Make Your Photo Subject Really Stand Out

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Great photography subjects are all around us. You don’t have to go far to find interesting people, flowers, or wildlife. The real test is to use your skills to create a photo with genuine impact.

How do you make your subject really stand out in a photograph? It is tempting, but quite wrong, to blame the camera when your photo doesn’t work out the way you want. You need to know right now that a more expensive camera will not automatically make you a better photographer. In truth, the techniques in this article will work for almost any camera. All you need are manual aperture and shutter speed settings, and a decent zoom lens.

"1 Flag" captured by Keith Willette

“1 Flag” captured by Keith Willette (Click Image to Find Photographer)

Here are a few simple tips for adding impact to your subject.

Tip #1. Highlight A Brightly Lit Subject Against A Dark Background. If you are shooting a subject in full sunlight, with a shady background, the subject is always going to stand out. This is a simple principle to understand, but it is a little easier said than done.

When your photograph has two very different levels of light, the lightmeter in your camera can be confused. It may expose for the dark background, causing your subject to be overexposed. The trick is to expose for the subject.

You can’t do this on automatic. What you need to do is switch your camera to manual, and adjust the aperture and/or shutter speed settings until the photo is underexposed by one or two stops (according to the lightmeter). When you get the balance right, you should have a dark background and a perfectly exposed subject.

Photo captured by Vaughan Nelson

Photo captured by Vaughan Nelson (Click Image to Find Photographer)

Tip #2. Use A Small Depth Of Field To Blur The Background. You have seen plenty of photos where the subject is sharp and clear, but the rest of the picture completely out of focus. You will find this an easy way to add impact to the subject, and a three-dimensional effect to your whole photo.

To achieve this, you use a combination of a large lens and a wide aperture. First, zoom in on the subject with your largest magnification. This will naturally reduce the depth of field. Then adjust the aperture to its widest setting. A wide aperture will reduce the depth of field even further.

The closer you are to the subject the more pronounced the effect becomes.

Tip #3. Use A Wide Angle Lens To Exaggerate Perspective. This technique is almost the opposite of Tip #2. A wide angle lens makes everything in your photo appear much smaller, so objects in the distance seem much further away than they really are. Meanwhile, you can stand very close to a subject in the foreground (a person, animal etc) and still fit it in the frame.

"October leaf" captured by Katrina

“October leaf” captured by Katrina (Click Image to Find Photographer)

As a result, your close-up subject will appear to tower over a background in which everything else seems very small and distant. Although the surroundings will be mostly in focus (the wide angle lens has a much larger depth of field), they will seem relatively small and insignificant, making your subject seem larger and more dominant by comparison.

So there you have three fairly simple ways to add impact to the subject in your photos. Because my background is in nature, I usually think in terms of wildlife, but you can probably think of many subjects that will benefit from these techniques.

The great thing is, you don’t need a professional camera to try these ideas out. As I said earlier, if you have a zoom lens, and manual control of your aperture and shutter speed, you can add impact to your photos with just a little practice.

Even better, in the age of digital photography, practice costs nothing…so get out there and start snapping!

About the Author:
Andrew Goodall writes for http://www.naturesimage.com.au and is a nature photographer based in Australia. He manages a gallery in Montville full of landscape photography from throughout Australia.

PictureCorrect Comment: A popular wide angle lens is the Canon Zoom Wide Angle EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM. A ring-type USM means both fast and silent AF, as well as full-time manual focus when in the AF mode.

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