job becasue it's not necessarily about the brand or the specs. In other words a telephoto lens won't do you any good if it's a wide angle lens you need. As for specs I've "never" heard anyone complain about a photo because there was too much purple fringing or other scientifically measureable aberation. To be fair these "can" matter but they are way down on the list for most of us.
  • In this age of digital photography here are some basic considerations for gear. Regardless of what type of photography you shoot the two most important components of the camera are the lens and sensor. All the rest of the stuff you read about is how to get the light through the lens to the sensor. The gear is to a large degree determined by the type of photography your shoot. Landscape and wildlife require better and longer lens generally. Sports or action photography requires fast shutter and flash capapbillity. Studio work; generally for pros, requires a broad range of equipment and skill in order to shape images that don't naturally occur. For the rest of us we need something in the middle ground that will take the kind of shots we most often want to take. The best approach is to do your own research and get a few "informed" opionions to be sure you're not overlooking something.
  • If you are one the more fortunate souls and want to take advantage of the latest technology you might want to look at cameras such as the Canon 5D MkII or the Nikon D3 or D700 which offer superior low light capability without the need for flash.

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