Photography requires a dedication to precision. I often find myself sorting through hundreds of photos for the two or three that are perfect. Even in my niche focus of stamped concrete, I’m constantly sorting through large batches of unusable images. However, through years of trial and error, I’ve discovered a few rules that when followed, instantly take my photos from amateur to professional. Whether you’re getting paid for your images or seeking social media influencer status, keeping these strategies in mind will lead to incredible results.
- Rule of Thirds and the Camera Grid
Within every photo is a three-by-three invisible grid. Bring up any photo you’ve taken in the last week and imagine that there are two lines cutting the image into three equal sections horizontally. Now, imagine the same thing vertically. Have the grid in your mind? Where those horizontal and vertical lines intersect is where you want to place the subject of your photo.
If your subject is a person, place their eyes along the top horizontal line and near the first or second vertical line. Geometrically, what is happening, is that eyes are predisposed to look at those areas of an image first. Meaning that your audience will see the subject of your image before they see anything else. That visual control is powerful, especially in headshots and portraits.
- Make the Most of Your Environment
If your photos look like elementary school headshots, you are being too rigid in your framing. Here are a few ways to achieve this effect.
The most common way to add attractive chaos to an image is through foreground framing (Utilizing objects in front of the subject to lock them into the photo). If the object creates a feeling of the subject being locked into place, it’s doing its job. These framing objects provide key insights and help shape the narrative of your photo. Decaying bricks tell a different story than a pristine glass window. Here are some examples of great frames that often appear in public areas:
- A glass window
- Two brick buildings next to each other
- Trees or other foliage
Another strategy for visual cacophony is to seek out contrasting textures. My primary subject in my photos is often of decorative concrete. It can often be difficult to make concrete stand out from the background. However, by combining concrete with contradicting textures, I’m able to highlight new elements of the subject while maintaining visual engagement. I often find that pairing natural textures with synthetic textures provides for great results.
- Never Use Flash
Flash makes every photo look worse. When you enable flash, you are essentially acknowledging that you do not have proper lighting. This is completely acceptable when you are desperately trying to take a quick photo at a dimly lit bar for posterity’s sake. It is not acceptable if you want to proudly show the world your photographic brilliance.
Flash gives nothing to the photo and takes away everything. It doesn’t model your subject, or define their features, it instead causes color fading. For the sake of your photos don’t dilute them with a glaring white light. Rather, choose a better time of day to photograph or invest in a new lighting system.
It takes years to master the art of framing and composition. Photography demands a mixture of technical and storytelling knowledge. To avoid finding a great subject that you’re inspired to photograph, only for your technical know-how to sell the image short. Use the tools discussed in this article to get quality photos every time.
- Utilize the camera grid/ rule of thirds
- Create purposeful disorder by making the most of your environment
- Never use flash unless you don’t care about how the photo turns out
By honing in on these three bits of wisdom, you’ll see incredible growth and receive the compliments to prove it. So, get out there, capture beautiful moments, and share inspiring stories. Can’t wait to see what you photograph next.