Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How to take great photos?

Very simple. Follow this stream of decision points:

  1.  Check Light: Light is your biggest friend in photography. If light is in your favor, any camera will go a nice job and take good photos. Even cellphone can take nice photos. If light is not right, most cameras will struggle. 
  • Decision 1(a). Determine quantity of light. In low light (I mean when quantity of light is low), generally it is a tough job to take good photos. Let me give you some tips. 
  • Decision 1(a)(i) Look at your subject.
    1(a)(i)-A. Is your subject stationary or a moving/living item?  If you are shooting a moving or a living thing (like human, animal, flowers etc), you have limited choices particularly when light is low. You do not have the luxury of keeping lens open for too long else the subject movement will blur the photo. So what to do?
    *Use a camera with bigger sensor or use expensive fast lenses. I mean money matters here. Expensive gear works better in low light, up to some extent.
    * Put camera to Tv- Shutter priority mode. Set the shutter speed to say 1/50 or faster. Boost up ISO to 800 to 32000. (For latest or expensive cameras, you can go for bigger numbers but for an average point and shoot camera, do not go beyond 800. Take the photo. If it is good, you are done!
    * If the photo is still not good, use artificial light. Turn on some light if available or turn on Flash on your camera. With flash on, if the photo is washed out, lower ISO to 100 or 200 and retake the photo. You can also make shutter faster but with Flash on, most cameras can not be set to shutter faster than 1/160 or so.
  • 1(a)(i)-B. If your subject in low light is not moving, you are in luck.
    * Try tips above in 1(a)(i)-A. If the photo comes out good, you are done! If the photo is blurry or noise, you can try to take even better photos with tips below.
    * Use a tripod or put your camera on some solid platform. Turn on Timer mode. Set camera to Av- Aperture priority and use a value like f/4 to f/8. Set ISO to 200 to 1600 depending on the camera. Let camera decide shutter speed. Focus the camera and take a photo.
    * If the photo turns out too bright, use EV/Exposure Compensation to -1 and take a photo again. Play with 2-3 different EV values. Or set camera to Exposure Bracketing so it will take 3 photos in 3 different exposures. Keep the photo that looks nice to you.
  • Decision 1(a)(ii). If the quantity of light is good, you really don't need any expensive camera. Set the camera to Auto mode, or any more appropriate mode and take photos.
  • Decision 1(b): Determine *quality* of light. Normally in low light, quality is not a critical factor. However when the quantity of light is high (or there is abundant light), quality needs some attention.
  • How to determine quality of light? Light can be homogeneous (sorry if I am inventing a new meaning here) or too-contrasty. Light in morning or in evening (before sunrise or after sunset), or in a cloudy day is an example of homogeneous light. However if you under the Sun in broad day light, if you carefully see, certain things like Sky are too bright but shadow or trees can appear pretty dark (only when compared to bright sky). This is an example of too-much-contrast.
    Few tips to avoid light's quality issues:
  • 1. First and foremost. Try to shoot outdoor photos or landscapes in early morning or in late evening. Before sun rise or after sun-set is the best time for landscapes. Or pray god for a cloudy day.
  • 2. If you are taking photo of people or some objects, try to keep the Sun behind the camera/photographer. This can expose people nicely. (If eyes are getting too dark, you can turn on Flash). If people are wearing caps or hats, request them to remove them so eyes become visible.
  • 3. If you are taking landscapes in broad daylight, some objects may turn out to be too bright or too dark. If there are trees in your frame, trees may come out dark if you try to keep sky blue. If you try to expose trees (or relatively darker objects) in your photo better, the sky will get washed out. In such situation, 
  • 3a. If your camera has HDR mode, turn it On. You can even use an iPhone which has nice HDR capture.
  • 3b. If the objects are nearby and they are turning dark in your image, turn on the Flash. 

  • Got to go LOL. More later.