10 Tricks to Take Your Photography to the Next Level

Sunday, August 20, 2017

10 Tricks to Take Your Photography to the Next Level


Wondering how to improve your photos? In this video, Harley shares 10 expert tips to take your photography skills to the next level. Starting with knowing your camera inside and out, Harley guides you through important settings such as exposure modes, white balance, f-stop, shutter speed, and ISO. But it doesn't stop there - he also shows you how to change your perspective, shoot in multiple ways, and wait for the perfect moment to capture that winning shot. With Harley's advice, you'll be able to create stunning photos like never before. Don't miss out, watch now!

A great big THANK YOU to my good friend Rich at Studio o2o for permission to use this material. Go to the o2o Creative channel, subscribe and leave a comment saying House of Hacks sent you.

More photography related videos.

Subscribe for more DIY videos.

Watch my most recent video.

For a written transcript, go to Ten photography tips and tricks for better photos

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at http://incompetech.com


Ten tips for better photography, today at the House of Hacks.


Hi Makers, Builders and Photographers. Harley here.

Today we're going to be covering ten tips for better photography. I want to give a great big shout out to my buddy Rich. He graciously allowed me to use his material that he put together and has presented a number of times.

He and I have talked about doing a collaborative YouTube channel together called "o2o Creative." If you're interested in getting in on the ground floor on that, go check it out. There's a card up here, or a link down in the description. Go subscribe if you want to get in on the very ground floor. I think there's only one video out there. If you don't mind go out there and put a comment on that video saying "Harley at House of Hacks sent you."

So today we're going to be covering the ten tips. Let's get into it.

Tip #1: Get to know your camera

Knowing your camera is really critical to being able to make great photos. I know it sounds really boring and really tedious but reading your user manual is a great place to start. You don't really have to sit down in one sitting and read the whole thing, but just, every night as you're watching TV, flip through it and scan through the chapters. Have your camera in hand and just practice the settings that you're reading about. Really learn your camera so when you need to go take a picture, you know exactly what it can do. What controls do what. And how to make adjustment to different settings on it to meet the need for that particular photo.

There's a number of important settings that you want to be familiar with. Exposure modes are probably one of the primary ones. White balance is another important one. You want to know how to adjust all your exposure settings, your f/stop, your shutter speed, your ISO, things of that nature. Some of these are fairly basic. Once you're able to do that, you can then make pictures like this.

This is an interesting thing where there's a mix of color temperatures with white balance. The model here was lit up with a tungsten light and the white balance was set to tungsten. Now this was close to evening and there was already some great blues going on in the sky but pushing the white balance to tungsten with daylight in the background really accentuated those blues and really caused the whole feel of the setting to cool down. And you get this great dynamic contrast between the bride in white, really lit up nicely and the deep blues in the background just kind of accenting her skin tones and her dress.

And here's a great example of using Tv mode, one of the shutter speed controls, to do some... to do a blue shot. This photo was taken with a long exposure. Not terribly long, but it was probably on the order of 1/4 second or so. The photographer kept the word "taxi" in the same place of the frame as the shutter closed. And this gave the blue to everything except the word "taxi."

So when you know your settings, when you know how to control your camera, you can get some really cool shots like these.

Tip #2: change your perspective

We all walk around all day and see the world from anywhere about 5 feet to 6 feet high, depending on how tall we are. But we're used to seeing everything from this perspective. One of the great things with photography is you can move around. So by moving around you can get a new perspective and give your viewers something they don't normally see.

There's really two ways to do this. You can either get up high or you can get down low. But in any case you want to get off eye level.

Now here we have a photo where the photographer has gotten up on a step stool and is looking down on his model. This is in conjunction with a wide-angle lens really gives a unique perspective to this image. This is obviously not good for every photo, but it is appropriate for some situations.

And here we have a photo taken from a balcony of a street scene. Again it's not a perspective you'd normally see and it allows you to see more of the umbrella here than you'd normally would and it kind of makes the person in the photo anonymous.

And conversely, here's a shot where the photographer was sitting on the street and again using a wide-angle lens to really accentuate the great lines on this old classic car.

Tip #3: shoot multiple ways

When we're using our camera, so often we get in the mode of shooting everything in landscape where everything is a horizontal format. So change that up. Shoot some things horizontal. Some things vertical. And tip somethings.

Digital film is cheap and so don't be afraid of framing the same subject in different ways for different purposes. Just mix things up, experiment and see what works for a particular shot.

Here we have shot of a motorcyclist get airborne. It's a horizontal and you can really see a lot of the surrounding. It gives you a good sense of where he is in his environment. And here's the same motorcyclist on a different jump but he's about the same distance off the ground but the photographer has gone vertical and has lowered themselves down in the frame significantly to really make the motorcyclist look like they're up a whole lot higher than the previous shot, but they're really about the same.

So again, changing your perspective can really change the whole feel of the photo.

And here we have it at an angle. This is just a construction sidewalk in the middle of downtown but changing the angle up just kind of gives it a whole different perspective.

Tip #4:Wait for the moment

Sometimes you just want to compose your background and wait for your subject to come into frame. Patience pays and don't rush. Eventually you'll get the shot you want. Here's a couple shots where the photographer just waited for the moment to happen.

The first one are a couple brothers that were in a wild life preserve. They'd been rescued and were growing up in captivity and they were just kind of playing in the water. And they had this one goto move where they're putting their mouths together as they're playing around wrestling. And the photographer realized that they kept coming back to this one move. So he just setup his shot and waited for them to do what they were doing on a regular basis. And eventually he got this shot.

And here it was just a matter of waiting for the bee to enter frame until it was in the place where the photographer wanted it.

And one more time, who knows how many people passed through this frame until there was one person in exactly the right spot for the photographer to get.

So this was a staged photo shoot and this was a real live grandfather and grandson as models. And we had a bunch of images of a staged setting and eventually they just kind of loosened up and this is just a real life natural interaction with the two as they had finally relaxed and started having fun. So sometimes it's just a matter of doing a lot of images until your models relax and you can get a great image.

Tip #5: it's all in the eyes

So we as humans really connect to the eyes of people in images. And there's two things that really help us do that. One is catch lights, and the other is to focus on the eye that's closest to the camera. Ideally you try to get both eyes so they're in the same focal plane with the camera, so they're both in focus, but if their heads are tilted one way or the other, you'll have one eye that's in front of the other. And you want to focus on the one that's closest to the camera. Particularly if you're shooting large apertures, low numbers, where you may have a very limited depth of field. In that case you really want to be sure that your front eye's got the focus.

And then catch lights are really important for giving life to the eyes. In fact sometimes if you don't have catch lights you might want to think about photoshopping some in just to brighten the eyes up a little bit and give some life and give some interest to them.

Here's a cute one with a baby. You can see the square softbox that was used to light up his face but also gave catch lights to the eyes. It really makes them pop.

In this case, the model was down at street level and the photographer was standing on a street bench looking down at her. He had her look up to use the sky as catch lights. This model has incredibly blue eyes as it is and then the sky just really reinforced them.

Tip #6: don't be afraid to experiment

Digital "film" is cheap. One card holds hundreds and hundreds of pictures. So don't be afraid to take a lot of pictures. But the secret is to only show the ones that work. So you may take a 100 photos, you may take a 150 or 200 photos but there may be one that's a real good keeper.

I think it was Ansel Adams that said that if you get one great photo in a year, you're doing really good. Well, he was working with film, we've got digital, so we can take a lot more pictures. Hopefully we can get more than one a year. But the principle still holds. Only show your best work. Do a lot of experimentation, but only let people see what really catches their attention.

So this image took quite a while to get everything just right. We had to get the timing right on the shutter so you had just the right amount of blur in the lights. If it was too long there were too many lights and it just became white. Too short and the lights didn't streak enough. So there was that to get the lights right. And then there was also experimentation to get the exposure right. So the lights didn't blow out but you still had enough of the background ambient coming in. And finally there's also a little bit of patience to wait until the sky got to just the right color blue for the exposure that was being used.

So this is putting a number of things together. Knowing your camera and having patience. And experimenting.

Here the photographer couldn't see what he was taking a picture of. He just stuck the camera out the window in drive mode and took a whole bunch of pictures as he moved the camera around. And one of them happened to be pretty good here. But there were also a lot of images of the ground and the sky and the side of the plane.

And here the photographer went underwater to get a completely different feel. The water changes the light temperature as it absorbs different frequencies at different rates and you just really get a different feel when you're shooting underwater as opposed to through air.

Tip #7: don't use the flash in conventional ways

Most people use flash in low light situations and don't use flash when there's plenty of light. But there's times when if you go against this conventional wisdom you can really improve your photos. There may be times when you use flash during the day to bring up the shadows and there's other times when you may want to avoid using flash and just use ambient light just to get the right feel, the right mood, and rely on long exposures and high ISO. Particularly on newer cameras where high ISO is not quite the problem it used to be.

So in this image, it's hard to tell if there's a flash, but there is one in order to brighten up the kids faces on the sled. If a flash wasn't used, then in order to get the same exposure on the faces, the snow would be completely blown out and conversely, if you didn't blow out the snow, the faces would be pretty dark. So the flash kind of helps bring balance between the darker areas of their faces and super bright areas with the snow.

Here we're using the flash to balance daylight. We're using... it's basically a two light setup where you've got the sun in the background acting as a rim hair light and the couple would then be in shadow. Using a flash on the front brightens their faces and give you a real nice exposure.

And here's a great example of using no flash at night. Here the only light in this was from the flame in order to really give you that nice orange glow on the person's face. If a flash had been used, you'd just completely ruin the ambience here.

And here we've got a photo that's got a combination again. The people in the background that are blurred out are in full sun. The model holding the baby is actually underneath a diffuser and has a flash to bring her exposure up to match what's going on in the background. If you didn't have the diffuser, she'd have real hard light on her since this was about noon and the diffuser kind of really softens the sunlight and the flash brings up exposure in order to balance out the whole scene.

Tip #8: compose on the thirds

There's a number of rules of composition and one of the most common, one of the most well known, is the rule of thirds. And what this means is you divide your view screen up in to thirds both horizontally and vertically. Kind of like a tic-tac-toe grid. And then those lines become where you put important items. On the intersections of those lines you put super important items. It just kind of brings symmetry to the whole image. The eyes just want to naturally follow those lines.

There's some other rules that you can learn about but this is one of the most common and one of the most easy to use.

Here we have an image of a bird with the tic-tac-toe grid lines on screen, so you can see how it works out. You can see the bird's shoulder is right on the intersection of the rules of thirds and you can see the bird is pretty much centered on the right third line. This kind of gives you a little bit of tension in the photo and overall improves the composition.

Here the model is centered in the image but notice that her eyes, what you're most naturally drawn to, are on the top third line.

And here we have two thirds going on. You've got the first third line is approximately where the subject's hand is coming down through the frame. But the top third and the right third lines intersect right where the words "Holy Bible" are and this really draws your eyes right to that point. Plus that's the item that's in focus.

Tip #9: watch the background

So when you're shooting a subject, make sure that you have what's called "peace" around the subject. Just before you take a photo, scan around their face, around their head, and make sure that there's nothing coming out of their head, going into their head that doesn't naturally belong there. There should just be some white space going all the way around to set them off from the background and give them what's called "peace."

You can also blur the background by using a large aperture. This is an aperture with a low number. This will give you a shallow depth of field. The subject can be in focus and the background can blur out. Another way you can blur them out is to get them away from the background so there's quite a bit of distance. That'll help blur the background. Also, using a longer lens, a higher millimeter reading on your lens will also give you a reduced depth of field. So if you combine all those together, you can really blur out the background quite effectively. And this kind of really separates the subject in focus from your background.

Here's a photo at the shooting range. You notice the model in front that's in focus has empty space around her where you just have that goldish, dried grass colored background that really focuses your eye on her in addition to the fact that she's in focus.

You notice how the other subjects in the background are kind of bunched up together and there's not peace around them. But in this case, they're blurred, they're in the background, we don't really care about the peace around them, it's really around the one that's in focus that we care about.

Here's an example of a couple kids. This is on a busy city street but combination of long focal length and large aperture just blurred out the background. You can't tell that there's people and cars in the background and the bluriness just causes the subject to pop out and be the real focus of the image.

And here's a fun photo. Again notice there's peace all the way around the two people that are center stage. Even between themselves, there's white space. And you can see the bluriness, in this case it's not the background but rather the foreground with the hands in front clapping. They're blurry, you can't them other than just being aware that they're there.

Tip #10: Always be learning

Always strive to elevate your craft. As you continue in your photographic journey, always be learning. There's seminars to take. There's web pages you can read. There's video channels you can subscribe to on YouTube. There's podcasts. Get involved with a local photography group. There's all kinds of ways that you can be involved in learning more about photography.

I hope you found those ten tips helpful.

And thanks for joining me on our creative journey.

Until next time, go make something.

Perfection's not required. Fun is!