Tips & Tricks

Nothing revolutionary neither I've invented in what you can read below, just simple rules that I believe, helped me to improve my photography.

1/ It's all about composition

2/ Angle & Exposure

3/ Editing 

 

 

1/ COMPOSITION

You cannot control everything in photography. Things such as weather, light, etc. are out of your control but some other things are totally up to you, that's where composition comes into place. 

It's not just about framing your capture, there is a bunch of different techniques when it comes to composition. You might already be familiar with the (famous) rule of thirds, triangles, diagonals, golden ratio, frame in frame or leading lines...

In this section I'm explaining a couple of the ones I use the most. 

When composing your picture, it's really a personal choice of what you want to achieve and you don't have to follow these rules to get a good shot...but they truly help (a lot). The good thing is that they're all fairly simple to understand and will definitely bring your photography to the next level, much more than buying expensive new gear, so give it a try.

Personally I am big fan of both frame in frame and leading lines. Even though they are different, they are both helping photographers to achieve the same goal: Drive the viewer's attention into the capture and to your main subject.

 

a/ Frame In frame

Framing your subject into an existing frame is a very powerful tool to get more creative shots. Not only it drives the viewer's attention to the subject but it also helps to create depth into your shots.

They can be found pretty much everywhere and it's up to you wether you want to put them in the foreground or in the background. Have a look around and check for : doors and windows (obvious isn't it ?), but also arches, tunnels, bridges, trees...you name it.

I have made a lot of shots much more interesting to look at with this technique, even with elements you would not even consider at 1st sight.

Oh! and remember the frame you're using doesn't have to be square or equal on all sides. Round, 2 or 3 sided frames work as well. Actually asymmetric frames are probably the most interesting ones.

b/ Leading Lines

Leading lines is a very simple concept that can bring your photography to the next level.

Obviously you want the viewer's attention to be directed to your subject, the good thing is that the human eye is naturally attracted and will follow the lines into your frame, so, again, it's a great way to catch tell the viewer: "this is where you need to look".

What I usually do when I arrive on location is I shoot with my phone to understand the best composition and this is also a good occasion to check for leading lines.

Have a look around for a road, a river, a bridge, a fence, etc...there are a lot of possibilities and the lines can be straight, curved, diagonal, natural elements or not, etc.

In the end, I believe this technique is really all about putting the viewer into the frame, bringing dynamic and motion into your capture.

I have found these "rules" very useful, but remember, even if they can help you getting more impactful shots, they're also made to be broken from time to time.

2/ ANGLE & EXPOSURE

a/ Angle

Getting low on your shots can definitely help you achieving more impactful images. The reason is you are changing the perspective viewers are used to see pictures which is usually eye level.

The benefits of shooting with a low angle are:

- Gives a unique perspective.

- Easier to integrate a foreground.

- Easier to integrate leading lines.

- Makes your subject bigger than it is.

- Perfect for puddles.

All this works particularly well with a wide angle lens (pay attention to distortion though), but not only. So get on your knees and do not hesitate to get dirty and...ridiculous! 

b/ Play With The Shutter Speed

I am a big fan of long exposure, and what I mean by long exposure is basically everything above 0,5 seconds. Below 5 seconds I actually like to call them "short long exposures".

A tripod, a camera with a remote, a filter, that's all you need...(+ a phone)

I personally use only 2 filters: ND64 and ND1000. The first one is very handy when I want to shoot "short long exposures" and especially useful when the sun is rising or setting, morning or late afternoon.

The ND1000 is a must when you want to do longer exposures or shoot during the day when the light is harsh. I have had a few chances to stack both together to go with really long exposures (5 to 10 minutes) and it's working pretty well.

I personally do not bother with graduated ND filters because I think you can easily, either under expose in camera or bringing the exposure of your skies down, adding a graduated filter in Lightroom.

On the other side, a polarizing filter is mandatory when you want to get rid off the reflections in water for example, I usually put it on top of the ND filter when doing landscape photography. Pics with water will also be much more colorful showing green and blue tones.

What is great about long exposures is that you never know the result until you check the shot on your screen. Another interesting point, and coming back to the composition piece just above, it also enables you to create leading lines with clouds, water or cars traffic lights for example.

It's a lot of tries and waste pictures, but who care it's digital ! Definitely worth experimenting different shutter speeds, you might have a good surprise in the end.

From experience the following work pretty well:

- Sea: a few secondes will give you motion, for a silky aspect anything above 45 seconds work.

- Waterfalls: tricky one because depending on the power of the water, but from 0,5 second to 30 seconds, just try different settings vs what you like to achieve. 

- Clouds: it all depends of the wind of course, from about 2 minutes, it should work pretty well.

- People: get blurry silhouettes can add an interesting mood to your pictures, try between 1 and 3 seconds. 

- Car lights: it's all about the timing and when you decide to start your shot and of course the intensity of the traffic but usually from 10 to 30 seconds works fine.

The way I do it:

- Compose in A priority mode, it gives me the normal shutter speed.

- Focus and lock it without filter(s). 

Doing a lot of long exposures, I have setup my camera with back button focus, which is very handy to lock the focus. One of the other advantage is when timing is critical, you don't want the camera searching for focus and finally take the shot at the wrong time: just pre focus with the back button and then take the shot at the exact time you want. Until you re focus, you can take as many shots as you like with focus locked at the same point.

- Put your filter(s) on the lens.

- Switch to M mode and calculate with an app (I use the NISI app or Photopills) the new shutter speed with the filter(s).

- Start shooting with a remote in M mode (Bulb if over 30 seconds)

For very long exposures and/or when there is a lot of wind, I usually remove the strap of my camera to avoid any movement, as well as using the wireless feature of the remote for the same reason.

3/ POST PROCESSING

Editing is clearly part of the photography process which starts with framing the shot in camera and finishes with the print in your hands.

I am not by any means a post process guru, I have got pretty basic knowledge of Lightroom and even less Photoshop so I try to get the best out of camera to limit the editing process to basic adjustments.

My current 3 steps editing process:

1. Lightroom basics:

- Spot removal.

- Lens and chromatic aberration correction.

- Crop.

2. Photoshop: I've found this very useful to add drama in my pictures.

- Duplicate the photo layer.

- Set it into multiply mode.

- Set the opacity between 30 & 50%.

3. Back in Lightroom, make all other adjustments, presets... The ones i'm using the most:

- Boost the contrast.

- Bring down the highlight, open up the shadows.

- Whites and blacks (usually auto, by holding shift + double click on sliders).

- Texture usually above 50.

- Slightly boost the vibrance.

- On the color tab I'm mostly playing with saturation and luminance for specific colors.

- Sometimes adding vignetting to strengthen the impact.

- Local adjustments with the brush tool.

- Last but not least, adding graduated filters (almost 100% of the time). Mainly for skies but nor only.

Don't forget to boost a little the exposure for prints.

© 2019 by Vincent Marcolla.