A refresher course, Part 2
Last time we reviewed a few rules and generalizations of good photography. The following is another set of reminders. We'll cover ways of utilizing factors present in a scene. These are things you can control so you will get the images you visualize as you prepare to shoot.
Bright sunlight creates strong shadows and high contrast - okay in scenery shots, not so good in people pictures. Hazy sunlight is good for scenics and people shots. Cloudy bright sunlight in which shadows are present but very soft is okay for scenics but great for informal portraits. Heavy overcast produces no shadows so it is bad for scenics, good for people, but be prepared for muted colors in the pictures.
The closer the sun is to the horizon, the warmer the image will be. For a pleasing warmth to your shots, try to do most of your shooting within three hours of sunrise or sunset.
Long shadows found early or late in the day can add a feeling of depth to a shot. They can also act as leading lines, carrying the viewer's eye into the scene.
Not only is noontime sunlight cooler than sunlight found early or late in the day, but strong shadows produced by the sun at its zenith can obscure important detail in the subject.
Front lighting, or light coming from over the photographer's shoulder, tends to flatten out a three-dimensional scene or subject. It also causes a person being photographed to squint.
Forty-five degree lighting separates the foreground from the background, creating a nice modeling effect. Excellent for scenery shots. Great for informal portraits, especially when combined with a hazy or cloudy-bright sky.
Ninety degree sidelighting is not good for scenery shots, but it can produce very dramatic informal portraits. This type of lighting should only be used early or late in the day.
Backlighting will produce silhouettes. If you want detail in the subject, use the backlight button on a camera that has this feature. With a single-lens reflex (SLR) or digital camera, increase exposure by opening the lens one or two stops, or use the +1 or +2 setting on the exposure compensation dial, or move in to meter directly off the subject, lock in the exposure, then move back to take the picture (the last suggestion is a dangerous procedure because on most cameras, locking in the exposure also locks in the focus. This technique works best with cameras that have independent exposure and focus options).
In a scenery shot or any photo in which depth perspective is important, a foreground object will enhance the feeling of depth, especially if the object is fairly close to the camera. It also helps if the foreground is in focus, but this factor is of lesser importance.
There are several magazines on the market that are devoted exclusively to photography. Look them over. If you find an article that appeals to you, buy the magazine, or look for a copy in the library.
For action shots, use a fast shutter speed to stop motion, or a slow shutter speed to create blur. Try to catch the peak of the action, pan the camera, and/or look for diagonal motion.
Leading lines and framing are two great techniques for enhancing depth perspective and the feeling of completeness in a photo.
For maximum stability, especially in low-light situations, use a tripod and cable release so you don't touch the camera.
Try available light. ISO 400 film might be adequate in fairly bright areas, but for best results use ISO 1000 or faster. On a digital camera, use one of the highest ISO settings on the camera.
If your photos are stored on a computer, copy them to archival CDs for more permanent storage.
Rules, generalizations and hints can be helpful tools in the pursuit of taking good pictures, but the most important factor is still the one immediately behind the camera.