Photography Tips & Tricks

50+ great photography ideas to get you started…

Toowoomba Photography Meetup Group

What is Exposure?
Exposure is how light or dark an image is. An image is created when the camera sensor is exposed to light—that’s where the term originates. A dark photo is considered underexposed, or it wasn’t exposed to enough light; a light photo is overexposed or exposed to too much light.
Exposure is controlled through aperture, shutter speed and ISO

What is exposure Metering?
Metering is actually based on a middle grey, so having lighter or darker objects in the image can throw the metering off a little bit. Metering modes indicate how the meter is reading the light. Matrix metering means the camera is reading the light from the entire scene. Centre-weighted metering considers only what’s at the centre of the frame and spot metering measures the light based on where your focus point is.

What is Exposure Compensation?
Exposure compensation is a way to tell the camera that you’d like the exposure to be lighter or darker. Exposure compensation can be used on some automated modes and semi-automated modes like aperture priority. It’s measured in stops of light, with negative numbers resulting in a darker image and positive ones creating a brighter shot.

Which exposure setting to use for beginners?
When you first get a new camera, I would suggest starting with the Program Mode setting (P) which is located on the top of the camera. It’s a round dial with a series of Letters and Icons on top of it. Program is good to start with because the camera will look after all the exposure settings for you, but you can override it if needed. Unlike the Green AUTO setting, which is totally controlled by the camera.

Which exposure setting is best for sport?
Your best option for sports photography is either selecting the Sports icon on the Mode dial or choosing the (S) or (TV) option otherwise known as Shutter Priority. This setting allows you to choose the shutter speed, while the camera looks after the Aperture setting.

Which exposure setting is best for Landscapes?
Here your best option for landscape photography is to choose between the Landscape icon on the Mode dial or choose the (A) option otherwise known as Aperture Priority. This setting allows you to choose the Aperture opening, while the camera looks after the Shutter speed settings. Why choose Aperture priority, because it controls the Depth of Field (DOF) in your photographs, this allows you to have a photo that is in focus from front to back.

When to use the Manual exposure mode?
Manual exposure mode is unlike any other exposure setting, that is because it is totally set by yourself. When to use it? Manual exposure is general used by keen amateurs and professionals who want total control over their exposures. This is because your cameras metering system can be fooled by excessively light or dark situations, creating more unwanted work in the post-processing process.

What is the Exposure Triangle about?
When you start using just Manual exposure mode you will need to become very confident setting your Shutter, Aperture and ISO settings. The exposure triangle explains the relationship between the three controls. Basically, when you start changing one of the Shutter, Aperture or ISO settings, you have to compensate with one of the others. Importantly you need to refer to the built-in Light Meter in your camera to achieve an accurate exposure.

Useful Photography Terms

What is the term Depth of field (DOF) referring too?
Depth of field is a photography term that refers to how much of the image is in focus. The camera will focus on one distance, but there’s a range of distance in front and behind that point that stays sharp—that’s depth of field. Portraits often have a soft, unfocused background—this is a shallow depth of field. Landscapes, on the other hand, often have more of the image in focus—this is a large depth of field, with a big range of distance that stays sharp.

What is Burst Mode referring too?
You can take photos one at a time. Or, you can turn the burst mode on, and the camera will continue snapping photos as long as you hold the button down, or until the buffer is full (which is a fancy way of saying the camera can’t process anymore). Burst speeds differ based on what camera you own; some are faster than others. Just how fast is written in “fps” or frames (pictures) per second.

What is ISO all about?
The ISO determines how sensitive your camera’s sensor is to light. For example, an ISO of 100 means the camera isn’t very sensitive—great for shooting in the daylight. An ISO 3200 means the camera is very sensitive to light, so you can use that higher ISO for getting shots in low light. The trade-off is that images at high ISOs appear to be grainy and have less detail. ISO is balanced with aperture and shutter speed to get a proper exposure.

What is the difference between a Raw or Jpg file?
RAW is a file type that gives the photographer more control over photo editing. RAW is considered a digital negative, where the default JPEG file type has already been processed a bit. RAW requires special software to open, however, while JPEG is more universal. Typically, it’s better to shoot in RAW because the image retains more quality making it better for editing.

What are Shutter Speeds all about?
The shutter speed is the part of the camera that opens and closes to let light in and take a picture. The shutter speed is how long that shutter stays open, written in seconds or fractions of a second, like 1/200 s. or 1”, with the “symbol often used to designate an entire second. The longer the shutter stays open, the more light that is let in. But anything that moves while the shutter is open will become a blur, and if the entire camera moves while the shutter is open the whole image will be blurry—that’s why tripods are necessary for longer shutter speeds.

What is White Balance referring to?
Your eyes automatically adjust to different light sources, but a camera can’t do that—that’s why sometimes you take an image and it looks very blue or very yellow. Using the right white balance setting will make what’s white in real life actually appear white in the photo. There’s an auto white balance setting, but like any automatic setting, it’s not always accurate. You can use a pre-set based on what light you are shooting in like sun or tungsten light bulbs, or you can take a picture of a white object and manually set the white balance.

What is Noise in photography?
Noise is simply little flecks in an image, also sometimes called grain. Images taken at high ISOs have a lot of noise, so it’s best to use the lowest ISO you can for the amount of light in the scene.

What is a Histogram?
A histogram is a visual representation of the exposure values of a digital image. Histograms are most commonly illustrated in graph form by displaying the light values of the image’s shadows, midtones, and highlights as vertical peaks and valleys along a horizontal plane. When viewing a histogram, the shadows are represented on the left side of the graph, highlights on the right side, and midtones in the central portion of the graph.

Portrait Photography

What is the term Aperture referring too?
Simply put, aperture is the size of the opening in the lens. Think of the lens as a window—large windows or wide angles let in more light, while small windows let in less light. A wide-open aperture will let more light into the image for a brighter photo, while a smaller aperture lets in less light. Aperture is measured in f-stops; a small f-stop like f/1.8 is a wide opening, a large f-stop like f/22 is a very narrow one. Aperture is one of three camera settings that determine an image’s exposure, or how light or dark it is. Aperture also affects how much of the image is in focus—wide apertures result in that creamy, unfocused background while narrow apertures keep more of the image sharp.

What Aperture to use for a portrait?
When you’re shooting a single portrait, generally you will want to use f2.8 or f4 aperture settings. As this will give you a Shallow Depth of Field, which is very desirable in a portrait.

Which is the best lens to use for a portrait?
Your best lens will be at least a 70mm focal length lens or longer. As this will help flatten the perspective, giving a more pleasing look to your image. Note: Fashion photographers use at least 300mm lenses.

What is Focal Length all about?
The focal length of a lens describes the distance in millimetres between the lens and the image it forms on the sensor. It informs the angle of view (how much of what is being shot will be captured) and the magnification (how large things will appear). Essentially, the focal length is how ‘zoomed in’ your images will appear. Use Wide for landscape, or perhaps Telephoto for sports or wildlife photography.

What background to use?
Most portraits will benefit from simple, consistent backgrounds. For example: Tree foliage, plain walls, sometimes coloured or patterned walls can work as a feature.

Where to position your portrait?
Always try to keep your portrait well away from the background, two to three meters at least. This keeps the background out of focus, which is less distracting to the portrait.

What is the best time to take a portrait?
Generally speaking, the best light will be either from an overcast day, or better still, in the golden hour. The golden hour occurs 1 hour before and after Sunset and Sunrise.

Photography Composition

Rule of Thirds
The idea is to place the important element(s) of the scene along one or more of the lines or where the lines intersect. We have a natural tendency to want to place the main subject in the middle. Placing it off centre using the rule of thirds will more often than not lead to a more attractive composition.

Framing your shot
Including a ‘frame within the frame’ is another effective way of portraying depth in a scene. Look for elements such as windows, arches or overhanging branches to frame the scene with. The ‘frame’ does not necessarily have to surround the entire scene to be effective.

Leading lines

Help lead the viewer through the image and focus attention on important elements. Anything from paths, walls or patterns can be used as leading lines.

Filling the frame
With your subject, leaving little or no space around it can be very effective in certain situations. It helps focus the viewer completely on the main subject without any distractions. It also allows the viewer to explore the detail of the subject that wouldn’t be possible if photographed from further away.

Change your Point of View (POV)
Most photos are taken from eye level. Try getting higher up or low down can be a way of creating a more interesting and original composition of a familiar subject. I’ve often seen Macro photographers in particular lying on the ground to get the perfect shot.

Patterns and Textures
Human beings are naturally attracted to patterns. They are visually attractive and suggest harmony. Patterns can be manmade like a series of arches or natural like the petals on a flower. Incorporating patterns into your photographs is always a good way to create a pleasing composition. Less regular textures can also be very pleasing on the eye.

Isolate the Subject
Using a shallow depth of field to isolate your subject is a very effective way of simplifying your composition. By using a wide aperture, you can blur the background that might otherwise distract from your main subject. This is a particularly useful technique for shooting portraits.

General Photography Guidelines

Don’t go crazy buying the most expensive equipment right away
It’s possible to get very nice photos with an inexpensive point and shoot. The more photos you take, the more you’ll know about what kind of camera to get when it’s time to upgrade.

Make a list of shots you’d like to get
For those times you can’t carry your camera around, keep a small notebook to jot down places you’d like to come back and photograph. Make sure to note any important details, like the lighting, so you can come back at the same time of day or when the weather’s right. If you don’t want to carry a notebook, send yourself an email using your mobile phone.

Don’t overlook mundane subjects for photography
You might not see anything interesting to photograph in your living room or your backyard but try looking at familiar surroundings with fresh eyes. You might catch an interesting trick of the light or find some unexpected wildflowers in your yard. Often a simple subject makes the best shot.

Keep your camera with you all the time
Photo ops often come when you least expect it. If you can keep your equipment relatively simple – just a small camera bag and a tripod – you might be able to take advantage of some of those unexpected opportunities. Or, if your phone has a camera, use it to take “notes” on scenes you’d like to return to with your regular camera.

Enjoy the learning process
The best part of having a hobby like photography is never running out of things to learn. Inspiration is all around you. Look at everything with the eyes of a photographer and you’ll see opportunities you never noticed before.

Experiment with your camera’s settings
Your point and shoot may be more flexible and powerful than you know. Read the manual for help deciphering all those little symbols. As you explore, try shooting your subjects with multiple settings to learn what affects you like. When you’re looking at your photos on a computer, you can check the meta data (usually in the file’s properties) to recall the settings you used.

Learn the basic rules
The amount of information about photography online can be overwhelming. Be open to what more experienced photographers have to say about technique. You have to know the rules before you can break them.

Take photos regularly
Try to photograph something every day. If you can’t do that, make sure you take time to practice regularly, so you don’t forget what you’ve learned. An excellent way to motivate yourself is by doing the weekly assignments.

Don’t be afraid to experiment
If you’re using a digital camera, the cost of errors is free. Go crazy – you might end up with something you like. You’ll certainly learn a lot in the process.

Consider using a tripod
A good quality tripod is a valuable tool in getting great shots, in fact when I got my first tripod my satisfaction with my shots skyrocketed. For even more stability, use your camera’s timer function with a tripod. Remember to choose when to take your tripod, as they can become heavy very quickly!

Photographing a Sunset/Sunrise
As a starting point:
• Exposure mode. Manual.
• Focus mode. Manual.
• Shutter speed. 1/30sec or longer.
• Aperture. f/16.
• ISO. 100 or lower.
• Lens. 18-24mm.
• Drive mode. Single shot.
• White balance. Daylight or Cloudy

Don’t run away after the Sunsets below the horizon!
Stay longer. The sky will usually light up with colour again about 25 minutes after the sun dips below the horizon. Most photographers miss this second sunset, and it’s more beautiful than the first most of the time!

Underexpose your Sunsets
Underexpose. This is the most important tip for taking pictures of sunsets. Slightly underexposing the sunset will make the colours look richer and more defined. The entire scene will become more dramatic. You can underexpose by using manual mode and selecting a fast shutter speed, or you can shoot in aperture priority and use exposure compensation.

Sunsets silhouettes
Create silhouettes in the foreground. Just speed up your shutter speed and you’ll have a silhouette. The key to taking a good silhouette shot is to find a subject with fine details that will let the sunshine through it and that has a recognizable shape. If you have something too huge as the silhouette, it takes away from the picture since it is just a large area of blackness.

Best time of the year in Australia for Astral photography
In Australia, The Milky Way is highest in the cooler months of the year (from around May to October). It gets cold standing around late at night so pack a puffy jacket, gloves, a beanie and most importantly, a thermos!

Best time of the month for Astral photography
Depending on whether you want a bright and defined Milky Way or some star trails behind a mountain, you’ll either want more or less light from the moon. With less moonlight (New moon) more stars will appear, but if you want some natural lighting on some subjects or landscape the moon will light these up for you.

How to capture a Star Trail
For star trails you will need a remote to control the bulb setting on your camera, even pressing the shutter will ruin the shot. I aim for an exposure of around 30 minutes, but you may choose shorter or longer depending on the size of the trails that you want.
I set my ISO at around 200-320 and keep my aperture fairly low.
Another way to achieve star trails is to take a series of still shots and stitch them together in later on in Lightroom.
Try and capture either the north or south celestial pole (the north and south axis that the earth spins on) as it creates a centre that the stars rotate around. To find the south celestial pole look for the Southern Cross, take the distance from top to bottom and extend it about three times from the bottom in a straight line, that will be your southern celestial pole.

Photographing the Moon
As a starting point:
Aperture: Set your aperture to f/11.
Shutter Speed: Set your shutter speed to 1/125 of a second.
ISO: 200.
Lens Focus: Set your lens to Auto, focus on the moon, then switch it to manual focus.

Light Pollution effects
As a general rule, the higher up and further away from civilisation you are the clearer the skies will be. Cities and big towns give off a tonne of light pollution. It’s not all bad though, sometimes you can use that stray light for some pretty cool effects.

What to do about Bad weather!
This can be tricky as it makes it hard to plan very far ahead; even a few stray clouds can ruin any hope of a clear star shot. Be packed and ready to go, if the sky’s clear, jump on it! That being said, sometimes clouds can be used for creative effects. Slow shutter speeds will capture their gentle movement, help distinguish an element in the foreground or become a feature in their own right.