This is perhaps one of the most important posts of this series. Wait. I said that before? Okay, this time, I really mean it. This post names 11 habits of great photographers.(Note: These habits apply whether you are shooting with a camera phone, a point-and-shoot, or a DSLR.)
1. Choose a subject (first). When shooting children, they know when to focus on the child and when to focus on something related to the story they’re communicating about that child. They choose a subject first,adjust their camera accordingly, then shoot.
2. Keep their backgrounds simple (and clutter-free). Unless a cluttered background is part of the story of the picture, they keep the focus on their subject by keeping the background simple. Vacuum cords, TV remotes, dirty diapers, bras, and anything else lying around are unnecessary distractions to what could be a fabulous picture.
3. Shoot in lighting that is most flattering to their subjects. These photographers shoot with their backs to the sun to give their subject(s) beautiful frontlighting. Or they intentionally shoot with the sun in front of them to create dramatic silhouettes.
4. Shoot in the morning or late afternoon. I said this before in the post on lighting, but I wanted to say it again because it’s important. When shooting, the great photographers who use natural light aim to shoot closer to sunrise or sunset.
5. Use a tripod or know how to hold their camera to minimize “camera shake.” Shaky hands = Blurry photos. Whether voluntary of involuntary (this often happens when you push a camera’s shutter button), camera shake is a common, and, often, unrecognized mistake of newbie photographers. To avoid camera shake, use a tripod , change your ISO in low lighting conditions, or set yourself or your camera against something firm.
6. Know when to fill the frame.
When shooting children in particular, these photographers know that one of the best ways to make a strong composition is by moving in closer (or using their zoom) and having the child fill the frame. As a warning, when doing this, you’ll want to check the focusing distance of your camera so as to prevent blurriness.
7. Choose the best quality image option their camera allows. With their DSLRs, these photographers know to shoot in raw (a format that contains all of the image’s data) and then convert to JPG in post-production. Of course, if your camera only allows JPGs, then choose the largest and finest quality option.
8. Place their subjects off-center.Centering your subject every time gets really boring, so why not experiment? Good photographers shoot their subjects in a way that best communicates the story they are trying to tell. One photography rule that some follow religiously is the Rule of Thirds, a rule that says you should place your subject one third from the top or bottom and one third from the right or left edge.
9. Don’t just take snapshots. They tell stories.
Snapshots are the kinds of pictures you take when your kid rides a pony for the first time at a local petting zoo. A story is different. Stories are deeply contextualized. When viewing them, these are the kinds of photos that come with, sometimes, lengthy explanations.
10. Know how to create beautiful layers in their shots. When needed for their story, these photographers shoot with a foreground, middle ground, and background in the shot. They do this to create depth, and, again, to provide added context for their story.
11. Find and love the light they have. Good photographers know that they won’t always be blessed with perfect lighting when taking their pictures. So they have learned to love the light they have. If you have poor light indoors, consider shooting near a door open to the outdoors. If a room seems particularly dark, consider turning off all lights. This will make the light that is available that much stronger and more dramatic.
Master these habits and I guarantee you’ll be taking better pictures in no time. I promise!