A lot of people think that photography is the easiest and somehow the most pretentious profession in the world. All you have to do is hold up a high-end camera, and start clicking away; and with the advent of digital smartphones, the task has become abundantly easier.
However, there is more to photography than that, believe it or not. You might scoff at the idea that people actually study photography at schools, colleges and universities, they specialize in it, they graduate with degrees in photography and they make a living doing it.
For a lot of people, this may be unfathomable. How can someone make a living holding a camera and doing the exact same thing that everyone else can do just as well? Well, trust us guys, the job isn’t that easy.
If you ever go to an art gallery, you’ll probably get the same feeling. A spattering of random paint on a white canvas with a price tag of a few million dollars; which more often than not gets sold quicker than you’d expect. Now, either these people are running a brilliantly duplicitous scam, or there is more to this than meets the eye.
Today, let us talk about some of the principle rules of photography and see how each one aids in making the image more picturesque by drawing the wayward eye to the photograph and connecting with the viewer in a unique way.
This is perhaps the most crucial aspect of photography. Many amateurs beguile themselves into thinking that they know all there is to know about lighting. Just shine a bright light straight onto whatever you wish to shoot and snap away. That simple!
No. It’s not that simple.
The best lighting for any situation depends on what you wish to capture in your photograph. Is it a landscape, a building, a sunset, a mountain range, a bedroom, an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, a food court, a restaurant, an interstate junction?
Which angle is the photo being taken from? Is it from a height, from underneath, through a window?
Or perhaps it’s a person you’re shooting. In that case, what kind of person is it? What are the circumstances; is it a waitress serving tables, a policeman with his guard dog standing watch outside, a mountaineer scaling a peak or a bodybuilder posing on stage?
Every one of these scenarios requires different lighting, different angles, different lenses and different techniques in order to get the best possible picture.
See, “BEST” doesn’t necessarily imply the most brightly lit. What it means is the most aesthetic and appealing photograph. Sometimes shadows and darkness bring as much appeal to a photo as adequate lighting, provided they are utilized correctly.
In the case of a person, the color of their skin is also a factor in deciding the lighting and the angle of the lighting. That’s simply what makes us unique and what makes photography so fun. Everything requires a special effort to make it look stunning on camera because the world is a shimmering canvas that cannot be shot from one perspective.
One of the easiest ways to go about this is to first try it outside during a sunset or a sunrise; two of the most glorious moments of the day.
Take a photo facing away from the sun, of anything you want. It could be a friend. Then take another photo of the same friend while you’re facing towards the sun and he or she is facing you. Then try it at a multitude of varying angles and with each of those angles, have your friend standing differently, so that the sun hits their face and body at unique angles every time.
The changes in the final product will blow your mind, You will never guess how one particular person could look so markedly different from different camera angles capturing different angles of their figure.
Landscapes are easiest to start with. God’s green earth is a miraculous work of art whose beauty somehow seems amplified when viewed through a photograph.
Wide angles work best for such shots as they allow us to get a scope of the surroundings. In such landscape shots, whether it be a mountainous range, a shimmering lake, a green jungle haven or a canopy of trees, it’s always best to get a wide angle shot, maybe on panorama mode, if your camera has it.
One particular object, by itself, is not interesting or engaging enough. But when considered within the context of its surroundings, it becomes something wholly different.
Consider a Northern Red Oak Tree, in a close up shot. It looks remarkable but nothing outstanding. Now, imagine the same photograph from a distance, framed against a backdrop of lush green shrubbery, rooted in gorgeous grass, with faded mountains in the background, heaving grey clouds cast over the sky and perhaps a body of water nearby.
The feeling instantly changes. Suddenly it looks ethereal and that’s why the context of a picture is so important.
This is very important. Your photo should not look too cluttered even while you’re trying to fit in such a bulky view but at the same time should not appear too empty or lifeless either.
There is a fine line which can be toed, which obviously varies depending upon the type of picture and the object of desire.
Use the grid lines on your display if you must, to get a good sense of space. As a general principle you can try to have each section of the grid emphasize a particular aspect of the picture. Now, this isn’t a hard and fast rule; it’s just something that will help you move forward with the idea of spacing, if you’re unsure about how to.
This is the most neat yet clever trick you can employ in any photography session. Remember our earlier rant about using the angles of the sun, your camera and your buddy to your advantage to create the perfect picturesque moment.
Now, imagine adding another important feature to that photo. It could be anything; a tall structure, a building, a bridge, an animal or even another person.
This is where the concept of focus comes in. You can capture the photograph in a way that emphasizes a particular thing while giving the other thing the quality of backdrop, essentially.
Imagine a shot of the San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge, with the sun shining from the opposite end of the gorgeous water, not within your camera’s frame, but somewhere to the side. Dominating one half of the frame is your friend, facing away from you towards the Golden Gate bridge, which is dominating the other side of your frame.
Since they are more or less facing the sun, their face is turned away. But the side facing you is also in complete shadows and therefore only their outline is visible. The focus of the audience is now exactly where you want it to be, while at the same time your friend gets to be a part of the coolest shot ever. They are discreet while taking up nearly half of the frame.
In artistic spheres, contrast is the best way to create an alluring image. You may have noticed certain black and white photos where only one object in the picture is in color (often bright red) and this somehow accentuates the look of the whole photo.
Place markedly different colors against each other and see how they complement each other in the best way possible. The editing filters in your camera can be a big help in this regard where you wish to enhance the contrast in colors.
Close-up shots are a tad more difficult to effectively employ but with a little practice you will be able to find the little tricks which make your photograph aesthetic to viewers.
The context is still important but more important is the angle and the positioning. In a close up, you want to get as much detail as possible of an object. Perhaps an antique, a book, a football, a person’s face or an animal’s face.
Thanks to advancing technology, most cameras do have the capability to focus on a close object and let everything else blur and thereby fade into the background.
Imagine a close up picture of a green leaf, which is quite possibly the most boring thing imaginable. However, with a bit of focus, you will be able to capture the fine veins that run through the whole structure like tiny roads diverging from the highway. Also, imagine the dew drops pacing down the length of the leaf if the picture was taken after a bout of rainfall.
This makes the image a thousand times more interesting, as now, within that close-up, a lot more details have surfaced, which will captivate the attention of the viewer.
Be careful about out angling the photo though. Sometimes one aspect is enlarged out of proportion in some cameras, probably because of the lens, in close-up photos.
With selfies, keep one important thing in mind.
Know your side.
What you look like from the right side of your face is not the same as what you look like from the left. Trust us, it took a long time for us to realize this. Very few people have a perfectly symmetrical face.
Once you know your “good side”, you can make sure you’re sitting in way where the lighting enhances that side.
Although we probably don’t have to teach you anything about selfies; your camera or smartphone is quite probably already saturated with them. People are big fans of themselves. Narcissists.