28 Mar 2010

Photography: The Basics

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Photography is a rewarding hobby to take up, but it can be difficult when starting out. New photographers often struggle with things like composition and lighting. Both of these things take a lot of practice, and some trial and error is necessary.

The best place to begin when getting into the basics of photography is getting very accustomed to your camera. Read through the camera manual, practice using it on different settings, take pictures of a variety of things–landscapes, close ups, portraits, night shots–to get a variety of experience. Once you’ve gotten the hang of the basics, you can move on to more advanced things, like composition.

Picture Composition

When working with the composition of a picture, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, make sure the scene you are photographing is composed exactly as you want it before shooting. A scene that is too “busy” can be distracting, so make sure everything in the scene works well together and remove any unwelcome elements before taking the picture.

Cropping Your Photograph

The cropping is important here, too. If the main object (be it a person, an animal, or anything else) is too far away from the camera or surrounded by too many distractions, it’s best to move into a tighter crop to ensure that the viewer’s attention is drawn towards the main subject. The same goes for if there is too much empty space around the subject–again, this can take away from the overall effect, and you should go for a closer crop here as well.

Lighting In Photography

Lighting is another tricky element when it comes to taking pictures. When there is not enough light for a picture, it comes out dark, muddy, and grainy. With too much light, the highlights get blown out and important objects, such as a subject’s face, lose all detail. That’s why it’s good to experiment with light. Natural light that is not direct is very good for taking pictures. If taking pictures of a person or people outside on sunny day, do not position them in direct sunlight but rather in the shade. This will give you just enough light to work with without leaving your subjects overexposed. On a lightly cloudy day, it is often easier to take pictures outside since the light is naturally soft and diffuse.

When taking pictures indoors on a sunny day, shooting near a window that’s not getting direct light is a good idea. For more hard lighting when indoors on a rainy day or at night, consider using a bare bulb in a lamp or a holder of some sort. You will want to experiment with the distance between the bulb and subject, as well as placing the bulb above, below, and beside of your subject, to find out what placement works best. What you are going for here is enough light for the camera to capture the subject, but not so much light that the details get lost. Shadows can be good here when used correctly. Too much shadow obscures too much of the subject, but a little bit of shadow adds some drama and tension to the picture.

Just keep in mind that the most important part of practicing photography is just that–practicing. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and don’t be afraid to disregard the rules once in a while. Just keep taking pictures and trying different things and you’ll keep getting better.