"Photography is the literature of the eye." Rémy Donnadieu; professional photographer, graphic designer, and illustrator.
Photography is defined as the creation of images through the light. In Greek, the etymological roots "photo" and "graph" respectively mean "clarity, light" and "paint, draw, write."
It is part of the graphic arts - something which translates as the writing of light.
Photography - a heliographic process - was born in France around the 1820s, under the supervision of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (1765-1833).
We will not go through the pages of the history of photography today, however, it is always good to know where photography has come from.
Whether you want to make a night photo, a landscape photo, or dabble in the art of portraiture - take photos of your family or another person, etc. - you may wonder how to photograph what you see: which frame to use, how to use natural or artificial light, which focal length to use, and what diaphragm to choose, how to manage exposure time, control the focus, etc.?
Great photographers will often say the same thing: to learn photography you must start with learning to frame your subject. This constitutes as the basics of photography.
No secrets here: to magnify a face, to sublimate a landscape, you must take introductory courses in photography and practice certain aspects of photography in order to train your eye.
We will now list some professional photography tips to create the best photos one can.
Learning Photography and the Necessary Vocabulary
Before starting anything, it is important to know how to use basic vocabulary.
Can we learn to play the piano if we do not master any of the following terms: eighth, black, white, sigh, tempo, range, harmony, chords, degree? Certainly not.
To buy your camera - whether it is digital or analog - it will be necessary to learn a new lexical field and a new set of technical terms.
That's why we chose to write you a quick guide for the basic vocabulary that will prove fundamental before you can learn to photograph like Robert Doisneau (1912-1994) or Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004).
- Autofocus: system allowing to focus automatically,
- White balance: adjustment one has to make to compensate for the temperature of colors, so that the white of an image stands out on a photo,
- Noise: or grain in film photography, large unwanted pixels for the eye,
- Backlighting: placement of the subject between the light source and the camera,
- Trigger: button to press to take the picture,
- Focal distance: distance between the lens and the sensor,
- Hyperfocal: focus technique to make all the elements of an image appear,
- Shutter: flap hatch, which lets the light "touch" the sensor during the exposure time,
- Under/overexpose: take a picture with a light which is too weak or too strong.
A more extensive online lexicon will help improve your photo knowledge.
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Mechanism to adjust the duration of light exposure. The more light the shutter lets in, the brighter the photo will be, and the faster it closes, the darker the photo will be.
It is an optical instrument that allows you to condition the amount of light passing through the lens of the camera when you shoot.
A completely open diaphragm will allow for a very clear picture and conversely, a very dark picture will often be obtained because of a closed diaphragm.
With both speed and sensitivity, the diaphragm manages the exposure.
In photography, opening the diaphragm serves as the basic element for exposure correction, and is noted by the increasing values of f/x.
These range from f/1.4 to f/32 0 the smaller the value, the larger the aperture of the diaphragm.
A sensor is a component of SLR. It serves to translate a luminous flux - the arrival of light onto the lens - in digital coding.
In digital photography, the sensor is used to replace the film used in film photography.
Its size is expressed with the letters APS-C, for "Advanced Photo System type C".
But vocab isn't everything - try keeping these three PetaPixel tips in mind for optimal photos:
1. Get in close
It was the famous photojournalist Robert Capa who once said “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” He was talking about getting in amongst the action. If you feel like your images aren’t ‘popping’, take a step or two closer to your subject. Fill the frame with your subject and see how much better your photo will look without so much wasted space. The closer you are to the subject, the better you can see their facial expressions too.
2. Shoot every day
The best way to hone your skills is to practice. A lot. Shoot as much as you can – it doesn’t really matter what. Spend hours and hours behind your camera. As your technical skills improve over time, your ability to harness them to tell stories and should too. Don’t worry too much about shooting a certain way to begin with. Experiment. Your style – your ‘voice’ – will emerge in time. And it will be more authentic when it does. — Leah Robertson
Leah Robertson is a super talented Melbourne based photographer and videographer, specialising in music and documentary photography.You can see her work here.
3. See the light
Before you raise your camera, see where the light is coming from, and use it to your advantage. Whether it is natural light coming from the sun, or an artificial source like a lamp; how can you use it to make your photos better? How is the light interacting with the scene and the subject? Is it highlighting an area or casting interesting shadows? These are all things you can utilise to make an ordinary photo extraordinary.
Learning to Photograph: Depth of Field, Framing, and Composition
Composing a photo means "filling the frame," that is to say identifying the beautiful images and all the elements that one wants to fix on paper.
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It is for this reason that photo framing is a basic of photography class, one of the most important things to respect.
The composition serves to make an image comprehensible or to magnify a situation - by avoiding an undesirable element, a car or a building, for example - for a better final rendering.
The composition and the framing are one unit.
Becoming a photographer is not so difficult: when you start, you have the feeling that you are dealing with technical aspects you don't know.
But to highlight a landscape, for example, one of the golden rules is the rule of thirds.
To use it properly, we must imagine a grid dividing the lens into three horizontal and three vertical parts, so as to reserve one third for the sky, two thirds for the landscape, while placing the subject within a strong point of the image.
Once this rule is applied, it is necessary to frame the person photographed or the moving object.
This is called managing the "depth of field," which is a question of adjusting the aperture of the diaphragm and the speed of the shutter, and make sure that all the elements of the image are the way you want them. Whether you want to maximize the depth of field or to blur the background with a large diaphragm aperture and allow for minimized depth.
And finally, the last important thing is the light. The exposure time, depending on the context, prevents the photo from being overexposed - burnt - or too dark.
A long exposure time is suitable for night shots while a short exposure is suitable for a lot of light - in broad daylight - and moving subjects.
A very good site to learn photo online is Photo Sharing. The site provides tutorials and free courses to improve your photo level.
This is all theory - now how does one really take a portrait or landscape photo?
10 Tips to Take Portraits
One of the first rules in portrait photography, is to stand still before pressing down. If you move you could miss out on a great photo.
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Holding your breath, putting up your arms - there are some ways to make sure not to move before taking a photo.
For a portrait, we often use a tripod, and not without reason. Here are our tips for "taking portraits" of your subjects like a professional photographer.
- Focus on the subject's gaze,
- Put your SLR camera in automatic aperture mode (if you do not want to control the settings via manual mode),
- Choose a large opening, to correct any impurities in the skin,
- Leave as much room as possible in front of the eyes,
- Use a reflector (a brightly colored wall, for example),
- Stand in the shade and take the subject in the light,
- "Shooter" in position 3/4 (for women)
- Create curves, spaces, and triangles in the model's posture to refine the silhouette and highlight her shape,
- "Shooter" in front of the lens (for men),
- Take your time in a photo shoot,
- Use depth of field, natural light, and the environment to highlight the subject,
- Establish a natural connection with your model.
Another tip: look for the best point of view. It's better to shoot the model at the same height as them but never above.
With the rule of thirds in mind, one must focus on the subject and have them look away.
10 Tips to Take Good Landscape Photos
What better gift than a beautiful landscape photograph?
You do not have to be a professional photographer to take a great nature photo or immortalize a beautiful moment (an animal, a holiday souvenir, etc.)...
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Most cameras allow you to to learn how to take a picture via their automatic mode.
Here are some tips to become familiar with landscape photography:
- Observe the light of a landscape to understand the contours, the atmosphere, the colors,
- Apply the golden rule of thirds,
- Do not center the horizon,
- Avoid a full daylight photo: dawn or dusk offer better colors than midday,
- Scrutinize the weather: the colors and the contrasts brought by morning mist, the rain, the wind could be interesting,
- Use a polarizing filter on the lens: for more clarity without going through post-production,
- An object in the foreground can saturate or enrich the photo, but it depends on your taste,
- Find the best "spot": colors change over the course of a day, even in just one hour. Return to the same place for a photoshoot at a different time of year.
- Playing with the vanishing lines: guide the eye towards a deliberate object,
- Practice, always. There are no failed photos. What we think is that it's a rough draft, and the next one will be better!
Interested in taking lessons in photography? Why not check out our blog on finding a photography teacher?