Grab your smartphone, grab a great photo

A picture might speak a thousand words, but in an age where most people carry a smartphone with a camera in their pocket, how can you maximise photo opportunities so that those words tell a compelling story? Cassandra van Schagen reports.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 11.51.55 amWHEN most of us look at an image and decide whether we like it or not it is a personal thought on how the image makes us feel and if we can relate to what has been captured that this process is based.

I have been a passionate hobby photographer for seven years now and wanted to share with you some tips that I have learnt along the way. These few basic things to remember should enable you to capture a photograph which represents the image your eyes saw – and tell a story.

The first is to allow the camera to focus. Anyone who has worked with an SLR camera in low light conditions will have battled this more than once. The use of a tripod will allow the camera to be kept steady as it focuses rather than having to depend on you keeping your arm still. Changing the F Stop to a lower number will ultimately allow more light into the sensor and sharpen your image. Raising the ISO level will allow more light into the photograph, yet the creation of noise (the blurred pixels which stop the photograph looking sharp) is a downside. Always try to shoot in a well-lit environment to achieve the best shot possible.

The second is ensuring the subject you want to take the image of is in the center of the frame. Whether it’s a person or an object, by placing the focal point in the center of the frame the viewer is quickly able to work out who or what the photograph is of. This tip can be contradicted by the well-known photography rule of thirds which suggests that a more appealing photograph is created by placing the main subject not in the center but framed roughly by imaginary lines that divide the width and height by thirds. I tend to keep my subjects centered for any shots I take to accompany an article and use the rule of thirds for my hobby shots.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 11.53.59 amThe third important step is to work out if you are taking a candid photograph with the subject looking directly into the lens or an action shot of the subject doing something. Head shots for example always have the subject directly facing the camera so that when the image is used on a website or in print the readers can identify who the person being discussed or who is talking is. Action shots are most often found in hard news stories where there is an event that has occurred which is of news value and the images are simply representing what happened. Events such as fights, accidents, protests and the like all appear in the media as ‘in the moment’ photographs. Soft news stories are usually accompanied with a happy snap which has been set up to support the story and have the subjects facing the camera.

Lastly once your photograph has been captured and uploaded onto the platform for which you wish to edit it, the fourth step of cropping your image will result in a professional looking photograph. Anything which could be a distraction to a viewer should be cropped out of an image. For example; an arm of someone walking past, the corner of a building or structure that is not needed in the image or words or writing that are in the background. It is very important to remember that you should never crop a photograph to change its meaning. This is looked upon very badly in the journalism world and you should take every precaution to ensure this does not happen.

Great photographs are the ones that capture and hold your attention even though you may not realise why. It may be a face we relate to, a place we have been ,or even a memory the image evokes.

Just like everything in life, practice makes perfect and the more you play around with whatever camera you are using, the better you will get. These simple steps that help me to achieve photographs that I am happy with will hopefully come in handy the next time you reach for your camera to capture a moment.

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