Important Principles of Photography
If you’ve decided to buy a camera, you should know that they’re user sensitive machines, which in turn means that you are in control of its functions. In other words, the photo that it takes is the photo that the photographer has decided that it should take. There are therefore numerous things that should be borne in mind by a photographer before the photo is taken. This article will briefly look at some of the elements that need to be taken into account when taking a photograph that you hope will truly capture a moment, emotion or story.
Know the camera capabilities
A good photographer is familiar with the controls of his/her camera. This is a crucial first step as knowing your camera’s controls will not only let you know what your camera is capable of, but how to use the camera’s functions to bring out that specific something that will turn a photograph into a piece of art.
Read the manual that comes with the camera. If it’s been lost in the humdrum of everyday living, do an online search or seek out an expert at a specialist shop. Secondly, don’t be afraid to learn some new things: if words like “panoramic”, “macro” and “backlighting” send you in the other direction, remember that they are not as complicated as they might at first seem, and that you will master the concepts by practising over time.
If you’re the proud owner of a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera, there are a variety of controls for you to learn and master that will ultimately aid you in bringing your photos to life. A quality digital camera will give you, the creative consciousness behind the art, total control over the images you want to produce.
In simple terms, the camera will enable the user to control shutter speed (i.e. to capture either an instant frozen in time, or an image which shows motion), amount of light falling on the photosensitive sensor in the camera body, and the focus (or lack thereof) of a photo. Do not despair, however, if you’d prefer the camera to automatically adjust itself to the conditions in which the photo is taken in order to bring about the best possible results: most digital cameras are fully automated, and the only you have to worry about is framing the picture and making sure it is taken at the correct moment in time. As you become confident and experienced, the more you’ll feel the want to be given a greater amount of control over the camera.
Virtually all digital cameras have an automatic mode that dramatically simplifies the process of capturing a subject “on film” (or more accurately, “in pixels”). In automated modes, the photographer responsibility can be relegated to the function of simply pressing down on the capture button. Automatic focus is extremely useful as the camera lens itself will adjust its focal length to hold the subject in the centre of the frame in perfect focus. DSLR lenses will, almost across the board, have an option to change to manual focus if the user would like to control the focus for artistic/aesthetic purposes. Automated modes also help for instances where specific camera settings are necessary to capture usable images (e.g. “night mode” settings).
Some of the areas to be mentioned here are often overlooked because people, even experienced photographers, are so focussed on the higher level problems of photography that they miss the basics. One example of this is checking, well in advance, if your camera battery is fully charged or not. Another fundamental to always bear in mind is to check, before venturing out with your camera, that the camera’s memory card is in the correct slot, inserted in the correct way, and that the card isn’t damaged. Protect the camera as much as is possible from unnecessary bumps and vibrations, and protect the lens by using the lens cap.
If you’d like the camera to be in a specific mode, like the automatic mode, check that it is correctly set to operate within that mode otherwise your images will be of a sub-standard quality.
If the above considerations have been taken care of, then we’re able to move on to the considerations that deal directly with the capturing of images. The first principle of photography is that All Photography Relies on Light to Produce Images. Light is to photography what sound is to music. Without it, there is no image. Working with light is the primary way to produce an image which is visible, and in terms of aesthetic considerations, working with light is the primary way to create something of beauty.
The following two types of lighting will help to properly illuminate a subject of an image:
- Backlighting: this light has its source behind the subject. It is vital that backlighting be taken into consideration when a photo is being captured. If the backlighting is too powerful, you will end up with an overexposed image (there will be patches of white where the photo has “burnt” i.e. where the photo sensor has received too much light for colour and shape to be recorded). Powerful backlighting can be countered by using powerful lighting from the front: if, for example, the sun is behind your subject, use a flash in front of it/him/her/them to get more light come from in front of the subject, thereby avoiding overexposure.
- Diffused lighting: direct light can often be very harsh as it creates deep shadow lines and sharp contrasts between that which is receiving direct light and that which is not. In order to avoid these potential deficits, diffuse lighting can be used. Diffuse lighting is direct lighting that is forced to travel through a semi-translucent medium before striking the subject. The semi-translucent medium will allow light to travel through it, but will break (i.e. diffuse) the direction of the light, from being singular in direction, into many various directions. In terms of visual effect, this will soften the light, making it more ambient. Natural light is most diffuse when the sun’s rays have more atmosphere to travel through, which is at early morning and late afternoon when the sun is on the horizon.
Framing is an important compositional element of a photograph, and will have enormous aesthetic impact. In combination with correct lighting, you will only be happy with a photo if your subject is well placed within the limits of the photo itself. Move the camera or subject until you are happy with its placement in the image-plane. In addition, you can use the zoom function available on most lenses to change the size of your subject in the image-plane. If you’d like to see your photo printed on paper before spending money on a professional service, remember that your printer toner might not be the same quality as those used by photo developers. This doesn’t mean that tests shouldn’t be done…but only that you should factor this into your assessment.
Of course there will often be times when despite following the basic tenants of photography you will end up with images that you’re not happy with. Don’t Despair! This is par for the course, and the only way to move ahead is by continuing to experiment with, learn about, and gain experience in this deeply satisfying art form.