There’s so much to learn in photography. Whilst experience plays a big role it isn’t possible to figure everything out yourself. Here are the top ten basic photography tips from Getty Images Royal Photographer Chris Jackson. It’s great to hear encouragement from such an experienced photographer. You can check out the original video interview here.
I’ll share my experience and how these tips have played out for me as an average photography enthusiast. Read on to find out what it means for us non-Getty Images photographers.
Basic Photography Tips #1 - Light
Jackson talks about taking photos in the early morning or evening. This makes use of the soft quality of light for flattering images. When you have a choice this can work wonders. I also love the direction that early morning and late afternoon light has. The golden color of the setting sun is absolutely beautiful against a person’s skin.
In reality it isn’t always possible to shoot during these times of day. Especially if you’re taking photos at a family event. Moving undercover when the light is harsh has been a successful strategy. But there’s something else we can do as well.
One of the downsides to moving into a shaded area is that the light becomes very flat and even. It’s not a bad thing but it’s not very interesting either. I’ve been able to create areas of highlight and shadow by moving closer to the edge of the shaded area . This adds direction into the light and helps to create more depth.
Basic Photography Tips #2 - Know Your Subject
Making people feel relaxed when you’re pointing a camera at them is definitely an art. This is more about how you connect with people. My kids are very used to me taking their photo now. And I am very familiar with how they are likely to respond. You’ve probably experienced this as well with your own family and friends. Especially if you’re known as the photographer in the group.
The same can’t be said when I’m taking photos of people I’ve just met. I remember when I started taking photos at a regular community event. I found it very difficult to go up to people and start taking their photos. Even though I was the resident photographer and people expected their photos taken. Here’s how I overcame my fear.
I spent time with another photographer at the event.
Even watching how he approached people and chatted to them gave me a massive boost of confidence.
Being able to see all the little things he did to get the best photos out of people was invaluable. I use a 50mm lens for those candid shots so I need to get pretty close to people. I’m now able to walk up to a group and take their photo. They feel relaxed to not even react to my presence. And I’m confident enough to stand within arm’s reach, take their photo and chat to them.
Even on a personal level this basic photography tips is a massive growth opportunity.
Basic Photography Tips #3 - Camera
As technology improves so too does the list of features that equipment has. Getting the best equipment you can afford will help your photography. The key point here is ‘equipment you can afford’.
I’m a big believer in not needing professional level gear to take fantastic photos. And to be honest, there are many features in my newer camera that I don’t even use. The key features that I’ve discovered are important are those that affect the quality of the image. Color rendition, focus speed, and accurate jpeg processing to name a few.
With practice you can get excellent results using good quality, cost effective gear. So don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need the latest Canon 5D with L lens to start taking great shots.
Basic Photography Tips #4 - Environment
There's a few basic photography tips here about preparing. Knowing your location is vital for capturing the best shots. This will mean going to the place beforehand and finding the best places to be.
When looking for locations think about where your subject will be and which way they will be facing. Consider which way the light will be coming from. Will it be coming from behind them and cause flaring in your image? Will it be directly in your subject’s eyes causing them to squint? Will the person be in a shaded area with a bright background? This can cause difficulty with exposure in photography.
You’ll also want to look for appealing backgrounds. Find backgrounds that won’t cause distractions.
When outdoors be aware of branches in the background that will appear to grow from your subject.
Consider where the horizon line will sit in the frame. Keep an eye out for natural curves or frames that will form strong elements to enhance the main subject.
Basic Photography Tips #5 - Pose
This one can be tricky for candid and event photos. It helps to know your subject. Think about their physical features. What are their strong points? Are they a strong, dominating and powerful figure? Or are they elegant and refined? The angle you shoot from will help tell the story.
Familiarize yourself with how they move. When I photograph the running events I know how people are likely to move across a frame. I also know which poses make for the most dynamic and energetic pictures.
If you’re taking photos at a sporting event knowing how players will move and the actions they will take will help.
Basic Photography Tips #6 - Be Creative
By doing things that others don’t do you’re sure to get a different result.
Not everything you try will be successful. But that’s OK. You’ll learn a lot along the way.
To use this basic photography tips try taking photos from different angles. Up high or from ground level. Find an interesting way to incorporate the light into your photo. Challenge yourself by trying to recreate lighting effects you see in photos you like. You don’t need to copy the lighting setup exactly but use what you have available to you. This way you’ll create your own unique style.
For example, can you find ways to reflect natural light within the environment? Perhaps the golden afternoon sun bouncing off a window will make for a great fill or rim light.
Basic Photography Tips #7 - Spares
Having spares or everything you might need is your insurance so you can keep shooting. I ensure all the batteries in the cameras are fully charged before a day of shooting. The battery in my Panasonic LX-100 and GX-7 last a full day. But I also bring a spare just in case. These two cameras share the same battery which means I only need one type of battery.
The cameras that I use only have one memory card slot. I like to transfer my photos to the computer after each day then I clear the memory card ready for the next time I got out. I also like to have large memory cards so I can avoid swapping them out and run the risk of damaging them. Having said that I still carry spare cards with me. I use a special hard case to store my memory cards. This makes organizing and transporting them easier and safer.
Basic Photography Tips #8 - Focus
Our eyes are naturally drawn to bright and in-focus areas of a photo. Pick the most interesting parts of a person or scene and ensure it's in sharp focus. Often for portraits the eyes are the focal point of a person’s face. But this isn’t always the case. The story behind the person might make their hands, feet or equipment a point of interest.
For example, a pianist’s hands or a boxer’s gloves are important elements of that person’s story. So creating a photo where these are the focus will make for an interesting image.
Having many focal points can cause confusion on what is the most important part of a photo. But, this can work when it makes the viewer move back and forth between the two points. Their eye will remain in your picture for longer and create a more compelling image.
Basic Photography Tips #9 - Weather
Not all basic photography tips are about photography.
It’s important to look after yourself as well as your equipment.
Protecting your equipment from rain if it isn’t weather-sealed goes without saying. This can be done with special camera rain covers. Or you can find a location that will be protected during a down pour. Remember tip 4? That’s why knowing your environment is so important.
During the winter months here in Adelaide it can get pretty cold especially in the mornings. I can tell you it’s not much fun standing out in the freezing cold. So I’ll make sure I have a few jackets, beanie, scarf and gloves to stay warm and comfortable.
If the weather is hot make sure you stay well hydrated and protected from the sun. And if you’ll be out for an extended period it’s always good to bring a snack with you so you can keep your energy levels up.
Basic Photography Tips #10 - Speed
Be prepared for the unexpected. The camera can make people do crazy things. This is something I’ve learned. People will jump, lie down, make faces and pull gang signs when you least expect it. Capturing these moments makes for interesting photos. The key to doing this is being familiar with how your subject will move, the best locations to be in and focusing on the right place. It’s a combination of the tips we’ve been talking about here.
So there you have it – ten great basic photography tips for better photos. Which one did you find most useful? How have you been encouraged or challenged? Leave a comment to keep the conversation going.
If you’re stuck on how to go about creating compelling portraits then I’ve created a 3 step guide that walks you through a thought process to help you out. Simply fill in your details below, click the button and I’ll send it straight to you.
To your photography success,
Dad, husband, photography & all-round nice guy