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In our previous post explaining how to take better photos, we talked about the optical properties affecting image sharpness as a way to achieve a technically correct image.
We also mentioned that there are two subcategories for that: Optical and Technical.
Technical is, you guessed it, related to the technique of shooting (which we're gonna cover here). In other words, managing light and your camera properly in order to achieve correct exposure and a properly lit picture.
This is the part where you need to know:
- Your camera like the back of the hand,
- The physics of how one photograph is created, and
- The way the settings work.
Once you are familiar with it, you’ll be able to master the following things in no time!
Want to take better photos? Let us dive in!
Take Better Photos: Technique
Using And Understanding Light
A fact: If the light is bad, no lens will save you.
Having good light, in sense of intensity, shape, and angle, is quite important for the sharpness of the image and the overall look of it.
When the light is intense enough it solves most of the light-related issues. More light equals more signal for the sensor, which results in more detail. As simple as that.
Having strong light sources (like the sun) ensures more contrast, therefore more perceived sharpness of the image. Lots of light (high-intensity light) also allows for shorter shutter speeds, eliminating motion blur, thus additionally improving the sharpness of the image.
Even if you use a tripod, there is no guarantee that the subject will stay perfectly still, so having a strong light source helps immensely. Another benefit of high-intensity light is that you can use your camera at base ISO, which results in less noise, the most dynamic range, the biggest color spectrum of the sensor, and ultimately the most detailed shot.
When the light is shaped properly (not too harsh, not too soft) and hitting the subject at an angle, it will provide better detail as well.
White Balance – Don't Rely On Your Camera Too Much
Unlike humans, cameras don’t see color temperature perfectly, therefore it needs to be adjusted depending on the situation in order to achieve a realistic representation of the colors. In fact, we don’t see it perfectly as well, but our eyes and brain are quick to adjust and make corrections so we don’t notice the difference.
Even though you can fix inaccurate white balance in post processing quite easily, it is preferable to get it right in camera, or at least get it as close as possible. To do so is easy, just use a gray card as a reference or anything that is monochrome for that matter (a simple sheet of paper usually does the trick).
There are exceptions to this rule, but only if the white balance is crucial to the artistic point you’re trying to make.
Get Exposure Right
To take better photos, one of the key factors in the quality of the photograph is the exposure. Even though exposure can be easily corrected in post process, it is done at the cost of the losing detail and having added noise.
Analogous to that, it is best to have the exposure as correct as possible in camera.
Pay attention to the light meter in your viewfinder or your screen. Make sure that the dial is in the middle, on top of or really close to the 0 EV mark.
Additionally, after the shot be sure to check your histogram, as light meters can be often wrong. If the data is mostly in the left side the image is too dark, and correcting it will introduce noise and increase the general lack of detail.
If the data is in the right side, the image is overexposed. If there is no clipping, correcting this back to normal exposure is actually beneficial.
While we are talking about clipping, you should avoid it as much as possible. Clipping occurs when the exposure goes too much to the left (underexposed) or too much to the right (over exposed) and areas where complete black or white occur.
These areas bear no detail, and should be avoided as much as possible.
We all understand and appreciate this: “Understanding light is the key to incredible photography”. Well, this fantastic resource by pro photographer and author Kent DuFault will allow you to fast-track your photography skills. Learn more here.
Even if you have the best optics on the market, you’ll have to be familiar with the physics of a photograph – ultimately, this enables you to take better photos.
All these things work in harmony, they complement each other, and they must be done properly. Fail at one aspect miserably, and the picture is ruined.
It might look complicated and scary at first glance, but it is far from it. It requires a little practice, but it's a skill easy to master, and a tad harder to perfect. Once it enters your “muscle memory” your photography will become so much easier.
- Take Better Photos, Now. Part One – Optics by Dzvonko Petrovski
- Histograms: The Key to Perfect Exposure by Jason Row
- 4 Tips to Help You Get the Perfect Exposure in Your Photographs by Dzvonko Petrovski
- The Ultimate Guide For Mastering Light In Your Photography by Dzvonko Petrovski