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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.

Image: I love images that let you discover things, in this image for example everything is in motion...

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.

Image: experiment with angles, and lines.

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.

Image: Wide angle used creatively with modelphotography

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.

Image: shot with one strobe.

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).

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

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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