Introduction to Photography lesson concentrates on improving
your technique and skills. It's written for the beginning and
intermediate photographer, or anyone who wants to brush up on the
practical side of things. There's something to be said for picking the
low hanging fruit first. Think of this introduction to photography
tutorial as just that - the low hanging fruit, ideas that will improve
your photography the most in the shortest time. Photo
I'm assuming you already have a
camera that's right for you. If not, see the equipment tutorial for guidance. Photo
details > picture below
> Moving in close
> Watch your background
> Use your flash
> Growing into your
> Developing a point of
> Take lots of pictures
MOVE IN CLOSE
No technique will bring you
quicker and more dramatic improvements in your photography than moving
in close. Fill the frame with your subject. In a group photograph is it
really useful to have two feet of space all around your subjects? Move in
until you can see only faces. Squish your subjects closer together; put
people in front and lower. Then move in close. Photo
The same idea applies to scenic
pictures. Study your image frame. Do you really need all that in your
picture? Try getting closer (or changing the lens angle of view) to cut
out some elements of the scene. Ask yourself, what am I intending to
convey in this picture? Then remove everything that is not needed. Make
pictures of various degrees of closeness.
Sometimes you may want to show
vast sweeping views. But make sure you're not just taking the easy way
out, photographing the big scene, all of it, just because you aren't
sure of your intent. Once you know what you're trying to say then
you'll know what to exclude from your picture.
WATCH YOUR BACKGROUND
It's easy to capture your main
subject. Just point and click. But what's behind your subject
can make or break the picture. When photographing people try to keep
your backgrounds clean and uniform; avoid hot spots (bright areas) and
dark angling shapes like power poles. Developing an instinct for this takes time, practice and awareness.
Begin by simply being observant of your immediate environment: Where's
the main light source? Where's the most distracting scenery? Is there a
wall or solid expanse of trees in the area to use as background?
Anticipate your picture and be prepared to move your subject(s) in
front of the best background or at least away from the worst
Sometimes you may want to include
some background features to show "atmosphere" - if you're at a theme
park, for example. But instead of attempting to show something large
and distracting in the background try arranging your subject(s) around
a smallish discriptive sign post or statue. Arrange them so the
background is acceptable.
Get in the habit of pre-arranging
this all in your imagination, before the picture. Always be on the
lookout for good picture locations. Always be asking yourself - where's
the best light? where's the best background? Where is my best picture
I made this picture of the three
matadors before a bullfight in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. They were
surrounded by a hideous jumble of old sheds which looked awful as
background. I quickly scrambled up a row of seats and filmed downward
with my point and shoot camera to use the only background that would
USE YOUR FLASH (OUTDOORS)
We've all seen them. Pictures of
smiley happy people with dark splotches and shadows across their faces.
Or some dark shaded figure, presumably a person, standing before a
gloriously well lit landscape. These photos are disappointing because of the
excessive contrast; there's too much of a difference between the light
and dark sections of the photo. To even things out a little you only
need to use your camera's flash - especially if it's a sunny day. This
is referred to as "fill flash" or "fill in flash". Photo
To use fill flash
set your camera to Auto or Program and then set the flash to "fill-in flash" or similar;
that's usually the flash setting marked with a lightning bolt icon.
You'll be instructing the camera to always fire the flash but not to
overexpose the scene. The dark shadows will disappear and even photos
that are smoothly lit will have extra "pop". Turn the flash back to
"auto" when filming indoors.
In the picture above the family
was in total shade; behind them was a brightly lit scene of foliage. I
added a little fill flash and
- presto - a perfect exposure.
Fill flash slightly lightens those
too dark shadow areas with just enough light to make them look natural.
Or it will illuminate that shaded foreground person to match the
background. In fact, most casual photography done outdoors (of people
or subjects fairly close to the camera) can benefit from a little
flash. Your camera will automatically know just how much is enough.
GROW INTO YOUR EQUIPMENT
In photography, less really is
more - especially for someone just beginning photography. If you're
photo budget is small then you're in luck; if you can afford lots of
equipment then you'll need to consciously restrain yourself. Photo
Every piece of
equipment, no matter how insignificant, demands a certain amount of
time from you. Time to simply learn how it works, to learn what it is
capable of, to learn how it can or cannot help you with your
photography. If you are constantly acquiring
equipment then you will be continually learning how the new
equipment works. You may become a good equipment technician but perhaps
not a good photographer. Or at least it will take you longer to become
a good photographer. And a curious thing happens with photo equipment;
people tend to force new equipment into their picture-taking. After
awhile one can lose track of the reason they began photography in the
first place: to express themselves in their photography.
Ansel Adams often spent weeks on
location with just three lenses and one camera (and thirty pounds of
film). Renowned National Geographic photographer Sam Abell once said he
would be perfectly happy to use only an Olympus camera and two lenses.
Henri Cartier-Bresson spent most of his photographic career using a
Leica camera and three lenses. So keep your equipment simple, you'll be
in good company.
For someone just starting out a
simple point and shoot or an SLR camera with one or two lenses is
perfect. Try and use a camera with a built-in flash, pop-up flash or a
small attachable flash. Then concentrate on making pictures. Wring
everything possible out of your limited equipment. Learn what you do
best with the equipment at hand. By using very little equipment and
keeping your photo life simple you'll be able to concentrate on your
photography learning curve instead of your equipment learning curve.
And after awhile, if you find you need more equipment, you'll know
absolutely what equipment you really need to add.
DEVELOP A POINT OF VIEW
Sometimes a tree really is just a
tree. And often we grab a shot just because we instinctively know we
should. Your one year old just stood up and walked across the room for
the first time, say. But often when taking a photograph we are
attempting to say something about our subject other than "I was there".
This is tricky stuff. After all,
you may take a picture of a beautiful landscape because you think it's,
well, beautiful. But you might improve both the resulting photo and
your enjoyment of making the photo by knowing - and showing - exactly
why you find the scene beautiful. Is it the light streaking in from the
side? Does it remind you of childhood bike rides in the country? Do you
feel a bond with some element of the scene, say, the barn and
Two steps - There
are two steps to developing a point of view in your photography. The first
is understanding, or knowing, why you are attracted to your subject(s).
In other words, why you do what you do; why you photograph what you
photograph. This may seem absurd at first. Eventually though, by being
conscious of what you're spending your camera time on, you'll begin to
For instance, you may be drawn to photographing children. But why?
I'll be the first to agree that children are cute and make good camera
subjects. But there's probably a deeper and possibly more important
reason you're attracted to them. Maybe you'll discover that, above all
else, you admire their spontaneity, for example.
Or perhaps you're drawn to make
scenic photos. Try to uncover the why behind this attraction. Is it the
ominous majesty of approaching thunderstorm clouds? Do you see trees as
the primary source of beauty in a scenic? Or oceans or lakes?
The second step
in developing a photographic point of view is showing the "why" in your
photos. You'll need to integrate your point of view into your
photography. For example, let's say you're the children photographer
mentioned above and you've identified their spontaneity as the "why"
that's fueling your photography. Knowing that this attraction, or point
of view, is driving your photography will compel you to show more
spontaneity in your photos. You'll strive to learn how
to do that. Instead of static pictures of kids, say, your goal might be
beautiful portraits of children whose face and body expressions imply
their underlying spontaneity. Or perhaps you'll commit to making photos
that convey more action and spontaneity by learning how to
use props and tricks when filming children. You'll learn what it takes
to create the right photo opportunities for you. Photo
Or say you're that scenic /
landscape photographer and you've come to realize that your photo
fascination is really about weather. You're drawn to scenes and
landscapes that have an obvious weather element to them. Knowing this
will help you make more authentic (to you) landscape photography.
You'll seek out situations where weather is likely to dominate. You'll
begin to emphasize the weather more in your photography.
No matter what type of
photographer you are or end up being, I can promise you that developing
a photographic point of view is worthwhile. The greatest benefit may be
that you'll become more selective in your picture taking, concentrating
on and fostering situations that support your point of view.
TAKE A LOT OF PICTURES
Take as many photos as you can,
especially if your subject is children. Try different poses, different
backgrounds; try anything you have the time for. You can always toss
out or delete the rejects later. Film and digital storage is cheap.
Your odds of capturing a good
photo with just one attempt is very low; it seems that someone always
blinks or looks the wrong way. But make twenty exposures and you'll get
one or two worthwhile pictures. A wise photographer once said, "If it's
worth a shot, it's worth a few dozen."
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