There are a few fundamental rules when it comes to professional quality photography – although simple, they will change the end result of all your future images.
With the invention of mobile phones, we all have some type of the camera available to us at all times. Heck, with the newer models, we beat any old time photographer, when it comes to quality. But, having a lot of pixels in an image doesn’t necessarily make it look professional or good in that matter. There are a few fundamental rules when it comes to professional quality photography – although simple, they will change the end result of all your future images.
Before we being, let’s take care of the technical part first. To maximize the quality of your photos you’re going to want to change your phone camera setting to their max. Follow these steps:
- Turn HDR to Auto
- Open Camera Settings
- Set picture size to the highest available option
- Turn on the save RAW and JPEG files
Now that you’ve turned your phone into beast mode, let’s go ahead and get started with the essentials in professional photography.
1. The Rule of Thirds
If you’re a novice in photography, chances are, you don’t know about this magical rule. The rule of thirds falls under the artistic category of composition and it can single-handedly improve your overall end result. The way it works is by dividing your image in a 3-3 grid, both vertically and horizontally, which gives you 9 boxes.
The theory behind this rule dictates that by placing focal points, as well as, other points of interest inside the boxes (appropriately), you can enhance the experience of the viewer. The better your composition is, the richer your image will appear. The photo will be more balanced, symmetrical, and guide the eyes naturally to where they need to go.
How to turn on the grid option on your phone:
- Open Camera Settings
- Scroll down and find Grid Lines
- Switch it on
2. Proper Layering
When we take photos, what we’re doing essentially is transferring the 3D environment that we see in front of us, onto a 2D surface. What this means is that we cannot achieve pure 3D in our photographs (at least not yet), but rather we have to simulate it. This is where the above-mentioned rule of thirds comes in useful.
Let’s break down the layers of a photo. In a photograph, some of the most notable objects are the focal (focus) point and the background. Yet, if you look closely at a good professional photograph, you’ll see that in between these two main components, there are a lot of other ‘layers’. Sometimes it might be branching, other times it could be chairs and sofas, the main point is – the more objects in between your focused object and the background, the deeper your image will appear.
3. Proper Focus Point
When we’re on the subject of depth and focus points, it is very important to remember this rule – Focus on only one object at a time!
If you have too many loud focus points fighting for attention, your image will lose its appeal. It’s very important to portray your main subject as the star of your image. Going back to the first rule (told you it’ll be important), it’s worthy to note that for the best results, your focus point shouldn’t take up more than 1/3 of the picture and that at least 2/3 should be left as whitespace. Tapping over your designated focus point on your phone will shift the camera’s focus on it as well; this is a great feature that helps your main object ‘pop out’, especially for close up photography.
4. Negative Space = Positive Feedback
I mentioned the term ‘negative space’ above as well, but what does it mean? Well, it simply refers to all the space on the image that is not filled with a focus point object. This includes the background and any other un-subjective element in the photo. By using the proper amount of negative space, you can isolate the main subject which will instantly amplify its quality.
There are rules when it comes to negative space as well, one being that this area of the image should be quite plain, repetitive and overall muffled. If your negative space is too colourful or detailed it can have a contra-effect and ultimately ruin your image – this is one of the reasons why people usually use the sky, a wall, water, trees or other plain backgrounds as negative space.
Applying the right amount of blur to a photo can also create negative space, by distorting the background enough so that it’s no longer pleasant to the human eye. This will automatically force the viewer’s attention toward the focal point. (If you cannot achieve this effect with your phone, you can always use a third-party editing app, like Photoshop).
5. Perspective is Everything
Have you ever climbed on top of a mountain, only to gaze down on the beauty of civilization and be left at awe? How come you never noticed this type of beauty when you were down there, walking through the streets? Well, put simply, it’s all a matter of perspective. Shifting your viewpoint on any subject will give you a different outcome. Well, the same applies to your photos. If you were to take an ordinary picture, from an ordinary angle, it’s no mystery that your result will be, well ordinary. Try experimenting by taking pictures from above or below objects, try going closer or further away, heck take a picture upside down – whatever works, am I right?
6. The Patters that Repeat
There is nothing more dear to a photographer than repeating patterns. The human eye, for some reason, is drawn to repeating sequences, we love patterns. They are so soothing to gaze at and slowly discover each and every little detail they have hidden in them, the imperfections that break the illusion.
Patterns are usually formed when an object has repeating lines, shapes, colours or forms. They can be used both as a beautiful background, or they can completely take over the picture as one giant focal points built from smaller individual details.
Patterns have two forms, they can either be generic (man-made), or they can be natural. Natural patterns are far more breathtaking, so you should keep an open eye to spot these masterpieces in the wild.
7. Zoom Leads to Photographic Doom
No, the title of this paragraph is not exaggerated. It is only logical to think that if something if far away from, you’d want to zoom in on it. However, when you zoom in on an object with your phone camera, you’re essentially lowering the number of pixels available to display the image. Think of it this way, if you have a box completely filled with cubes that represent an image, if you were to make the box smaller, you would need to take out some of the cubes – fewer cubes, less detail, same applies to pixels.
The better alternative is to simply walk as close to your subject as possible, or as needed. This way you keep the high-res aspects of your image, while still gaining a closer perspective. Note that if you’re taking a picture of something dangerous, like the side of a cliff or an animal, it’s best to just zoom in – no picture is worth losing an arm or a leg over.
8. Natural Light is Bae
If you asked a professional photographer which one of these rules they were to marry, I have no doubt that they would pick natural light.
We as humans have tried to beat mother-nature many times, yet we always seem to fail. Well, when it comes to lighting in photography, there is no man-made light source that can beat nature. Your phones Flash, while it can come in handy for navigation through dark areas, should never be used when taking photos. It tends to create an overexposed effect, amplifying reflections, distorting colours and creating an overall mechanical photo.
Natural light, on the other hand, can give warmth and emotion to your photo. If done right, it can perfectly illuminate your subject, tinting it with a soft colour, as well as, giving it rim lighting (light that appears around corners and bends). Natural light creates natural shadows, which themselves can be manipulated to create avant-garde images.
It can sometimes be hard to find natural light, as it depends on the weather, time of day and the surroundings. So if you ever see a photo opportunity with good lighting, never miss the chance to snap a few gorgeous selfies to spruce up your story/feed.