Improving your photos

Making good images consistently obviously involves mastering many technical and artistic elements of photography.

Nevertheless, sometimes applying a few principles can improve your photos a long way.

Here are some simple hints and links that can help you handling some of the compositional issues. Read the links — I’m just summarizing the hints on this page:

Nikonians

First, at the Nikonians Composition 101, the following “tricks” are listed

  1. Center is not better
  2. Step closer
  3. Switch perspective
  4. Leave lead room
  5. Take three shots

Next, on the same site, for landscape work, the following list is mentioned:

  1. Use lead lines in foreground
  2. Simply your picture
  3. Get close and get low

New York Institute of Photography

Finally also worth a read is the following article from New York Institute of Photography which lists a more generic variant of the 3 landscape tips above:

  1. Know your subject
  2. Focus attention on your subject
  3. Simplify

Andre Gunther’s “10 mistakes”

Another good article is the one found at Andre Gunther’s pages.

His list essentially looks contains the following elements:

  1. Less is more (images often end up being cluttered)
  2. Use the weather to your advantage (there is no bad weather in photography)
  3. Be patient
  4. Don’t chimp, shoot (avoid editing and deleting pictures on the fly)
  5. It is easier to get the shot right than having to photoshop afterwards
  6. Remove unwanted things in the scene by positioning yourself right
  7. Don’t always shoot from eye level
  8. Don’t always place your family in front of the scene
  9. … but sometimes put people in to guide the viewer, show the scale, or documenting the persons live or surroundings
  10. Use the zoom function to give you the best perspective

My take…

If I was to give my own list, I think there would be quite some overlap with the ones above… but it would probably go like this:

  1. Experiment. Vary the elements below and take many shots and pick the ones that work
  2. Paint the picture with light by
    • picking the best time of the day,
    • positioning your subject(s) relative to the available light or by
    • setting up your lights/reflectors, to make it as interesting as possible.
    • Think soft/hard, high/low-key, contrast, warm/cool whitebalance, overall colour, pastel/saturation, …
  3. Good light makes half the picture! The other important half is composition, so consider this:
    • What is the graphical form made up by the elements of the picture? (Sometimes it helps to turn an image upside down to better abstract from the content and see the graphical presentation).
    • Position the subject in the frame and in relation to the background elements to
      • Avoid centered subjects
      • Apply the golden ratio (aka rules of 3rd; see also here)
      • Leave room to imply motion and direction
    • Use classical composition shapes (S-shape, converging lines, triangles, …)
    • Don’t be afraid of empty (negative) space if they have a purpose
    • Use contrasting elements: forms, colours, texture, …
    • Use repeating elements and patterns
    • Lead the eye and bring attention to your subject by lead lines, overall composition, the light or selective focus
    • … or decidedly break the “rules” to provoke a thought.
  4. Think about perspective, which is determined by your lens choice and position. Think overview, detail, context, subject.
  5. Get close either in shooting or when cropping. Don’t be afraid to crop hard afterwards.
  6. Try to tell a story
  7. Be tough on yourself. Pick only the best pictures of a bunch to show to others

Enjoy your reading and possibly improved pictures!