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Thread: 7 Things that will help you capture a good photo

  1. #1
    Dominus Diabolus Urinatoris ST-Forum Mod DevilDiver's Avatar
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    Lightbulb 7 Things that will help you capture a good photo

    With all of the questions about the latest and greatest gear for U/W photography I thought it might be helpful for some to have some basic tips on composing and capturing a photo. I found and compiled this list some years back and actually printed this out on a small card that I laminated and kept with my gear and would do a quick review prior to diving just to keep these key points fresh in my mind.

    Truth is that the equipment is only a portion of making photographs, even the best and most expensive gear can not decide on how to set up and capture a photo.....

    Hope this helps.


    1. FOCUS
    Most of the time the main subject at least should be in focus and sharp even if the background and other components may not be. Notice the depth of field and see if it is working well for the image. Evaluate the depth of field, is the depth of focus effectively controlled with aperture and lens angle of view to have the desired areas sharp, and others out of focus?

    There may be times where the photographer is purposely trying to create an out of focus or softer effect, or trying to create the effect of movement.

    2. CLEAR SUBJECT IN THE PHOTOGRAPH
    Does the photograph have a purpose. Is it clear what the main subject or subjects of the photograph are? If one has to look for it or the photographer has to explain it, this may be a problem. On the other hand the photographer may be trying to create some mystery within the photograph, though generally the photograph should have a purpose.

    3. COMPOSITION
    Again is it clear what the main subject is? Are there areas or parts of the photograph that do not contribute to the overall visual effect of the image.Is the subject lost in a distracting background? Consider vertical versus horizontal orientation of the image. How do the lines of the subject lead into or out of the photograph? Should one get closer, does the photograph need to be cropped preferably at the time the photograph is taken. Consider Rules of composition like 'Rule of Thirds', 'Bottom right or left'. Does your eye move easily within the photograph or do they jump around?

    4. LIGHTING AND EXPOSURE
    Is the lighting well balanced, and does it support the elements of the composition to create the desired effect. Are there good shadow and highlight details with good range of shades in between? No 'blown' highlights except for some desired specular highlights. Does the lighting direction fit with the composition, are any of the lighting elements creating a distraction? Does the image have adequate contrast, is it a high key or low key image, and does this contribute or detract from the image. Is the use of ambient and strobe used to good effect?

    5. COLOR
    Particularly in underwater photography is the color well balanced, are there any color casts that detract from the image or do they genuinely help create mood or effect.

    6. WHAT MAKES THIS PHOTOGRAPH DIFFERENT OR SPECIAL?
    Is it an interesting composition, does one see an interesting perspective. Look for dramatic angles, lines, colors, textures, and shapes.

    7. EMOTION AND MOOD?
    How does this shot make you fee? Does it create a mood or generate an emotional response? After all the technical discussion, good or great photographs usually evoke an emotional response at some level.
    DevilDiver

  2. #2
    Moderator ST-Forum Mod PACKRMAN's Avatar
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    Thanks DD
    That does help sort out the tings I should be thinking about.

    Now a Question

    Do you take lots of pictures on a dive or do you wait for the "one" good shot?
    Originally from the Great White North, I give you...

  3. #3
    Barracuda
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    With digital photography making photo processing so inexpensive, I would be surprised if he did not answer lots.

    I find it to be a numbers game. Out of 50 pics I may have 10 that are real keepers and one worthy of display. I keep changing my angle and perspective on a single subject hoping to increase the liklihood of that one magical shot.
    No one has ever retold valiant stories of logic - for all good stories are driven by emotion and the spirit.

  4. #4
    TadPole
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    With only about a 1" lcd screen on my little Canon A40, I tend to take a lot of pictures since I can't see the composition.

  5. #5
    Shark
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    Quote Originally Posted by bgoode View Post
    With only about a 1" lcd screen on my little Canon A40, I tend to take a lot of pictures since I can't see the composition.
    underwater, even with a large screen, it is difficult to tell... mine has a 3" LCD and what I see on the screen underwater isn't always what I get on the computer later... granted, it has to be better than yours (sorry), but many times underwater, there is a lot of guesswork going on and hoping

    when I press the button, I hope two things - 1) it looks like I think it looks and 2) its in focus

    both are hard to tell on LCD screens, for sure, especially underwater...
    -cody / on vacation from vacation...
    PADI MSDT Instructor, US Coast Guard Captain - Master Near Coastal

  6. #6
    Dominus Diabolus Urinatoris ST-Forum Mod DevilDiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PACKRMAN View Post
    Now a Question

    Do you take lots of pictures on a dive or do you wait for the "one" good shot?
    Quote Originally Posted by gNats View Post
    With digital photography making photo processing so inexpensive, I would be surprised if he did not answer lots.
    This is actually a great question, and just like gNats said the answer is "lots" but it might not be the same as most people would think about it.

    Throughout a dive I will tend to take a quick snapshot of things and scenes that I believe might make a good photo. With a quick review of the LCD I determine if it is a subject that I want to put more time and effort into or move on. If it has dramatic colors, shape or interest (see #'s 5,6,7) then I can decide to stay with it and try to compose some real photos or move on to find a better subject.

    When I find a subject or scene that I like then I tend to take multiple photos trying to capture that one that will be the keeper. When I am shooting a close-up or portrait it could be anywhere from 2 or 3 to 20 or 30 frames just trying to get that one where the eye is in focus or the subject is turned just right.

    Over the years the amount of photos that I take on a trip has definitely increased but the amount that I keep has decreased dramatically. I would say it runs about 5-7 out of 100 on average.
    DevilDiver

  7. #7
    I tend to do pretty much the same. I'll take a random shot as I go along if I think I see something relatively interesting. But I like to do close-up and macro shots, so if I see an interesting subject there I'll take multiple (sometimes dozens if the subject will stay put) since I'll often vary the exposure, strobe position and area of focus just to be sure to get one that I'm really happy with. Memory cards are relatively cheap, and usually the limit is more battery life than memory space. And when I travel on longer trips I almost always have a laptop computer that I copy everything off to nightly. And I have a pair of batteries and memory cards. That way I always can have one battery charged and waiting to be used. Swap them both out after every couple dives that way if for some reason a memory card dies (water, corruption, etc.) I don't lose all my photos from the trip.

  8. #8
    Grouper
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    One persons tastes are not another's, generalizations about composition, color, exposure etc will never reach a consensus as we all see things differently, including even focus or more importantly, the purpose of the photo.

    N

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    Moderator ST-Forum Mod PACKRMAN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DevilDiver View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by PACKRMAN View Post
    Now a Question

    Do you take lots of pictures on a dive or do you wait for the "one" good shot?
    Quote Originally Posted by gNats View Post
    With digital photography making photo processing so inexpensive, I would be surprised if he did not answer lots.
    This is actually a great question, and just like gNats said the answer is "lots" but it might not be the same as most people would think about it.

    Throughout a dive I will tend to take a quick snapshot of things and scenes that I believe might make a good photo. With a quick review of the LCD I determine if it is a subject that I want to put more time and effort into or move on. If it has dramatic colors, shape or interest (see #'s 5,6,7) then I can decide to stay with it and try to compose some real photos or move on to find a better subject.

    When I find a subject or scene that I like then I tend to take multiple photos trying to capture that one that will be the keeper. When I am shooting a close-up or portrait it could be anywhere from 2 or 3 to 20 or 30 frames just trying to get that one where the eye is in focus or the subject is turned just right.

    Over the years the amount of photos that I take on a trip has definitely increased but the amount that I keep has decreased dramatically. I would say it runs about 5-7 out of 100 on average.
    Thanks
    If I remember correctly you do not use strobes?
    I use one, but it takes forever for it to re-energize for a second ( or fifth) shot. Is that why, or are strobes for nancy boys?
    Originally from the Great White North, I give you...

  10. #10
    Dominus Diabolus Urinatoris ST-Forum Mod DevilDiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nemrod View Post
    One persons tastes are not another's, generalizations about composition, color, exposure etc will never reach a consensus as we all see things differently, including even focus or more importantly, the purpose of the photo.

    N

    This is a great point and no one wants to get trapped into a formula that just churns out the same picture time after time and no one wants to have someone say your photo looks "just like" another picture. You have to be different, stand out, it's not enough having your picture looked at, it's has to be looked at again.

    Some people are blessed with a natural ability to create art (in this case photographs) and some have to work at it (like me). The concepts above are not a strict formula or action plan to guarantee successful pictures. They are things to consider before pressing the shutter that can help you compose and capture a photo that is more likely to be a "keeper" than one that is just taken by just pointing the camera and pushing the button and getting a picture that will end up in the delete file or should end up there.



    One of the hardest things for me starting out (and still today) was to consider the background as well as the subject. U/W you have a pretty good chance to find a interesting subject (let's say an Octo) on or close to the reef, if you move in and capture the photo without considering the background (see #3) of the reef it is likely that the natural markings or camouflage of the subject will make it blend in (see #2) and not give the viewer a clear subject for their eye to settle on when they look at your picture.

    Like this:


    Not a bad picture but could it have been better? - Yes
    Consider changing angles, repositioning your lighting slightly and getting a little closer to fill the frame with the subject a little more.

    Like this:


    With this shot the subject is clear and you definitely focus on the subject first, also your eye is drawn to the face and eye. People tend to find this more appealing and will most likely feel that the second is the better of the two photos. (both photos are on my Flickr site and the second picture has had about 85% more views than the first)


    Will all of these points work for all photos? - No
    Of course not but some of them will, these are general concepts not rules, successful photos have to stand out and this is where your personal choices and style come in.

    Can you get lucky and capture an award winning photo? - Yes
    Sad but true, I sure would not depend on being lucky though. Practice, a little talent, a decent working knowledge of your equipment and some fundamentals on composition, lighting and exposure can make a lot of luck for you though.

    If you practice all of these things are you going to take better photos? - Yes
    I believe that they will help you understand what and why some things work out better and keep you from repeating mistakes that are not giving you the results that you want.

    But..... These are not rules, these are considerations. Loose guidelines to help you make good decisions quickly when opportunities arise, not "do this" and "this" and "get this", it's just not that easy, it's more like "practice this" and "this" and "Wow, I kinda like that but the next time I am going to try this".

    A wise man and great photographer (Nemrod) once said -
    "One persons tastes are not another's, generalizations about composition, color, exposure etc will never reach a consensus as we all see things differently, including even focus or more importantly, the purpose of the photo."
    Last edited by DevilDiver; 04-23-2010 at 18:38.
    DevilDiver

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