5 Essential Camera Skills for Brilliant Photography

Understanding how a camera works is the foundation of a photographer’s skills. Modern cameras are easy to use, and automatic modes can produce great pictures. However, it’s essential to understand how a camera’s settings and functions influence the pictures it produces. Creative control comes from understanding the technical aspects of photography.

The following five camera skills will enhance a photographer’s ability to create great photographs.

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1)    Take control of focus.

Modern cameras are capable of very accurate auto-focus, but your options are limited if leave your camera to choose the focus point. Most cameras will focus on the centre of the frame, and the creative photographer needs to be able to change this for different effects. The focus points can be amended on more advanced cameras, but the easiest way to take control of focus is to switch to manual. Using manual focus means you can ensure the exact area of the frame you decide is in focus. A much greater range of framing and composition choices are available if you take control of focus, and this can make dramatic improvements to your pictures. Just make sure if you wear glasses or contacts, that your view finder is adjusted to clearly define the proper focus for you when looking through it. Otherwise, without intention, you may end up with a lot of out of focus pictures that seemed clearly focused when you shot them!

2)    Master exposure compensation.

Once you’ve taken control of focus, getting exposure right is the next core skill for the advanced photographer. Manually setting exposure is an option on digital SLR cameras, but there’s nothing wrong with using automatic exposure modes. Mastering exposure compensation means you can leave your camera to correctly expose a scene, but still have some creative control. If a subject contains mostly light tones, a camera may under-expose the picture. The opposite is true of scenes with dark tones. Understanding how your camera will respond to different lighting conditions means you can intervene and use exposure compensation. The advanced photographer can also use exposure compensation for different creative effects.

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3)    Frame the subject for impact.

Composition is another of the creative photographer’s core skills. There are plenty of theories and rules about what makes perfect composition, but the key thing to think about is where to position the main subject in the frame. Many people simply position the subject at the centre of the frame, but the creative photographer will experiment with different alternatives for impact. The space around the subject is key to effective composition, and balancing this well creates effective pictures. Positioning the main subject to the side of the frame can create different moods and effects.

4)    Use a tripod.

A tripod can make a huge difference to the pictures a photographer produces. Many people believe a tripod isn’t necessary for most shots, and is only a tool to ensure sharp focus. Using a tripod gives the photographer more options, such as being able to select slower shutter speeds. Night photography and capturing movement such as flowing water are made possible with a tripod. Even landscape and portrait photography are improved with the use of a tripod, as the photographer tends to spend more time considering framing and composition. Before you think about buying new lenses or other equipment, consider a tripod to improve your creative photography.

5)    Understand focal length.

Focal length isn’t just about the magnification of a lens, and the photographer who understands it can create many different effects. Digital SLR cameras offer the ability to switch lenses of different focal length, but even simple compact cameras offer zooms which can be altered. Long focal lengths can be used to isolate a subject against a blurred background, and are great for portrait pictures. Wider focal lengths are perfect for landscape photography, and allow the photographer to capture sweeping vistas and show a sense of scale.

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Take some time to study these camera skills and you will see great improvements in your photography.

By: Jillian Hayes (aka AtlCanonGirl)


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