Tuesday, July 12, 2016

5 Tips to Take Better Photographs!

Sunrise in the Outer Banks. Photo by Charles Wolf. 
Impulsive Artistry © 2016. All Rights Reserved. 

Photography is a wonderful creative activity that anyone can successfully learn and master. One of the advantages to this pursuit is that the average person already has all the tools they need to get started at their fingertips. With the prominence of smart phones that come equipped with decent cameras already installed, you can jump right into this fun and artistic project. Today, I am going to give you some tips that I have learned through trail and error and the formal study of composition from drawing and painting. I will be focusing on nature photography, which is what I enjoy doing, but most of these concepts are transferable to all forms of photography. Please remember that these are tips, sort of loose guidelines and not strict rules. Here we go:

Tip #1: Think About the Borders

When you think about a photo, most people tend to focus on what is inside the picture, and this makes sense, however when talking about photographic composition it is important to consider the edges of the photo. What is happening right at the edges? Typically, a better composition will have objects or shapes intersecting the borders on all sides and there will be a different number of segments on each border, preferably two or more per side.

Take a look at the photo below – the color variations provide us a clue to the segmentation of the “objects” (clouds, trees, grass) intersecting the borders of the image. 

Day's End - Object Segmentation. 
Photo by Charles Wolf. Impulsive Artistry © 2016. 

In comparison, take a look at this photo of the colorful Adirondack Chairs. Now, I really like this photo and it was mentioned several times by people as being their favorite of my Vermont Set (link below). When thinking about the edges, this photo is not as compositional strong, especially since the top and bottom edges only have one uniform segment (very weak) intersecting the border; however, the contrast of the bright chairs to the grey mist is so striking that the photo still works well. Again, these are guidelines and not strict rules; furthermore, I will be careful to point out the exceptions.       

Colorful Adirondack Chairs. Photo by Charles Wolf. 
Impulsive Artistry © 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Visiting Vermont Photo Set Link

Tip #2: Where’s the Main Object?

Avoid putting the main object or focal point of your photo in the center of the composition. I see this mistake a lot on Instagram, where the person, animal, or a tree is placed front and center. When you do this, you must have a strong reason to do so with something very dynamic happening around the object. A centered object will tend to be static and interfere with viewer’s eye gliding through the photo. Slightly off center can be acceptable, just not the very center.

Take a look at these two photos of the same blossoms, link the full photo set below. The first one has the blossoms dead center with a rather uninteresting background—not my best photo to say the least. :  ) 

Redbuds. Photo by Charles Wolf. 
Impulsive Artistry © 2016.

The second photo is much more dynamic, the blossoms are in central to this photograph, but are not directly in the dead center of the photo. Additionally, the bridge pulls the viewers eye forward and beyond. The second photograph follows tip #1 as well!

Redbuds by the Path. Photo by Charles Wolf. 
Impulsive Artistry © 2016. 

One notable exception to this rule occurs when there is a strong symmetry to the composition. For example, this photo that I took while walking in the woods contains symmetry on a vertical axis (left and right) with the path disappearing directly ahead of you. In this case, the symmetry overrides the Tip # 2, and the composition seems to work just fine!

Sunlit Path. Photo by Charles Wolf. 
Impulsive Artistry © 2016

Spring Fever Photo Set

Tip #3: The 2/3rds Rule 

This is a fundamental idea of composition in painting that is readily applicable to nature photography, particularly with photos that contain both land and sky. In an effort to follow Tip #2, the 2/3rds Rule suggests placing the horizon line (the farthest point in the picture at where everything disappears from the viewer sight—usually can be found where the sky meets the land or water) either 2/3rds up from the bottom or 2/3rds down from the top. In the former position, there will be more sky than land, and in the latter, the opposite.

Here is the same photo I used in Tip #1. As you can see, the horizon line is 2/3rds down from the top and the land only takes up about 1/3rd of the composition. This makes sense in a sunset photo, enabling the sky to be more prominent in the composition due to the greater amount of space allocated to it in the photograph.

Day's End - Proportions. 
Photo by Charles Wolf. Impulsive Artistry © 2016. 
Visiting Vermont Photo Set Link

Tip #4: Are Your Photos in Focus?

I am surprised that I have to include this, but I have seen many flower close-ups on Instagram that are out of focus! How do you fix this? Well, I tend to take three photos in a row of the same shot, just so I get the best one I can. It’s an easy mistake to make, your hand jostles, the cameras refocuses right when you snap the photo... I strongly recommend that you take multiple photos in a row, so easy to do and you will get much better results! Of course, your photos don’t have to be super-sharp (misty lighting for example), but not so blurry that it becomes hard to look at them. One final exception: the blurriness is for artistic effect (the point of the photograph, if you will).  

Tip #5: Lightly Edit Your Photos 

With today’s technology it is easier than ever to lightly filter and adjust your photos so that they sparkle. A little will go a long way so don’t get too carried away with yourself (it happens to us all!). The Instagram app has dozens of filters and also allows you to easily adjust settings like the brightness, saturation, contrast, etc. If you are not sure what these do, simply play around with them until you get an idea of their function. 

Do you know that I upload two photos Monday-Saturday on Instagram? If not, then head over there and follow me to see great new photos of mine all the time! 

Impulsive Artistry Instagram Link 

Other great places to edit photos include Iphoto (for Mac users), or free editor websites like PicMonkey. If you willing to pay for it, then of course Photoshop is great and other similar powerful editing programs—but try the free ones first to get started. 

Question of the Day:

Do you have a photo tip that you use to take great photographs?

If so, please share it with us in the comments below or on the 
Impulsive Artistry Facebook Page! 

So there you have it, five helpful tips to take better photographs!

I will be launching another photography contest on the Impulsive Artistry Facebook Wall this week. The Theme: Sunrise/Sunset Photos. Try using these tips and take a great looking sunrise or sunset photo to participate in the contest. The winning photo will be featured in a bonus blog post here on Impulsive Artistry! 

Have an amazing artistic day,


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