Photographers all experience learning curves at various times along their journey. Not getting the results you intended is frustrating.
It is disappointing to download your images, only to find a slew of errors.
So, how can you improve the results in future attempts?
It is important to remember the following cornerstones to creating a successful photo.
The exposure triangle
In photography, a technical relationship exists between aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. The triangle makes up the cornerstones of exposure. Exposure refers to the capture of the ambient light, in the scene we are photographing, onto the camera sensor.
The light can be natural or unnatural (think flashes).
A photographer’s primary aim is to capture the most accurate exposure at the time of shooting. Getting your exposure as accurate as possible is key to delivering a masterful image.
The correct manipulation of aperture, ISO, and shutter speed will ensure image excellence.
It is acceptable to use the Program or Automatic modes when starting out, but, in the long run, a photographer should learn to use manual mode for the best results.
The three components of the aperture triangle are further explained below.
Aperture is the physical opening and closing of the “aperture ring.”
The aperture ring regulates the amount of light captured through the lens. You can compare it to opening and closing a door. A door allows light in or keeps light out, depending on the degree to which the door opened or shut.
Aperture settings are standard across all camera types and lenses.
A converse relationship exists with aperture. The larger the aperture number the smaller the aperture hole, Ex. f/22. The smaller the aperture number the larger the aperture hole, Ex. f/2.8
F/8 is an ideal default aperture when you are unsure, if applicable to the scene and your photographic intention.
The diagram below illustrates the apertures of a camera.
ISO is the control of your digital sensor’s sensitivity to light.
The light refers to the ambient light coming in through the lens.
The ISO equation is straightforward. The darker the ambient light, the higher the ISO number, Ex. ISO800. The brighter the ambient light, the lower the ISO number, Ex. ISO100.
Apply the lowest ISO number possible to your photographic scene or subject.
The overall photo quality will incrementally decrease the higher the ISO number is dialled.
The photo will begin showing image grain at higher ISO settings.
3 Shutter speed
Shutter speed is a vital element of the exposure triangle.
The function of the camera shutter is to protect the camera sensor from light exposure.
Shutter speed is literally the speed at which the shutter opens and closes to allow light onto the sensor at the time of exposure.
That is what is meant by “releasing the shutter.”
In different photographic scenarios, you need to contemplate the shutter speed. For example, in the case of photographing fast-moving subjects such as in sports photography.
Fast-moving subjects will require a fast shutter speed, such as 1/2000. Slow shutter speeds will be required in darker settings, or when you want to create a motion blur effect in your image such as a waterfall shot.
In the exposure triangle equation, the ISO would be the next consideration.
Fast-moving subjects are suited to a higher ISO, like ISO400 or above. Still subjects with lots of ambient light can allow for low ISO such as ISO100 for example.
Next, you can dial in the most appropriate F-stop for those shutter speed and ISO settings.
Shutter speed is also an important consideration for camera shake.
Avoid camera shake
Camera shake is the term used when your images are blurry (as opposed to out of focus).
Camera shake is a result of your shutter speed being set too slow for the focal length of your lens.
For example, if the focal length of your lens is 50mm then your smallest shutter speed should be 1/50th or more. If your focal length is 200mm then your shutter should be 1/200th or more, and so on.
The above rule applies to hand-held photography specifically.
This should ensure that the camera does not shake at the time of pressing the shutter release as shown in the image below.
Focus is a challenge
Focus is vital to producing clear, sharp images.
A sharp image is one that has clear detail and no visible blurring. In certain images, you may desire a blurred-out background, or motion blur for effect.
Your composition need to be sharp and in focus to please the viewer’s eye and deliver a message successfully.
Modern digital cameras have very sophisticated focus functions. Take the time to learn the various focus modes your digital camera possesses.
Then practice which focus modes work best under different demands.
Composition is key
Mastering photographic composition is a skill that will take time to develop.
Composition excellence does not happen overnight for most photographers. Enduring practice will develop your photographic eye and bring advanced composition to your image.
I think it is fair to say that the longer you are an active photographer, the better your composition will become.
Elements of composition include:
- the rule of thirds
- leading lines
- the golden ratio
- diagonals, pattern
It would be worth your time to read up on these concepts.
Framing theories will make large differences to the appeal of your final edits.
Framing allows more leeway in post-production of your images.
Framing considerations include:
- not cutting off limbs
- no trees or poles coming out of the subjects’ head
- filling the frames
- using frames within frames.
We all start as beginners in whatever we do in life.
It is no different in photography. The best you can do is get your camera in hand and go practice on photographic subjects that interest you.
Then refine the techniques as you progress.
The above points will lead to improvements in image quality and fewer unpleasant surprises.
Get out and practice, practice, practice.