Photo Tips

Photo Tips By Ron Bennett
Photo Tips 101©

Shooting Photographs

Whenever you shoot a photograph, you are making a selective judgement, choosing a particular subject, viewpoint and moment in time and space out of a moving, changing world. This choice means that your photograph is making a statement, about the interest or beauty of the subject, and your own perception, pictorial sense, and ideas.

Taking a successful picture involves extending this selectivity, so that you consciously control every element in your photograph to produce a clearer, more powerful statement. A good photograph can distill into a single image the whole essence of a subject of event, while still conveying the individual vision or the photographer.

Photography depends first and foremost on being able to see as your camera sees. The camera does not discriminate. When you look at a scene, your selective vision shows you only the important elements and ignores the rest, but the camera will record every detail. This is why photographs sometimes are disappointing. Backgrounds are cluttered with objects you do not remember seeing; subjects are smaller in the frame, or less striking, than you recall them; and the whole scene lacks emphasis and life.

Always look around the viewfinder frame with a critical eye, considering how each element will record, and the part it plays in the whole composition. Make yourself thoroughly familiar with what your camera can do, how manipulating each of its controls (F stop, shutter speed, film type and speed, focal length of a lens, etc.) will alter the image, and how you can exploit these changes from different viewpoints, and in different lighting. With experience and knowledge of your equipment and film, you will begin to think through your camera lens without effort, so that you are free to concentrate on lighting and composition and the qualities of the subject.

The way you hold your camera and the viewpoint you select is as important to good pictures as your choice of subject and exposure.

Accurate framing and focusing is essential for good pictures. After focus, aperture and shutter are the two most important controls on a camera. Together they determine the exposure. The aperture controls the amount of light admitted; the shutter speed controls the length of time that the light is admitted.


Color film is a triple layered sandwich of lightsensitive silver halide emulsions and linked dyes.  Each layer responds to one primary color of light.  The top layer to blue, the middle to green, and the bottom layer to red. When you take a picture, the layers record a triple latent image, from which the subject's color range is recreated in processing.

Negatives or Transparency

Color film is less adaptable than human vision, so choosing film of the right sensitivity and balance
for your subject is important. Films differ in their sensitivity to light.  Hypersensitive fast film records better in poor light than a slow film, but also shows more grain in enlargements. Sensitivity is rated in speed number codes such as ASA, ISO, or DIN (Example: 400 ASA, 800 ASA).

You should choose a film balanced for the type of light you will be using, daylight and flash, and studio lights (tungsten).

Print film produces a negative from which you can obtain unlimited positive (correct color and tone values) prints and enlargements, Negative film has a wider acceptable exposure range than reversal film, largely because some correction of density is possible in printing.


Transparency (slides) or reversal film gives you a positive image on the film itself, resulting in a color slide for projection. Reversal films are easier to process than negative films because no printing is involved. Most transparency films can be processed at home, without the use of a darkroom but in your bathroom, making sure it is light tight, you can also make prints directly from transparencies, by color reversal printing with special paper such as cibachrome or from a internegative.

Film speed and Grain

Film emulation consist of silver salts (halides) suspended in a gelatin. When you expose film to light it takes only a fraction of a second to create minute changes in the silver halides and establish a latent image. The larger the halide particles dispersed in the emulsion, the quicker the film will respond to light, this is called the
film's speed. A slow film has a thin, even deposit of small silver halide crystals; a fast film has concentrations of larger crystals.

The faster the film, the coarser and more pronounced is the grain. Since latitude varies little between color films, your choice of film speed depends only on particular subject and light conditions, and the quality of grain you want in the final picture.

Film & Light

The response of color film is less accommodating.  The emulsion will record both the entire range of subject colors, and any extraneous color influence from the light. Tungsten artificial light, for instance, has a strong red/yellow content; winter daylight is blue; light east through a green shade or leaves will dominate other colors in the picture and so will light reflected from colored walls. Because color film will record, but not
interpret the content and quality of light, emulsions must be chemically balanced to provide normal color in a given type of light. The color content of light is referred to as the color temperature, expressed on a scale that ranges from black through red, yellow and white to blue.

Digital Photography

A digital camera is one that stores images digitally rather than recording them on film.  Once a picture has been taken, it can be downloaded to a computer system, and then manipulated with a graphics program like Photoshop and then printed. Unlike film photographs, which have an almost infinite resolution, digital photographs are limited by the amount of memory in the camera, the optical resolution of the digitizing mechanism, and finally, by the resolution of the final output device. 

Photography is the process, art of creating still pictures by recording radiation on a sensitive medium such as photo film, or electronic senor. Light patterns reflected from objects activate a sensitive chemical or electronic sensor during an exposure through a photographic lens in a camera that also stores the resulting information electronically or chemically.  Photography has many uses for news, business, science, art and pleasure.

Digital photography is a form of photography that uses digital technology to make images of the subject. An image is an artifact, for example a two-dimensional picture that has a similar appearance to some subject, usually a physical object or a person. Digital photographs can be display, printed, stored, manipulated, transmitted, and archived using digital and computer techniques, without chemical processing.  A digital picture is a data technology that uses discrete (discontinuous) values.  By contrast, non-digital (analog) systems use a continuous range of values to represent information.  Digital representations are discrete, the information represented can be either discrete, such as numbers, letters or icons, or continuous, such as sounds, images, and other measurements of continuous systems.  Most digital cameras use CCDs to capture images, thought some of the newer less expensive cameras use CMOS chips instead.


Of course, digital equipment is one thing and software is another.  Now days, both the PC and Mac platform will do the job for you.  My favorite software is Adobe PhotoShop. 

Digital image management means that location lighting including fluorescent and mixes of daylight and tungsten sources no longer vex the photographer.  You have complete artistic control of images making the necessary changes rapidly to your own specifications. 

Digital images will also save time and money with the new technology.

An example of shooting digital images is; I return to the office, download all of the photos for editing to a Mac or PC.  I would have high-resolution; 18 MB images captured on removable 520 MB PC cards. Then edit all of the photos using the Kodak Professional DCS Acquire Module for Adobe PhotoShop software.  Then make color corrections and CMYK conversions, printed proof sheets on Epson Photo EX printer and burned the results for storage to CD discs and Jaz cartridges.

Many people fear that their investment in equipment will be outdated within a short time.  I would maintain that the technology in the camera is so good, I would forecasts that you would be using the equipment for years and still have a competitive edge.

Digital integration into the photo department is a key component in a marketing plan. 

Digital technology now eases the workload and more importantly, it helps deliver a final product that pleases the demanding clients.

Color Temperature

The color temperature of a light source is measured in kelvins. A candle is about 1930K; a household
lamp bulb is 2400K to 2900K; the average for daylight is between 5000K and 6000K; blue sky is from 12000K to 18000K.

Outdoor lighting has a predominantly blue content.  Daylight films are designed to give most faithful color results between 5200K and 5800K. When you take pictures early in the morning or at sunset, lighting will be lower than 5200K, so color cast will occur.

Tungsten type B film is used for artificial light.  It is balanced for 3200K, so if you use tungsten illumination of a different color temperature you must use filters to maintain color balance.

Depth of Field

The amount either side of your focused subject  that is sharp in your pictures is known as the depth of field. You can vary the depth of field by three factors: The size of the aperture, the camera-to-subject distance, and the focal length of the lens. Altering the depth of a field enables you to produce quite different pictures and
leaving others unsharp, suggesting a sense of depth. When the lens is stopped down (smallest aperture) the depth of filed is at its maximum. As you increase the aperture this zone of sharpness around the focused subject is reduced.

Camera-to-subject distance also affects depth of field.  The closer you are to your subject the more shallow your depth of field becomes.

Focal Length of Lenses

The focal length of your lens will also control the depth of field with the shorter focal length of the lens, the greater the depth of field, even at its minimum aperture; a long lens gives comparatively shallow depth of field.

Changing Lenses

There are two occasions for changing lenses. The first is when your viewpoint is relatively fixed.  And the other time you will want to change lenses occurs when the characteristic optical features of a lens will enhance your subject. You would use a longer focal lens to bring the distant part of your subject/scene to you, or a wide-angle lens for the overall wide shot of your subject.

Focusing for Effect

Controlling which area will be sharp in your pictures is an important composition technique.  You can use it to produce a range of pictures from the same camera position and scene or to alter emphasis, soften shapes or colors and create a sense of depth. Once you have set the focus, widening the aperture will progressively reduce the amount in front of, and behind the subject that is sharp (depth of field). This produces selective focusing, which can be used to bring out your main subject by making the remaining areas of the pictures unsharp. Long lenses are suitable for selective focusing because of their wider real apertures. Wide-angle lenses are suitable for selective focusing because of the great depth of field that they give at most apertures.


When you vary the aperture and shutter settings on your camera, you are altering the brightness of the image and the duration it acts on the film, so that the film's response falls within constant defined limits. Generally, the brighter the harsher the light, the wider will be the range of subject tones, and the more care you must take with exposure readings. In dim, diffuse light on overcast days; colors will be muted, shadows weak, and highlights only slightly paler than mid-tones.

The simplest and safest rule for exposure is: Always read exposure directly from the main subject interest. For a general scene, like a landscape, an overall reading from the camera position may serve (or you can do several meter readings from different areas of the landscape).

There are two main ways of reading exposure; you can read the light reflected from the subject, or the light falling on it (incident light). Camera meters read reflected light.

An exposure meter is simply a measuring device. It is up to you to decide what readings to take, and from where. Your decision will largely determine which parts of the subject record in the strongest color and fullest detail, and which are reduced to plainer supporting areas of pale highlights, dark shadow, or black silhouette. It will also affect the photo’s overall mood, high key, low key or balance.  Thus, exposure can be a creative tool in photography.  The greater exposure problems arise when the lighting is unusual, with uneven light and large shadows.


Good pictures seldom arise by chance. To make the most of any subject you must understand the basic principles of composition and how to arrange a scene within your frame to please the eye, arrest attention, or make a clear statement. Knowing some simple rules for placing your subject elements effectively can be a good starting point.  Viewpoint and framing are your main ways of altering composition. Images that show order, balance, and rhythm give us pleasure, and classic rules of composition aim to produce this effect. A
simple composition is usually the most effective and keep to one main subject, excluding distracting elements, and control other features to support you theme.

Achieving balance will start by considering where to place you main subject in the frame. A central position will give it emphasis, but may be dull. A more dynamic off-center position will require balancing with another feature. This should contrast, but not compete with the main subject.  You can balance small detail, strong color, or human interest against larger plain or weak colored areas.

Using line & Perspective

Line is a powerful element in composition. The eye tends to follow lines, whether they are formed simply by linear features such as fences, roads, crops or telephone poles, or more indirectly by the outlines of shapes, tones, and colors. You can use line, with careful framing, to direct attention to a subject, link different areas of a scene, or suggest depth or movement. Vertical, diagonal and horizontal composition creates quite different moods. Curved lines can give a rhythmic flow to images.

Linear perspective causes receding parallel lines and planes to appear to be converging sharply in a. picture. This effect allows you to create the illusion of three-dimensional depth within the two dimensional frame. You can make the perspective steeper or shallower by varying camera viewpoint.  Choosing your viewpoint and framing to give a dominant linear structure and nearly always produces attractive pictures.


Photographing people with artificial light gives you an extraordinary degree of technical control over your pictures. You can vary the direction and height of your lighting but also its quality or intensity, simulating every conceivable form of daylight. With artificial lighting, you have enormous scope for interpreting the character and appearance of you mode or the person you are photographing. Strong shadows in a portrait will give a more powerful impression of a character than soft even lighting. The lighting you choose for portraits will not only affect form and texture but will also help to evoke moods and atmosphere. More often you will want to produce softer, more idealized images, using soft or diffused lighting to harmonize colors. Use a diffuser in front of your light source, bounce light from a neutral or white wall or ceiling to give more even lighting; or use a reflector to reduce tonal contrast.

Portraits taken by available light can be very effective. Light falling through windows, doors, and archways is softer yet more directional than outdoor light, subtler and more natural than studio lighting. It gives delicate modeling features, reveals textures, softens and harmonizes colors. Illuminations fall off rapidly, giving luminous highlights and contrasting shadows.

Outdoor portraiture is far from easy. It demand a high degree of understanding of your subjects appearance, a relaxed relationship between you and your model, a skill for selecting an appropriate or unobtrusive back round and a knowledge of the effects of different qualities of light.

The direction of the light has a strong influence of the character of your portraits. A 45 degree angle of the sun is the most flattering, giving good modeling and texture. Back lighting your subject can be effective, it will rim lights the hair and emphasize the shape of the head. In the late afternoon, you may find your subjects face tinged with red colorcast which may add atmosphere to outdoor portraits.

Still Life

Simplicity is the key to a strong still life.  Choose your back ground carefully and make sure it fills your picture frame. Build up you still life gradually, considering the relationship between the objects and the frame. Do not clutter your arrangement with too many objects or competing colors or complicate the lighting unnecessarily. Chose your camera position. It does not need to be a head on angle. Checking the viewfinder image is just as essential when it comes to choosing the lighting. Not only will the lighting affect depth, color and form but it will also create an atmosphere or mood. Use one light as your main light source, considering the variety of effects you can achieve. Introduce second sources as subsidiary lighting, to bring out the back round and reduce shadows or to accent a mood. When using two lights, always watch for double shadows forming; they will overlap and confuse you image and make it seems less realistic.


Action photography can convey the excitement of an event. The most convincing moment is often when there is a crisis in the action, the start or finish of a race, the climax of a leap or dive.  For such shots you must anticipate where and when the crucial moment will occur, and select the appropriate viewpoint and lens. The shutter speed will freeze frame motion, which depends on the actual speed of the subject, and on its distance and direction relative to the camera.  The closer the subject or the longer you lens, the faster the
shutter required.

If the subject is moving directly away from or toward the camera, speed is reduced. Freezing the motion may be the best choice when you want to record the particular quality of a type of action, the movement of a dancer or athlete, the expression of a runner near the winning wire. But to capture the exact moment that best expresses the frame and effort of the action requires careful planning and anticipation.


Nature photography of plants and flowers taken in early morning sunlight, when drops of dew still cling to the petals, has a convincing and realistic appeal   Diffused light is probably best for bringing out the full vibrant color qualities of flowers.

High quality photographs of undisturbed wild life take special photographic skill and equipment, extensive knowledge of your subject's haunts and life cycle, ingenuity, and great patience. Most successful wildlife photography depends on the subject being unaware of your presence. If you are tracking on foot, you will need several telephoto lenses (600-1200MM) which give a narrow depth of field.   This can be used to your advantage to separate your chosen specimen from its surrounding, especially if the subject's/wildlife camouflaging causes it to blend into the background. The alternative to tracking is to hide the camera and other equipment close to your subject's predetermined haunt (nest, water holes, feeding ground). You then have the option of waiting hidden with the camera for the right shot, in a blind, in a tree or on the ground.


Study your subject, looking for the elements that make up its essential character and mood. The beauty and grandeur of photographing nature may seem easy, but to express the three-dimensional is more difficult. Successful landscape or scenery photographs will draw on color, effects of light, weather, and season; the elements of form, shape, pattern and texture; use of viewpoint and perspective to convey depth and space; the role of the sky, the sun and water; and your choice of lens, viewpoint, framing focus and exposure.
Award winning Fine Art Stock Photography by Ron Bennett,