To create a truly great photograph, a lot of different things have to come together – both in the field and back at your computer.
Getting any one of these things wrong can turn your dream shot into a snapshot! (We’ve all had that happen – don’t worry, you’re not alone!)
Here are a few quick tips to remember when you’re in the field:
1. Choose Your Light
When you find a location, consciously choose what kind of light would work best for your scene. You don’t always have the option to return during different light conditions, but it will probably work out better if you do! Is the light going to be in the right direction at sunrise or sunset? If you think there might be a cool shadow, then mid-day may actually be best. There is no such thing as bad light. But there is also “best” light.
2. Create a Compelling Composition
After you make your first shot, review it, and decide how you can make it better. Make each shot an improvement on the previous one by remembering your building blocks of composition: using leading lines; adding a foreground element; filling the frame with a pattern or texture.
3. Choose Your Depth of Field
Do you want everything in front of and behind your subject to be out of focus? Or do you want everything sharp? Don’t let your camera decide for you! Make a conscious choice and set your aperture accordingly.
4. Focus in the Right Place
Generally, for a grand landscape type of scene, you’ll want to focus about 1/3 of the way into the frame (and use a small aperture to get everything sharp). But if you have a more intimate type of scene, it’s better to decide what the most important element of the scene is and make sure you focus on it using spot focus.
5. Get a Good Exposure
After you make your shot, check your histogram to make sure you don’t have any blown out highlights or shadows that are too dark. It’s easy! If there is a spike on the right side of the graph, you have blown out highlights. A spike on the left side means there are areas that are totally black. If the exposure isn’t where you want it to be, use your exposure compensation to take it up or down a third of a stop and try again.
Now, to polish off your photo, there are also a few things to remember during post-processing:
6. Level Your Horizon or Shoreline
Try to get it right in camera. But if you don’t, it’s an easy fix in post-processing using the crop tool. There’s nothing more distracting than a horizon that isn’t level!
7. Increase the Contrast
Images that have more variation in tone are more dynamic. If everything is a mid-tone it has no depth. Every image is different but generally speaking images are better if they have dark tones, mid-tones and light tones. You can adjust the contrast using the contrast slider in the basic panel.
8. Add Some Vibrance
Increasing the vibrance or saturation in your image will add some punch to it. I find vibrance to be a little more subtle and natural looking. Still, it’s easy to over-do it, so only nudge it up a tiny bit.
9. Add Sharpening
You can’t use sharpening to fix an image that is out of focus. But if it is in focus, adding sharpening will make it extra crisp. Again don’t over-do it! You can also use the masking feature so you don’t add sharpening to areas of the photo that don’t contain detail – like the sky for example.
10. Remove Dust Spots
It happens. We all get dust on our lens or on the sensor. Especially if you’re at the beach where there is blowing salt and sand! Thankfully the spot removal tool makes it easy to remove them. It’s one of the best things about digital!
I’ve teamed up with my friends Varina and Jay Patel at Visual Wilderness to bring you a bundle of video courses that will let you go behind the scenes and see how the pros create images with impact both in the field and in post-processing.
Join Varina Patel in the field for Volume 2 of her Creating Impact video course. You’ll find out all her tips and tricks for making those stunning shots.
Then, you can join me for the post-processing stage in Practical Lightroom Volume 3. In my video course, you’ll see how I process Varina’s photos from beginning to end. You’ll see how I evaluate an image to decide what kind of adjustments I should make, and then watch each step along the way.
The Creating Impact Bundle of both video courses is available until April 13th at a special introductory price of $52 (60% off).
- Instant access to downloadable video files.
- 23 teaching videos for photographers who want to learn about fieldwork and post processing.
- 3.5+ hours of video content – in-depth explanations, examples, workflow, and case studies.
This discount is only available until Wednesday April 13, 2017.
Also available until April 13th:
- Creating Impact Volume 2 by Varina Patel is $40 (50% off)
- Practical Lightroom Volume 3 by Anne McKinnell is $25 (50% off)
- If you missed out on the first Creating Impact and Practical Lightroom Volume 1 bundle back in September, you can pick it up now for 60% off as well!