PERHAPS you are currently planning a holiday at an exotic locale. Or maybe you’re just taking a trip to the local beach. Either way, you want to capture the many moments and vistas you witness in the best way possible. Like most people, you might consider leaving your compact or DSLR camera behind and just stick with a smartphone or tablet. And to be honest, for quick snaps you immediately share with friends on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, using the camera on a mobile device can be perfect.
But what about all those times you accidentally cropped out a desired detail in an image?
Or when your smartphone camera focused on the wrong subject?
Or, worse still, you decide to compile a photo book of your recent trip and none of your images are at a resolution suitable for print reproduction?
With this in mind, I highly recommend investing in a compact or DSLR camera to get optimal results for everyday or travel photography. I personally have two cameras of choice: the Nikon D4S HD-SLR and the new Nikon D810 HD-SLR. There are many cameras for different skill levels of photographers; it’s best to shop around and talk to the expert staff at your local camera store to see what is right for your photography requirements.
Once you’ve got the right equipment, there are a few things to know in order to get started. Here are a few composition guidelines you can follow to help you craft more captivating photographs:
The “Rule of Thirds”
Perhaps the best-known principle in photographic composition, this rule suggests that if you break down your frame into thirds — both horizontally and vertically — there will be nine parts with four intersecting points, as shown in the photograph opposite page. And if you place your point of interest within one of those four intersections, your photo often becomes more balanced and more interesting. Many people look through their viewfinders or on the back of their cameras and place their subject in the middle of the frame. If you place your subject in one of the four points of interest or off centre, your image will have a greater impact on the viewer. This can work on a landscape image as well. Place your horizon on either the top or bottom third of your frame and it can have a completely different feel than if it was in the direct centre of the frame. Some cameras have a built-in grid for when you are taking your photo. If not, the newer versions of Photoshop have a crop tool that shows the third lines as well. Once you incorporate this rule into your picture taking practices, you will be amazed at your results. Remember, though — all rules are made to be broken!
Our eyes are instinctively drawn towards lines. You can pull your viewer into your image with leading lines which allows them to experience a visual journey through the photograph. You can create interest, intrigue and curiosity with lines and patterns. Don’t be afraid to experiment, especially with the current generation of Patterns and Textures. The human mind loves patterns — and also rejoices when patterns are broken. Using patterns and textures, you can develop an amazing array of photographs that are truly breathtaking. My rule of thumb is to see beyond the obvious: While the layman’s eye will subconsciously acknowledge the pattern in a line of trees or notice the rippled tidal sands on the seashore, it might not be seen it as the key element in an image. What makes the expert photographer stand out is “the ability to see patterns and textures in day-to-day life.” Patterns and textures are to nature what rhythm is to the music. It sometimes happens that a truly amazing pattern is right in front of you and you fail to notice it, perhaps because you’re trying to capture something else. It’s only when viewing someone else’s image of the same subject, in the same spot, that it becomes obvious. And that’s exactly where point of view matters.
Repetition and breaking repetition
As in music and literature, repetition is an important element in capturing patterns and textures. If anything is repeated more than two times, it becomes an interesting pattern if you’re watching for it. That’s where the term “breaking rule” comes in. In that case, if you don’t find a pattern, break the flow to create one. Think about using shadows to help accentuate and pronounce the details of the texture.
Each day, billions of photos are taken, and most of them are shot from the same vantage point — between five and six feet above ground. People will most often photograph while standing upright with their camera at eye level. You can often create dynamic tension and interest by changing the vantage point and shifting the way you look at your scene. When photographing wildlife, I like to be low to the ground — even if it means lying on my stomach in mud. While I may start out photographing standing straight on to my subject, I often shift my vantage point to create an even better photo with a different view, like above.
Let There Be Light
It is all about the light! Diffused soft light at sunrise and sunset can be a wonderful time to create images. But any time is a good time for photography: midday or even cloudy days with no direct sun can also be ideal, depending on how you interpret the light and use it to make your photos stand out. As you change vantage points, watch how the light changes when you shift positions. Take out your tripod and photograph at dusk, or in the darkness of night, like at right. Experiment often, even in the rain or snow. All you have to do is go outside with your camera and really look at the light and watch how it affects your image. While these tips are designed to help improve your overall photography skills, it is also important to know when to forget the rules about the “right way” to create an image. Because when it comes to taking great photos, your eye and vision should be the ultimate inspiration.