5 tips that will improve your photography
Updated: Feb 7, 2022
Photography is amazing because it can add so much value to one's life by capturing people, surroundings and experiences. It has a way of revealing how rich life can be and how much beauty it can hold.
For us it has become a way to express ourselves and a way to inspire others. It has become a way of experiencing life more intensively, creatively and we experience and look at things, places and people with a new perspective.
Capturing small fractions of life is such a beautiful thing and it allows us to share our story and keep those special moments to remember deep in our hearts. Photography can be very powerful when it evokes genuine feelings and really make the viewer connect and get inspired by the photo.
Here's our top 5 tips for upping your photography game
1. Understanding the camera basics
For those who are just starting photography it's important to understand that ISO, aperture and shutter speed all compliment each other and you can't use one without using the other. Understanding all three of them is important to be able to shoot in manual mode and nail the exact exposure that YOU want.
Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter is open to expose light into the sensor.
The longer time your shutter is open, the more light will be passing through to the sensor and the shorter time the shutter is open, the less light is able to pass through.
This means that: With a fast shutter speed (e.g. 1/1000) you will be able to freeze any movement getting a crispy looking image and with a slow shutter speed (e.g. 1/30) you will be capturing any movement with motion blur.
Aperture is the amount of light that goes into a camera's sensor and have 2 important aspects. Brightness and blur and is also where we talk about depth of field. With a low aperture number (f/1.4 - shallow depth of field) you will be letting a lot of light in and your image becomes brighter and your background will be blurry. With a high aperture number (f/22 - deep depth of field) you won't be letting a lot of light in so the image becomes darker and it will have everything in focus.
ISO is how sensitive your camera is of light and will simply brighten or darken your image.
There is a noise factor when talking ISO which is important to know and will vary from camera to camera. This means that the higher the ISO number is, the grainier your picture will get and the less clean your picture will be. Every camera has a 'base ISO' which is the minimum ISO that can provide the cleanest image for your camera.
A low ISO (100) equals little sensitivity. The image will be darker and more crisp.
A high ISO (1600) equals higher sensitivity. The image will be brighter but worse quality with more grain.
All three of these settings are working together and by using manual mode on your camera you can adjust them just the way you want them to be.
In the picture below you can see how we made everything work together nicely on a rainy afternoon in Copenhagen with people moving around. We went for a shallow depth of field with Maria in focus and the background blurry with the aperture on f/2.8. We wanted to blur out the people walking and biking in the background even more so we chose a slow shutter speed at 1/40. With these settings it was still a bit dark since it got close to sunset so we bumped up the ISO to 400. This is why you should learn how to master your camera's basic settings so that when you go out to shoot you can get the exact picture you have in mind.
2. Use composition to create more compelling photos
To create a more compelling and aesthetically pleasing photograph you should keep composition in mind. You want to make it look appealing to the viewers eyes and really catch their attention. There are many different ways to do this but here are some of our most used composition techniques.
This technique is the most powerful way to draw attention to the main subject in the photograph as it completely isolates the subject and there's no distractions for the viewers eyes. Using this technique it is very clear what the photographer wants the viewer to pay attention to. It is very good for close up shots and central composition is often making the photograph appear very honest and calm.
In this photograph we put our subject (ourselves) in the centre of the image because that's where we wanted to draw the viewers attention. It is a very honest photograph and it appears very compelling because the subject is so isolated. There's no distractions for the viewers eyes. This technique also helps telling a story and creates a very natural looking image.
The Rule of Thirds (or as we like to call it The Guideline of Thirds)
The rule of thirds is essentially the process of using two horizontal and two vertical lines to divide an image into nine parts and create a grid. Then you place your most important subjects in those intersection points which creates a more natural looking image.
When we composed this image we used the rule of thirds. As you can see we placed the most important subject (ourselves) in the corner of the image which is where the intersection point is if you divide the photo into nine parts.
Creating strong lines leading from one point in the photograph to another creates a visual journey for the viewer. Leading lines are meant to lead the viewers' eyes naturally into the photograph and make it look more natural. They are also meant to draw the viewers attention in a certain direction or towards a specific point of interest or importance in the photograph.
In this photo we used this technique to create a journey from one point in the photograph to another and also leading the viewers' eyes to the point of interest and importance (the car).
The foreground space in an image can be used to draw attention to a subject located further into the frame and it can also be used to frame a subject in the image. When using foreground interest the viewers attention will be drawn immediately to the subject in main focus which is the goal. We use this technique sometimes to create more depth in the photograph and to make it look less flat.
In this photo we placed the camera behind a bush to create a foreground interest. We used this technique to draw the viewers attention to the main subject (us) and to make the image look more in depth otherwise it would have been a rather flat looking image.
Creative framing is a technique to add more interest, depth and visual impact in your photograph. Utilising your surroundings as a way to frame a shot can make it appear more compelling and natural. It can also help create a story in the photograph. By isolating your subject with framing will also help draw the viewers attention to the main focus.
This type of technique should be used carefully and always keep in mind to avoid clutter.
In this photo we used the technique creative framing to help tell a story. The subject (Maria) is isolated and that makes her stand out as the main focus point in the photograph. It looks very natural and photographs that seems to be very realistic and captured in the moment compels viewers most.
Lighting is a very important topic when we talk photography and will allow you to create different moods throughout the day. It’s basically the key factor to creating a successful photo and there’s so much to talk about but we’ll try to keep it short.
We always try to avoid direct sunlight and if we are shooting midday and the sun is bright we try to find alternative ways to shoot our photos. We try to find places with shade or wait for the sun to be covered by clouds, trees etc because with too much direct sunlight you will be getting very harsh light, shadows, exaggerated features and your photos will be more difficult to edit. (Also we just don’t think it looks good and the pictures we have been taking with harsh light have never really been posted because we aren’t happy about them). Depending on the situation you can use the harsh light to your advantage by using an object to cover the sun fully or partly so you have backlighting creating dreamy looks or silhouettes. Like we did in the shot below.
You can also try to capture photos when facing the camera away from the sun, but just enough to get the light to overexpose a corner of the image. But keep in mind that it will work best in the first 3 or so hours after sunrise and before sunset. We did that in the photo below.
Mostly we try to shoot a couple hours after sunrise and a couple of hours prior to sunset because that's the best light conditions. Golden hour (which is an hour after sunrise and a hour before sunset) is the best time to shoot because the light is soft and golden. Typically this is the time of day where the most amazing colours and light rays appear on the sky. The only problem we’ve had with this is that our camera is not the best in low light situations so keep that in mind when you shoot close to dusk and dawn. The ‘perfect’ light is very quickly gone and you need to know your cameras settings very well to get the most out
of your shoot.
Basically you can shoot whenever you want but just keep in mind where you shoot and to use your surroundings to get the biggest advantage from the light.
Light will also be a key factor of what kind of mood you're setting. Imagine taking a photo the exact same place but one is on a sunny day and the other on a rainy and cloudy day, obviously it’ll create different atmospheres. Like the photo below - had it been a sunny day it would've created a different atmosphere than it does here on a rainy and cloudy day.
4. Posing techniques
Posing can be surprisingly difficult and uncomfortably awkward but mastering it will 100% help improve your photographs and give them a more natural look, some more feeling and set the right mood.
We remember when we started out and were new to posing in front of the camera we felt so awkward and we had no clue what to do with our faces or bodies, where to place our hands or how to make ourselves blend in with the surroundings nor how to appear natural. We've been at it for a while now and since we always shoot content with ourselves in the photographs we'll go over all of our posing techniques, so fear not, you're in good hands.
Mind your posture
It's so important to be mindful of your posture! Straighten your back, have your shoulders down and try to brace your core a bit. You want to extend your body and try to make your limbs look longer. Keep in mind that you want to compliment your body and have an open body language. Often our body language is closed and we tend to scrunch up like a little ball when being in uncomfortable situations and if you're not comfortable in front of a camera well, then guess what you're going to do unintentionally.
Put your hands to work
If you don't know what to do with your hands it can look really awkward and unnatural. So what you want to do is put them to work! Maybe you can play with your hair, put them in your pockets or place them by your face. Maybe you can put them up in the air, twirl with your dress or hold on to your hat. If you're sitting down maybe try to lean back on one hand, put one hand on your knees and or maybe place them around your thighs. If you have a partner maybe you can hold hands, put your hands on one another or put your arms around each other. You can literally do anything with your hands to put them to work, just make sure it looks natural and don't place them in your crotch. This brings us to the next.
Using props is such a good way to put your hands to work and it also makes a photograph look more lively like using an umbrella when it's raining outside, like holding flowers in your hands, holding a hat in your hands, having a purse or bag to hold on to. Use whatever props fit in the photograph. Also it doesn't have to be props that you need to hold on to, props can also be used to add more to a photograph if it looks a little empty or boring like decorating with flowers or maybe having a guitar next to you and also if it's something that helps set a particular mood like lighting up candles.
Use your surroundings
Using your surroundings is a great way to make your pose seem more natural and also a great way to put your hands to work. Imagine you're in the ocean for a dip maybe you could slide your hands on the surface of the water or even splash around a little - that makes it appear a lot more natural and then you have something to do so you don't feel totally awkward while posing. It could also be picking up leaves and throwing them up in the air. Maybe you could touch and smell some flowers or pick one up. You could slide your hand on a tree while walking by, sit on a palm tree somehow or walk on a tree that has been cut down. Keep in mind that the key is to blend in with your surroundings and use what you have around you to create a scene and a mood.
One of our best tricks to look as natural as possible is to move our bodies. It may not feel natural but if you casually just step back and forth and move your arms, place your hands in different places (like swing them around, place them somewhere on your body, your face or play with your hair or try to raise them up in the air) it will come out way more natural than if you're just standing completely still. Just put your camera on burst or timelapse mode, so it captures every little movement then there will be plenty to chose from. Also if there's some sort of movement in a photograph it adds more of a lively feel to it and it will look a lot more authentic. We actually found that some of our best photographs were captured while putting our camera on timelapse mode and just moving around like fools, but it looks so real and that's what makes it so good. Sometimes it's not even what we were trying to create in the first place, but it looks less staged when you are captured in some sort of movement.
Facial expressions say a lot and it can change the dynamics in a photograph. It's a very good way to set the mood in a photograph and it'll help create an atmosphere. Making smirks, smiling and laughing will give it a more relaxed look and it'll create a cozy, happy and/or romantic moods while if you look really serious it'll create a more dramatic look. If you're a couple you can also kiss, put your foreheads together, smile at each other, stare in each others eyes and so on because that will definitely set the mood and appear very romantic and give it a "love is in the air" kinda look.
Choose outfit consciously
We always think about what we are going to wear when we go out to create. If you know where you are going try to imagine how it will look in that particular location and a good idea is to bring an extra outfit or two so you have multiple options.
Think about how the colours are where you are going to shoot and then try to choose your outfit based on what will make you stand out or blend in. So obviously if you're going to a very green location maybe don't wear the same colour in clothes but try something that stands out like yellow, orange or white. If you actually want to blend in, then maybe go for black or another nuance of green.
Also try to choose your outfit based on what you want to express in the photograph. Are you trying to create a casual look, then wear casual clothing. Are you trying to create a more dramatic look, then put on something really dramatic. Are you hiking, then put on hiking clothing. Is it cold or warm weather? - put on something that makes sense considered the weather.
Clothing is a great way to make you stand out, create a certain scene and express different moods, so choose your outfit consciously.
5. Creating a cinematic visual
Giving an image a cinematic look will affect its overall appearance and as photographers we want to set a certain mood in order to capture the viewers attention and evoke real emotions. The goal is to tell a story all within one shot that either inspires or resonates with the viewer. So the key aspect in creating a cinematic photograph lies in setting the scene and mood, making it look as realistic as possible, evoke real emotions and to tell a story. When all of the techniques above are combined it will help you achieve a cinematic look to your photographs. Knowing how to use ISO, aperture and shutter speed will give you an advantage and help you achieve exactly the photograph you are trying to create. Let's say you wanted to capture a photo of a waterfall then it would make sense to make the water look flowing and silky smooth. Having a fast shutter speed will freeze the water really quickly and capture the details but in contrast if you have a long shutter speed it will blur the water and not capture every little detail. So we can't say this enough, know your basics and it will help you make your photos appear more cinematic.
We used the shutter speed in the photo below. We didn't want to freeze the water completely nor make it too smooth, so we set the shutter speed to 1/100 to capture some detail but still create a fair bit of motion blur. We prefer to find a middle way when using this technique as we think it gives a more authentic look to the image.
Using composition techniques can also help create a cinematic visual as it can often help tell a story, set the mood and evoke emotions and also make it appear more realistic. Often composition can add more depth to a photograph which is making the image appear a lot more cinematic. Creating a frame that makes the viewer feel like a fly on the wall or like they're present in that photograph with you will have such a big visual impact and it will unconsciously make the viewer be more interested and compelled. In the photo below we use this technique to really make the viewer feel like they're a fly on the wall or present with us and also to make it appear as realistic (not staged) as possible.
Lighting plays a major role when talking about creating a cinematic feel to an image. Using light sources to your advantage will make your photographs appear more authentic, help set the mood and also create a certain atmosphere in a photograph. Having light sources will create more depth in the photograph and it can be light from the sun but also from objects. Mostly we create content based on light and also weather conditions to give our photographs a more cinematic appearance. Below we used the light to our advantage - the sun was shining through a window and we used it to create an authentic and cinematic look.
Editing is also a big part of creating a cinematic look to an image if not one of the biggest. Post production is your chance to enhance and tweak the photograph. We use one specific technique in post to make our photographs more cinematic.
Where there's already shadows we enhance it and where there's already light we do the same. Basically we enhance what's already in the photograph using filters in Lightroom.
Below are before and after photos. In the unedited version you can tell where there's dark and bright already, so what we did was bring down the blacks, bring up the highlights and whites and then we added filters on top where we wanted it to be even darker and brighter. Essentially we just enhanced the shadows and the light that was already in the photograph and then adjusted the colours the way we prefer to give it a more cinematic look.
This was our 5 best tips to improve your photography game and we sincerely hope you learned something new that can add value to your content and give you a better idea of how to use these techniques to your advantage. There's nothing left to say than practice, practice, practice! Practice really does make perfect. It's important to remember that even the best photographers started somewhere and they evolved their skills with time through trial and error. Get to know YOUR camera and implement these techniques then you will be off to a great start! Also remember photography is all about creativity and expressing yourself. Put your own pin on things and stand out!