I adore photography and creating beautiful images and thought it would be fun to share a few brief tips that have helped me over the years. All just as applicable to mobile phone cameras as well as DSLRs (all the images in this post were captured on my iPhone).
If you want your subject to be the focus, think carefully about what your background looks like through your viewfinder, are there any distracting elements? Piles of washing? Cables? I find simple backgrounds work really well as they don’t fight or detract from the subject; you want the background to complement the subject. You don’t have to spend a fortune, either. Things to try including: large bits of card from art shops, wrapping paper (but don’t go for anything too busy!), table tops, floors, bits of old wood, fabric/sheets (but give them an iron, it’ll be worth it!).
2. Light (and shade)
Light can make or break your image. Photography is all about capturing light, there are many books on my bookcase entitled “waiting for the light” and similar. Natural light is your friend and provides the best quality of light. Look carefully and observe where the shadows fall and think about where best to position yourself in relation to the sun. If you’re shooting inside, try and find a nice big window and experiment with moving around so the light is behind you, to your side, in front of you and see what it does to your subject. Most of the time, I like to avoid too many shadows, so often shoot with the light behind me. If the light is very bright, you might want to diffuse it with a light fabric. You can also use a bit of white card to reflect the light back and fill out any shadows. Of course, you can also use shadows creatively and make them the focus. I could talk for hours about light…but I think my best advice is simply to observe carefully, see where the light and shadows fall on your subject, and then adjust accordingly.
Really experiment with how your subject(s) are laid out and try to find the arrangement that is most pleasing to your eye. Try different angles. Try shooting from above. Try including less or more in the shot and see what works best. Try cropping selectively. If you’re photographing a product, try using some props to complement it and create the kind of feeling you would like to convey. If there are straight lines in your subject, make sure they are straight! And think carefully about your background (see above). Don’t be afraid to take lots of shots, it’s surprising how the right one jumps out at you when you are browsing through afterwards.
4. Edit, edit, edit!
I ALWAYS edit my photos. Yes, it’s good to capture as closely as possible the image you want in camera, but I personally think that every image can be improved by editing. After all, in the days of film, the creative developing process was just as much a part of “making an image” as pressing the shutter. With my iPhone, I like to do some basic edits in an app called Snapseed to adjust the brightness, saturation, brighten the shadows, adjust the colour balance etc. I then often use an app called VSCOcam to apply some more creative filters that introduce favourite tones and play with highlights. What are your favourite apps?
5. Hold steady
It sounds obvious, but it is really important to hold your phone or camera as steady as possible when you take a photo. Try and keep your arms tucked into your sides to brace yourself and try to avoid standing on your tip toes or balancing on one leg! Go get a chair or a stool if you need height.
6. Why do you like favourite photos?
I think it can be really beneficial to look through photos you love and ask yourself why? What is it in particular that you love? Is it the simplicity of composition? The brightness? The story told? The mood or feeling conveyed? A particular colour or tone? You can then try and work these elements into your own photography. A key part of developing your own style is understanding what you love. Personally, I adore lightfilled, happy, colourful, beautifully simple images, full of space. So you will rarely see dark, moody, cluttered images in my photostream. But that’s just me. What do you like?
I hope that’s been helpful. Do you have any favourite tips to share?