Metro Photo Challenge: Tips for taking great photographs

Have you chosen your best photo for the Metro Photo Challenge yet? Achieve photography greatness with these tips from Colourbox!

1. Camera

Camera and lens: If you want to take consistently high quality photographs, you should get a basic starter kit with a DSLR or MILC camera and a good lens. You can get specialized lenses such as wide angle, macro, portrait, etc. Choose a lens to match your favorite subject. If you want to expand your skills, add some speedlights and learn some basic lighting techniques.

Shutter speed: This is the amount of time that your shutter is open; therefore, it can greatly affect the sharpness of your images. Shutter speeds are measured in fractions of a second, and a faster one will instantly capture your subject, or “freeze” or “stop” your subject. A slower one will increase the likelihood of blurring or the appearance of movement in your image.

Aperture: This is the size of the opening of the lens by which light enters the camera. The size is measured in f-stops, i.e. f/1.4 or f/22 — the larger the f-stop number, the smaller the opening. A smaller aperture will increase the depth of field of focus, so both near and far objects will be in focus. A larger aperture will give you focus on objects in the foreground.

ISO: This is left over from the film days of photography. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive to light the film was. A general rule of thumb is to use the lowest ISO setting possible for the best images. With a digital camera you can change the ISO for each shot, instead of being limited to the same number for an entire roll of film.

2. Lighting

Outdoor lighting: Great lighting is the key to great photographs. It is not a good idea to shoot outdoors when the sun is at its brightest. Instead, take your photos in the early morning or late afternoon to get the best effect from natural sunlight.

Make your light softer: The flash has a harsh light, which creates a strong shadow on your model. It’s possible to get a softer shadow by using a diffuser. You can purchase one or try to make one yourself for a fraction of the price by holding a white card in front of the flash or putting a piece of semi-opaque adhesive tape over the flash.

Fill flash: Even when it’s not dark, you should consider using your flash in order to “fill in” shadowy areas. This can happen outdoors when your subjects are backlit by the sun. Using fill flash will help lighten up the dark areas on your subjects to create a more even exposure.

Overcast day? Don’t let it get you down! Take advantage of the soft light that you’ll get, which is great for photographing plants, trees and flowers. The softer light diffuses contrasts that can be too harsh in bright sunlight.

3. Composition

Framing: You’re looking into the viewfinder. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is everything you see really everything you want in your image?
- Are there objects growing out of your subjects’ heads?
- Should you zoom in on your subject?
- Have you ‘cut off’ your subject’s heads, legs, or arms?
- Would this be a better image if taken vertically?

Golden section rule: A common mistake in photography is to have the subject of the image in the center of the shot. This composition can be very boring. To make your photographs interesting, follow the golden section rule, which is based on the knowledge that the human eye is naturally drawn to a point about one third into an image.

Diagonal lines: A diagonal line presents something different to the eyes, which will increase the viewer’s attention. When shooting, you can create a diagonal line from the viewpoint or from composing your subject.

What’s my best angle? Don’t be afraid to get a little creative when shooting. It can be a lot of fun to move around, above and below your subject and experiment with different angles. Take lots of shots so you get an idea of what looks best with that subject. This also helps finding the best possible background for your subject.

Into the horizon: One of the most common mistakes of amateur photography is uneven horizons. It leads to crooked sunsets, tilted buildings and uneven landscapes. Always keep this in mind when shooting these types of scenes, and check your shots to make sure that the horizon is level.

4. Subjects

Landscape photography: Quick tips:
- choose the best hours to get the softest light
- use a wide-angle lens
- check the lines in your viewfinder and set straight lines
- remember the golden section rule
- try polarizing filters to control strong lights and to add more contrast and saturation to your image

Shooting people: A few simple tricks will make your subjects look better than ever. For portraits try to use open aperture (f/1.8 – f/4) to make the skin softer. Always focus on the model’s eyes to get the best result.

Capturing children: Think again if you believe that children love posing for a camera in a studio. Better to get your little subjects outdoors. Remember that the best light outdoors is in the early morning and late afternoon. Don’t instruct them to smile, but tell a funny joke to make them smile naturally.

Macro photography: For close-up shots of small objects:
- put your camera on a tripod
- set it to a smaller aperture (higher f-number: f/11 – f/18)
- turn off the built-in flash or use a diffuser
- use the timer to take the shot (using your hands will cause camera shake)

Sports photography: Photographing sports requires professional cameras with good ISO and a very fast shutter system. If you think your camera is good enough, try the fastest possible shutter speed. If there is not enough light, use a higher ISO.

5. Making your photo stand out

White balance: The human eye adjusts automatically to different lights and color temperatures. A digital camera doesn’t. Practice how to adjust the white balance setting on your camera to get the most accurate, true-to-life colors in your photos.

Colors/contrast: In post-production you can play with the saturation levels and contrast to create that special feeling in your photo. But remember that less is sometimes more.

Sharpness: The quality of a photo is often judged by the sharpness. But correcting the sharpness does not necessarily make the photo more interesting. As with all other adjustments it depends on what you want the photo to say.

Experiment, practice and have fun! Take your photos from boring to fabulous by experimenting with the settings on your camera and how you frame and shoot. It just takes time and a willingness to explore how different settings can radically alter the look and feel of an image to let your personal style come across in your shots.

Are your photos sellable? Did you know that you can earn money from your photos? On Colourbox you earn money each time one of your photos is downloaded from our site by one of our 100,000+ customers. Check out the most popular images on Colourbox and compare with your shots. If you think your images would sell, we encourage you to apply to be a Colourbox supplier.


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