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A Practical Guide to Popular Photography Styles And Techniques

In this detailed guide, I will be taking a closer look at some different, popular photography styles and techniques.

Choose your photography style to jump to a specific chapter:

Action Photography

action
Action photography can be most rewarding; and it can be equally frustrating.

It’s one of the most difficult, but also one of the most rewarding. Action photography needs a high shutter speed and a good DSLR camera will offer you good shutter speed capability.

Let’s get started with our comprehensive collection of action photography tips.

It’s All About Timing

The single most important element in great action photography is timing. Success is knowing your subject, anticipating the right moment, and shooting a fraction of a second before the action takes place.

For shooting a specific action, like a basketball player shooting from mid-air, take shutter lag into consideration. All cameras, even the best DSLRs have shutter-lag. That means you are going to shoot a fraction of a second before the main action takes place.

Choose Your Subject Well

It’s always best to shoot something you know about, but lacking that, shoot something you love. Most people think of sports when they hear the term action photography, but there is so much more.

Action is everywhere and in everything. Your job as the photography is to capture the image so that it tells the story of action in the way you want to. Children are great subjects for action photography. Catching kids at outside play is a great source of action.

Animals and pets are also good subjects. Again, it’s a matter of knowing your subject, anticipating what’s going to happen and getting it in the frame.

Choose the Right Location

If you’re going to shoot a sporting event, get there early, or even the day before. Take your time walking through and around the location and when you come to a possible spot to shoot from, take these things into consideration.

Your proximity to the action. Will the players be facing you, or will they have their backs to you during the game?

What’s between you and the action? A fence? Garbage dumpsters?

What’s in the background? Take a good look at what the camera will be seeing. Is there a wall of graffiti? A highway where traffic will be whizzing by? Try to choose a spot that lends itself to the subject matter. You don’t want attention taken from the main subject.

Check the sun. Where will it be when you are ready to start shooting? Direct sunlight makes colorful action shots. Avoid backlighting if at all possible, or be prepared to use fill flash. Try a few shots before the actual event to be sure you have the right light effect.

Try shooting at eye level to make the action look authentic and effective. Overhead shots don’t capture action as well.

Consider Your Autofocus

If you shoot manually, you won’t be as concerned with the AF or autofocus points on your DSLR. However, if you are going to use the AF feature, experiment with focus spots that aren’t necessarily in the center of the frame. Just remember to set it back when you’ve completed the shoot.
Panning

To capture straight horizontal movement, like someone riding a bicycle, motorcycle, or on horseback, try panning. Use a high shutter speed and autofocus and as the rider passes in front of you, move with them.

It takes a little practice to coordinate your movement to the speed of the action in front of you so don’t give up if your first shots are what you were hoping for. If you want to catch them at a particular spot, remember to push the shutter a little before the rider reaches it to compensate shutter lag.

Flash for Effect

Set your autofocus and shoot with flash as you pan to make your image pop out from the background.

Action photography can be most rewarding; and it can be equally frustrating, especially when you’re first starting out. Because most shots can’t be set up for a ‘redo’ much of your work will to capture once-in-a-lifetime moments.

Don’t give up if at first most of your shots are disappointing. It takes real concentration to coordinate timing and anticipate movement at the same time. Take lots of shots at every event. With practice you’ll find your photos get better each time out.

Close-Up Photography

macro
Here are some essential tips to get started with the close-up photography.

To get creative, begin thinking through a magnifying glass. Ask questions, and then use your camera to find the answer. What does your wedding diamond look like up close? What happens to the pattern of a leaf when viewed through a raindrop? Is it true that no two snowflakes are alike? What color are a praying mantis’ eyes?

Shooting small objects requires some special attention to the technical side of photography, such as focus, lighting, sharpness, depth of field and composition. You’ll need a focusing system that lets you produce sharp pictures from distances closer than 20 cm or 7.9 inches.

For true macro photography, you’ll want to eventually invest in a good macro lens. Macro lenses come in a variety of sizes designed to let you fill your camera frame with objects as tiny as an ant.

That’s not to say you can’t take close up photographs with your DSLR in macro-mode. The standard lens supplied with your camera will focus down enough to give you a feel for macro photography and help you determine if you want to invest in a macro lens.

Here are some essential tips to get started with the close-up photography.

Keep It Steady

Regardless of the lens you use, you’ll want to avoid camera shake when exploring the world through macro photography. Consider a ball head tripod, which will work well, or a monopod, which is easier to manipulate in a tight space. It will give you opportunity to get your camera in close to your subject while keeping it steady.

Background

Macro photography is all about composition. Remember that the background is extremely important; you want it to complement, rather than impose or detract from your subject. In some situations, any background is too much and you’ll want to set up a solid background.

A light or white background will cause your light meter system to think the overall environment is brighter than it really is. Use a neutral or dark background whenever possible to avoid an underexposed shot.

Lightning

Lighting is the crucial element in all photography. Macro photography often calls for creative lighting that doesn’t interfere with your subject. Depending on your lens, you may find yourself literally eye to eye with what you’re shooting.

Often there just isn’t room for a flash. This can be rectified in several ways. Ring flashes, or tubes that are arranged in a circle around the front of the lens works very well as do ring lights. In a pinch, a flashlight will often work if you have someone hold it off to the side but focused on the subject.

Focus

It is critical to get your camera in the right setting and to focus on the most important object in a scene. Use a small aperture for a good depth of field, unless you want to try blurring the background.

Also, when using the macro-mode on your DSLR, hold the shutter button for a few seconds longer to get a good focus. Give the camera time to adjust to its subject before you shoot.

Depth of Field

Depth of field can be a challenge in macro photography.

There is a limited amount of sharpness in front and behind the main point of focus or depth of field, which is very shallow when you shoot at close range. What sometimes happens is that you’ll get a portion of the image sharp and clear, while the surrounding area, like petals on a flower will appear soft.

It’s tempting then, to shoot from a distance and crop the photo later, but the quality will not be what you’re hoping for. You’ll have a lower resolution from using few pixels. Instead, adjust the aperture, selecting a smaller number to increase your depth of field.

Reducing the aperture means less light is allowed to reach the image sensor so you will have to lengthen the shutter speed. This increases the possibility of camera shake, so be sure to use a tripod.

Shoot in RAW

Avoid the “fine” or “JPEG” setting of your camera and shoot the subject in RAW whenever possible. You’ll have the highest quality image when you download to your imaging software.

Respect Your Subjects

It’s easy to get so excited when you see an unusual insect, and get so carried away with getting the right shot, that we cause the creature some misfortune. It’s always best to frame your shot as you find it in nature.

Don’t relocate a subject unless you’re certain you can do so without causing harm or injury and when you’ve finished the shoot, get it back to where you found it.

Landscape Photography

landscape2
Here you will learn ways to improve your landscape photos.

Whether you’re shooting the first ray of sunshine coming up over a mountain, or the evening tide coming in from the sea, landscape photography, when it is done well, can be riveting. Remember, photography is about light and in landscape photography, it’s constantly changing.

As the sun moves overhead, the light captures a completely different feel of the landscape with each movement toward the horizon. Bring plenty of memory cards and don’t consider any scene complete until you have dozens of shots from different angles.

Let’s get started with these landscape photography tips to make your shoot successful.

Let’s have a look at the ways to improve your landscape photos.

Maximize Your Depth of Field

When taking a landscape photo, it is important to get both foreground and background into focus. Therefore, shoot your first shots using a small aperture setting (a higher number) because the smaller your aperture the greater the depth of field.

In general, it is good to set the aperture as f/11 or higher if you want to have the whole scene in focus. To compensate for less light coming in to your image sensor, increase your ISO or lengthen your shutter speed for a longer exposure. If you are not sure what an aperture or f-stop is, have a look at our exposure guide.

Don’t limit yourself by thinking you have to get a perfect shot the first time. Experiment. Take several shots at one setting, then raise your ISO a step and shoot a few more. It is only by experimenting that you will find which settings are most successful.

Use a Tripod

Let’s face it; most photographers just don’t like using a tripod. They get tired of lugging it around, expanding its height and adjusting the angle. Frankly, it just seems too time consuming, so many photographers compensate by using a faster shutter speed hoping to avoid camera shake.

That’s a short cut you want to avoid because you’ll often come up with a grainy image. By using your tripod and leaving the shutter speed long, you’ll be much happier with the results. Also, be sure to use a cable or wireless shutter release to give the shot even more camera stillness.

Remember; always use the camera settings that will best suit the photo you want to shoot. For landscape photography, you’ll want to experiment with different aperture settings and that means leaving the shutter speed long. Also, if you speed up your shutter, you’re bound to lose important information on the image that won’t come through.

Few photographers will argue with the fact that using a tripod is a must for landscape shots. Beginning photographers are often amazed to see their first shots taken with a tripod. In fact, the results can be so improved; you may find yourself using a tripod in all your work.

Add a Figure or an Object in the Foreground

The foreground of your shot is the viewer’s entrance into the photo. Using foreground creates a natural sense of depth in your shot that you might not get otherwise. Before you shoot, search the foreground for something that will add to your shot.

For example if you’re shooting a mountain off in the distance, look for possible subjects where you are standing. Something simple, like a lone flower can make a startling impression as the viewer steps into the photo.

Try shooting low to accentuate the foreground. Lower the tripod and crouch down to bring it in close. Remember to adjust to a small aperture to get a large depth of field to keep as much of the image as possible in clear focus.

Adding a figure or object in the foreground is a great way to create a dramatic effect to the landscape photo. For example, a shadowed figure in front of the sunset.

Find Your Focal Point

Remember that we shoot pictures with the finished product in mind. A landscape photograph without a focal point will produce a photo with an empty feeling, like there is something missing. There is! We want the viewer’s eye to come naturally to a rest.

Before you look through the viewfinder, look at the scene. What will make a good resting spot? What will capture the attention of the viewer’s eye? Determine the central point of interest and adjust the aperture for the best sharpness between the focal point or subject, and the foreground or background.

Landscape photos can easily look boring if you do not add interest to the composition. Tell a story with your photo by adding interesting objects. For example, when taking a photo of a snowy landscape, include a tree buried with a snow to tell a story how it got buried under the snow.

Changing your depth of field will give you a completely different photo. Choose more than one focal point and take lots of shots using each one.

Make the Most of Natural Light

Be prepared to be patient, and if possible, be willing to go back the next day or on a day with different weather to see how light changes the scene in a relatively short amount of time. Try various settings on your camera. Each will capture your subject in a slightly different manner and you’ll be amazed to find some truly startling shots when you get back to your computer screen for editing.

If possible, avoid the overhead sun. A full sun creates no shadows or light forms. Landscapes really come to life when there is a dramatic show of light. You won’t find that with midday sunlight. Instead, think sunset, or sunrise, known as the golden hour.

About 20 minutes before or after the sun comes up or sets is the best time to shoot landscape. The sun is soft and it throws startling shadows on the landscape as it meets the horizon.

Remember that the challenge in landscape photography is to capture light as it is reflected at different depths. That’s what will give your photo dimension. Be sure to allow for plenty of time, and keep this thought in mind: shoot, shoot, and shoot some more.

Use Leading Lines

Using leading lines helps the viewer to focus their sight with more ease on the main points of the composition. One good way to use leading lines is to add a sense of depth to your landscape photos. For example, adding a rustic fence in the foreground gives a better sense of depth.

Lenses

If you use a variety of lenses you will not only want to use a tripod, but you’ll want to experiment with various speeds with each lens. Remember – always choose a shutter speed with a denominator that is larger than the focal length of the lens.

If you’re working with a lens of 200mm, shoot at 1/250 of a second or faster. With 100 mm, shoot at 1/125 or faster. For a 50 mm keep your shutter speed at least 1/60 of a second.

Take Panoramic Photos

Panoramic photos consist of multiple shots of a single scene that has been put together as a continuous photo. This technique is has gained more popularity in the past years thanks to easy panorama functionalities in mobile phones’ cameras.

Nature Photography

nature
Nature photography calls for being at the right place at the right time.

Whether you’re shooting animals in their native habitat, birds, trees, craggy mountain peaks with waterfalls, or a spindly cactus flower on a desert floor, the challenge is to seek a natural image that will look startling through the lens of a camera.

Nature photography is quite different from taking snapshots at a family get together. It calls for being at the right place at the right time and working with a subject who won’t take direction. It’s approaching the subject on its own terms and recording a moment in its life that will never be again.

A good nature photographer does more than just frame a shot and snap it. It’s crucial to know the settings on your camera and how to use them, so you can quickly adjust it as each opportunity presents itself.

Here are just a few ideas to help make your nature photography experience successful.

Be There

The only way to get good nature shots it to be out in nature.

Plan a shoot ahead of time and be sure you have all the supplies for your camera, as well as supplies for yourself.

If possible, take someone with you; there’s plenty to carry and you can always use the extra set of hands.

Be Aware Of The Best Light

Light coming in from different directions produces different results. It’s good to have an idea of how natural light affects your subject matter.

 

Front light: If you’re using light that shines directly on your subject, try shooting just after dawn or before sunset. The front light is softer because the light source is still low on the horizon. This time is known as “the golden hour,” in photography.

Back Light: Back light is ideal for creating silhouette. Position yourself so the subject is between you and the sun. Be sure your subject reflects a recognizable shape – that’s what creates a strong image. When working with back light, you may find that using a fill flash on the subject helps to make it pop out of the background.

Side Light: Use side light to give your photo real depth. Photos get their three dimensional feel and look from shadows and highlights. Unless it’s noon and the sun is directly overhead, it’s fairly easy to catch a shot with side light. This brings out texture in a scene.

Overhead Light: This is the most difficult to work with. There are no shadows and the light creates dark lines under anything with dimension. If your photographs aren’t coming out the way you’re seeing them in your head, chances are you shot them in overhead light. Go back to the scene during the golden hour and see what an amazing difference there is.

Be Steady

Many nature photographers shoot with a variety of lenses, some too heavy and lengthy to keep steady if simply hand held, so it’s always best to bring a tripod or a monopod.

Keep in mind however, that you’ll be out walking, often for considerable distances, to get just the right shot. Invest in a sturdy light- weight, aluminum model that you can fold up and attach to a backpack.

In a pinch, you can brace your camera against a sturdy object; perhaps a tree, or a friend’s shoulder if they’re willing. At the very least, use a cable release or a self-timer to alleviate camera shake.

Be sure to depress your shutter gently lest it cause a slight vibration that will show up on the image. If your camera has a mirror lock up (MU) this is a good time to use it. This will lock the mirror out of the way before the shutter opens.

Be Determined

Don’t expect to get the shot you’re looking for with just a few clicks of your shutter.

A good nature shot is often a once in a lifetime opportunity, so take as many shots as you can, and then shoot some more.

If you’ve stumbled upon an animal or bird in the wild, chances are good that you’ve found it within the boundaries of its range, which means it won’t fly or travel too far from where you found it.

Pay attention to its habits – if it’s a bird, is it building a nest, or feeding its young? If so, you can be fairly certain it will be doing the same thing at the same time the next day. You may want to return after you’ve taken your first set of shots and checked them out on the image software.

Be Prepared

Regardless of your experience, be sure to bring all your equipment and then some. Use this list as a get started guide and add to it as you become more proficient.
– Camera
– Lenses
– Extra memory cards
– Extra batteries or a second charged battery pack
– Lens cleaning materials
– Weatherproof storage container for your equipment
– Tripod
– Water
– Large plastic bag that you can turn into a slicker if it rains
– Flashlight
– Cell phone for emergencies

Be Ethical

Always respect nature. If you find a nesting bird, be especially careful. Also, remember that anyone who sees you snapping photos will want to follow close behind to see what you were photographing.

You don’t want to startle the animal, so don’t invade its safety zone. Keep a fair distance from your subject by using a telephoto lens. Never touch a nest or move it to a different spot to get better light. Real nature photography is catching your subject in its natural setting.

Night Photography

night
Here is a collection of practical tips to get great photos during the night time.

We all know that it is very challenging to take good quality images in a low light conditions. Fortunately your DSLR can be adjusted to compensate for that challenge, and in fact, pick up on light sources that may not be obvious to you.

Here is a collection of practical tips to get great photos during the night time. Remember there are no hard and fast rules in photography. Experiment to get the scene just the way you want it.

Tripod

Keep in mind, as a general rule, that the less light you have available, the longer you have to leave your lens open and the wider you have to have it open. That means you have to keep your camera absolutely still.

Don’t lose a great shot just because you didn’t feel like toting your tripod. Without one, you will surely be disappointed with the results of your shoot. Don’t rely on finding a level surface at the scene; be prepared. Use a cable release or the auto-timer.

Avoid Flare

If you’re serious about night photography, you may want to invest in a lens hood. These attach to the front of your lens and like blinders, keep out unwanted light. As you become proficient with night photography, and go for longer exposure times, a lens hood helps restrict light from an unexpected source, like streetlamps or electronic signs in the distance.

If you shoot without a lens hood, check the area for potential light problems and use your hand, or a piece of cardboard to avoid flare.

Experiment with Exposure

A long exposure calls for a slow shutter speed. Most of your night shots will probably need an exposure time of from one/half to two seconds; however, as you become familiar with shooting at night, you’ll sometimes find opportunities that call for an exposure time of from five to 30 seconds, depending on the image you’re trying to capture.

Create light balance by setting your aperture to a larger number which leaves the shutter open longer. Take lots of shots at different exposures, and keep a notebook handy to record the settings you used for each shot and use it for reference.

When to Use Your Flash

If there are people in the scene, or any type of movement, you’ll probably have to rely on your flash to capture the shot. The problem with flash at night is that the photos are often washed out, almost too stark against the dark background.

To avoid this, try shielding the flash with your hand or a small square of cardboard to direct the flash upwards instead of directly on the subject.

Bring a Flashlight

Carry a flashlight with you for several reasons. First of all, when it’s dark, it’s often difficult to tell if you’re in focus. Turning a flashlight on the subject will tell you if you’re in focus. Also, it’s a good idea to scan the area of the scene for extraneous objects that you don’t want in the photo.

Flashlights are also ideal for minimally lighting up a foreground. They can also be used to highlight certain objects, or to create dramatic shadows.

Stay Safe

Shooting at night means you’ll be out in the dark. Whenever possible, bring someone with you. It’s easy to get so caught up in what you’re doing that you forget to pay attention to what’s going on around you. For safety’s sake, don’t let that happen.

Be sure to bring a cell phone along in case of an emergency and pay close attention not to get lost. Even the best photographers can get so focused on what they’re doing that they forget to pay attention to where they’re going.

Portrait Photography

portrait
Improve your photos immediately with these portrait photography tips.

You don’t have to have a professional studio with lots of expensive lighting and equipment to get a great portrait. With a bit of imagination, and a quality DSLR camera, you have all you need to take a striking portrait.

Improve your photos immediately with these portrait photography tips.

Take Your Time

Never rush a portrait shoot. Plan on spending a few hours with your subject. Be prepared to go to them – whether it’s at home, work, or play. Putting your subject in their natural setting will go a long way in getting a portrait they’ll want to keep forever. Put them where they are comfortable and you’ll find it’s easy to set up the shot.

Dress for the Occasion

Most people like to get “dressed up,” when they have their picture taken, and that’s fine…but don’t stop there. Have them bring a few changes of clothing. Let them choose what’s comfortable. Gone are the days when portrait subjects donned white shirts and black ties. Encourage color and accoutrement. Have them make a personal statement.

Perspective

Of course you’ll want to shoot a few of the straight on, eye to eye, portraits.

Those are great. But don’t stop there. Have your subject sit down, stand up, and look sideways while you shoot from the top of a chair, or through a window.

The Eyes Have It

Great photos make eye contact, but that doesn’t mean you have to have your subject focus on you. Have them look at something outside the field of view. Create intrigue by asking questions they have to answer only with their expression. Make them giggle. Have them think of something dreamy. Say something to make them blush.

For a dramatic shot, move in close and fill the entire frame with the subject’s face. Capture only the eyes, or cover one eye with long hair, or a hat.

Use the Light

Without light, you have nothing to shoot. Light is the part and parcel of photography, so pay attention to the available sources of natural light and try them all. Open a window shade, or a front door. Turn off your flash and use a tripod.

If you’re outside, try not to shoot with the sun directly overhead because its shadows are not very favorable to facial features. Your best shots will be those with the sun behind you. If the shot you want has the sun is behind the subject, use fill flash. Try shooting a silhouette if the sun is low on the horizon. If you are near a source of water, try a shot of their reflection.

Focus

Your depth of field is used for focus. If you find that your portraits are focused in the center of the face, but not so the edges, ears and hair, try using a smaller aperture to widen the depth of field.

Have Fun – Be Spontaneous

Have the subject experiment with mood and emotion. Everything from laughter to extreme serious has its place in portrait photography.

Not all poses are good. In fact, many poses come across as strained and unrealistic. Shoot your subject in his or her own environment. Whether at work, out on the golf course, inside their gourmet kitchen, or relaxing in the backyard, your subject will be more likely to relax and be themselves.

Not only will your subject feel more comfortable but you will get some amazing shots when you let them react to the situation on their own. Tell them not to pay any attention to you, but to go about their regular business as though you weren’t there. Have them make a phone call, or concentrate on a computer screen.

Props

Props can be great if not overdone. For example, if you’re subject is a gourmet cook, get a shot of them tasting a steaming dish with a large wooden spoon. Shoot young children with a favorite toy, a teenager with an iPod, a fisherman reeling in his line, a couple sharing an ice cream cone. Get creative. Think fun.

Shoot, Shoot, Shoot

If there is one single tip for taking portraits, it would be to shoot as many as you can. It’s great if you get one great shot at a shoot, but go for more than that. Take a hundred shots and you’ll probably have ten good ones; three great ones, and one dynamic WOW! Don’t take a chance on missing the WOW. Keep shooting.

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