When Joseph Nicephore Niepce developed the first photography camera in 1827 he never would have imagined how far the technology would advance. Back then photography required complicated equipment only a few people knew how to use and harsh chemicals that were dangerous to handle. Today, everyone has a high-def camera on their smartphone that will instantly upload pictures to a handful of social media accounts for all the world to see.
For crafters that want to get the perfect shot of their latest creation, digital cameras are a must-have. Digital cameras are relatively easy to use and you can get pretty good pictures by using pre-set modes. But taking great pictures with a digital camera requires an understanding of the basic principles of photography.
Here’s a quick rundown of photography essentials that will make each picture better.
Nail the Perfect Lighting
The importance of lighting in terms of good photography can’t be overstated. Niepce’s first “camera obscura” required eight hours of light exposure in order to make a photographic print. Now photos are made instantaneously, but lighting is still a critical component of digital photography.
Since natural lighting isn’t always the best, there are ways you can adjust the camera to get better exposure. In addition to the flash, you can use the F-stop. What’s an F-stop? It’s the aperture setting, which controls how open or closed the lens is. In order to use the F-stop, you’ll need to put the camera in manual or program mode.
A few other ways you can improve the lighting include:
- Adjust the shutter speed. The shutter speed also controls the exposure time by manipulating how long the camera lens is exposed to light.
- Adjust the ISO. The ISO controls the image sensor’s sensitivity to light. The lower the ISO is the less sensitive the image sensor will be.
- If you’re taking pictures outdoors avoid shooting mid-day when the lighting is harsh and straight overhead.
- Never have your lighting source behind your subject.
Create Eye-Pleasing Composition
Composition refers to what is in the photo and how it is arranged. Oftentimes, amateur photographs center their subject in the middle of the screen and snap the picture. Professional photographers, on the other hand, use a number of techniques to create an eye-pleasing composition.
Many people are familiar with the rule of thirds composition technique, which we’ve discussed before. The technique is so common some digital cameras will display a grid with nine quadrants (three rows of three rectangles) to help you line things up.
Here are some other composition tricks you may want to try:
- Composition can also be used to create depth. Put the subject in the foreground and a 2D photo will have a 3D effect.
- If there are linear elements like a path in the picture let that lead the eye to the subject.
Use an odd number of subjects. The human eye tends to like odd numbers because it helps us to find what should be focused on.
- Fill the frame so that there’s little to no space around the edges.
- Or you can leave a lot of negative space around the subject.
- Keep space in front of a moving subject to create an even greater sense of movement.
Fix the Focus
Most of the time you want to take a sharp image that’s fully focused. That’s much easier to do these days with digital cameras that have image stabilizers. Despite this technological advancement, you can still end up with a blurry pic.
Here again, the aperture can make a huge difference. The more closed the aperture is the sharper the entire picture will be. Of course, if you didn’t get the focus right when you took the picture you can always sharpen images with Photoshop.
Play around with the focus by:
- Opening the aperture all the way up to create a shallow field of depth that makes the subject in the foreground sharp and the background blurred.
- Using a tripod so there are no shaky hands messing up the focus.
- Increasing the shutter speed when you’re taking pictures of moving objects.
- You can also use the continuous autofocus feature to get better pictures of things in motion.
- Getting familiar with manual focus.
With a little bit of time, practice and the tips above you can get great pictures every time you break out your digital camera!