When I first started out in DSLR manual photography, some of the basic essentials that we need to know, worked against me to form some bad habits. Those habits inhibited both my creativity and my ability to produce a technically sound image under difficult circumstances.
I soon discovered I wasn’t the only one. Once I dived into the online world of like minded peeps, I discovered they were really common mistakes to make when you’re starting out.
Learn to let go, and watch your photography soar! (nope, nope, no frozen references, none at all… I promise… it’s not playing in your head right now)
One thing we all learn in the beginning is that the higher you push your ISO, the more grain you’ll get… Grain = BAD? Right?!
I was so afraid of ISO, that in low light situations I would underexpose just a touch, and increase the exposure the rest of the way when I got to the processing stage.
The problem is that an underexposed image has more grain, especially in the shadow areas, than it would have had you exposed it correctly at a higher ISO. This grain will become evident when you attempt to increase the exposure when processing the image.
This will go against the grain (pun totally intended!).
‘What’s that?’ – you say?
Exposing to the right refers to shooting with your EV meter needle at least one third of a stop to the right of centre.. and that means simply over exposing the image just slightly. Then bring your exposure down when processing instead of the other way around. This actually helps to reduce any grain that was caused by the high ISO. In other words, doing exactly the opposite of my early mistake.
We wrote a post about this technique with examples, so you can check it out here and experiment for yourself.
Also try and let go the that grain is always a bad thing… sometimes it can work beautifully as part of the photo… especially in black & white. Black & white film always had some element of grain and it can add to the overall mood of the image in many different ways.
When we’re learning photography Once we discover lens focal length isn’t just about not having to move our feet, we learn the “perfect” lens length for portraits, which would usually be somewhere between 70mm to 105mm, depending on who’s telling the story.
This is true, particularly if you want a portrait that accurately reproduces the facial features of your subject. A “normal” portrait, in other words.
But deliberately distorting can be interesting and very creative, if you have a purpose in mind.
Wide angles will add an element of fun to shots of kids playing as well as including some of the environment in which they’re playing, adding context to the story.
This is also a good time to shoot them from angles that you wouldn’t normally try when aiming for a “normal” portrait. Try lying under them and shooting up, using the sky as backdrop. Get them to lie down and shoot over them. Try diagonal angles too especially if they’re playing.
Conversely, shooting people with a telephoto lens, such as 200mm, allows you to make the most of the compression of long focal lengths by creating beautiful bokeh in your shots.
I used to think flat light was IT!
It smooths skin, is easy to process, there’s no shadows or pesky colour casts… and everyone looks great in flat light.
Sure, its true! But there’s a difference between lovely soft light, and light that is totally flat and shadowless which allows for no contrast or depth at all.
Flat light has it’s place, absolutly.. but to push yourself creatively and to explore what light can do for your images you need to abandon that crutch and start looking for light and shadow!
Find your lovely soft light, then instead of placing your subject perpendicular to the light source, try posing them at a 45 degree angle.
Look for gentle graduations between light and shade (unless you’re deliberately aiming for a very dramatic lighting style). If your highlights are too bright, move your subject a little further from the light source, or diffuse the light. If the shadows are too dark, move them closer.
Experiment and play with light and shadow and watch yourself finding new styles of images you love!
Sooo, yes, photoshop and editing images is wonderful!
Honest hand on heart I do use programs (and my favourite is Lightroom) to process and enhance an image!
BUT… it’s not a healthy habit (for your time or sanity) to think ‘oh I’ll fix that later’
We can’t go into photoshop after the fact and retrieve clipped highlights, cover up major dappled light on a subject’s face, or increase a dreadfully underexposed image to look like you shot in gorgeous light.
Great and beautiful light is the number one key to lovely photography and there is absolutely positively no getting around it.
Studying and looking for great light and then knowing how to capture an exposure that suits the shot will lead you to much more beautiful photos!
A common mistake that we all make is standing in one spot, and taking our photos from that one position… everything at standing height.
A GREAT way to create more interesting images and different perspectives is to move yourself!
Getting nice and low for kids means you’ll capture more eye contact and create a beautifully engaging photo!
Consider different angles and perspective to create more compelling compositions.
Look at your subject and experiment with angles… get up high, get under it, over it, move around it, try different angles and focal lengths.
If we only ever shoot from the same perspective, all our shots will look the same.
Ooh I like this one, and you know the impact of a neat line cannot be underestimated!
Nothing can ruin a shot faster than a crooked horizon line.
And whilst this is obvious for landscape photography, a horizon line can be any line that runs through the background of your shot, such as the back surface of a table you’ve used to photograph your dinner.
Keep your eye on it, try to keep it as straight as possible when framing the shot, but don’t be shy in this case to straighten it up when cropping or editing!