It's very easy to slip into a shooting pattern where not much thought is given to framing and composition so you end up with shots which are OK but are rather mundane and ordinary. However, with a few little, simple changes, shots can be turned into something much more interesting.
Summer by Peter Bargh.
If you're shooting a scene, particularly if you're not familiar with your shooting location, it's easy to become flustered so you just shoot anything and everything you see. However, if you take the time to study the scene so you can find out what / who should be your main focus point you'll be able to frame your shot(s) around them, giving your work focus rather than shooting anything and everything.
Digital photography really opens the doors on experimentation as there's almost no limit on the number of shots you can take. As a result, don't be afraid to shoot the same subject / scene from a variety of angles. Get down low, climb up high, go wider, get closer...there are plenty of options to have a go at, you just have to find what works for you.
Those who are new to photography tend to put people in the centre of the frame when photographing them, however applying 'the rule of thirds' can give you a shot that's much more creative and appealing to the eye. For those who don't know what 'the rule of thirds' is, imagine a grid that divides your shot into nine equal sections by a set of vertical and horizontal lines. With the imaginary frame in place, you should place the most important element(s) in your shot on one of the lines or where the lines meet. So with a person, instead of putting them in the centre, simply move them more to the left or right thirds of the frame.
One problem with following this rule is that it can leave you with a strong focus point on one side of your shot and a big empty space on the other so, to improve this, see how you can add a secondary point of interest that's less important to balance your shot.
Whitby Goth by Peter Bargh.
For portraits, you can use backgrounds to add an extra level of interest to your shot, however don't let it become the star of the show. Don't pick a scene with colours or light that'll outshine your subject(s) and make sure you balance the shot so background interest doesn't turn into a cluttered mess that just spoils the photo.
What time of day you shoot, the weather and if you're working indoors or out can make a big difference to how your final image will look. For example, early morning or later afternoon / evening light isn't as harsh as mid-day and evening low, light shots in cities tend to look better when there's still a little light in the sky as this adds more interest to the shot. The light at sunset / sunrise changes rapidly and you may even find the best colours / light appear just as the sun dips behind the horizon.
For outdoor portraits, you may need to find some shade so the light on your subject's face is more balanced. It'll also make them 'pop' from the scene as the background tends to be a little brighter than where they are stood. Can't find shade? Use a reflector to bounce light up onto their face to fill in shadows under their nose and eyes.
If you're working with a scene where there's a big difference in the dynamic range (the shadows and highlights) you may want to consider shooting some HDR. In a nutshell, this is where you layer several shots together that have been taken at different exposures (you'll need a tripod as every shot has to line up exactly). For more information on HDR, take a look at this article: HDR Landscapes
These are just a few of the many examples out there on how light and other aspects can change the appearance / feel of a photograph. For more tips, check out our technique section.
You've read the technique now share your related photos for the chance to win prizes: Photo Month Forum Competition