Rules? Really? I know what you’re thinking… you don’t like rules. Well guess what? Neither do I. In the words of Pirates of the Caribbean’s Barbossa they’re more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.
This is part 1 of a series of articles I’ll be writing to make you a better photographer. If you like them, or even if you don’t let me know using the comments below.
Now it doesn’t matter what type of camera you’ve got – whether it’s a simple point-and-shoot, or the latest Nikon with a top-of-the-range lens – you’ll become a better photographer by following these guidelines.
Rule (guideline) number 1 – The Rule of Thirds
Simply put, the rule of thirds helps you to get maximum impact in your photos by making sure you fill the image with interesting things. It consists of a 3×3 grid and the aim is to fill up as much of the grid as you can. Now I’m not saying there absolutely has to be something going on in every single part of the grid but as a general rule it will make your photos better.
A simple technique I use is to get a photo I’ve taken and overlay it with a 3×3 grid. I then count how much of the grid I’ve filled up. I normally use MS PowerPoint and overlay the photo with a 3×3 table but of course you can use any other software package that you’re comfortable with, or you can even print the image and use tracing paper for your grid instead.
Rule (guideline) number 2 – Balancing
Balancing can be used alongside the Rule of Thirds to produce photos that are just that little bit different. We’re all used to taking photos where we try to get the focus in the centre of the image. The balancing technique puts this focus somewhere else, and at the same type adds some other interesting elements to the image.
Rule (guideline) number 3 – Viewpoint & Angles
You might have heard the quote “fail to plan, plan to fail”. It’s normally used in business to demonstrate the importance of planning.
If you take a car manufacturer – it doesn’t just build cars – a lot of design, development and testing goes on in the background before it even gets to the production line. Those same principles apply to photography.
Before taking your shot take a quick look around. Think about your audience and how they’ll see the photo. Do you want a shot taken at eye-level, down below, from the left or right, or from an elevated viewpoint? Each angle or viewpoint will give the audience a completely different perspective of the photo.
Rule (guideline) number 4 – Backgrounds
Backgrounds can make or break a photo. You can have the most amazing focal point of your image but something distracting in the background can cause the whole photo to fail. I’ve seen many a photo fail because of an exit sign or other distracting element in the background.
If you can move around do it – if you can get your subject to move even better. Some people of course prefer to Photoshop the bad bits out later. My advice to you is concentrate on getting the perfect photo first time every time. I can guarantee you’ll become a better photographer for it. Only if you’ve tried your best and it’s impossible because of something outside your control should you turn to Photoshop.
Rule (guideline) number 5 – Depth
What is Depth? It’s a way to make photos look more real – to make them stand out a bit. Our eyes can make out objects at different distances quite easily but in photos it can be quite challenging.
The trick is to take a photo which has objects or elements at different distances and make people believe what you saw when you took the photo.
Rule (guideline) number 6 – Framing
Framing lets you to take a photo where you have so much going on but the focus is on 1 or 2 areas of the photo.
Final words (for this article at least) – don’t be afraid to experiment
In the age of digital photography you can click away without thinking about huge photo developing costs. Compare photos taken at different angles, with different depths and different backgrounds to become the best photographer that you can be.
About the Author:
Mo Azam is a professional photographer (http://www.iamfoto.co.uk/) based in the UK.
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