If you are an aspiring photographer, or just take snapshots of family on weekends, you often wonder why photographs captured by a Professional Photographer are so much better. I will be the first to say that you will not become a great photographer overnight. It takes more than just an article to all-of-a-sudden turn from a point-and-shooter into someone who's photographs adorn the walls of a Gallery. But, there are some very basic things that you can do to very quickly improve your photographs. Your approach to photography will have to change eventually, to improve, and I hope to give you some keys through this article to get you well on your way.
Auto is Great, but More Control is Better!
The very first thing that you should do, if you have not done so yet, regardless of the camera with which you are shooting, is start using modes other than the Fully Automatic. I am assuming that you are already shooting digitally, as most people today do not start with film. Better photography starts with control. It is just like driving a car, Fully Automatic is nice, but drive a stick, and you are all-of-a-sudden in more control. The same with a camera, as soon as you switch to a mode other than Automatic, you begin to experience your camera's true power. You have to grasp one simple concept: the image is completely in your control, when you can vary the time it takes to capture the image and the size of the lens opening, also known as “Aperture”. I know what you are thinking, this does not sound all that simple. How do I know what setting to use? Most cameras have a very cool semi-manual mode, commonly known as Aperture Priority, or Aperture Value (most often an AV setting on your mode Dial). Set your camera to this mode, and just start shooting with it. This setting alone is extremely powerful, and will give you a lot of creative freedom. I always tell people to take their time with any subject, and just play with this setting alone. Slowly start at the smallest value, and work your way up. Examine your images later, and you will start understanding what this setting can help you do.
Do You See the Light?
If there is one thing that will make your photography better right away, is a better understanding of light. Yes, It take years for a professional to master light, but there are some very simple concepts to keep in mind, when shooting, and you will be rewarded. Any time you shoot outside, the sun will be there, unless you are shooting at night. Most photography occurs during day, so let's talk about it. Sun is our best friend, and worst enemy. It has the power to render beautiful colors, and take them away altogether. For fail-safe images best times to shoot are early and late in the day, when the sun is fairly low in the sky. Shoot at high noon, and you will be rewarded with washed out images more often than not. Try this: shoot the same scene, with the same camera settings, about an hour or two apart from early in the morning to close to sunset. Look at the images, and you will understand what I am talking about. To make the sun your friend, keep the light behind you, as much as you can for great portraits, architecture shots, and landscapes. On overcast days, the sky is a giant diffuser, which gives you soft even light, great for portraits and macro photography. It allows you to shoot around the clock, and contrary to popular belief will reward you with some good photographs. One final word on light. Use flash. You can manually turn it on, and use it even during daytime. Your portraits will definitely turn out better, because the flash will offer just enough light to squash unsightly shadows, and soften details.
Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery
Examine other people's work closely. Nothing makes you better than actually seeing images shot by pros, and the desire which they invoke in you. There will be elements common to all good images. Take your time with examining the images, and identify the elements that draw your eye. The same elements will work for you. There are many advanced techniques which make professionals stand out from the rest. With time you will be able to achieve similar results. Remember, it is not the camera that creates a photograph, it is the photographer, so do not think that you have to have a professional camera to achieve similar results.
Try the suggestions discussed in this article, and I promise you, the results will improve. Methodical approach always pays off. Try to shoot the same scene over and over, at different times, in different light. You will learn more from doing this, than from reading any book, or an article. And speaking of books, if you do not have one, get one. It is tough to recommend one, since there are so many. Check them out for yourself, and you will find one you like. Look for a more technical manual, more than a creative one. You need to learn the concepts of how your camera works, before learning any techniques, whether simple or advanced. Well, get out there, you have may great photographs in your near future.