I’ve been quite fortunate that despite the competition in the industry, I’ve been able to thrive as a wedding photographer in Toronto. One of the reasons for my continued success is because I focus (no pun intended) on continually improving my skills with every wedding I shoot. Some may argue that I have nothing to improve upon, and if you’re making that argument that I must admit – you’re sweet, and can I buy you dinner? The truth of the matter is; however, that as artists in an competitive industry, we need to continually step up our game lest we become “old news”.
There are a lot of tips for taking better photos and some of the best tips are offered during hands on wedding photography workshops because you get to learn AND practice at the same time. Since not everyone can make it to workshops, though, I’ve decided to list my top 3 tips for taking better photos.
Shoot straight… or at least fix it in post! Nothing screams amateur like a photo that’s crooked. While it’s understandable that shooting straight can be difficult when you’re a photojournalist (as you don’t always have time to line everything up perfectly before capturing a moment) you can definitely do it in post processing. Look for straight lines in your images; horizons, poles, fences, baseboards – any straight line you can find, and make sure it’s in line with the perspective you’re trying to achieve. A straight photo is so much more pleasing to the eye and adds an overall “wow” factor to the resulting image. Take a look at the two photos below; one is the original angle which is slightly crooked and the second one is straight. I was lying down on cobble stone in -11°C weather and my camera was resting on a slightly uneven surface. Cropping to make the focal point (the stairs) straight gives a “WOW”-factor to the image.
Don’t push the Black Point! I know, I get it, you want to add “oomph” to your images so you automatically push your black point either by adjusting the point itself or changing your contrast so that your blacks are deep and totally in-your-face. The unfortunate thing about pushing your black point is that is doesn’t actually give you the “oomph” you’re intending on; it’s actually giving your images a somewhat amateur overall appearance. When you push your blacks too far you not only lose details in your shadows but you also risk highlighting imperfections in your subject. Increased black point that accentuate skin blemishes and body hair and can make small eyes look even smaller. There are plenty of ways to add wow to your images without pushing a black point.
Below are two images, the first has accentuated black points and you can see that there is no detail left in her hair or in her (stunning) lashes. By bringing UP the blackpoint, as I do in the second image, you can see the amount of detail in her hair and her stunning eyes while still feeling the depth and drama to the image.
Expose for your HIGHLIGHTS! When metering in-camera, you should be exposing for your lighting. Digital sensors are AWESOME and they have come a long way. They’ll be coming even further for Canon users this spring when the 5D MkIV is released (Nikon users already have a mega-sensor camera – lucky!). Digital sensors store data in the shadows they do not store data in the highlights. Highlights are actually areas of no data. Pure white is basically areas of no (or very little) data and although you can decrease your exposure and highlights in Lightroom, you can’t bring back data that isn’t there. Bringing UP your shadows; however, yields a much more pleasing result as data is stored in the shadows. When you bring up your shadows in Lightroom your finished product will still have detail in it; bringing down your highlights; however, can result in banding – weird stripes of odd colour creeping into your image. Exposing for your highlights also allows you the opportunity to produce rich dramatic images and use the natural light available to highlight texture and shapes.