Many people consider photography to be a complicated and expensive hobby. When the word “photographers” comes to mind, they picture people carrying blocky DSLRs attached with big lenses while struggling to balance their tripods on their shoulders. Moreover, these people tend to communicate in a nerdy language incomprehensible to others. However, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars and learn those technical terms to take good pictures. Nowadays, most people already have a decent camera on their phone right in their pockets, and with a passion to capture special moments and sceneries, anybody can become a great photographer. Therefore, whether you’re a newcomer interested in photography or an enthusiast waiting to see what this new photography columnist is up to, here are five quick tips to up your photography game instantly.
First, use the Rule of Thirds. The Rule of Thirds is one of the most commonly used composition techniques in photography. You apply this rule by placing the photo’s subject on a tic-tac-toe-like grid, consisting of two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines dividing the frame, as shown in the picture. (Most smartphones and DSLRs provide the option to display this grid while shooting.) These four lines are called “thirds” since they divide the frame into equal thirds, and their four intersections are known as “powerpoints.” Studies show that our eyes tend to focus along the “thirds ”when we first view an image and the “powerpoints,” being the intersection of two “thirds.” Furthermore, points of interest placed on “powerpoints” and “thirds” create a balance pleasing to the human eyes. Thus, the Rule of Thirds both emphasizes the subject and balances the photo. Take my picture on the right, for example. The first thing you see when you look at my photo is the flower because it’s right on a “powerpoint,” drawing your eyes to my subject, and its placement on a “third” also gives the photo a sense of balance. Therefore, simple yet effective, the Rule of Thirds is a technique every photographer should learn to utilize.
Secondly, find creative perspectives. Near tourist attractions, it’s a common sight to see people whip out their phone, point it at the scenery, click the shutter, and then just leave. Nothing is wrong with this “snap and go” method, but a few more moments to consider the composition may lead photographers to a creative photo from a unique angle that all the other hundreds of tourists at the same place failed to capture. This picture of Taipei 101, for instance, almost didn’t come to existence because of my “snap and go” mindset. I stopped to snap a few pictures of Taipei 101 on my way hurrying home, and just when I decided to leave, I noticed a row of walls with the names of every contributor of the tower’s construction written on them. Using the reflective nature of the wall, I took this picture. Because of the different perspective, this photo tells a deeper story. I could have missed this shot if I wasn’t lucky enough to discover those walls, so we should always keep an eye out for these creative perspectives. Perhaps it’s a puddle of water with a crystal clear reflection or shadows lengthened by a setting sun–these are the highlights that make a photo truly exceptional.
You can tweak and enhance photos by editing them to your preference. Post processing doesn’t require intimidating softwares like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom–it can simply mean playing around with the editing features in Apple’s Photos application or some free applications such as Snapseed, which I used to edit the pictures on the right. These applications are not as complicated as one may think; most of them only include sliders to adjust different aspects of the photo. Experiment with these sliders, and just go with what looks best. Think of the process as painting on the photo or designing a customized filter for it. For example, by adding a little contrast, clarity, and saturation, this shot taken with my iPhone already looks so much better. (Notice also that the horizon is on a third and the wind turbine on a powerpoint)
As Ms. Thomas likes to say in photography class, “The rules are there to break!” Photography is all about creativity, so don’t confine yourself to all the tips and rules. If you think a picture will look better with a different composition than the Rule of Thirds, go ahead and take it! The tips given from photographers are meant to boost your creativity, not to limit it. So as long as you can get better results, break as many rules as you want!
One of the most crucial tips I can give is to critique your own photos. I deliberately put this tip after “The Rules Are There to Break!” because I believe this is the only one that should not be broken. One can only improve by knowing ones shortcomings, and the same principle applies to photography. Having your photos critiqued by yourself or others is the best way to improve. For example, I was quite proud of this portrait I took of my dad. Then my swimming coach, who also knows photography, pointed out how distracting that tissue in the corner is, so I learned to clear unnecessary distractions away before I shoot.
In conclusion, creativity is all you need for photography, not expensive equipments or knowledge of incomprehensible terms. Anybody with the passion to do so can become a photographer. I hope these tips can help you kickstart that process.
Thumbnail: [Camera Lens]. (n.d.). Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/bFisH7Hks63k3hmLQsMmxY.jpg