Our staff photographer would like to share a few beginner’s tips with you before you head out this season to take great photos of your friends, families and wildlife in our conservation areas.
- Take advantage of overcast skies. Cloudy skies create a soft and even light, which is great for portrait photography. The softer light eliminates harsh shadows, enhances saturation and evens skin tones. Landscape photos that feature large areas of sky, however, may look drab when overcast as the cloud can create a blanket of glaring white.
- Use shade or flash to combat dark shadows. Natural light is always better than flash, however, when photographing outside on sunny days, you may find dark shadows are cast on the faces of your subjects – use fill flash to eliminate any unwelcomed strong shadows. If the sun is behind the subject, to avoid a dark silhouette of your subject, use a fill flash to brighten them from the front. If your subject is looking into the sun, you may have problems with them squinting. If you can, move your subjects out of direct sun and into shade. NOTE: Fill flash is flash that lightens shadows without over exposing shots. It is usually shown as a lightening bolt in your camera’s options – check your camera’s manual on how to use it.
- Use portrait mode to create a blurry background. Switch to portrait mode on the camera and your subject will be in focus while your background will be blurry. This brings all the attention to the subject and creates a subtle background that doesn’t compete with the focus of the shot. This technique is especially handy if there’s a lot of clutter and mess in the background. In order to work well, the subject needs to be standing apart from the background – whatever is directly behind the subject may still be in focus. NOTE: Portrait mode is available on most cameras and is most often shown as a person’s head.
- Use sports mode to capture action. Switch to sports mode on the camera and you will be able to stop motion. If the subjects are running, this shooting mode will switch to a fast shutter speed and prevent blurring in your photos. If you want to get creative and are a little more of an advanced photographer, you may choose to allow motion blur to emphasize an action. NOTE: Sports mode is available on most cameras and is most often shown as a person running.
- Remember the “rule of thirds”. Photos with the subject matter in the centre of the frame can be powerful or they can be really boring. Using the rule of thirds can create energy and interest in a composition. If you divide an image up into thirds – vertically and horizontally – whatever the focal point is should fall somewhere along one of these intersecting points. Until you get the hang of the rule of thirds, try moving your subject around in the frame of your shot and take a bunch of photos – you can always delete the ones you don’t like later. Try moving the focal point to the left, to the right, above and below the centre point of your image. Don’t forget you can turn your camera for vertical compositions as well.
- Use a circular polarizing filter. If you have a DSLR, a circular polarizing filter can be one of your best accessories. It will give you richer, bluer skies; eliminate glare and reflections on water, making it possible to see into the water; reduce reflections on glass; take glare off of foliage and make it appear greener; and make colours in general more saturated. It works best if the sun is to your left or right – the light source should be at a 90-degree angle to the subject for maximum effect. If you’re using a point and shoot camera, try holding good quality sunglasses as close to the lens as possible. NOTE: A polarizing filter is a filter that attaches to the front of your camera lens.
- Photograph in highest resolution settings. Small images are okay for the internet, but in order to print quality photos you will need high resolution files. You will regret taking photos in low resolution when you fall in love with one you want to enlarge.
- Take photos from different angles. You can choose different angles to shoot from to make the images more creative, or to help tell a story.
- Take photos from up high. Get up on a balcony, stairway, tree, step ladder, bench, etc. You can try holding the camera above your head and angle it down towards your subject – this might be a little hit and miss but gets easier with practice. You might choose to do this to emphasize how small something is.
- Take photos from down low. Use a small tripod or one that can be flipped to put the camera closer to the ground. You can also put it directly on the ground but you will need to prop it up under the lens to angle it towards your subject – try a rock, stick, or other small object. Sit on the ground or on a chair to get photos from lower down but not so low. You might choose to do this to emphasize how big or tall something is.
- Take photos from the same level as the subject. If you’re photographing a child playing in the grass, for example, get down on the ground with them and the photos will bring the viewer into the activity instead of looking down on it, detached. This is not so necessary if you are standing a distance away from them, but if standing just a few feet away, the angles are more noticeable.
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