3 Tips That Will Work in Most Forms of Photography - Digital Photography School

3 Tips That Will Work in Most Forms of Photography

A Guest Post by Frank Doorhof.

When I’m asked to share a tip for the readers of a website I always try to give a tip that will be beneficial for a large group of people, and I know not all of the readers are “people shooters” so for this post I tried to give you some tips that I found work really well in almost any form of photography. I was asked to keep it short, so here it goes.

1. Look Through the Camera

Well sounds obvious right?

Well actually it seems that it’s not somehow. When I do portfolio reviews I often see images that are clearly shot while looking at the scene and at the moment of the picture taking the photographer switched to the viewfinder, in other words there would have been a more exciting composition possible.

When I shoot, and this can be landscapes, models etc. I always will always analyze, and make my composition through the viewfinder, in other words I see what my camera sees. This way you can often find much more interesting compositions, or details, remember that our eyes are totally different from the camera, some people will claim that a 50mm on a FF camera will show you the world how we see it… well if that was true I would have had a lot of traffic accidents I’m afraid, my eyes (and hopefully also yours) focus, refocus, zoom, go wide and concentrate on the whole world and taking out detail that’s important, but also switch immediately to other areas, with a still image this is impossible.

I love images that let you discover things, in this image for example everything is in motion, except the man sitting on the other side of the station, he was shot through the windows of the passing train, it took some timing and hoping he would stay there, but in the end I loved the result. Without him it would have just been a blurry image of a train station, now it’s something that I love to revisit over and over again.

Imaging standing on top of a mountain, you see the beautiful valleys below, the thunderclouds coming in, the small village on top of the other mountain etc. you see it all, now try to shoot this with a wide angle…. In the end you will end up with a nice overview, but the village is gone, the thunderclouds are much mess interesting and you wonder…. “why did I take this shot?” I think we all know this feeling.

Now change to the view through the viewfinder and really look, soon you will find more interesting compositions, ways to show the area the way that you find it interesting and come up with something completely different than what you saw with your eyes.

experiment with angles, and lines.

2. Be aware of Lens Distortions

When we look with our eyes, our brain will correct certain things. When we shoot with a camera/lens different lenses will give you different renderings of reality, when you understand this you can start to play with this and get some interesting views on the world, combine this with a model and you can really start to experiment.

Wide angle used creatively with modelphotography

3. Shadows are the Soul of an Image

After doing many many portfolio reviews I can honestly say that this is the part where you can REALLY grow as a photographer. Somehow photographer seem to forget one of the basic rules of light, direction of light gives depth and structure, meaning that if you use light under and angle the structure of a surface will show up, which is pretty logical because the light will cast shadows.

shot with one strobe.

Somehow however it seems that a lot of photographers are afraid of playing with shadows, I see a bunch of flat lighted model shots online and in portfolio where in reality a little bit of shadow would have made the day, so learn to play with shadows, place your lights under an angle and really try to see what happens.

And remember this rule for lighting:

  • if you think you need 2 lights, try it with 1.
  • if you think you need 3 lights, try it with 1.
  • if you think you need 4 lights, try it with 1.
  • if you think you need 5 lights, …… back to the drawing board.

If you start out with just one light and force yourself to fully master that (and I don’t mean try for one day) I think very quickly you will start to realize that you can make almost any shot with just one light, and then you start to learn to add more lights, because of course I also use more than 1 light in many shots, however the MAIN LOOK of the shot should also be interesting with just one light, everything you add should enhance that look and not take away from it (make it flat).

One strobe at the model, mixed with the ambient light to give it some mood.

I hope there are some tips that you can use.

And remember…. Photoshop is a cool thing (I love it), but “why fake it, when you can create it?” when you understand light and your camera system you can save a lot of time.

Check out more of Frank Doorhof’s work at his website.

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  • http://mikhailanand.wordpress.com Mikhail Anand

    shoot with a 50mm myself, the thing i try to look for most is good light ..im also permanently glued to my view finder which can be dangerous at times!
    http://mikhailanand.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/rajasthan-contd/
    http://mikhailanand.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/more-bombay/

  • ccting

    Ya, learning lighting is best to use 1 light source. Learning composition is best to use a prime lens. ;D

  • http://photos.rickscheibner.net Rick

    #3 is spot on. There is some truly great advice here.

  • Mei Teng

    Tip#3 is a really good one. Thanks for sharing.

  • David

    “look through the camera’ – such a valuable tip and one that is really well written. With your permission I am storing these tips to keep reminding myself to ‘keep it real’!

  • http://366andallthat.wordpress.com MikeC366

    I can relate to #1 as I do a lot of street, which changes all the time. Yesterday the Olympic Flame came through our town. The scene changed every second or less.
    http://wp.me/p268wp-k8
    But what a great day.
    M.

  • http://www.wildlifeencounters.eu steve slater

    Good article with some useful and practical tips.

    No 1 is particularly relevant – why not look though the lens as it is that view that you are photographing

    If you are at an event and are not looking through the lens you will probably miss the moment:

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Scenes-from-Eastbourne-Carnival-and-Jubilee-celebrations-2012/G0000gqluDiMS868/I0000Tt49Q0._v7Q

  • http://tomlanik.smugmug.com/ Tom Lanik

    Tip 3 is an offering of gold! Valuable to know and understand.

  • http://energizeyourphotography.blogspot.com EnergizedAV

    Can’t wait to spend some time with the “rule for lighting!” Thanks

  • http://disney-photography-blog.com/ Alexx

    Lovely post. Extremely helpful. I never thought to use lens distortion like that outside of a fisheye of course.

    Thanks! http://disney-photography-blog.com/

  • Scottc

    The viewfinder is truly underestimated by many photograhers.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/6888879279/

  • fred hamilton

    tip#1-looking and seeing is what it”s all about. Shot is slick, really slick. Nice going.

  • JacksonG

    Great tips, here’s another one. Keep both eyes open, most photographers tend to close the eye that’s not in the viewfinder, street photography can be hectic.

  • Juan

    Hi. Tips 1 and 3 are superb. I really liked tip 3, cause I’m prone to shadows. Thanks for posting.

  • http://www.bodunovphotography.com Vasily Bodunov

    Now about the subway train image (it’s a great shot by the way!), Is it just me, or if you were to crop out the people on the left, the image would become a lot more powerful?
    Great post by the way!

  • http://www.bhavenjani.wordpress.com Bhaven Jani

    I particularly like the last tip. Mastering a single light is probably the key to studio lighting. Once you excel in it, then I guess its possible to use multiple lights to your advantage. But I’ll admit I still struggle with one light and feel the shadows I get are not well positioned. But I am still trying:).

  • Marco

    Number 3 is so good. One of my main complaints with HDRI looking so fake is that when tone mapping is taken too far, it over recovers the shadows. No one wants blocked up blacks, but there is a fine line between recovery and over recovery in the blacks of an image.

    Number 1 is also good, but be very careful when on uneven ground. Everyone has heard of the “stories” of photographers stepping off cliffs while looking through the viewfinder. It does not have to be a cliff. An uneven sidewalk can be a problem or even a rouge wave at a beach. Lots of waves up to your knees so you get into the composition and forget to watch for the one wave that will be over your head!!!! Or you are so into composing the shot of a wolf on the next ridge that you forget to check your back as a grizzly approaches!!! Just be safe out there!

  • Rye

    Another great article! Thanks!

Some older comments

  • Marco

    July 8, 2012 12:43 am

    Number 3 is so good. One of my main complaints with HDRI looking so fake is that when tone mapping is taken too far, it over recovers the shadows. No one wants blocked up blacks, but there is a fine line between recovery and over recovery in the blacks of an image.

    Number 1 is also good, but be very careful when on uneven ground. Everyone has heard of the "stories" of photographers stepping off cliffs while looking through the viewfinder. It does not have to be a cliff. An uneven sidewalk can be a problem or even a rouge wave at a beach. Lots of waves up to your knees so you get into the composition and forget to watch for the one wave that will be over your head!!!! Or you are so into composing the shot of a wolf on the next ridge that you forget to check your back as a grizzly approaches!!! Just be safe out there!

  • Bhaven Jani

    July 6, 2012 05:14 pm

    I particularly like the last tip. Mastering a single light is probably the key to studio lighting. Once you excel in it, then I guess its possible to use multiple lights to your advantage. But I'll admit I still struggle with one light and feel the shadows I get are not well positioned. But I am still trying:).

  • Vasily Bodunov

    July 6, 2012 05:15 am

    Now about the subway train image (it's a great shot by the way!), Is it just me, or if you were to crop out the people on the left, the image would become a lot more powerful?
    Great post by the way!

  • Juan

    July 4, 2012 07:00 am

    Hi. Tips 1 and 3 are superb. I really liked tip 3, cause I'm prone to shadows. Thanks for posting.

  • JacksonG

    June 30, 2012 06:34 am

    Great tips, here's another one. Keep both eyes open, most photographers tend to close the eye that's not in the viewfinder, street photography can be hectic.

  • fred hamilton

    June 28, 2012 11:31 am

    tip#1-looking and seeing is what it"s all about. Shot is slick, really slick. Nice going.

  • Scottc

    June 28, 2012 09:20 am

    The viewfinder is truly underestimated by many photograhers.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/6888879279/

  • Alexx

    June 28, 2012 04:00 am

    Lovely post. Extremely helpful. I never thought to use lens distortion like that outside of a fisheye of course.

    Thanks! http://disney-photography-blog.com/

  • EnergizedAV

    June 28, 2012 01:36 am

    Can't wait to spend some time with the "rule for lighting!" Thanks

  • Tom Lanik

    June 27, 2012 09:39 pm

    Tip 3 is an offering of gold! Valuable to know and understand.

  • steve slater

    June 27, 2012 06:53 pm

    Good article with some useful and practical tips.

    No 1 is particularly relevant - why not look though the lens as it is that view that you are photographing

    If you are at an event and are not looking through the lens you will probably miss the moment:

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Scenes-from-Eastbourne-Carnival-and-Jubilee-celebrations-2012/G0000gqluDiMS868/I0000Tt49Q0._v7Q

  • MikeC366

    June 27, 2012 03:22 pm

    I can relate to #1 as I do a lot of street, which changes all the time. Yesterday the Olympic Flame came through our town. The scene changed every second or less.
    http://wp.me/p268wp-k8
    But what a great day.
    M.

  • David

    June 27, 2012 11:45 am

    "look through the camera' - such a valuable tip and one that is really well written. With your permission I am storing these tips to keep reminding myself to 'keep it real'!

  • Mei Teng

    June 27, 2012 10:26 am

    Tip#3 is a really good one. Thanks for sharing.

  • Rick

    June 27, 2012 09:34 am

    #3 is spot on. There is some truly great advice here.

  • ccting

    June 27, 2012 09:33 am

    Ya, learning lighting is best to use 1 light source. Learning composition is best to use a prime lens. ;D

  • Mikhail Anand

    June 27, 2012 08:32 am

    shoot with a 50mm myself, the thing i try to look for most is good light ..im also permanently glued to my view finder which can be dangerous at times!
    http://mikhailanand.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/rajasthan-contd/
    http://mikhailanand.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/more-bombay/

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