First of all, I use my phone to take all of my photos, as it’s got a pretty decent camera, better than my actual camera. But I decided I wanted to learn about how to take better photographs, so I read, ‘Read this if you want to take great photographs’ by Henry Carroll, and here’s what I learnt.
“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” – Ansel Adams
The book started with this quote, and I thought it summed photography up perfectly.
I’d never heard of this term before, but suddenly it all made sense. Leading lines draw the viewer to key elements of the photograph, Carroll gives an example of a spiral staircase and how your eyes follow the curved lines. You’ll now realise they’re everywhere.
The shape of a photo is either landscape or portrait. You should choose this depending on where the dominant line flows in one clear direction.
This draws the viewer’s attention to a particular part of the photo, especially in a busy scene. For example, doorways, windows or openings. Carroll describes it as a photograph within a photograph.
This can be shown in foreground interest, as this creates a layered look. It’s what make the photo more visually intriguing.
The closer to the subject you get, the more details you can see. Distance means you lose the reason why you decided to take the photo in the first place, what caught your eye. You can always crop the photo afterwards to appear closer.
This creates harmony and balance, which satisfies our need for order. It makes you feel calm and peaceful, you can create this by placing the subject in the middle. Although don’t make the photo too perfect, allow human elements in.
Rule of thirds
Split your frame into three sections and position the subject in line with the third section, this doesn’t have to be exact. By not placing the subject in the middle it shows eccentricity.
Pause and think
Take a moment before you take the photo, even moving slightly to the left can change the whole photo. I would also suggest taking more than one photo, I take at least three or four photos. Before you take the photo, check everything is where it’s meant to be and adjust your camera or position if needed.
The greatest photo could be the simplest, photos don’t need to be complicated or colourful to be great. The shape and tone are what makes an image.
Mix it up
Your photos don’t have to be perfect, imperfect photos can actually be the best, when they’re done in the right way. Sometimes spontaneous photos can be the best, if they’re too thought out, they can look fake.
The lighting can change the tone of an image, it causes different moods and feelings.
Hard light highlights the subject while darkening the background, mostly caused by shadows, meaning your eyes are drawn to the highlighted parts, creating a 3D effect, and a more dramatic setting.
Soft light evenly highlights and darkens, creating a calm effect, there aren’t any dramatic shadows or highlights. This is the most flattering lighting.
Natural light is from the sun, which gives you a calm and peaceful effect.
Artificial light from lightbulbs, streetlights or camera flashes, create a yellow glow which makes you feel unease, as it’s unnatural.
It’s all about timing. Wait a moment and the opportunity could be gone. Don’t think about it too much, it’s all about seeing a great image and taking it.
“Average photographers imitate beauty. Great photographers create their own.”
Don’t look for beauty, let beauty find you. Look for subjects that intrigue you, not that are nice to look at. Don’t stop until you get the perfect photo, keep snapping.
“Good photographers are contortionists. They’re the ones hunching, squatting and bending over backwards. They’re the ones constantly down on the ground and climbing on benches.”
Look for unfamiliar and surprising viewpoints. Don’t be afraid to look silly to take a great photograph, it’ll be worth it. The photo by Elliott Erwitt, Felix, Gladys and Rover, is a perfect example.
Don’t feel your photos have to explain themselves, leave some mystery.
“Don’t overthink things. Photograph what you feel.”
Like most things, practice makes perfect, so just keep taking photos. Photography is all about how you see things, how you get your inspiration. Very often my photos aren’t planned, I just walk past something, maybe I’ve had it for years, but that day I see something different, which inspires me. Just this morning, after using my new handbag for the first time, I put it on the soft along with my coat and thought it looked pretty good, so I took a photo, gave it a crop and posted it, I didn’t even use a filter on it, as I didn’t feel there was a need. The filters turned the handbag brown, but the grey is why I liked it in the first place, I also left my coat in the photo at I thought without it looked too perfect and planned.
“The magic of photography, the bit that can’t quite be explained, is you.”
This is how the book ended, with yet another great quote. This book is really good for those who don’t know a lot about photography, as it explains the simple ways to make your photographs look great.
Thanks for reading my blog!