How to take great photos – tips from an award-winning photographer | Photography

Guardian award-winning photographer David Levene offers tips for getting a great photo.

To get closer

Be bold and get closer to your subject rather than shooting from afar – this can make your subject look too insignificant in the frame or mean unwanted elements creep into your composition.

If you’re very close, try using wide-angle lenses, which might make your images more dynamic. Get creative with camera angles: see what your subject looks like from below or find a high vantage point to shoot from. Discover alternative points of view rather than simply accepting what you see in front of you.

A close up of ‘Patty’s Plum’ at the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show. Photography: David Levene/The Guardian

see the light

As obvious as it may seem, it’s worth remembering that photography depends on light and in general good quality light will help you produce more impactful images. Of course, golden hour (the period just after sunrise or just before sunset) can be beautiful, but you might find more interesting conditions just before sunrise or after sunset, because the evening blue hue blends with the orange and yellow glow of the urban nighttime lighting.

Patagonia National Park, Aysén region, Chile.
Patagonia National Park, Aysén region, Chile. Photography: David Levene/The Guardian

Pull the manual

If you’re using a standalone camera, see if you can operate it in fully manual or semi-automatic mode and experiment with different apertures and shutter speeds. Soften the background (if you’re relatively close to your subject) by shooting with a large aperture, like f2.8. Experiment with long shutter speeds, perhaps even moving the camera around while exposing your shot, to see what kind of results you can achieve. If you’re using a phone camera, you should be able to disable auto flash and possibly override other settings.

Get a good drink

Invest in better lenses to see an immediate improvement in your photos. Beyond the “kit” lenses that may come standard with your camera, you will find better contrast and sharpness with fixed focal lengths or higher quality zooms. “Fast” lenses (those that reach a wider aperture) will also allow you to shoot more effectively in low light conditions.

Film raw

A car full of apples in Azerbaijan.
A car full of apples in Azerbaijan. Photography: David Levene/The Guardian

All modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras (and even some smartphones) will allow you to shoot raw files (such as CR2, NEF or DNG). These retain much more information than Jpegs, which compress files by removing information and details. You will need more space on the memory card and on the hard disk, but your images will have a lot more possibilities for processing.

Spruce up your photos

Anis Kapoor
Sculptor Anish Kapoor at the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, Italy. Photography: David Levene/The Guardian

Experiment with some of the basic adjustment tools in programs like Photoshop, Lightroom, or Capture One to find ways to improve your images. Tools like exposure, shadow detail (HDR), clarity, and vignetting can do wonders for your photos (especially if you’re shooting raw). Don’t overdo it, though.

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