Whether you’re taking snaps of food or nature, there are plenty of simple ways to up your game.
Whether you’re taking snaps of food or nature, there are plenty of simple ways to up your game.

Easy ways to sharpen your photography skills

Lockdown has awakened a new wave of photography hobbyists, with many dusting off preloved cameras, exploring iPhone functions and even investing in new equipment.

Capturing a moment has become more important than ever.

From cherished family gatherings, to freshly baked buns from the oven or stark empty streets and roped off play equipment in parks we are surrounded by images worth snapping and memories that are important to record.

So there is no time like the present to sharpen up our photography skills whether on a DSLR camera or a camera phone.

And improving your knowledge of your photographic devices is not just limited to stills. Good quality cameras are perfect for creating online video content and providing sharp, clear images for video meetings and tutorials.

News Corp photographer Richard Dobson says if you light your subject from counter intuitive angles, you may surprise yourself. Picture: Jonathan Ng
News Corp photographer Richard Dobson says if you light your subject from counter intuitive angles, you may surprise yourself. Picture: Jonathan Ng

During the peak of social distancing measures in Australia between mid March and April, interest in online photographic resources for learning and inspiration increased with Canon Australia's photography community hub and workshop facilitator, Canon Collective, recording a 20 per cent rise in member comments.

Canon Australia senior manager of product marketing Brendan Maher said it was a sign of the extraordinary times we are living in.

"This is a history making moment in time," Mr Maher said. "If you look forward, my kids are eight and 10, so when they get to studying the HSC and going to uni, they will probably look back at this time as an amazing case study."

While iPhone photography offers a lot to new hobbyists, Mr Maher said there is something special about working with a purpose-built camera.

"A lot of it is the time you're taking and the proactive nature of going out and looking for a photograph rather than just sitting behind the smart screen.

"When you have a camera in your hand, people are looking at the world with different outlooks."

Taking the plunge and purchasing an SLR camera should be seen as a long-term investment.

"Don't jump right in at entry level, pick a camera with the technology you can see yourself using for a long time," he said.

What started as a hobby for News Corp Australia photographer Richard Dobson
- when, as an eight-year-old he photographed his dad in a cafe - became a way of life.

"Photography has been my job for 18 years now so it's my livelihood," Mr Dobson said.

"Often for my work I adhere to some guidelines that fit with the style and layout of a newspaper but if it's not your job, go nuts.

"Move around your subject, light your subject from counter intuitive angles and you may surprise yourself.

"Don't always shoot standing at eye level, try above or below your subject. Change the viewer's perspective to give them a new take on something and you'll often create a far more interesting photo."

If using an SLR camera, use manual settings as much as you can. Manual allows you to learn the principles of photography. Picture: Matt Cherubino/@mattcherub
If using an SLR camera, use manual settings as much as you can. Manual allows you to learn the principles of photography. Picture: Matt Cherubino/@mattcherub

Colleague Jason Edwards said a clean lens, good light, knowing your equipment and being ready to capture a moment were simple starting points for better photos.

"Whatever you are using, start with a clean lens. On an iPhone especially, a single finger print smack in the middle of the lens is enough to make the image look like it was taken underwater," Edwards said.

"If the first rule of real estate is location, location, location then for photography is light, light and light. Look for ways to improve the quality of light falling on your subject. Harsh shadows from the middle of the day are a photographer's worst enemy.

"If you are photographing kids then get down to their eye level. It makes portraits more intimate, and if it's a pet you are photographing you might find yourself lying on your stomach. Don't be self conscious, the picture will be worth it."

Edwards said not knowing how to open your camera quickly meant great shots could easily be missed.

"Most iPhones have a shortcut to the camera, so know how to flick it open quickly. If you have a DSLR, always leave the camera on a setting that will give you a result in a hurry," he said.

"All smart phones will have photo editing programs and you will be amazed what images you can save by lightening the shadows, increasing the saturation (a little) and giving some contrast.

"Finally the best camera is the one in your hands. There is no point having the best, biggest, most expensive camera if you're too scared to take it out and use it."

 

Commercial photographer Matt Cherubino said photography for him started as a way of combining his love for art, sports and the outdoors. Picture: Matt Cherubino/@mattcherub
Commercial photographer Matt Cherubino said photography for him started as a way of combining his love for art, sports and the outdoors. Picture: Matt Cherubino/@mattcherub

Food photographer and RMIT short course lecturer Sammy Green said whether you were using a camera or a camera phone, simple tricks could make your kitchen creations look as good as they taste.

"Don't take the photo too close to the dish. Remember you can always crop in later, but you can't crop out," Green said.

"Natural light is key, also play around with angles. For example a pizza will look great if you photograph it from above (a flatlay), whereas if you're photographing a burger you'll want to shoot it front on so you can capture all the yummy layers.

"Don't be afraid to style. Add in a glass of wine, some cutlery or herbs, even someone holding the food."

Commercial photographer Matt Cherubino said photography for him started as a way of combining his love for art, sports and the outdoors.

"Photography is so amazing in that we all have a unique eye and perspective," Mr Cherubino said.

"Light for me is one of the most important elements of photography, you can use it to express a certain mood or feeling. There are so many different options for light, whether it's the middle of the day when you can utilise strong shadows or when a really moody storm is rolling in."

In creating his captivating photo compositions, Mr Cherubino said he aimed to find a balance between light and narrative.

"Having a strong story behind your image is something that stops people and makes an impact," he said.

"Normally a lot of what I do is travel and at the moment, how things are, travel is not an option.

"I've taken my camera with me day-to-day and it definitely helps you to see things you might walk past and not usually appreciate.

"There are so many moments every day that are beautiful but we're so busy thinking about what's next we miss them. With a camera, you can stop and appreciate them. It's more about how can I make today super rewarding and how can I express what has happened."

 

TOP PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

1. Pick your time of day : First light and last light can be best.

2. Pick your lens/focal length: This can have a huge bearing on how the subject is communicated.

3. Shoot lots: Pixels are cheap so shoot as much as possible.

4. Research: Look at the masters and what elements make them great. Pick a photographer who mastered your preferred genre and copy what they do. When you can emulate it, push to find your own twist.

5. Be patient: Top photographers evolve with your technical ability.

6. If using an SLR camera: Use manual settings as much as you can. Experiment and learn through mistakes. Manual allows you to learn the principles of photography. The automatic setting lets the camera do what it wants and sometimes that's not what you want.

7. If using smartphone camera: Absolutely experiment with them, especially portrait mode where you can control depth of field.

 

Originally published as Easy ways to sharpen your photography skills


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