Most photographs look amateurish. There, I said it. Anyone can aim a camera at something and take a “snapshot”. Taking snapshots is not what this article is about. Adding some excitement to your photographic bag of tricks is.
The Rule of Thirds
Of all the tips and tricks I have come across, none amps up the quality of your photographs as quickly and dramatically as The Rule of Thirds. This compositional tool has been used for hundreds of years by painters. It places the main subject away from the center of the LCD display. Many digital cameras have a Rule of Thirds grid built into the LCD. It can be turned off or on in the cameras preferences window.
Visualize the display with the lines of a tic-tac-toe board superimposed on top. There are 4 intersections of the horizontal and vertical lines. If you are shooting a landscape photograph, place the horizon on the upper or lower horizontal line. If you are shooting a portrait, place the subject on the left or right vertical line. This technique creates a much more interesting shot. Some compositions may benefit by placing your subject at the intersection of a horizontal and vertical line.
Flash or No Flash
That is the question. Many digital cameras decide when to use a flash and results in a properly exposed foreground and dark background. In this example, the camera automatically sets the exposure for the foreground knowing the flash is on. If the flash was turned to “off”, the camera would set the exposure for the totality of the scene and light it evenly.
On occasion, you may want to use a flash outside in daylight. It can fill in some of the dark areas like the eyes and balance the exposure of the scene.
Making a Moment
Great photographs seem to be the convergence of spontaneity, composition, subject matter and lighting. Your eye anticipates in a millisecond an upcoming moment of expression or “the decisive moment”. It isn’t luck. It’s your ability to be in the right place at the right time or create your own luck. Once you are in the right place it is just a matter of time. Photographers with years of experience may recognize the convergence of necessary elements coming together and subconsciously take the shot. Keep an eye on the elements entering the perimeter of the viewfinder and reposition yourself to maximize your chances of elements converging for that “decisive moment”.
Before you fire off a shot, quickly analyze what elements are in your viewfinder. Are any elements interfering with the subject of the shot? Is there a palm tree growing out of your sister’s head? You may need to change your position to remove distracting elements. Keep the clutter out of your compositions and your shots will benefit dramatically.
Alternatively, changing the depth of field will throw the background out of focus and bring out the foreground.
There is nothing complicated about these tips and it isn’t going to cost you a bundle but practice all of them and you will never take another “snapshot” the rest of your life.