Don’t Shoot Snapshots this Summer – Shoot Pictures
Warmer weather brings many opportunities to create exciting photographs. With the light and beautiful scenes in summer, this is a great time of the year to shot great photos. Here are a few tips to create pictures people will want to share.
Timing is everything
That summer sun is more than hot; it is bright – too bright for a well-exposed photograph to look beautiful. The solution is to shoot before 11 am or after 5 pm. Sunrise or sunset is even better. Here is why:
From sun up to around noon, the sun is close to the horizon and not as strong as it will be from mid-day to around 5 or 6 pm. The light is softer producing softer shadows and the colors will have a lower saturation resulting in a more even tonality. Pictures taken during this time have pleasant color, produce beautiful portraits, and feel natural. Photos taken after 5 pm have more contrast and can produce dramatic results, but continue to retain a softer light than what floods the landscape during the mid-day hours.
If you must shoot at noontime, put your subject in the shade, or shoot a subject that is already in the shade. The reduced intensity of light will produce less contrast and a better range of tone in your photograph.
The soft light in this beach scene creates a mood that a mid-day image could never achieve.
Angling for better composition
For many of us, photography is about pointing and shooting; but you can add so much more drama and interest in your photographs by looking for two things: the best angle and the best composition.
In the photograph below, we see how the photographer positioned the camera at an angle that catches the exact moment the divers leap off the cliff while showing how high they are from the ocean. The composition also exploits the drama of a big sky as a way to underscore the altitude of the cliffs.
This photograph has more drama and interest because the photographer is using the sky as a background.
Composition is important. When you look at the world through the lens of your camera or smartphone, you are not just looking at buildings, sky, and trees. You are looking at pictures – pictures made by dividing what you see into rectangles and squares divided into thirds. Look at the sample below. Those four intersections are points of interest in a composition. We call this principle the Rule of Thirds.
When looking through your camera lens, you should visualize those intersections. Divide your image into thirds and position the main subject at one of the intersections, or position the bulk of your landscape or sky within a third of the image area. Next time you are in a furniture store, notice how many landscape paintings and photographs do this with their compositions.
Let’s see how this can work:
Here is a typical summer photograph that reflects the excitement of surfing, but we can make it better by composing it with the Rule of Thirds.
If we divide the image into thirds horizontally and vertically, we have a grid that represents the Rule of Thirds. Where the lines intersect, we have Points of Interest. Positioning your subject near any of these points will produce a pleasing composition. In this image, the photographer correctly put the surfer off center, but could have added more drama by making a small adjustment.
If we position the surfer closer to the Point of Interest on the lower left, she will occupy the lower third of the photograph with more space in front of her. And we can easily achieve this effect with Fotor’s photo cropper to cut our the unwanted part. This added space creates a sense of movement by allowing the remaining two-thirds of the picture to display the streaming water above her and room for her to move forward. This is more than a snapshot; it is a photograph.
How to shoot everything
Summer is ripe with subjects to shoot. Everything from landscapes to portraits is open to you, but you should be aware of the challenges each can present. Here are some simple guidelines.
People and animals: Shoot these subjects in soft light to minimize harsh shadows and highly saturated colors. Also, consider ways the subject fills your frame. If the subject takes up three-quarters of your picture frame, you can angle the subject or cut off a portion of the face to add drama and interest to the composition. You can also take advantage of the harsh shadows of summer by putting a portion of your subject in shadow and a portion in light. Look for ways to use angle and composition to make your summer portraits more than a smiling face saying cheese. Make it interesting.
This photographer makes good use of the more saturated color of a late summer afternoon. Notice how the light defines her hair and the shadows in her face describe her features without giving away her identity. It is a good example of how to use the time of day to your creative advantage.
Landscapes: These photographs can be boring because the finished photograph often lacks the drama and excitement we saw when we took the picture. The best way to overcome this problem is with light.
I suggest shooting landscapes at sunset. This time of day provides angles of light that produce interesting shadows that can define the landscape’s texture and topology. Soft light may be good for portraits, but a little contrast and color saturation can help a landscape take shape. Of course, soft light can often add a mood to a landscape that is also desirable. Think about the mood you want to convey.
You may want to check out our previous blog How to Take Perfect Travel Photos for more inspirations.
Architecture and Neighborhoods: As with landscapes, when you photograph a neighborhood street scene, you should take advantage of lighting. Late afternoon light can be very desirable for a neighborhood photograph because it will delineate buildings with long shadows and some saturated colors. Early morning light can produce a calm and sleepy quality.
Here is a city scene shot if soft light. It conveys a sense of calm and peace. The use of the tree in the upper third of the photograph helps frame the buildings while its sharper lighting delineates every leaf adding an interesting contrast with the buildings behind it. This is a photograph worth framing.
Use props: Sometimes adding props can make a photograph more interesting. For example, if you are shooting a photograph of your grandmother sitting on her porch sipping lemonade on a hot summer afternoon, you might show the pitcher sitting on a wicker table next to her. Additionally, you could show her book about the Beatles, and a picture of your deceased grandfather. All of these elements tell a story about her.
You can also photograph props that can tell a story about a family without showing the family. For example, you can arrange a picnic basket, portable radio, beach ball, and a letter from a deployed soldier on a blanket by the beach to tell the viewer something about the family who owns them. The possibilities are endless.
This is more than a picture of two swimmers on a lazy summer day. It is a statement about how these two fit into an overall pattern created by the circular props surrounding them. It is an interesting picture not only because of the props, but also because of the photographer composed it with care.
Editing photos in Fotor
The Fotor platform makes it easy to add filters, adjust exposure, correct color, and apply a sticker or graphic element to your photograph. Let’s look at how this works.
Let’s begin by going to the Fotor design platform and selecting the Facebook Post template from the Social Media Post option.
That selection takes me to a workspace with a blank page sized perfectly for a Facebook post. To the right are a number of templates I can select as a foundation for my design.
I scroll down to make my selection. When I click on the template, it immediately appears on my blank page – ready for me to modify.
I am going to replace the picture of grapes with a photograph residing on my computer hard drive. I click on the +IMPORT button which takes me to a navigation window where I can select and import my picture. Notice that after it is imported, the photograph appears below the +IMPORT button. For best results, I use the PNG format although Fotor will accept JPG as well.
I click on the template page and select the UNLOCK icon from the taskbar above the layout to unlock all the IMAGE SHAPE holding the picture of grapes. Then I select the TRASH icon to delete the picture of grapes. What remains is an IMAGE SHAPE that is available within the STICKER function. This shape has a nice wave at the bottom.
I click on my PNG file under the +IMPORT button and drag it over the IMAGE SHAPE to bring it into my layout. It resides within the IMAGE SHAPE.
Once I have the image on my layout, I can select the EFFECTS tab on the taskbar above the layout to edit my photograph. Notice that I can add a filter by clicking on any of the balloon images and I can adjust the exposure lighter or darker by moving the slider to the left or right. In this case, however, I want to warm up the image by removing some of the blue in it. I select the MORE EDITING OPTIONS button at the bottom of the pullout box to take me to a number of editing options that appears left of the layout.
I select the CURVES tab, which opens the curves adjustment palette. I select BLUE from the drop down menu at the top of the curve then click on the strait line and pull down and to the right. It removes some of the blue in the picture. I can continue editing by selecting another color such as RED or GREEN and moving those curves as well. In this case, I am satisfied with the BLUE adjustment so I click the black SAVE AND RETURN button at the top of the workspace. It returns me to the layout.
On the far left, I select the STICKER button. It takes me to a number of options for placing a variety of different graphic elements on my layout. I select the HOT SUMMER tab and choose a heart shape by clicking on the icon of it and dragging it over to my layout where I can enlarge it, tilt it, and add color. In this case, I want the heart to be red, so I select the COLOR FILL button on the taskbar above the layout. It presents me with a pullout box with color options. I choose RED and close the box by clicking on an empty space near the layout.
After positioning the heart, I select the text “Summer Art” and change the word “Art” to “Fun”. My layout is complete. I can click on the SAVE button at the top of the workspace and post this image.
So, no matter what your plans are for the summer, bring your camera along, or just keep your smartphone handy. Try some of these techniques and you’ll be taking stunning photographs people will admire and share. Have fun!