Avoid dull snap­shots: Tips for tak­ing stun­ning pic­tures

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -


Smart­phone cam­eras have seen dra­matic im­prove­ments, but tech­nol­ogy alone won’t pro­duce shots that grab at­ten­tion. That’s where the hu­man eye comes in. Here are eight tips to keep in mind when com­pos­ing that shot, whether of fam­ily dur­ing the hol­i­days or sights dur­ing a va­ca­tion. You don’t need to own a fancy cam­era or mess with man­ual con­trols.

What’s the sub­ject?

Give peo­ple some­thing to latch onto when view­ing your photo. As a rule of thumb, close­ups are bet­ter. At a party, for in­stance, avoid wide shots of ran­dom peo­ple min­gling in a room, as the room be­comes the sub­ject and that’s bor­ing. In­stead, get close-ups of the guest or two who’s laugh­ing or singing. The photo is now about peo­ple hav­ing fun at a party. Peo­ple min­gling can still be part of the shot, but in the back­ground, to give peo­ple a sense the party’s well at­tended. The same prin­ci­ple ap­plies to pa­rades: It’s bet­ter to home in on one or two drum­mers than on the en­tire march­ing band, though the rest of the band can still be in the back­ground.

For land­scapes, keep in mind that it’s tough to give view­ers the same sense of grandeur you get from be­ing there in per­son. But you can nudge view­ers by fo­cus­ing on spe­cific el­e­ments, such as moun­tains or some trees. And of course, if there’s wildlife well, that’s your sub­ject.

Be­yond eye level

Be will­ing to crouch down or even lie on the ground to give view­ers a fresh per­spec­tive. When I en­coun­tered a lizard in Sin­ga­pore, my in­stinct was to snap while stand­ing up. But the lizard looked generic from that an­gle and dis­tance. It wasn’t un­til I brought my cam­era near the ground and get close up did the lizard look fe­ro­cious. The good thing about smart­phone cam­eras is that you can change the per­spec­tive eas­ily by just low­er­ing the phone.

Play around with depth

For those oblig­a­tory poses next to land­marks, there’s no law say­ing you must ac­tu­ally stand next to the land­mark. If the land­mark is huge, you’ll look tiny by com­par­i­son. Why not stand closer to the cam­era? Since pho­tos are two-di­men­sional, it’ll still look as though you’re next to the land­mark, but you’ll look ap­pro­pri­ately sized. You might need to try var­i­ous depths un­til you get it right.

Con­sider the back­ground

While it’s im­por­tant to have a clear sub­ject in your shot, the back­ground can en­hance it by plac­ing the scene in con­text. I took sev­eral shots of peo­ple rid­ing ele­phants in Ayut­thaya, Thai­land. The ones that stood out had Bud­dhist stu­pas in the back­ground. The other shots could have been taken any­where, such as a lo­cal zoo.

Watch the lines

In gen­eral, aim for hor­i­zon­tal and ver­ti­cal lines in shots. For a sky­line or a bench, that means tak­ing the shot straight on and avoid­ing tilt. But di­ag­o­nal lines can en­hance pho­tos at times. For in­stance, they can lead the eyes out­ward to give the viewer a greater sense of depth. But make sure you’re try­ing to say some­thing with the di­ag­o­nal. If the sky­line or the bench is tilted, it will just look lazy, not artsy.

The rule of thirds

Di­vide your frame into thirds hor­i­zon­tally and ver­ti­cally, like a tic-tac-toe board. Some cam­eras will even draw these lines for you on the screen (but won’t in­clude them in the fi­nal shot). Ide­ally, keep your main sub­jects where those lines in­ter­sect, as eyes tend to grav­i­tate there first. If you’re shoot­ing a hori­zon or sky­line, have it match one of the imag­i­nary hor­i­zon­tal lines. For shots of peo­ple, have the eyes fall along one of those lines.

Light­ing mat­ters

You’ll typ­i­cally get the best light­ing shortly af­ter sun­rise or be­fore sun­set. Dur­ing these “golden hours,” sun­light is softer, and sub­jects look bet­ter.

But it’s not prac­ti­cal to con­strain your sight­see­ing to just a few hours a day. At least try to avoid hav­ing the sun shine to­ward the cam­era, as that leads to dark sub­jects. If you can’t avoid it, some cam­eras have an “HDR” mode to help. The cam­era ba­si­cally stitches to­gether sep­a­rate shots of the sub­ject and the back­ground ad­justed to dif­fer­ent light­ing con­di­tions. Turning on the flash‚ yes, in day­time‚ can also help light up an oth­er­wise dark sub­ject.

At night, though, you should try to keep the flash off, as light distri­bu­tion can be in­tense and un­even. Cam­eras have got­ten much bet­ter at low-light shots, such that you’re of­ten bet­ter off work­ing with am­bi­ent light. Bonus tip: Use the flash­light on a friend’s phone to add a bit more light to a scene.

Know your cam­era’s lim­i­ta­tions

While many cam­eras now have auto-fo­cus, they don’t al­ways pick out the sub­ject cor­rectly. If you’re shoot­ing with a smart­phone, just tap on the in­tended sub­ject on the screen. This also has the ef­fect of ad­just­ing the ex­po­sure to that sub­ject, rather than some­thing in the back­ground you might not care as much about. And un­less you have an iPhone 7 Plus or a Mo­torola Moto Z with True Zoom, avoid zoom­ing. With most smart­phones, you’re just get­ting a fake zoom, also called dig­i­tal zoom. The im­age isn’t ac­tu­ally get­ting larger ‚?? it’s just stretched out like elas­tic us­ing soft­ware. It might be fine on the screen, but it’ll look fuzzy blown up on a desk­top web browser or printed out for a photo frame.—AP

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