Last week I shared some of my photographs with you and asked if you wanted to read a post about photographic techniques. A lot of you told me that they were interested in some tips so now I´m writing this post. All I will tell you is what I learned in the photography class I attended for 3 years and in the photography journalism workshop I visited some weeks ago. Some of you may already know all the things I'm gonna write down and if so I would be glad if you could share some other photography techniques you know.
If you want to take more professional pictures you should seriously think about getting a good camera. Now what is a good camera? "Good" doesn't mean that it needs to be expensive and it also doesn't mean that it needs to be a Nikon or a Canon. The first important thing is that your camera has an interchangeable objective lens and that it can be fitted with an external flashgun. Furthermore it would be a good thing if your camera could take pictures in the format NEF (RAW) because JPEG automatically reduces your pictures to an inferior quality. Even if you don't want to buy a new camera + several objective lenses + an external flashgun it's always good to have the possibility to add these things to your camera in a later step.
(I take my pictures with a Nikon D3000 and a Nikon 1 J2.)
If you want to focus an object or person in your picture you may have the possibility to choose between manual focus and autofocus (which means that the camera focuses an object in the middle of your picture). If you work with the manual focus you need to be very careful to really focus on the right thing. This can be a bit tricky but practice makes perfect. Now you may already have had the problem that you wanted to focus on something that wasn't in the middle of your picture and the autofocus simply wouldn't find the thing you wanted to accentuate. In these situations a manual focus is great but you can also help yourselves when only having an autofocus. The solution is to move your camera until it finds the thing you want to focus on and then carefully move the camera back to the initial point without loosing your hand on the release.
What you focus on is left to you but when taking a picture of a person you should always focus on that person´s eyes (unless you want to accentuate another part of the body).
So now we´re already going over to the more tricky things. Aperture and shutter speed are the keys to professional photography. They also go together with sensor sensitivity (ISO) but that would go a bit too far for a post about photography for beginners so I'll leave it aside. Now what are aperture and shutter speed? The lens aperture controls how much light per unit time reaches the sensor and the shutter speed determines how long a certain amount of light will reach the sensor.This means that the more you open the lens and also the longer you open it, the brighter your pictures will be. For example if you take a picture at night and only open the lens for a short amount of time the sky will look black but if you leave the lens open for say 2 seconds you will be able to see the stars in your picture. Now the tricky thing about this is to adapt the aperture and the shutter speed to each other to achieve the wanted effect. As this can be a bit tricky and requires a lot of noodling around, I would recommend to start off taking your pictures with a semiautomatic system. Like this you can for example just adjust the aperture and your camera will calculate the shutter speed or backwards. And knowing all this will be important for the next step:
A picture should at its best have 3 levels. A background a foreground and a middleground. If you want interesting and professional pictures 2 of these levels should be blurred while the 3rd one is in focus. If for example you have a person standing in front of a house but behind a hedge, the house and hedge should be blurred while the person is in focus. Now how can you get to this? There are two possibilities to add depth of field to your pictures. Either you get closer to the object you want to take a picture of and the depth of field will appear on its own or you play around with the aperture of your camera. The wider your lens is open, the more depth of field you'll get. But watch out! The smaller the number the wider the lens is open. For example 3,5 means that you have a wide aperture while 16 means that your lens is almost shut.
I hope this post was comprehensible and useful. If you have further questions please feel free to ask. If I didn't mention something that is unclear to you it doesn't mean that I think you should already know about it but that just means that I didn't have the possibility to go into the details that much so please ask me any question even if you think that it's a "stupid" one. Now have fun playing around with your cameras!