You probably clicked on the post because you’re tired of taking out-of-focus, bland, and poorly-lit images. Well, you’re in the right place! Over the seven years I’ve been a photographer, I’ve learned a lot of do’s and don’ts, and it’s taken some time for me to feel comfortable sharing tips with you! So here we go.
Tip #1: Lighting is a make-it or break-it.
Lots of people suggest that a subject or the equipment make an image good, but what about light? Beautiful models and full-frame cameras make it easier to capture an amazing image, for sure, but truly the light is what makes an image go from good to GREAT.
There are two essential things to learn: back lighting and front lighting.
Back Lighting (left): This is when the light is behind the subject. Unless you’re intentionally capturing harsh sunlight, you’ll mostly want to put your subject’s back to the sun. This creates that “glow” behind them (lol for those who know the subject, Taylor Glow).
Front Lighting (right): When your subject faces the sun, it can do one of two things: 1) Make them hard core squint and be mad at you or 2) Light up their face nicely if it’s cloudy. To know where the sun is (if it’s cloudy), download Sunrise Sunset or SunCalc.net to find the direction of the sun. Or, even simpler, walk 360 degrees around your subject and see how the light hits their face.
Aim for even lighting. Avoid shadowy and spotty areas.
Tip #2: Pose People To Flatter Them
Envision this: You’re dressed in your best outfit, flashing your best smile and the view behind you is amazing. “Click” goes the shutter, and you look at your friend’s LCD screen in horror. What went wrong? The view, the outfit and the smile were all on point. But the pose wasn’t flattering at all! They decided to face you directly at the camera, arms limp by your side and shoulders hunched up….and they were very proud of that shot (looks like you may need to have a friendship DTR…)
To pose people in flattering positions, here are a few suggestions:
Photograph from slightly higher up. This will flatter faces and produce a slimming effect.
Ask which side is your subject’s favourite, and ask them to angle that way. This will make them feel confident, flatter their favourite side and give the shot a bit more edge, rather than simply facing them straight on.
Pose their hands comfortably. Hands on hips, folded arms, holding one arm, playing with hair…these are all options!
Let them settle into a pose for a few seconds. When taking pictures, people often tense up and flash their cheesiest smile. Suggest that your subject can relax his/her shoulders and take a deep breath.
Tip #3: Focus on your subject’s eyes
Isn’t it the the worst when you ask a stranger to take your picture and they focus on your arm instead of your eyes?! Just don’t do it. With practice comes comfortability, so focus on making the eyes crisp in every image you take.
Tip #4: Aperture
Looking for soft, creamy, blurred backgrounds in your images? That’s where aperture comes in. Aperture (or “f-stop”) is an essential component of lighting that determines how much is in focus and how much light is let in. Switch to manual mode, change your aperture to 1.2 and then to 7.0 and see how it affects your focus plane!
The smaller the number (some lenses go down to 1.2 or lower), the bigger the lens opening and the more light that is let in. Likewise, the smaller the number, the shallower the “depth of field,” which means that your focus plane is going to be more pointed. This is why Tip #3 is important! When you shoot at a lower aperture (I settle on 1.8 pretty often, even with lenses that go lower), the unfocused parts are exactly that….out of focus. That look can create a really nice, soft feel to your images. For a more in-depth article on aperture, click here.
Tip #5: Rule of thirds
The rule of thirds is an age-old design concept. There’s just something appealing about putting a person or object on either third of the rectangular plane. Although centered images can be nice and artsy, try putting your subject one one side or the other, like so:
Now, friend, go grab your camera and an adventurous friend and try out these new tips! Happy photographing!