How to Take a Great Photograph – 9 Essential Elements
In life, everything can be broken down to essential ingredients. In other words, you can simplify
anything as long as you understand your audience or student/s.
In this post, I will endeavour to answer the question “how to take a great photograph”.
Of course, to some photography is art and great art is very much in the eyes of the beholder.
So, let’s clarify what I think a great photograph is. Again, I am going to simplify because I think there
are only two elements:
Does it evoke a response from the viewer?
Does it capture the subject matter in a way you intended?
So, without further ado, let’s look at the 9 essential elements required to take a great photograph:
Composition is everything! You can have a great subject and a great camera and take a pretty awful photograph.
There are two basic rules of composition.
Make sure the subject matter is properly composed and make sure there is nothing in the frame
that will distract the viewer’s eyes.
Making sure your subject is in focus is vital.
Get this wrong and there is no turning back. Whilst there are some tools that will allow you to
correct focusing after the fact, they are not perfect.
Of course, correct focusing may be out of focus for effect.
But either way it’s up to the person behind the camera to control this essential element
3 Depth of Field (DOF)
DOF is by far the most misunderstood element of the these 9. Like focus, it’s essential that
you decide and control what you want in focus and what you want out of focus.
The example below shows 2 different DOF. DOF is controlled by the aperture.
For more on aperture I wrote a post 10 Vital Facts about Camera Aperture
Light is to Photography as a kitchen is to cooking. Very hard to create a dish without somewhere to cook.
Very hard to create a great photograph without light.
It’s pretty important you pay attention to the light.
Also pay attention to where the darks or highlights are falling so you get the right balance.
Avoid extreme contrast if it doesn’t enhance the image.
Over exposure can spoil an otherwise great image.
The biggest enemy of a great photograph is blur commonly caused by camera shake.
The use of a tripod is the best way to ensure crisp great photographs but there are other techniques.
See this post 5 Ways to Eliminate Camera Shake for more on that.
It should go without saying but I’ll say it anyway, a great photograph needs a great subject. Whether it’s a
product, person or landscape. Street scene or sports competition.
The subject should always be the most important component in the frame. Otherwise what’s the point!
The subject is the story and the most likely the one thing that will invoke a response from the viewer
(and that could be your customer)
As with composition and subject it’s a great idea to put yourself in the right position so that both of
these elements are as good as you are going to get them.
It’s always a good idea to try out different positions if there is time, to make a point of difference.
Try lying on the floor or siting or standing on a chair, you know, experiment.
Now you could be forgiven into thinking that if you are taking a product picture that’s stationary, the
moment doesn’t matter.
But it could.
Maybe the light is changing.
Maybe your props are precariously balanced and could fall over any minute.
Maybe you or your subject are getting tired.
There are lots of factors that can dictate the right moment to press the shutter. If it’s action or
a portrait every second is different.
9 Pressing the shutter
Can’t take a great photograph if you don’t take the photo!
That shutter is the only thing between you and greatness!
That’s “how to take a great photograph” using these 9 essential elements.
Are there other factors? Of course, but most of these are technical and that’s not what
I wanted to discuss today.
If you have comments or questions, chuck them in the comments box below
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