To inexperienced photographers, taking a great photo can seem simple: point and shoot. But anyone who’s tried to learn how to take professional images knows that there’s a lot more to it than that. From choosing the right subject and setting up an excellent composition to finding the best light, it takes a lot of consideration to capture a great photo. If you want to take your photography to the next level, here are some tips to help you learn how to take good pictures. Once you get the hang of these basic pro techniques, it should vastly improve your results.
The best part about knowing how to take professional photos? It leads to new opportunities. The more professional-looking images you’ll be able to produce, the better your online photography portfolio will look. And the better your online photography portfolio looks, the more photography jobs you will land. According to market research, the number of people taking photographs worldwide increased by 800% between 2005 and 2015, mainly due to smartphones’ prevalence. Today, smartphones are more powerful, mirrorless technology is better, and editing tools are more innovative, making photography more accessible than ever before.
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These days, it doesn’t necessarily cost thousands of dollars to start a photography practise; it just takes passion, perseverance, and a willingness to learn. Plus, with photography consistently ranking among the top hobbies among millennials and Gen Zers, the number of educational articles, podcasts, and online courses continues to grow, making information readily available at our fingertips. Great photographers consume tons of images, so start a collection of images you admire. You can pull from 500px, use magazine clippings, pursue classic photo books, browse museum archives—the more, the merrier.
Once you have a solid collection, start asking yourself if you notice any patterns. For instance, do you prefer shots with motion blur or a shallow depth of field? Do you like soft, natural lighting or bold, artificial alternatives? Before you even pick up the camera, you should have an idea of your taste and creative aspirations.
Understanding How Your Camera Works
Now that your camera is set up, it’s time to understand a bit about how it works. When you take a photograph, what exactly is happening inside the camera that allows the scene to be saved to your SD card?
A camera is a simple device that is only comprised of a few essential parts. For standard DSLRs, there is the camera body with a lens attached. Your camera body contains everything needed to capture and process an image, while the lens is what focuses your image onto the sensor inside the camera.
The way these two components (the camera and the lens) work together is as follows. Light comes through the opening in your lens. When you are not shooting, there is a mirror inside that reflects that light up through a prism (think periscope) and through the eyepiece, so you can view the image as seen exactly by the lens. When you press the shutter button to take a picture, the mirror flips up out of the way, and the lens adjusts to the chosen aperture (opening in the lens, more on that later). The shutter in the back of the camera then opens, allowing light to hit the sensor, creating your image. The camera saves the image to your memory card, the mirror returns to its original place, and it’s all reset, ready for you to shoot again. This all happens in less than the blink of an eye.
If you have a Mirrorless camera, they work a little differently. They do not have a moving mirror system. Instead, what you see in the viewfinder is a live feed of exactly what the image sensor is processing. This allows you to see things like Depth Of Field, exposure, White Balance, and more before you even take a photograph. When you press the Mirrorless camera button, the lens adjusts to the chosen aperture, the shutter opens, and the image file is saved to your card.
15 Ways to Make Your Photos Look Professional
There is no silver bullet to making a professional picture. It often takes years of practice; however, you’ll find that some things will dramatically improve your photography without much effort as a newer photographer.
But after you apply the tips on this page and get to the point of being a competent photographer, you’ll find that your progress will be slower, and you’ll have to work harder to make your photo just 1 or 2% better. At Wild Romantic Photography, we have the best Melbourne wedding photographer to take memorable photos on your wedding day. But here are the simplest things you can do to see an improvement in your photos quickly.
Too Much Light Will Ruin Your Photos – Here’s Why
Understanding lighting is the foundation of photography. There is a misconception that abundant light is excellent and low light is terrible. Some of the loveliest portraits are taken an hour before sunset, during the golden hour. The light casts a warm and flattering glow on the subject.
And many landscape photographers take stunning nature images during the ‘blue hour’. In the form of a very sunny day, too much light can create harsh shadows on your subject. This can be very challenging to work with. Before you start shooting, take some time to observe the light. What direction is it coming from? This will influence where you place your subject. When shooting portraits, the lighting coming from the front looks soft and beautiful. When shooting static subjects like food, front light can create unwanted shadows. It can also cause the image to look flat and lifeless. Side or backlighting is usually the better choice.
Use Spot Metering for a More Precise Exposure
The simplest form of in-camera light metering is “average metering”. The camera reads light levels across the entire viewfinder. It calculates an exposure based on the overall average of luminance. It works well for scenes with equal amounts of lights, darks, and mid-tones. But any scene that that doesn’t average out to a standard of 18-per cent reflectance will be a problem.
Centre-weighted average metering is a variation on intermediate metering mode. It gives the brightness of the objects in the centre of the viewfinder more weight in the exposure calculation than objects around the frame’s outer edge. This is based on the assumption that the subject of interest is likely to be near the frame’s centre. And that it should get exposure preference over objects in the periphery. Spot metering is the opposite of average metering. It samples the brightness of a small screen area. And it allows you to select the exact portion of the scene on which to base your exposure. We have the best wedding photographer in Yarra Valley to capture your beautiful moments on your wedding day.
It’s instrumental for situations where large areas of very light or dark tones would create an exposure bias that would detract from the central subject. This is the case for backlighting, high key, or low key scenes.
Use Bracketing to Capture the Right Exposure
Tricky lighting situations can fool even the best light meters and exposure systems. And the preview screen on the back of your camera is not a very reliable indicator of correct exposure. This is why it’s essential to shoot in manual mode. To do this, you need to learn the Exposure Triangle; that is, how aperture, shutter speed and ISO work together.
It is also necessary to learn how to read a histogram. Most cameras these days have a built-in histogram function. Using it will be a lot more helpful to you than relying on your LCD screen. One way to ensure that you got the correct exposure is to shoot the scene in several directions. Then you can choose the best one. This technique is called bracketing. You shoot a “bracket” of alternate exposures over and under the presumed good exposure. If your base exposure isn’t correct, then one of the other images will likely be adequately exposed.
Which Lenses Should You Use and When
No one lens is appropriate for every type of photography or shooting situation. This is why it’s a good idea to buy your camera body and your lenses separately. The kit lens that comes with your camera is usually not the best quality. And it will not always be suitable for the kind of photography you want to do, especially if you’re aiming to take more professional pictures.
When I shoot food photography, I usually reach for my 24-70mm zoom lens or my 100mm macro. For portrait work, I prefer an 85mm. If you’re travelling or doing landscape shots, you’d be better off with a wide-angle lens. Keep in mind that your camera’s crop factor will have a bearing on which lenses you choose. Entry-level DSLR or “prosumer cameras” usually have a cropped sensor. A Canon Rebel is an example of a good DSLR with a cropped sensor. This means that a 50mm lens will behave more like an 80mm lens because of the crop factor. If you have a camera with a cropped sensor, make sure that any lens you buy will be usable if you decide to upgrade to a full-frame.
Using Aperture to Control the Depth of Field
Aperture is a regulator that controls the flow of light through the lens. But aperture also affects your depth-of-field. A change in depth-of-field can cause a dramatic change in your image.
Depth-of-field refers to the area of acceptable sharpness in a photograph. Aperture controls how shallow or deep the zone of good sharpness is. Smaller apertures (higher f-number) produce greater depth-of-field. More significant gaps (lower f-number) create shallower depth-of-field. The image sensor’s size, the focal length of the lens, and the aperture all affect the depth-of-field. To control the depth of field in your photograph, you must hold the aperture. This is a balancing act between exposure and depth-of-field considerations.
In portrait photography, the most important thing is to get the eyes in focus. Many professional photographers shoot portraits at a vast aperture. But when shooting still life, you’d want your aperture to be at 5.6 and higher, depending on the subject.
What to Do About Digital Noise
ISO is part of the Exposure Triangle. It affects how sensitive your camera is to light. As you increase your ISO, your image will become brighter. But with that brightness comes an increase in noise. Digital cameras are much better at handling noise than they used to be. Many digital cameras go up to ISO 6400. At what point you start to see significant noise will depend on your camera. There’s a significant problem with shooting at a high ISO. Increasing the exposure in post-production will alter the look of the grain.
Test your camera to see how far you can push the ISO before destroying your images’ quality. Use a fast shutter speed and a smaller aperture like F8 or F11, so you get sharp images. Take the same image at a variety of ISO settings. Start at 100 to the max ISO of your camera and compare them in your editing software.
Calibrate Your Lenses to Your Camera for a Sharp Focus
Most lenses these days can focus either manually or automatically. Manual focus is when you take complete control of where the camera focuses. You turn the ring on your lens until the area you want sharp comes into precise focus. This is not the best approach if you have less than 20/20 vision. If you are even a bit off, you can miss focus. Blurry images are often the result of missed focus.
Autofocus is when the camera adjusts the lens to focus on your subject for you. But the AF system can end up focusing on the wrong part of a scene or struggle to lock onto anything. This is especially true in a dim environment or when presented with a scene with low contrast. One way to make it easier to get that razor-sharp focus is to calibrate each of your lenses to your camera body. You can have a professional do this for you or learn to do it yourself. Straight out of the box, most lenses are either slightly front or back focusing. It would help if you made micro-adjustments to get accurate focusing. Planning your dream wedding and don’t want to miss out on the special moments on your big day? Worry no more, Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.
Which Rules of Composition Should You Use
A simple concept to get you started is the “Rule-of-Thirds “.
This is a compositional principle that divides an image into nine equal sections. It does so by using two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. The essential elements in the scene fall along these lines. They can also fall at the points where the lines intersect. A diagram explaining the rule of thirds in photography composition for better food photos
The Rule-of-Thirds is a great starting point, especially for specific genres like landscape. Other compositional principles are even more powerful, though.
Use a Diffuser to Soften Harsh Sunlight
Think about shooting outside on a cloudy day. The clouds act as a giant diffuser, filtering the harsh rays of the sun as they hit your subject. When it’s a hot, sunny day, the sun’s brightness can create harsh shadows in your images. A diffuser placed in proper relation to your subject will soften that light for a more even and appealing look. There are a lot of professional diffusers on the market. Some have handles, which is very handy for doing portrait photography (pictured below). You can also use translucent curtains or even shower curtains to make your own if budget is a concern.
Fill Shadows With Reflectors
Fill light refers to the amount of light that is bounced back onto your subject. It is used to eliminate or soften shadows caused by the primary light source. This is how you control contrast. Changing the direction and intensity of your shadows can create a variety of lighting scenarios. How you work with the shadows in your images can set your work apart from other photographers. Professional reflector kits are foldable discs. They come in gold, silver, white or black. You can use them interchangeably, depending on your lighting scenario. You can also DIY your reflectors using poster board, Styrofoam, or cardboard for the same purpose.
Shoot With a Grey Card for Better White Balance
Use a grey card to determine the correct exposure and ensure that the whites in your images look white. We’ve all taken winter scenes where the snow looks grey. This is because when metering, your camera looks for an average of 18% reflectance. A scene that is very bright or very dark will not match this standard. A grey card will help you by providing a standardized reflectance target. All you have to do is place it in your scene at the same angle as your lens and take a shot. This will help you later when you are adjusting the white balance in Lightroom. You can click on the grey card with the eyedropper tool to get the correct white balance reading. Screenshot of adjusting the colour temperature for more professional photos
Use the Inverse Square Law to Change Brightness
Light intensity varies with the distance from the light source. The closer you are to your light source, the brighter the light. And light intensity falls off as the distance from the light source increases. Inverse Square Law is a simple and straightforward principle of physics. And the best part about it is that it can help you learn how to take professional pictures. This law states that light intensity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source. And now in English. If you double the distance from the light source, the intensity is reduced to 1/4, not to 1/2, as you might think. The distance times two is two, two squared is four, and the inverse of four is 1/4. The same formula works in the opposite direction. To put this in photographic terms. Doubling the distance between the light source and your subject reduces the brightness by two stops. And halving the distance between the light source and subject increases the brightness by two stops.
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Calibrate Your Monitor for More Accurate Editing
So your images look different on your laptop screen than they do on your phone or your desktop computer. This has everything to do with monitor calibration. Calibration ensures that your monitor is showing the actual colour, saturation, and brightness of your images. It does this by making a colour profile, which you need to update often. If you are editing or shooting in a room with a lot of daylight, you cannot see your monitor accurately. The reflection of light on your screen will make a huge difference. You can use a monitor calibration tool such as that by ColorMunki to solve this. I calibrate my monitor for each shoot I do.
Start With Editing Basics in Lightroom
The digital file is equal to a film negative in the sense that it needs to be processed. A RAW file, in particular, lacks contrast and will look flat without editing. Learning the basics of Lightroom editing will improve your photography. There are many resources online that can help you with the program’s ins and outs. You can quickly learn how to edit photos like a professional. If you’re serious about taking professional pictures, you will start shooting in RAW as soon as possible. RAW gives you so many more options for editing, and with that comes creative freedom. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.