5 Practical Tips to Improve Your Images As a Casual Photographer
Today we bring you a guest blog post from photographer and CEO of Loculars, Ayash Basu.
“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” – Ansel Adams
Photography is a visual medium. A good image is one that connects with its viewers and communicates a story. Almost all endearing photos actually just happen, they are rarely premeditated or shot with a specific formula in mind. An observant eye sees something special through the viewfinder – be it the light, an interaction or expression – and captures that moment to tell a story about that location, scene or subject.
More often than not, what makes a moment special is somewhat ethereal. There is no checklist to tick off nor a defined criterion to satisfy. Having said that, there are some guidelines that can help improve your images, and over a period of time, develop your photographic eye into a more observant one.
This article is not meant to cover a comprehensive set of such techniques and there are many out there. It’s also not directed towards professional photographers, semi-professionals or even photo enthusiasts who would be well familiar with such concepts. But if you take photos to capture travel memories or everyday scenes, and click away hundreds of shots only to wonder why most of them don’t stand out, here are five very simple tips to help you. Whether you just got yourself a new camera or primarily use your phone, try these tips on your next guided walk with Sidewalk.
1. Experiment with backlighting
Light is one of the most important, if not the critical, ingredient in an image. A common tendency is to shoot subjects at midday (since that is when most people are outside exploring), with light falling on them head on. The best light is early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is low but most of us are not shooting then.
Once the sun is high, front-on lighting diminishes an image in two ways. First, such light flattens colors and the tonal quality of an image, rendering a rather flat palette. Second, it creates unpleasant shadows on subjects from a high angle. To get around this issue, try backlighting your subject, i.e., move the light source behind your subject. This gives an element of glow around the edges of your subject and adds depth to your photo.
2. Use leading lines
This refers to a technique where a viewer is drawn to your main subject by lines that lead to it (pretty much like leading a horse to water). A leading line paves an easy pathway for the eye to navigate through the different elements in an image. This can be easily applied in the street, on architectural shots and urban compositions where lots of natural lines are available to exploit.
Images are two dimensional and static, and leading lines can help add just that marginal bit of zip and motion to your frame. The next time you are out on a walk, look for leading lines that you can use – door and window frames, lamp posts, a curb, a vehicle, a storefront, anything really!
3. Try the rule of thirds
There are no hard “rules” in photography yet ironically this one is called as such. The idea is pretty simple: divide your frame into three parts horizontally and vertically to end up with nine rectangles, and then try to place the most interesting or important elements of your image along the corners of these rectangles (in other words, the intersection points of the horizontal and vertical lines).
Avoid the natural tendency to place your subject right in the middle of your image – this is likely to make someone glance at the center and go away. Asymmetrical balance created with “thirds” and combined with leading lines will draw your viewer to the subject and engage them.
4. Go low and high
A majority of photos are taken from the eye level. You see something of interest, hold your camera or phone to your eye and go trigger happy. Sometimes this is unavoidable if you are instinctively taking a photo within a fraction of a second of something happening. But at other times, try experimenting with your point of view. The same scene can hold a lot more visual interest if you bend down and take it from closer to the ground or find an elevated spot and take it from above.
Our minds are trained to see things at the eye level so both low-angle and top-down shots offer “intriguing” viewpoints with slightly unusual backgrounds. In most cases, the background is simplified as most eye-level objects get eliminated with this trick.
5. Be patient
If there’s one “rule” that is probably more important than the others, it’s this. An image is engaging only when there is a story being told, a moment being revealed or an interaction being shared. So, wait for it to happen, try to anticipate it and be ready when it does happen.
Related to this is also the importance of being open and flexible. You may have a certain scene in mind – let’s say a sunset – that is spoiled by something, like a curtain of clouds. In this moment, rather than waiting to get that sunset shot, take a look around you for something else. You’d be surprised how many times the better images come from the most unexpected places.
To help put your new photo skills to use, here are three Sidewalks that will give you plenty of opportunities to snap stunning photos:
New York City
- Sidewalk: Recycled Railways, Frank Gehry & the Atomic Bomb: The High Line Park
Why? The High Line is a 1.45 mile linear park built on an elevated section of a New York Central Railroad spur. The park has a number of natural and cultural attractions and also offers amazing perspectives of the city and the Hudson River.
- Sidewalk: Smartphone Photowalk: Financial District & Embarcadero
Why? This walk will guide you from the Financial District to the Embarcadero to capture perfect shots of the Transamerica Pyramid, Sentinel Building, Ferry Building, Bay Bridge and other points. We'll also provide composition recommendations to help capture a striking photograph, whether you're using an smartphone or DSLR.
- Sidewalk: The Instagram-Worthy Tastebud-Approved Walk of Georgetown
Why? Georgetown is arguably one of the most charming neighborhoods in the country. With its narrow, Colonial-era streets, cobble stones, historic canal and hip eateries, Georgetown practically begs to be shared on Instagram.
Ayash Basu is a photography enthusiast and the Founder & CEO of Loculars, a platform that connects photo and travel enthusiasts with local professional photographers for highly curated and unique photo experiences. Feel free to check out the Loculars blog for authentic photo experiences, and sign up to the newsletter for key updates.