Really good photos – the difference between snapshots and photography

Good photos – a question of seeing

Whether you want a portrait shot as your profile photo for social networks, a photo book to remember the holiday of your dreams or to take some pictures just for fun, there are many reasons why one should try to take photos that are as good as possible. However that doesn’t necessarily mean it is easy: blurred shots, out of focus subjects, unflattering picture details and many other things can ruin a photo. And yet, taking a really good photo is not rocket science – as long as you know a few simple tricks.

You need neither a high-end camera nor professional insider know-how about complex curves to create amazing photos. You primarily need creativity and a keen eye. We will tell you – without using complicated trade jargon – how you can create good images even if you don’t have expensive equipment. Ultimately, your most important piece of equipment is your eyes!

The hardware

An old photographer’s joke says that the difference between a professional photographer and a hobby photographer is simply that the professional earns money with his photographs, whereas the hobby photographer earns money in order to photograph. And the equipment that ambitious photographers can buy in specialist shops is indeed not only very varied, but often also extremely expensive. To be honest, it isn’t necessary though.

Of course the right hardware makes it easier to take sharp pictures, but sometimes you don’t need perfection to achieve the perfect picture. Even though granulation, sharpness/blur, the choice of subject and much more can be used as stylistic devices, they are not necessary to create a good shot.

Far more important than costly equipment for any photographer are three things: the subject, a successful composition and the right light.

The subject

Let’s look at the most important of these first: the choice of subject. After all, the subject is the bedrock for every picture. Don’t worry about choosing a subject that is “special” or “important”. Even an inconspicuous crocus, which is just pushing its way up out of the soil, can be worth a picture, because the beauty of the subject is in the eye of the beholder. The trick is to capture the beauty that you see in such a way that others will also perceive it when they look at the picture.

If you see something that you believe should be recorded in a photo, then you shouldn’t be put off by its apparent banality. On the contrary; it is particularly the simple subjects that often exert a very special kind of magic, as many stylish design products doubtlessly demonstrate by way of example. It is this characteristic of the subject that a photographer captures and makes tangible. And in the era of digital photography it is easy after all to take a few extra photos until an apparently mundane object eventually reveals its beauty and appears in the right light.

The composition

But a picture rarely just consists of a subject (unless it is taken in front of an infinity curve). Next to the main visual component, there are generally a whole range of other elements that influence a photo’s impact.

Often one’s gut feeling is a good guide to deciding which order will work. Symmetry seems to be perceived as very harmonious by the human eye: a subject placed at the centre of an image creates a sense of calm and balance. But be careful: too much harmony rapidly makes a picture seem boring. To give an image pizzazz, the so-called rule of thirds has proved itself effective. It places the subject in a vertical or horizontal third of the image based on invisible gridlines. This fulfils the symmetrical requirements of the eye but still creates suspense.

The light

Light plays a tremendously important role in photography. It conjures up atmosphere, emphasises and accentuates – depending on how you use it. And the best thing about it is that you don’t need a photographer’s studio with a lot of special lighting, but can often simply choose ways of placing your subject in the desired light.

Hard light creates hard edges and intense light-dark contrasts. Outdoors, you will find hard light above all in the morning, when the sun’s already intense rays fall at an oblique angle. In a closed room, you can replicate this with direct light sources. These by no means have to be special lamps: even a Lumix torch by XD-Design is able to create accents of light while a desk-lamp such as the Rima desk-lamp gives you the option to light your subject with a variable light source over a wide area.

Soft light, on the other hand, is more atmospheric, gives the photo a softer mood and is particularly popular for portrait shots. It is difficult to find outdoors, as it requires radiation surfaces that diffuse the sunlight. In a closed room however, it is easy to produce soft light. Whereas professional studios normally use a softbox for this, there are other, easier options for hobby photographers. Several indirect light sources distributed around a room achieve a similar effect. If you don’t have an indirect light source to hand, a taut white sheet will do. It will reflect the light back onto the subject. In this way you can create soft light for atmospheric pictures in a trice. Our secret tip: Suck UK’s reflective umbrella will not only protect you from a break in the weather, but will also reflect light for fantastically lit pictures.

Simple tricks for great photos

As you can see, a few simple tricks can help you to make more out of your pictures. You need neither expensive equipment nor professional training. But what you do need is creativity, enjoy taking photos and a whole host of ideas. And if you still lack inspiration, why don’t you look in our products on Red Dot 21 where you are bound to find any amount of bright ideas.

And for all those who would like to find out more about taking really good photos, we also have the new book Big Shots! Die Geheimnisse der weltbesten Fotografen in stock. In it, Henry Carroll offers additional tricks for successful photography in simple terms.

Happy photography!


Posted on 11.04.2017

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