There are few things more satisfying than creating a beautiful image. Whether you’re taking a photograph of your child’s soccer game, capturing an image of the family dog, or photographing a landscape-there are essentially only two things to remember: light and composition. Of course, there is much more to creating an artful image than just these two elements-but if you get them right, you’ll have something special. Photographers like Bruce Weber, who work in the studio, have a lot more control over light-but those who shoot at night, for example, may have to rely on ambient lighting. In either case, having an understanding of these key elements is what will allow you to create beautiful images.
1) Light. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to see anything around you-and without light, photography would not exist. Photographers are constantly chasing the light-seeking it out at sunrise, sunset, and high noon, photographing in bright sun or sitting shaded under an umbrella at a pool party. The quality of natural light changes throughout the day, and where you are located also affects the quality of light surrounding you. There’s no doubt that sunlight is the best source for photography (for daytime and nighttime images), but there are other options.
2) Flash, tungsten light bulbs, strobes, and firelight all work well, too, but understanding how these sources will affect a subject is important if you want to get it right in the final image.
3) Composition. Whether you’re photographing a landscape, a portrait of an animal composition must be considered. What’s happening in the foreground and background? Are there elements in your scene that work well together and others that don’t? What is the Rule of Thirds, and how can this help you create a stronger image?
4) Focus. Photographers must focus their lens to ensure that what they want in sharp focus is indeed the point of primary emphasis in the final image. There are several options available, depending on your camera model. Aperture priority allows the photographer to control depth of field (the range of focus in front of and behind your subject), while shutter priority allows you to make sure that movement is captured sharply.
5) Light (Part II). Understanding where your light source is coming from and how it’s affecting the quality of light around you is important for creating a beautiful image. Photographers refer to this as creating good light.
6) Exposure. Many cameras come equipped with metering capacity, allowing the photographer to choose how he or she wants the camera to measure the amount of light that will be allowed into the lens for a particular shot. Exposure is important in any photography, but it’s essential in portrait and wedding photography.
7) Depth of field (Part II). Understanding how aperture works is important for controlling the depth of field, an essential part of creative portraiture. For example, what you see may be everything, but your subject’s soft facial features may be out of focus because you had them photographed at f4.0 instead of f4.5 or f5.6.
8) Shutter speed. This is defined as the time it takes for the camera’s shutter to open and expose film (or, in some cases, a digital sensor) with light. A fast shutter speed like 1/2000th of a second freezes the action and makes images appear more distinct, while slower speeds like 1/30th of a second and slower allow for more blur and softness in an image.
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