Grab a proper camera and learn how to take great photos

  • TECH
  • Sunday, 14 Jul 2019

Amateur photographers can experiment with perspectives by taking photos from a seated or lying position. — dpa

Many modern smartphones have pretty good cameras that are fine for taking nice snapshots. But if you want better quality photographs and more options, you still need an SLR or system camera with interchangeable lenses.

However, to get the most out of them and all their many options, you have to learn how to use them properly.

One question that many amateur photographers ask themselves at the beginning is whether to choose manual mode or automatic. "In general, the latest camera models are very much in automatic mode," explains photographer and trainer Alexandra Evang. This setting is therefore definitely suitable for a complete beginner.

"First of all, it's about getting the typical photographic view," says Jan Becker from the German magazine Computer Bild.

In the long run, however, the aim should be to decide the settings yourself. Moving away from snapping pictures in automatic mode and towards "conscious photography" is how photographer Manuel Oyen, who gives workshops for beginners, puts it.

For this, you have to be prepared to work out the basics and practise them. Online video tutorials as well as books or workshops can help. They usually include topics such as exposure or shutter speed, aperture, motif selection and composition.

The exposure time can be used to freeze subjects or show movement. The more open the aperture, the more light falls into the picture. This allows the photographer to influence the depth of field at the same time.

"It is often difficult to understand why the number increases when the aperture is closed," says Oyen. This means that a larger aperture number is more suitable for landscape shots; in portraits, you need a smaller number, ie a more open aperture that focuses on the face and blurs the background.

It's better to leave the focusing to the camera's autofocus, says Evang, but if you're already familiar with your device, Becker advises manually setting the focus point to where you want it to be.

For an introduction to photography, it's probably better to start with still lives. "Here you can take all the time in the world," explains Oyen. People or animals as models can quickly lose patience.

In general, a photograph needs to be well planned. It's often not enough to just press the shutter button, Becker emphasises. How is the light falling? Is there something annoying in the background? It's best to take a look at the pictures on the display on site in order to correct them if necessary.

When choosing the motif, it's better to think small and not try to pack everything into one shot, explains Evang. "Emotions are more important." Oyen suggests looking through the viewfinder and not at the display when taking pictures. "You are more intensively in the moment," he says.

A tip from Evang: If you take pictures with a fixed focal length, ie without zoom, you will approach the motifs very differently. "You move more and photograph more creatively," she explains.

In landscape photography, pay attention to the so-called golden ratio. This dictates that the main motif is not centred, but placed in the right or left third of the image. This approach can also be useful for portraits, in which the person is often placed intuitively in the middle.

With animals or children, it's best to work at eye level. This makes proportions look real, and the legs are not cut off. "The picture is made much more lively," explains Becker.

And why not change your perspective and take a picture from a lying position, kneeling or from a few metres further away? Photography thrives on experimentation.

The professionals say it's important to photograph the chosen motif frequently and to observe how the lighting conditions change over the course of a day. However, they advise avoiding midday light. "This creates hard edges and shadows," says Evang. It's better to start early in the morning, when the light is softer.

"You'll just have to wrestle with it," says Becker. "Because you don't take the most beautiful photos when you just happen to be walking by." – dpa
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