Whether you’ve just got yourself a professional DSLR camera, or want to try out the high-spec camera on your smartphone, you’re probably wondering how to take good photos. And while it's by no means an exact science, one can improve their photography almost immediately by following a few simple rules that anybody can pick up. Feel free to take out the camera and try these out yourself.
The Rule of Thirds
If you have a professional camera, you’ve probably noticed a grid of lines that appear in front of the image that you’re about to take. This grid isn’t just there for looks - it serves an important purpose. It’s known as the rule of thirds and is used in paintings and photographs alike.
In the rule of thirds, you break down a canvas or picture into nine equal boxes with four lines. These lines intersect at four different points. The rule of thirds states that anything of importance, such as a face or object, should be placed in these intersections to make the image look visually appealing. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all paintings and photos - you can see this rule being broken quite often - but it works.
So, if you want to make your photos look more interesting, try introducing them into every photo you take as a starting point. If you’re taking a group photo, try having the group fit somewhere among the two vertical lines. You could even align some faces with the intersections. A more subtle way to introduce the rule of thirds is by having walls, ceilings, and floors of rooms line up with the grid. This will produce some really dynamic angles.
Basic Color and Lighting Theory
Just as the composition of photos tells a story, so too do colors and lighting. Colors alone can evoke emotion, and by combining them with the right type of lighting, you can construct an image that looks incredibly natural. This can require some setup, which may make it difficult if you’re taking a group photo, for example, but they’re important to learn nonetheless.
Color theory pertains to the idea that different colors have different meanings, can evoke different emotions, and can pair up with each other in certain ways. The specifics are incredibly difficult to get into in a short article, but you can easily improve photos with simple guidelines. For example, warm colors such as red and orange invoke feelings of joy and happiness, whereas cooler colors such as blue and purple evoke more melancholic emotions.
Then, there’s lighting. And no, we’re not talking about turning on flash for a photo at night. Sometimes, photos look better in bright or dark lighting, depending on what story you want to tell. A bright photo looks uplifting and cheery, whereas darker images give a more sinister and sadder feel to them. This is why they work so well with lighting - you will often see warm colors with bright lighting and cooler colors in darker lighting for this reason.
While some people may be purists and prefer to keep photos as they are, it’s perfectly fine to add filters to photos. Filters can change the overall look of a photo instantly, and they can be of great assistance if you don’t have access to appropriate lighting. Almost all smartphones have their camera apps with built-in filters, and you can easily install apps that have more professional-looking ones, too.
But while filters are incredibly useful, try not to rely on them too much. If you can get better lighting, then do it. A light meter, monopod, tripods, or even ring flash can help. Aside from this, no filter can change the photo’s composition, so unless you want to make edits to the photo itself, you’ll want to nail that, too. With that being said, don’t be afraid to try out a few filters every time you take a photo to see if it improves the look at all.
It takes years for photographers to learn all the fundamentals of professional photography. But you don’t need years to understand basic principles that can instantly improve your photos. By keeping these principles in the back of your head, you’ll be taking better photos to fill up your memory card in no time at all.