Is your photography still on auto mode?
This is for those people relatively new to photography, who would like to get more control over their shots. The simplest method I can suggest is to move to shooting on the “aperture priority” mode from auto. I have personally found this to be the easiest way of taking photographs that one can actually control to deliver an end product that one visualizes.
Very simply, aperture is how large is the opening in your lens through which light strikes the image sensor in your camera. Just as the pupils of our eyes dilate in order to let in more light in a darkened room, and become narrow slits when you suddenly step into the bright sunlight, the aperture of the camera opens up to a lesser or greater extent depending on the intensity of the light. The interesting side-effect of this changing aperture in cameras is that it directly impacts the depth of field of the image that you are photographing.
You have probably seen photographs where the eyes of a person are in sharp focus while the rest of his face is out of focus. Or of flowers where the main flower stands out from the surroundings because everything else is blurred while the flower is in sharp focus. These images use a narrow depth of field to get this effect.
And how does one get a narrow depth of field? Very simple actually. Just put your camera on aperture priority. Now when you move the dial, you will see the f stop reading changing. Take this down to the lowest possible level available on your camera – maybe it is 2.8. The smaller you can make this number, the more the aperture opens up to let in more light, & the narrower the depth of field that you can get.
When you fix the aperture, the camera automatically adjusts the shutter speed to ensure that the image is properly exposed. Fundamentally, the more the aperture opens, the higher the shutter speed needs to be in order to ensure that the amount of light striking the sensor just enough to ensure proper exposure of the image.
Once you have adjusted the aperture, all you need to do is choose your subject, aim, compose your picture, and shoot! Here is an example of a shot where I used a narrow depth of field to get just one of the idols in focus, while keeping the others blurred. Doing this helps the eye focus on the subject that you want to highlight.
Conversely, if you are shooting a photograph of a large group of people standing in 3 or 4 rows, your objective is to ensure that all the people are in focus, whether they are right in front or standing at the extreme back. To ensure that this happens, do the reverse, i.e. turn the dial so that the f number becomes larger and larger – maybe take it up to 16 or 20. The larger you make this number, the less the lens aperture opens, and the higher the depth of field you can get.
So by making this simple change in your camera setting from “auto” to aperture priority, you suddenly realize that you have a huge amount of control over the camera and the final image that emerges.
To keep everything else simple, I would recommend keeping the white balance and ISO settings of the camera on auto mode, so that you don’t need to worry about any extraneous factors while shooting.
Beyond this, following one simple composition rule can help make your photographs look much better. This is the “rule of thirds”. Most people starting off on photography put their subject right in the centre of the image and shoot away. While this helps in getting well focused images, the net effect is generally a bit boring. Plus keeping the person right in the centre ensures that she is actually obscuring the beautiful Taj Mahal behind her.
Following the rule of thirds is an easy way to make your pictures look better. What this rule says is that if you divide your image into equal thirds, both horizontally and vertically, & keep your subject in the intersection of the 1/3rd or 2/3rd lines, the composition looks much more pleasing. Take a look at the photograph below for an example of using the rule of thirds.