How to Take Great Pictures – Tips from an Award-Winning Photographer | Photography

Award-winning Guardian photographer David Levene offers tips on how to get a good photo.

come closer

Be bold and get close to your subject rather than shooting from afar – this can make your subject too insignificant in the frame or mean unwanted elements creep into your composition.

If you are too close, try using a wide angle lens, which can make your photos more dynamic. Get creative with shooting angles: See what your subject looks like from the bottom down, or find a high point where you can shoot. Check out alternative perspectives instead of just accepting what you see in front of you.

A close-up of Patty Plum at the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show. Photo: David Levine/The Guardian

look at the light

As obvious as it sounds, it’s worth remembering that photography depends on light, and in general, higher quality light will help you produce more impactful photos. Sure, the golden hour (the period just after sunrise or just before sunset) can be beautiful but you may find more interesting conditions just before sunrise or just after sunset, where the shade of blue evening blends with the orange and yellow glows of urban nighttime lighting.

Patagonia National Park, Aisne Region, Chile.
Patagonia National Park, Aisne Region, Chile. Photo: David Levine/The Guardian

Manual shooting

If you are using a stand-alone camera, see if you can operate it in fully manual or semi-automatic modes and experiment with different apertures and shutter speeds. Soften the background (if you are relatively close to your subject) by shooting with a wide aperture, such as f2.8. Experiment with long shutter speeds, and maybe even moving the camera while exposing your photo, to see what kind of results you can get. If you’re using a phone’s camera, you should be able to turn off the auto flash, and you may be able to override other settings as well.

Get a good glass

Invest in better lenses to see an immediate improvement in your photos. In addition to the “kit” lenses that may come standard with your camera, you’ll find better contrast and clarity with a fixed focal length or better quality zoom lenses. “Quick” lenses (those that achieve a wider aperture) will also allow you to shoot more effectively in low-light conditions.

shoot in raw

A car full of apples in Azerbaijan.
A car full of apples in Azerbaijan. Photo: David Levine/The Guardian

All DSLRs and mirrorless cameras (and even some smartphones) will allow you to shoot raw files (such as CR2, NEF, or DNG). These files hold much more information than Jpegs, which compress files by ignoring information and details. You’ll need more memory card space and hard drive storage, but your photos will have a lot more scope when it comes to processing them.

Bring your photos to life

Anish Kapoor
Sculptor Anish Kapoor at the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, Italy. Photo: David Levine/The Guardian

Try some basic adjustment tools in programs like Photoshop, Lightroom, or Capture One to find ways to enhance your photos. Tools like exposure, shadow detail (HDR), sharpening, and vignetting can do wonders for your photos (especially if you’re shooting in RAW). Don’t overdo it, though.

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