Thursday, February 18

10 Ingredients For Successful Images

Thanks to Rhodz for this one. 

If you're in the mood to cook up some sumptuous photographs, here's a quick 10-step recipe that I think you'll find appetizing. To illustrate this article, I'll use photographs that I took on a recent trip to Papua New Guinea. While some of you may not get to (or may not want to go to) that exotic destination, the same ingredients can be used to create images that will quench your photographic thirst in any location. Let's dig in!

1. Interesting Subject
I know it sounds simple, but having an interesting subject, such as this Huli Wigman posed by a remote waterfall, is important in the making of a good photograph. A photo of me watering my lawn in my shorts wouldn't be as interesting as this exotic-looking image. Seek out interesting subjects, and they will draw interest to your photographs.

2. Good Composition
A well-balanced photograph is like a well-balanced meal-very satisfying. Placing the main subject off-center is usually more interesting than dead-center. Experiment with positioning the subject in different areas of the frame to find the best composition for a particular scene. Also, carefully compose your pictures so that the background elements complement the main subject.

3. Creative Crop
Getting the best possible crop in-camera is a good idea. Sometimes that's not possible, however, because of the lens you're using or the camera-to-subject distance. What's more, after you take a picture, you may see a picture within a picture, making cropping in Photoshop required. I like the full-frame image of these sing-sing (festival) performers. However, the tighter crop draws more interest to the main subject, as well as cropping out the spectators in the background on the left side of the frame.

4. Careful Focus
Just because you have an autofocus camera doesn't mean that the camera knows where to focus. Use the AF focus points in your camera carefully and make sure the most important part of the scene is in focus. When it comes to a person or an animal, the main focus point usually is the eyes. Don't overlook the importance of the focus lock feature, which let's you lock in the focus on a particular part of the scene, after which you can recompose the scene and take the picture.

5. See The Light
Our eyes have a dynamic range of about 11 ƒ-stops, which is why in a high-contrast scene, we can see details in shadow areas, and why highlight areas aren't washed out. Our cameras, however, don't "see" exactly what we see. They have a dynamic range of about five ƒ-stops. So we need to be able to understand the contrast range of a scene (from the brightest area to the darkest area) and know what our camera can and can't capture in order to make a good exposure decision. Read on.
6. Fine-Tune Your Exposure
In most cases, when thinking about the exposure, we want to expose for the highlights, or the brightest parts of the scene. That's because when highlights in a digital file are washed out and overexposed by more than an ƒ-stop, they're difficult or impossible to recover in the digital darkroom. RAW files offer more exposure latitude than JPEGs, making it easier to recover seemingly lost highlights. As a general rule, to avoid washed-out areas of a scene, I use the exposure compensation (+/-) feature on my camera and reduce the exposure in the average metering mode (when my camera is set on the aperture priority or shutter priority mode) by 1⁄3 stop. That helps to prevent bright areas of a scene from becoming overexposed. In addition, don't overlook the importance of fine-tuning exposure with this function. Sure, you could use the spot metering mode on you camera or use the manual exposure mode, but I think you'll find that using the exposure compensation dial is much faster and easier. Of course, check the histogram and overexposure warning on the LCD to ensure a good exposure.
7. Control The Light
Sometimes, the contrast range of a scene is too wide to be recorded by our camera. That's when we need to control the light with accessories. Basically, there are three accessories for managing light.

Flash. A flash evenly illuminated the face of this woman who was sitting in the shade. Sunlight filtering through the leaves of the tree created unflattering shadows on her face that were eliminated by the flash.

Reflector. Here, I used a reflector to bounce light onto the face of a subject who was sitting in the shade in front of a dark background. The reflector also added a nice catchlight to the subject's eyes.

Diffuser. Using a diffuser, strong shadows created by direct sunlight can be softened.

8. Check Your Camera Settings
One of the cool things about digital photography is that you can change many camera settings in an instant—ISO, white balance, image quality, exposure compensation, focus point, metering mode and so on. The not-so-cool thing is that it's easy to forget about individual camera settings (as I've done more than a few times in the past), which can result in a ruined shot. Checking your camera settings from time to time will help avoid disappointing results.

9. Work And Play With Light In Photoshop
Capturing light with our cameras is only part of the fun (and challenge) of photography. Working and playing with light in Photoshop and other digital darkroom programs is another part of the fun. Experiment with different techniques and plug-ins. For this image, I made the following enhancements in Photoshop CS3: reduced the saturation, added the Sketch filter and then added a brush frame in on One Software's PhotoFrame 3.

10. Have Fun
Most of you took up photography as a hobby for the same reason I did-to have fun. I find the more fun I have with my photography and the more I enjoy the process, the more pleased I am with my pictures. So, keep digital tech talk in mind, but don't forget why you got into photography in the fist place.


  1. 10 is definitely important because whether you did or did not have fun will show in the photo somehow =)

  2. Numbers 4, 5 and 10 are typically my staples when it comes to taking photos. :) Anyway, nice rundown Sir Mark! :) I have a family friend who's recently been to Papua New Guinea too. :)

  3. I'm not too good with taking photos. Thanks for the tips. I need them. :)

  4. Where are the pics? hahaha!
    I can add another in number 6..
    When I shoot outside, I always use a dark filters.
    Too avoid blaring of a few expose areas, especially when shooting photos at noontime.
    Even the lowest ISO can't help it if its just too bright.
    I'd rather underexpose my photos than over expose them as its easier to reveal then later.
    In the end it depends on preference, instead of bright saturated photos, I prefer the ones with darker tones.
    I find more drama with them. :)

  5. I agree. Thanks for the different software available like Photoshop, my point and shoot shots can be enhanced. #10's the most important ingredient for me :)

  6. i would love to have photoshop but for now picasa is not so hard and complicated for me. would like to know more about photography xx

  7. I need tutorial on photography.
    This subject is taking over my curiosity
    but unfortunately, I have lazy eye and I don't have
    a high definition camera. :(

  8. I am just a hobbyist. I never attended any photography class. I am happy when I take photographs though. Mandy Navasero told me to join her photography class in Batanes so many times in the past so as Edi of Intramuros, I think she is a former president of a Professional Photographer group. We met her in Bacolod in 2010. Anyway I'd love to learn photography but I don't have the tuition money. So chill na lang. lol.

  9. Very informative post on taking photos from your point of view. Great job!

  10. ... and best of all buy the best camera, lol (parang #10 lang ako all the way hehe)

    great photography tips! :))

  11. I usually perform #2 but rarely #9 though. I heard Adobe lightroom is a nice photo editor, but I just can't upload it due to my slow net connection. I am also a frustrated photographer, but I only use my digi cam. btw, is it me or wala lang talagang photos under each of the items you've mentioned in this post?


Uhm.... Please do leave a comment for suggestions and improvements.


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