10 Tips For Better Photos!

Hello photographers! I write the majority of my posts with beginners in mind. I’ve been shooting for a little under two years now, and I would like to share with you 10 tips and tricks I’ve learned that instantly improved my photography.

 

1.) LCD Magnification

2.) Auto Focus

3.) Exposure Compensation

4.) Bulb Mode

5.) Long Exposures

6.) Setting A Focal Point for Self Portraits

7.) Rear or 2nd Curtain Sync

8.) Sandwich Bag for Bokeh Effect

9.) Using a CD for Lens Flares

10.) Ambient/Natural Light

 

Let’s get started…

 

1.) LCD Magnification

If your camera has an LCD screen, chances are that you can magnify your view through the screen. I like to use this function with manual focus, that way I can make sure my image is sharp before I take the shot. After I blow up the view and get a sharp focus, I drop the magnification back to normal(100%) and take the shot. I have to make sure that I don’t move at all since I’m using manual focus, because even the slightest body adjustment will affect image clarity. A good rule of thumb for sharp images is to use a faster shutter speed than your focal length. So a focal length of 50mm tells you that you don’t want to use a shutter speed slower than 1/50th of a second. Very rarely do I match focal length with shutter speed. When I use my 50mm f1.8 portrait lens, the slowest shutter speed I ever use is 1/60th of a second, and I only go that slow if there is minimal light. Contrarily, a tripod will negate this issue, and you can do long exposures which I will explain in #5 on this post.

 

2.) Auto Focus

I use auto focus more often than not because it’s convenient, and in most situations I shoot in, it works. Your experience may vary. From my own experience, when it doesn’t work, it’s either due to uncontrollable movement or dark surroundings. When I use auto focus it is because I can get a razor sharp image much faster than I could by using manual focus(in most settings I find myself in). Some scenarios leave me with no choice in which I have to use manual focus. I go into further detail in my previous post which can be found here

https://dougpopephotography423312889.wordpress.com/2018/09/14/auto-focus-or-manual-focusshort-post/

 

3.) Exposure Compensation

1452865156804In the image above, you can see that the dial is set to zero. When looking through your viewfinder, press the shutter halfway down, and you will see this scale. Point your camera at a dark area, and you will see the dial go to the left. Your camera is trying to tell you that you need to raise your exposure so that the dial goes back to zero. Now point your camera to a bright spot, and the dial will go to the right, telling you to lower your exposure. This is your camera telling you what to do. If you’re photographing snow, your camera will try and tell you the scene is too bright. If you’re doing night photography, your camera will try and tell you that the scene is too dark. Zero is your camera’s opinion of an ideal exposure. I very rarely use the exposure meter, because the camera’s opinion doesn’t always work for me.

 

4.) Bulb Mode

Bulb mode works great for fireworks. Most DSLR cameras have this feature. You can access this setting by adjusting your shutter speed just past 30 seconds. When you find it, it will say “bulb”. What this setting does, is it allows you to determine your desired shutter speed by holding the shutter button down for as long or as quick as you like, as opposed to manually adjusting your shutter speed which can get really frustrating in certain situations such as fireworks. This makes it great for fireworks. Fireworks are sporadic, so instead of having to repeatedly adjust your shutter speed in the middle of a fireworks display, you can use bulb mode and achieve a higher percentage of successful exposures. You can hold the shutter button down as soon as the mortar launches and capture a trail of sparks leading to the explosion, then release the button to close your shot, or you can wait a couple of seconds after the launch then press the shutter down and capture just the explosion. Be sure to use a tripod to stabilize your camera, and an extra step to take would be to use a remote shutter(not necessary, but convenient) so that you don’t have to keep your hand on the camera and potentially cause it to move which would in turn blur your shot.

Below are some fireworks I photographed using bulb mode. I was only a few hundred feet away from the mortars, which is close, so I had my camera pointed up at about a 45 degree angle, and I used my wide angle lens. Had I used another lens, I wouldn’t have been able to capture the trees in the foreground which you can see in one of the shots…

 

5.) Long Exposures

Have you ever seen an image of a roadway at night with light trails from cars, but the cars themselves aren’t there? Or what about smooth, creamy waterfalls? These images are known as long exposures. If you’ve tried long exposures, and your whole image turns into a blurry, unrecognizable mess, consider a tripod, and if the image is too bright, double check your exposure settings(aperture, ISO, shutter speed). Using a tripod for long exposures ensures that the stationary elements come out sharp, while the motion becomes evident. With a long exposure, you’ll want to use a small aperture so that your image doesn’t come out obscenely bright. Also take note of your ISO, keeping it at 100 and only raise it if necessary. So start with your shutter speed and decide how much time you want to capture in an image. Next, tighten up your aperture, then, if you absolutely must, raise your ISO. The higher your ISO, the more grain/noise will show up in an image. With long exposures, you typically don’t need a very high ISO. The image above of the firework burst with the spark trail and the trees in the foreground is considered a long exposure. The images below are examples of longer exposures…

Below: The first photo has a shutter speed of 15 seconds, an aperture of f/22, and an ISO of 1600. Due to the high ISO, you can see the grain/noise in this photo…

IMG_1069-Edit

In the photo below, I used an aperture of f/22, shutter speed of 25 seconds, and ISO 100. There is far less grain/noise in this photo due to the low ISO…

26219916_2463480553877009_6296516555051785897_n

 

6.) Setting A Focal Point for Self Portraits

You’re going to need a tripod for this technique, and I like to use my camera’s ten second timer. I’m going to tell you how I achieve self portraits, but with a little guesswork, I’m sure you can come up with substitute materials using what’s available to you.

I set up my tripod and attach my camera, then I set out a chair. I sit down in my chair and take note of the exact location my head will be at when I get ready to take my shot. Next, I grab a microphone stand, and position the microphone at the exact location where my head will be. Then I go to my camera and adjust the tilt and turn of the tripod so that I can focus on the microphone which is where my head will be. Next, I remove the microphone and it’s stand. Now I set my camera to the ten second timer setting, push the shutter, then I sit down in the chair, keeping my head in the same spot my helpful microphone was. Wait a few seconds for the shutter to click, get up and check your LCD display. This might take some experimentation to get the shot you want, but it’s definitely possible.

 

7.) Rear or 2nd Curtain Sync

This is how I use 2nd curtain sync, which can be a very rewarding experience when you get it down right. Set your camera to 2nd curtain sync(A.K.A. rear curtain sync), and turn on your flash. When you first press the shutter, your flash will take a test fire in order to survey the scene. With a 3 second exposure, you have time to zoom in and out during the time that your exposure is taking place. At the end of the exposure, the flash will fire which is the flash that will freeze your subject, despite zooming in and out. What you get when you learn how to use this effect, is an image reminiscent to that of a pop up book. Below is an example(shot in front of a Celtic backdrop).

23032349_2415362988688766_5554557298085287892_n.jpg

Streichan is my other last name, which I no longer use because Pope is easier to remember. This image was taken shortly after I first got into photography, hence the watermark.

8.) Sandwich Bag for Bokeh Effect

You can use a sandwich bag to create an otherwise expensive bokeh effect. You will need a rubber band or a hair tie, or something else to hold the bag over your lens. What I did, was I cut the bag twice in the middle to create three pieces. I used the middle piece and fastened it with a rubber band to the outside of my lens. If you cut a big enough piece from your bag, you should now have some of the bag sticking out past your lens. Fold some areas of the bag in front of your lens, but don’t block the lens entirely. With a little experimentation, you can get images that some more expensive lenses create. Here is an example…

IMG_6791.jpg

 

9.) Using a CD for Lens Flares

This effect is achieved by holding a CD near your camera lens and bouncing light onto your subject, or into your field of view. Experiment with this trick in order to find your preferences. Below are two example images I shot indoors. However, this trick works best in bright, beaming sun…

IMG_6799IMG_6796

 

10.) Ambient Light

Make light look like it should be there. The easiest way to do this, is to use ambient/natural light, as opposed to flash, strobes, and other forms of camera lighting gear. Candlelight, firelight, lamps, headlights, are all forms of ambient light. If you want to take a picture of someone texting on their phone and it’s dark, take advantage of the light emitting from the screen. If you’re shooting a family around a campfire, and you add a flash or strobe, it is difficult to make the light look natural. Below are some examples of ambient light photos…

 

 

So those are 10 tips for better photos. It is my hope that you learned something new and that you start using these tips in your photography. Please try them out and let me know what you think. What would you like to see in future articles?

Feel free to drop a comment, email me, like, follow, share, and as always, you can ask me questions and if I know the answer, I’ll answer it. If not, I’ll do my best to find the answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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