By JULIA ALBINI
Anyone can be a decent photographer behind the lens of an iPhone or Android screen, but, it takes certain techniques and skill to shoot great photography with a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera. With a concrete understanding of how to use a DSLR camera and knowing exactly what they are capable of, you too can shoot photography like a professional. Save your smartphone for making phone calls and checking emails.
Know Your Camera’s Modes
Your DSLR most likely has 8-15 different modes. Here is your first major tip for taking professional photographs: The scene modes including portrait, landscape, close-up and sports will do nothing for your shot. The modes you want to use are Manual (M), Aperture Priority (AV), Shutter-Priority (TV), and Program Mode (P).
Dr. David R. Wheeler, photographer and journalism professor at The University of Tampa, almost always prefers shooting in Program mode. “It’s faster than messing with aperture and shutter speed, or even putting your camera on manual. Instead I can just put it in Program and say, ‘ok, I want it brighter,’ or, ‘I want it darker,’ and the camera figures out the rest,” Wheeler said.
You also want to take advantage of your manual focus on the lens. No matter what shooting mode you’re in, you can always turn on manual focus. You can switch to manual by changing the “AF” (auto focus) knob on your lens to “MF” (manual focus).
Whereas on AF you press the shutter button down halfway to visualize the focus on your shot, pressing the shutter button down halfway in MF will do nothing for you. Instead, you want to turn your camera’s focus ring, which is placed somewhere along the lens depending on its type.
By turning the focus ring, you will notice different areas of your shot come into focus. Manual focus can be useful when taking photographs in which you want complete control over what is in focus. For instance, if you’re shooting a crowd of people, but only want to focus on one individual, you can turn the manual focus ring until that one subject appears clear among the rest.
Understanding the difference between hard and soft light
Light creates the mood of your photograph. The most crucial principle to understand here is that hard light creates contrast whereas soft light is more even.
According to Henry Carroll’s book, Read This If You Want To Take Good Photographs, you have to think of light as an object – an object with the elusive power of a shape-shifter. In photography, you want to observe light constantly.
“Photography is two-dimensional,” said professional photographer Joseph Gamble. “For it to strive to be three-dimensional, it requires contrast to move it towards that extra dimension. Neither hard light or soft light is better or more right- they are different approaches in the palette of the photographer.”
When you have hard light and harsh shadows, a lot of detail can get lost in the shadows. Soft light is much less intense, so there isn’t such a sharp divide between the highlights and shadows.
Beginning with soft light and working your way towards hard light will allow you to get familiar with your camera and understand how the two differ.
“When it’s cloudy outside and the light is diffused, it’s kind of like the entire world is your photography studio and everyone is perfectly lit,” Wheeler said.
However, not every photograph you take is going to be perfect. In fact, Murphy’s Law says it best: if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Making mistakes is the best thing you can do because it’s the only way you’re going to learn,” said Lara Cerri, a photojournalist for The Tampa Bay Times.
The importance of composition
Composition is what makes your photograph come to life. Every photographer wants their photo to be pleasing to the eye, but it is originality and style that makes a great photographer. Composition creates visual relationships within the frame. It is essential.
According to Gamble, truly captivating photographs have a high level of success on three levels: the lighting is right, there is a sense of decisiveness to the moment and there is an emotional power. With that said, a great photograph should take you on a journey.
Symmetry along with the rule of thirds is one of the most common techniques for composition. They create a certain sense of harmony and balance that often distinguishes a great photograph from a good photograph. But there is more to composition than just basic format.
Visual weight is created by focusing on the shapes and tones of your photograph. As a photographer, you want to know exactly what’s going on in every part of your frame. This means avoiding passive areas that don’t add much to your photograph.
Close-ups focus the viewer on that same particular observation that initially captured the photographer’s attention. So get close, and then get closer.
Photography isn’t something you learn overnight. Rather, it’s a ceaseless battle between trial and error that will make you great. Greg LeSar, a UT film professor, tells beginners to get weird. “Do what you want, even if you aren’t supposed to,” LeSar said. “Ignore everything but your ideas. Kick the door in and get to work.”