If you have been dabbling in photography for any amount of time, you know that there is a significant difference between simply taking a photo and creating a masterpiece. Although modern cameras make it easy to simply point and shoot, photography is an art form that requires patience and knowledge to do correctly.
If you are relatively new to photography, the Beginner’s Jumpstart Guide to Photography gives you some basic photo composition tips to make sure you are getting the most from these photography effects.
The seven techniques described below are all professional photography techniques that you can start using right now to take better pictures. They do not require special equipment and post processing with computer software is optional. Some of these techniques do take practice to master, but the reward is certainly worth the effort when you start taking professional-grade photographs consistently.
Bokeh is the art of using out of focus, blurry areas in your image to enhance the photograph. The term comes from the Japanese word boke, which means haze or blur. You have to experiment with bokeh to get it right. Too much bokeh is distracting and takes away from the subject of the image.
Some really cool pictures have been taken using this technique that involve bubbles, Christmas lights, and other reflective or light emitting objects. When you become really good at it, there are even special filters you can use to create shapes (stars and hearts for example) with the blurry images.
This technique is especially useful when capturing moving images. You may have seen panning used in NASCAR races where the background is blurry but the race car is perfectly in focus. Panning works by staying with a moving subject while you are taking the shot. Make sure you follow through to compensate for any shutter delay your camera may have.
It’s an interesting effect because your subject is crisp and clear in front of a blurry background and this can lead to some very interesting photographs. Panning is also difficult to master because the speed required differs for every subject. You will have to move the camera extremely fast to use a panning technique on a race car, while you will move much slower if you are following someone on a bicycle.
Rule of Thirds
This technique has been used by artists and painters for centuries. Photographers have taken note and are using this technique to make their pictures look more dynamic and interesting.
To use the Rule of Thirds effectively, you have to mentally divide your viewfinder into three equal sections. With this imaginary grid in mind, identify points of interest and be sure to offset your subject. The result will be pictures that have much more depth and are much more interesting than just your typical ad hoc portrait shot. This technique also works well in a landscape photograph where a mountain transitions into a colorful forest below.
It’s completely possible to use the Rule of Thirds without using Photoshop or other image editing software, but you can always use cropping and reframing tools in these programs during post processing. You can learn more about this and other Photoshop techniques in Be a Photoshop Guru.
The Golden Hour
Also known as the Magic Hour, the first hour after the sun rises and the last hour before the sun sets is an excellent time to take photographs. If you have never attempted to shoot in these conditions, you are missing out!
The sun’s angle in relationship to the Earth creates a different, softer quality of light that adds drama and a different color palette to any picture. This technique is especially useful for portrait photography, where the bright midday sun can often cast harsh shadows on your subject.
You definitely need to try taking landscape photos at this time of day too. Not only do you get beautiful sunsets in the background of your images, but the unique lighting can make even boring landscapes come alive. Amazing Sunset Photography helps you master these captivating images.
The Golden Rectangle is an intricate variation of the Rule of Thirds. It follows a sequence of numbers to create a square and another half of the square in the same dimensions. This technique also goes back several centuries and was actually used to frame the Mona Lisa.
Artists have relied on the Golden Rectangle for centuries because images created in this fashion are naturally pleasing to the eye. Many experts think that is because it mimics the proportions found naturally in flowers, shells, butterflies, and the human body.
Images can be captured naturally using the Golden Rectangle, however, it is much easier to use post processing software that can crop your image into a Golden Rectangle automatically. Photoshop & Digital Photography explains how to use Photoshop to enhance your images this way.
As mentioned when describing the Golden Hour, the midday sun can often cast harsh shadows on your subject that can be unpleasant or downright unflattering. Although professional photographers try not to use the flash if at all possible (it tends to wash out colors), using it to fill in dark areas in an image is an effective use of the flash.
This same technique can also be used if you are shooting against a very bright background. For instance, if the sun is low in the sky and directly behind your subject, your subject will appear shadowy and unclear. Using the flash will illuminate the subject to a brightness level that is similar to the bright background, resulting in an image that appears to be contrasted properly.
You may have seen this technique as it is used frequently in landscape photography involving moving water. A stream that appears blurry while everything else is focused is a perfect example of using long exposure to create an interesting image.
This technique requires a long-duration shutter speed so it is best done in low light or nighttime photography situations. In addition to water, many photographers also use this technique to photograph fog, clouds, and moving cars. You can learn more in the Long Exposure Photography course.
All of these techniques can put a new spin on boring photographs. Even subjects you have photographed previously can be fun all over again using one or more of these techniques.
Use your imagination; maybe even add a couple of these techniques together into one impressive photograph. Whatever you do, have fun and enjoy applying these seven techniques to your photographs.