Simple Photography Tricks That Anyone Can Use
By Jennifer Classin
Not everyone has a great eye for framing photographs. Nor does everyone have the ability to capture the true essence of a special moment with their camera. However, you don't have to be naturally gifted to take great photographs - there are a few simple tricks you can use to elevate your picture-taking abilities.
Overexposing your photographs allows the greatest flexibility for digitally editing and enhancing your images at a later time. Slight overexposure also enhances skin tone and 'burns out' skin blemishes from your subjects. Not all cameras allow the user to manually adjust the exposure level - practically every point and shoot camera does not have the necessary bells and whistles that allow a photographer to deliberately overexpose an image.
There is a simple method to overexposing your images that anyone can use, regardless of the type of camera they have. If your subject is ten feet away, simply find another subject at the same distance but with less light. Frame the new subject and slightly press down on your shutter button so that the camera takes a light reading and auto focuses on the secondary subject. Now, without releasing the shutter button, point your camera back to your original subject, frame the shot, and press the shutter button down the rest of the way. The result: an overexposed image.
The image will be overexposed because the camera took a light reading based on the darker subject. While this is hardly an exact science for overexposing your images, it works in a pinch when you are stuck using low quality equipment. It's important to note that you need to make sure your two subjects are the same distance away from the camera to insure proper focusing, and you should initially frame your first subject before grabbing a light reading from the secondary subject.
Have you ever heard the phrase Devil Lighting? You probably haven't, but it's a very descriptive phrase for describing any light source that doesn't appear natural. When we interact with people on a daily basis, the most common light source is the sun, and it casts its light from a very high angle. Thus, a person's facial features look more 'normal' when they are lit from a high light source. Even if we're interacting with people at night, most light sources sit well above our heads and cast their light from a high angle. When a photographer tries to get creative with light sources that are positioned below a person's head, the result is usually a very unflattering, unattractive photograph. Low angled lighting is Devil Lighting, at least according to a photographer comrade of mine, and I'd have to agree with him.
When you use low angle lighting that shines up into a person's face you create unnatural shadows as well as reveal aspects of a person's skin and face structure that have never been noticed before. It's not that it's a bad photograph - to the contrary, low angle light sources are just as revealing as high angle light sources. The difference is that we're not used to seeing a person's face lit up from low angle lighting, and the result is an unflattering photograph. This type of lighting creates a problem because it is like seeing a person's face for the very first time, and the results are usually disastrous. In short, don't use low-angle lighting! Even if you're not deliberately using a low angle light source, be conscious of unintentional light reflections that might be hitting your subject from a low angle.
When taking portrait-style shots always frame in close to your subjects faces. Frame the shot from their shoulder to a few inches above their head. The larger their faces in the image, the more enjoyable they will find the photograph. There is one exception to this rule, and for that one exception you must read about the last tip in this article.
The last piece of advice is a good one. Today's adjustable lenses have a wide application range. A 50mm lens is said to be the same visual image as the naked eye. Taking that rule of thumb at face value, a 200mm lens should provide an image that is 4 times closer to the subject than the naked eye. The higher the millimeter, the more 'zoom' is involved. Are you with me so far?
When you photograph people using a wide lens (anything below 50mm), you're going to distort their facial features! The wider the lens, the more distorted your subjects will become, and this is most notable when people are the primary subject. Conversely, the longer the lens you use, the less distortion you'll see in a person's face, and the more 'true' the image will appear. In fact, if a person has an unsightly, large feature on their face (such as a nose) a longer lens will most likely create a much more flattering image.
The trick to using the proper lens when photographing someone is simple: stand as far back from them as possible and adjust your lens until their face is in full frame. Example: let's say you have a 70-200mm lens. Instead of standing 10 feet away from your subject and using the lens at 70mm, you will create a higher quality image by standing 30 feet away from your subject and using the lens at 200mm.
That one simple trick will produce more flattering images every single time, and people will think you're an amazing photographer. As an added bonus, by creating a full frame of their face at the longest end of your lens, you'll also create a nice bokeh for out of focus areas of the photograph, which also makes for a more attractive image because anyone viewing the photograph will automatically zero in on the most 'in focus' portion of the photograph: the person's face. Those are just a few simple tips for elevating your photography skills. Use them as often as you can!
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