Photography in simple terms is easy. You just need to point the camera at something and click the shutter. In my early years of photography, I would get so frustrated after getting home and looking at the images I captured. I liked none of my photos. This led me to the four aspects of photography I was missing. Photography requires just four steps for framing your photos on the camera’s viewfinder or on the screen of your mobile device.
Those four items are subject, composition, technique (F-Stop, aperture, ISO), and light. We’ll discuss each of these items and how it applies to DSLR and mobile photography. These items will determine your final image.
Let’s get started.
The most crucial aspect of your photo is your subject. A subject is what defines the image, You subject could be a person, a dog, a mountain, a lake, the sun, or even a flower. Once you have your subject identified it’s time to frame it with the photo and that takes us to aspect number two.
This second aspect of creating a photo process is important. The composition is how the viewer understands your subject within the environment. The composition has to do with the placement (framing) of your subject in an environment.
Also, when composing a photo, I always define the foreground, mid-ground, and background elements. Should the subject be placed in the center? Left? Right? There isn’t a right or wrong answer.
The best way is to take three different shots with your subject placed in those three areas of the frame and see how the images compare with each other.
Other composition features to be aware of are distractions in the foreground and background. Tree limbs and tall weeds are the objects that frequently get in the way with my photos. There are times I don’t even notice them in the shot, but I see them in post-production. It takes a lot of practice to analyze the features of the photo within a few seconds.
F-Stop, aperture and ISO make up the exposure triangle. There are books written on this subject of photography alone. You can adjust these settings on DSLR and a mobile phone in manual mode. The short version is F-stops range from f/1.2 all the way to f/32.
What this adjusts is the aperture in the lens and it determines the amount of light entering into the camera. A lower-numbered f-stop is a wider aperture and allows more light. An f/32 aperture setting lets in the most light. There are a lot of variables, but I generally get the best results for landscape photography between f/8 and f/16.
The ISO setting adjusts the camera’s sensitivity to light. On a bright sunny day, you want to use the lowest ISO value available. On most DSLR cameras the value is 100. On a mobile phone, values may be as low as 50. On the other hand, if you’re shooting in lower light, you may need to boost your ISO value to 800 or even 1600.
The tradeoff with a higher ISO value is you are adding grain into your photos. Think of ISO as artificial light. You’re just telling the camera there is more light than is actually available. The camera then adds the fake light to the image which produces grainy images in the blacks and shadows of your photo.
The technique is more trial and error until you develop your own style. I generally shoot photos on the brighter side because I shoot in RAW format. It’s much easier to darken a bright photo than to brighten a dark photo. This has to do with grain being added to the photo when making a dark image brighter.
Light is everything from natural (the sun) to artificial (a cell phone light, flashlight, streetlight, to professional lighting set up). Light and light placement is how to change your photos. Again, books have been written on this subject, but I’ll do a small break down here for you.
Light intensity, angle, and placement onto the subject determines the final outcome. Early mornings and late afternoons produce the best natural light for subjects. With warm colors and deep shadows, this is a great time for portrait and landscape photography.
During the summer months, it is very difficult to get good colors during a sunny day in the middle of the day. The light is too harsh, and an ND filter is necessary. This is a discussion for another time. Take the time to practice photography in good lighting first. Each of these four aspects could be broken down into their own lessons and very well may be in upcoming blog posts.
Let’s analyze a photo and we’ll talk about these four aspects.
The subject in this photo is the cloud of a thinking man during a sunset. You may see something different 😊
I placed the cloud in the center of the image. Center-aligned works well since the surrounding sky isn’t as interesting and the burst of sunlight is behind the cloud. Another aspect to look for is natural leading lines that lead the viewer’s eyes towards the subject. Here are the leading lines in the image:
As you can see, I placed arrows on the natural leading lines that are pointing to the subject. The entire photo is telling your brain what to focus on. It’s very neat when you begin to notice leading lines in your own photos.
Analyze: Technique (F-Stop, aperture, ISO)
Now for the nerd stuff! This photo was shot at 1/80th of a second at f/13 with an ISO 100. The focal length is 47mm. That means I was zoomed in on the subject. The shutter was open for only 1/80th of one second and the aperture was set to allow less light into the camera! Very crazy when you think of the speed. Check out the screen capture of the settings in Lightroom.
The placement of light in this photo is behind the subject which provides backlighting and silhouetting of the subject. It is a common theme with sunset photos. If we were shooting a portrait of someone and they had their back to the sun, we would need artificial light for our human subject. Otherwise only their silhouette would be visible and minimal light from the sun visible on the face.
Until Next Time
The next time you’re out taking landscape photos, keep these four aspects in mind before you click the shutter button. If you have any questions regarding any of these four aspects, please ask in the comments section. If you know an aspiring photographer please share this article with him or her. Thank you!