They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. But what really makes a picture worth that? Here’s a clue: It isn’t saying “cheese.” Honestly, there are very key things that make a picture worthy. But there is one element that is most basic. It is not lenses, pixels, camera settings, or even the camera. Taking a great picture often comes down to what you are photographing; your subject. So, here are a few tips that will help budding photographers turn backyard shots into a playground of interest!
Tell a Story
When photographing anything, bear in mind a picture is like a story. Try not to worry about taking a lot of really good pictures, instead, worry about taking pictures that tell a really good story. Remember, all stories have a beginning, middle and an end (just as a party or vacation or day at the beach.) Make it your purpose to capture the ordinary moments of getting ready, or falling apart at the end of an affair. It is then, that you are capturing times people relate to most.
Before you shoot the shot, ask yourself: ‘What is the purpose of this photograph? What reaction do I hope people will have when they look at this picture?” It is then that you will realize you don’t really want people to say, “Wow. Look at those smiling people all lined up.” You want them to say, “I wish I was there.” So, capture being there…and that isn’t just blowing out the candles. It’s grandma tearing up, it is the proud father looking on…it’s all of those things people miss when they aren’t there.
Overall, attempt to seize the essence of the occasion, by telling a story.
Another story to be told, that can be shown without a word, is contrast. Contrast in photography generally refers to color, but contrast can also be anything that is unlike, different or reveals opposite nature. When you focus on your subject, consider both.
Surely everyone has seen the classy family portraits of everyone in the same outfit, or similar color scheme. This is great when photographing people, because it draws your eye to what is different, faces…instead of focusing on clothing (other than to say, “Wow, they all match.”) Our eyes are naturally drawn to what is different. This is exactly what you want to achieve with color in your photograph. Aim for contrast in color so that a difference is created and eyes are purposefully drawn to it.
As you are looking through the lens, take note of the colors in your frame. Often, by moving things around or positioning your subject differently, you can force a better picture. For example, if you want to call attention to a dark granite counter-top, place a bowl of brightly colored fruit on it. The eye will naturally draw to that area of the picture. Keep in mind, if too much color is present, it can distract from capturing anything specifically.
Similar to contrast in color is contrast in nature. When you have a subject that is in contrast with their surrounding or anything in the picture, you are likely looking at a good shot. For example, a child on the beach who has just learned to hold a crab is very interesting because you have an innocent child, holding a potentially dangerous crab out of water. That difference creates a contrast that makes an appealing picture.
Capture and Create Feeling
Just as the key to a good story is generally something that creates a feeling, so it is with a picture. Great ways to capture and create feelings are:
1. Photograph things that appeal to your senses: smell, touch, taste, sound.
2. Aim to capture a mood, character or personality. This can be accomplished by studying what you are about to photograph and asking yourself, “What about this interests me?” Focus on that. When photographing people, make it a point to take a picture that contains an element which reveals an attitude or the unique nature of that person.
3. Capture Emotion. Do not be afraid to capture a serious or thoughtful expression. These faces can be more revealing of the subject’s character.
4. Don’t worry about capturing everything. Some of the best photographs allow the viewer to draw their own conclusions.
In the end, a good picture is worth 1,000 words, because it is a story. It is more than a story with a beginning, middle, and an end. It is a story full of ordinary moments, and contrast. It is a story that captures the senses. But most of all, it is your story and the shared feelings of humanity. What a great story, indeed – all in a perfect picture.