5 Minute Guide to Photography For Beginners

 

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If you're anything like me, you don't ever have time to prepare things properly for your travels, in fact you probably haven't finished unpacking from your last trip before you set off on the next! The last thing you've got time to do is read a book on photography to improve your technique before you go.

Well, this page won't take 5 minutes to read and I hope it might help you avoid some common mistakes and get more pleasing travel photos.

What's in a photo?

Every photo consists of 3 elements

  • Subject

  • Composition

  • Technicalities

All three are equally important. Just as there's no point taking photos of a brilliant subject with crap film and all the wrong settings on the camera, there's no point taking a beautifully composed, technically perfect picture of a completely tedious subject.

Think about each of the 3 elements each time you take a shot. Subject and composition are very difficult areas to improve on in a 10 minute tutorial, but think every time you press the shutter.  A good way to improve your composition is to look at some good photos (there are some on this site and the sites in the Links section) and try to criticise them.  Then do the same with some of your own photos.  There is one golden "rule" of composition:

"SIMPLIFY"

Are there any distractions you can cut out?  Can you get in closer? 

The Magic Flash Myth

Don't forget to turn the flash off for night shots!

If this tutorial can stop one single person from trying to take a photo of the Hong Kong skyline with their built-in flash it will have been worth it! The commonest mistake amongst beginners is to think the flash has some sort of magical ability to light up entire cities in the dark. A very good rule of thumb is:

If your subject is more then 4 metres away, the flash won't light it!

Most cameras can do decent night shots. You need to put the camera on a tripod (otherwise it will be blurred because the shutter speed is so long), switch the flash off, and either use a cable release or use the camera's self timer to avoid wobbling the camera when you press the shutter release.

This picture of the London Eye was taken on a tripod with an exposure of 2 minutes at f16.  The white dots are the flashguns of people in the capsules taking pictures of the London skyline.  They may be wasting film but at least they brightened up my shot!  I count 53 flashes which is about one every 2 seconds.  At the moment the eye runs for something like 4 hours a day in dusk to dark, representing 200 36 exposure films wasted each day on the Eye alone!

Don't use inferior materials

If it's worth taking photos at all, it's worth using decent film. Fuji and Kodak colour print films are very good. Use 400ASA if you're using a zoom, otherwise you'll probably get camera shake whenever you use the telephoto end of the zoom.

The proof is in the printing

Cheap and nasty processing will give you cheap and nasty results. With colour print film, by far the most critical step is the printing. Find a decent lab (Boots new digital service is good) and you'll be amazed by the difference.

A better camera?

Only bother if you are getting photos which are great except for technical problems caused by the camera's inadequacy. If your shots are just boring or badly composed, a more expensive camera is not going to help!

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