Nicholas Grundy Photography’s Notes on Taking Better Photos
Technical Understanding of Photography
To start from the very basics, let’s look at the general functionality of all cameras.
Light → Lens → Aperture → Shutter → Sensor/film (ISO/film-speed)
Photography is all about light and what we do with it. When using a camera to create a photo, light enters through a lens, where it meets a variably-sized aperture dictating how much light passes through. The remaining light then travels past the shutter while it is open. The period of time in which the shutter remains open will also dictate how much light passes into the body of the camera. These final slivers of light that have made it past both gates are now free to burn themselves onto either your film or your digital camera’s sensor. The rate at which this light records an image onto your film or sensor is dictated by your film speed, or in the case of digital camera’s, by your sensor’s ISO sensitivity. Both the film speed and your ISO rating determine whether your film or sensor are highly sensitive to light or not.
Controlled by your aperture, shutter speed and ISO.
*Always remember that using film with a higher film speed or changing your digital camera’s ISO rating to a higher number (i.e. 1600 and above) will create noise (grainy multi-coloured pixellation) on your final image.
18% grey and what the camera thinks it should expose for in order to create an even exposure for the image across all different exposure scenarios.
Exposure compensation: Therefore you mus over-expose (tell the camera to make the image brighter) when you are taking a photo of bright, sunny sand dunes or a beach, and under-expose when you are taking a photo of a dark forest with many dark greens, blacks, browns and shadows.
Exposure metering modes in modern cameras: Evaluative, partial, spot, centre-weighted average.
White Balance: Dependent on source of light (colour temperature in Kelvin)
Picture Style: Change this setting in your camera to control sharpness, saturation, contrast, and colour-tone.
P – No control over shutter speed or aperture, only over other variables (ISO, white balance, etc.)
Tv – Control over the shutter speed. (Freezing movement or showing movement) Remember: It is not advised to shoot handheld at speeds slower than 1/60 of a second unless you want to achieve movement in your image.
Av – Control over aperture. (Shallow vs. deep depth of field)
M – Control of all variables.
Bulb – Control of all variables, plus you are able to take exposures for longer than 30 seconds.
Depth of Field:
Determined by three main factors:
Distance between the camera and the subject
Focal length of your lens
Remember to select specific focal points when shooting in auto-focus mode if you want to have control over exactly where you focus.
IS/OS Lenses and camera bodies:
Many lenses and even camera bodies (mainly Pentax) now have built-in image stabilisers (optical stabilisers). These help reduce camera shake when shooting in low-light and when using slower shutter speeds (less than 1/60 sec). However, remember to turn off your IS/OS functionality when using a tripod (or if you have particularly steady hands!) If you use a tripod and leave the IS/OS setting on, then your camera or lens will become confused about the lack of any slight movements and will often attempt to compensate for this, creating slight movement and blurring in your final images.
Composition and Photographic Techniques
What makes a photograph good or bad? One could argue that this is purely a matter of personal taste and opinion, however this does not discount the fact that there is a common societal agreement as to what constitutes a “good” versus a “bad” image.
Good composition can be created when one thinks about the following:
What are you wanting to photograph and what are you trying to portray?
How can you position the subject in the final frame for greater impact?
Can I move just slightly to make the final image even better.
So with this in mind, keep moving! Get out of your car or off that tourist bus and move about on your own two feet. Bikes are also a great mode of transport that give you the freedom to get up close and personal with your subject and to quickly and easily change your positioning.
Rule of thirds
Use both landscape and portrait formats. (angle your camera as well if you like)
Use negative space for impact
Frame the subject
Depth and perspective
Image planes (foreground / mid-ground / background)
Allow space for cropping during post-production
Use patterns and lines
Use low and high viewpoints
Textures and detail
Chase the light (silhouettes, shadows, sun flares, etc.)
Capture movement and panning
Freeze fast movement
Colours – Monochromatic photos
Colours – Complimentary colours
Sense of Scale
Shallow depth of field
Light painting and abstract techniques