Photography Tips

Rule of Thirds
People typically compose a shot with the subject in the center of the photo. There is nothing wrong with this technique, but it produces photos that consistently look the same. You can create more compelling and interesting shots by using the Rule of Thirds, a concept rooted in The Golden Ratio of classical Greece.

The Rule of Thirds states that the human eye prefers objects that are divided and aligned in a particular fashion. This rule is a fundamental principle of photography that will produce more interesting and original photos. How To Use First divide your scene or viewfinder into a tic-tac-toe pattern. Align your primary subject so it is at the intersection of any vertical and horizontal line - instead of in the center. The subject is represented by the dotted circle in the diagram. You can also use these horizontal lines to determine the appropriate amount of horizon - typically use 1/3 to 2/3 of the frame, instead of 1/2. Experiment placing your subjects off-center and you will be suprised by the results.

Changing Perspective
The perspective a photographer uses with his/her camera can add depth and volume to the objects within a scene. Perspective creates the visual illusion that one object is in front of or behind another object. Good use of perspective can transform a 2 dimensional photograph into a 3 dimensional work of art.

A photo lacking sufficient perspective may appear lacklustre and flat. Many people unknowingly limit their perspective by a) taking all their photos at eye level or b)not including objects within the foreground/background.

How To Use
• Take photos at heights other than eye level. Bend down or shoot from above.
• Incorporate more foreground objects in your photos to show depth.
• Change the object of your focus, modify the aperture setting, use shadows.

Move Closer
People commonly stand too far away from the subject of their photographs. Unfortunately most don’t realize this until they review their pictures later. Standing too far away from a subject produces elements that are too small and less detailed. Be aware - the average camera’s viewfinder does not accurately represent the actual distance to the subject. When in doubt, move closer.

How to Use
The next time you take a picture, walk closer or zoom in on your subject. Experiment taking the same picure at different distances. Your final photo will be stronger and more expressive. Most cameras feature a “macro mode” that allows photographs to be taken at very short distances from the subject (i.e. 2 - 12 inches.) Use this setting to capture the intricate detail of flowers, plants, machinery, textiles, or objects. Macro photography produces strikingly detailed images.

Lighting Conditions
When composing your photograph, take a moment to consider the direction of the light towards your subject and the time of day. The natural color of light changes throughout the day. Photographers refer to the color of light as “color temperature.” Mornings and evening feature light that is red, yellow, and orange as a result of light particles traveling over longer distances in the atmosphere. Mid-day hours feature light that is clear, blue, bright, and wih diminshed shadows.

Light can strike your subject from the front, back, and/or side. Front lighting produces a subject that is evenly light with minimal shadows and good detail, but with less defined texture and volume. Back lighting produces a subject with prominent shadows, a bright silhouette, but foreground detail is usually diminished and darker. Side lighting or diffuse lighting (through clouds) produces a subject with good detail, texture, and volume - oftenly a happy medium.

Some of the best lighting conditions exist before 10 a.m. and after 3 p.m. Colors are flat and less vibrant in photographs taken around noon.

Proper Exposure
Exposure is a measure of the total amount of light that strikes the sensor or film inside the camera. A properly exposed photograph demonstrates a full range of color, from bright whites (called highlights) to dark blacks (called shadows). You don’t have to be an expert to recognize a photo that is improperly exposed. It may appear too dark, too gray, too white, or may be missing details and textures.

Obtaining proper exposure for a photo on a given day (in a given light) can be difficult, but don’t worry. Modern cameras take a lot of the work out of achieving a proper exposure for your pictures. How To Use 1) Find your subject and center the viewfinder crosshairs/box on the subject. Depress the shutter button halfway and hold. This will force the camera to choose a proper exposure by evaluating the light striking your subject (i.e. a face). 2) If satisfied with the preview in the viewfinder: compose the perspective of the desired shot, depress the shutter button fully to take the picture. Experiment centering on different subjects (sky, ground, colors) to see different real-time exposures reflected in the viewfinder/screen.

Jonathan Parker, Park Ranger

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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