100 Simple Practices: Basics of Creative Control
There are so many options you have when you are out on the field. Raj Lalwani discusses how working towards the perfect picture and achieving it is all about making the right choices.
Photography is all about having a personal, intimate connection with life. However, in our pursuit to capture what we envision, there are a number of questions we need to answer. These are options or choices that lie in front of us, ready to be used as creative tools.
26. Digital or Plain Old Film
For sheer convenience, you cannot beat digital. It is also ideal for shooting handheld in low light. But if you want to make large prints that are tonally rich, or want the ultimate in black and white photography, it is film all the way. Film is also a great medium to learn on!
27. Compact Camera or SLR
Compact cameras are light, inconspicuous and easy to use. SLRs, on the other hand, are for any kind of photography that needs you to respond quickly.
28. f/2.8 or f/16
Wide apertures like f/2 are great for low light, and also to constrict your plane of sharpness. Use f/16 if light is abundant and you want a picture that is sharp from foreground to background.
29. Stop Action or Creative Blurs
While shooting moving objects, you can use a fast shutterspeed like 1/500sec to freeze the motion—almost as if you have stopped time. On the other hand, a slow shutterspeed like 1/8sec will cause a motion blur, making it seem as if time has not stopped, but is passing by.
30. Single Shot or Multiple Bursts
If your subject is not moving, a single shot should suffice. Capture multiple bursts while shooting fast movement or if you are not sure of sharpness.
31. Wide Angle or Zoomed In
A wide-angle perspective is great for establishing the relationship between a person and his habitat. If expressions are what you want, it is best to zoom in.
32. Centrally Placed or Otherwise
Place the subject a little off centre, such that it interacts with the rest of the frame. Centrally placed subjects work well in wide-angle shots when the subject is close to the camera.
33. Left Eye or Right
Have you ever thought about this? While using an SLR, do you put your left eye to the camera or the right one? Studies suggest that over 90% of photographers use the right eye. But then, you should try keeping both eyes open. Keep one to the viewfinder and the other one to figure out whether anything is entering the frame.
34. LC D or Through the Finder
Since Live View is rather slow in most cameras, it is preferable to use the viewfinder. However, Live View is great for shooting from unusual angles or to confirm manual focus while shooting macros.
35. Natural or Artificial Light
The wonders of natural light are something you should always explore first. It is easy to work with and free of cost! In some cases, artificial light can add its own mood, be it ambient artificial light or the use of flash and strobes.
36. Fill-in Light or Slow Sync
For portraits, use a Flash Exposure Compensation of around –1EV and merely use the flash to add some fill-in illumination. Moving subjects are best captured using the Slow Sync mode, that combines a still and motion look.
37. On-camera Flash or External
The on-camera flashgun is good enough for fill-in light and general Slow Sync effects. But for creative lighting where the light source is not frontal, you may need to invest in an external flashgun.
38. Fixed Lens or Zoom
Fixed lenses are usually lighter, sharper and better for low light shooting. If the situation does not allow you such freedom, stick to a zoom lens.
39. Handheld or Tripod
It really depends on your approach to the subject and how you pack your camera bag. For subjects like nature, landscapes and architecture, a tripod is invaluable. When carrying extra gear is cumbersome, it is best to shoot handheld.
40. Average Metering or Spot
Most everyday situations can be shot using Average metering, which is also called Evaluative or Matrix. Spot metering, on the other hand, is ideal for subjects that are too dark or too bright.
41. Same Exposure or Compensate
While shooting dark subjects, a compensation of –0.7EV works better. Underexposure also makes colours more vibrant. When there are too many whites in the frame, you would rather use +0.7EV.
42. Soft Light or Harsh
Soft light makes people look really good. It brings out textures, depth and colours. Harsh light, on the other hand, can be used effectively for drama or for high contrast B&W shots.
43. Indoors or Outdoors
Look at the world outside! Is it raining? Or are the skies really beautiful? Maybe you should head out! On the other hand, if you wish to work in a controlled environment, it is advisable to do the shoot indoors .
44. AWB or Presets
In most general situations, Auto White Balance does a good job of delivering neutral colours. When you want a deliberate cast, use presets like Cloudy for an orange feel and Tungsten to heighten the blues.
45. Crazy Colours or Subtlety
A subtle treatment is almost always better than an overprocessed look. Crazy colours will look good only if the composition is simple and the colour is the main subject.
46. Auto Mode or Manual
Instead of using the Auto mode, try using the Program mode. It is automated to a large degree, but allows you some crucial control. If you know the technicals and wish to work towards your vision, switch to Manual.
47. In-camera Modes or Software
If you do not want to waste any time on the computer, you can use incamera settings for Contrast, Saturation and so on. That said, postprocessing in software gives you much greater control.
48. Default Ratio or Something Else
The 3:2 aspect ratio is supposed to be pleasing because it resembles the way our eyes see the world. For more impact, you can crop your image into a square, panorama or even a vertical strip.
49. RAW or JPEG
If you have plenty of storage, shoot in RAW. You can fine tune the photos to a large degree, and the quality is better.But while shooting action, it is best to shift to JPEG so that the camera does not slow down.
50. To Shoot a Lot or Not
Experiment with various subjects, techniques and keep brushing up your skills. However, it is better to shoot ten great photos than to capture a random burst of 100, of which one may be decent.
51. Autofocus or All Manual
AF is your safest option in most cases. But for many situations, including macros, low light, street photography and capturing bokeh, manual focus is useful.
52. Multi Point AF or Just One
While shooting casually at a party or wedding, you can easily use Multi Point AF. Single Point AF is ideal for more critical subjects, like portraits or wildlife.
53. High Contrast or Not
High contrast is gritty and eyegrabbing. Reduced contrast, on the other hand, gives a calm, relaxed feel.
54. All Colour or Mono
Whether to shoot in B&W depends on whether you can see in monochrome. The world around us is in colour, which is why B&W always helps attract attention. You can always break convention and use different settings. But it is essential to remember these creative choices because it reminds us that photography is actually quite simple.
A Few Common Gear Mistakes You Must Avoid
All of us tend to assume that we need to have a great camera to get good pictures. On the contrary, constraints can make us creative too.
Leaving the Camera at Home
Always carry a camera with you. It need not be a DSLR all the time. It could even be a compact camera, or you could make pictures with your cell phone!
Not Packing Essentials
Ensure that you have not forgotten to charge the battery, or empty the memory card. Also, carry backup batteries and storage.
Carrying Too Much
If you do not need a particular camera or lens, you should rather keep it at home. A lighter camera bag will mean that you are more agile, and will let you concentrate on the final photograph.
Underestimating the Kit Lens
The basic 18–55mm lens is lightweight and inexpensive. For its price, it is actually quite sharp and can be used for a variety of genres, including landscapes, close-ups, portraits and more.
Not Using Compact Cameras
Just because you may own a DSLR, you should not look down upon compact cameras. They are tiny, convenient, inconspicuous and a lot of fun!
Being in a Hurry to Upgrade
Unless you are shooting professionally, chances are that your current piece of equipment is good enough. Concentrate on upgrading your skills, instead.
Giving Gear Too Much Importance
If you were not able to capture a particular picture, do not blame your equipment for the same.
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