Looking for a Beginners Photography Course often follows buying a good compact or single lens reflex (SLR) camera. The much improved picture quality is normally enough encouragement to go out and take better pictures that family and friends will admire.
Cameras don't take pictures - people do.
So where do you start? Well how about right back to the basics of composition. In this article I will outline some of key elements that can create a pleasing photograph every time. The 'rules' that follow are simply tried and tested ways that help make a photograph stand out from the crowd.
But don't be afraid to break the rules. Some of the finest photography in the world breaks the rules. But you need to know the rules first before you break them.
1: The Rule of Thirds
Take any picture and divide it into thirds, top to bottom and then side to side. This should create a grid of 9 boxes - three along the top and also three down the sides.
Any picture or photograph should have one or more key elements. For example a river scene may have a boat sailing along or a sunset may include a silhouetted tree. For maximum visual impact these key elements should be positioned in the picture where two of the grid lines cross. That is a third in from one of the side and a third in from either the top or bottom.
Try this out. Your camera may well have an option to show this grid pattern in the view finder or viewing screen as you line up to take the shot. Take one shot with the key element centre screen and one positioned on the grid. Ask your friends or family which one they prefer without telling why. I bet they'll choose the latter.
2: Lead in Lines
It's a strange thing, but our minds need to be told what to do. Image a photograph taken in the middle of a park, some way from the edge, and the main subject is a beautiful fountain some distance away. That could be so that you can include its spray.
Have any of you been to the Jet d'Eau in Geneva? My personal favourite place in Europe, it's a fantastic water jet that rises hundreds of feet in the air and you need to take that from a long way away!
Taking a straight shot of our park fountain would leave a large expanse of uninteresting grass in the foreground that really means nothing and our eyes wander around the picture wondering what we should really be looking at.
Move yourself to one side and find the pathway that leads up to the fountain. Position the start of the path, in your picture, in one corner. Your eyes will naturally follow the path 'into' the picture and be lead to your main focus, the fountain.
Look out for helpful lead in lines, they are everywhere. Paths, roads, flower beds, river banks, quaysides, railings furrows across a field. Just move around until you find one.
3: Frame your Photograph
In the last rule I told you that the mind needs guidance when it looks at pictures. It can wonder in all direction, even of the page, if we don't tell it what to do.
Landscape photography, done well, can be very rewarding. Standing there admiring the view we are compelled to hold the up camera and take a shot only to be disappointed with the result when we get home.
The camera only records part of the whole scene and our eyes naturally want to look beyond the confines of the frame to see what else is 'over there'.
To avoid this almost incomplete appearance to the shot we need to stop the eye going out of the picture by doing something to tell it 'this is the end of the picture here'.
One of the simplest ways to achieve this effect is to find something solid to include at the edge of the frame. A tree is always a useful addition here. Make sure that you can't see both edges of the truck and the brain just decides that there is nothing to see beyond that tree. Very effective and frames the photograph well.