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3 Things That Make Or Break A Photo

Posted by on 2 August 2010

Time and again, I’ve heard people put the blame on the poor quality of their photos on their point-and-shoot cameras. Now don’t look at me and say, “Sure, easy for you to say. You’ve got yourself an expensive high-tech DSLR camera while I only have this ordinary point-and-shoot camera.I can assure you that great photos are possible with a point-and-shoot.

Here is an excellent example of a great photo taken with — believe it or not — a point-and-shoot camera:

Masjid_Haram_tower
One of the 112 gates of Masjidil Haram. Photo taken with a Nikon Coolpix camera (a point-and-shoot!), just a few minutes before sunset.

Yes, Virginia. It’s not the tool that matters; it’s how you use it. The tool only makes your job easier but it’s what you do with the tool that matters more.

I may not be an expert on photography but after giving the subject much thought, I realise that, once you strip photography bare of all the fancy-schmancy equipment and intimidating technical terms, the key elements to a good photo boil down to three basic things:-

1. LIGHT

Light is the main thing makes or breaks a photo. With the right amount of light and the right type of light, your subject will take on a more beautiful appearance. Insufficient light will result in grainy images, too much light (e.g. outdoors at midday) can make the image look flat and the colours washed up.

The wrong type of light, such as fluorescent lamps, would make your photo look pale, unnatural, uninteresting.

The angle at which light hits your subject also adds depth and drama to your photos.

I personally like the half hour or so before sunset when colours take on a more vivid hue. Just as my photo above illustrates so beautifully.

Avoid using your camera’s flash.

Here is a sample photo that failed (one which *I* took) because (i) the only light source at the time was a dim fluorescent bulb; and (ii) I used my camera’s built-in flash.

2. COMPOSITION

Before you shoot, ask yourself: “What is my subject? What do I want to show here? What message am I trying to convey?” That helps you decide whether to zoom in on your subject’s face, zoom in further to focus on her eyes, zoom out to include the background behind him/her, or focus on the items (flowers, food, etc) in front of him/her.

Look for curves, colours, recurring shapes. They can have a significant effect on the impact that your photos make. Remember this photo that I took with a camera phone? It’s the vividness of the reds, greens and yellows that gives this photo so much impact and oomph.

Look for lines and patterns that draw the eye. Just take a look at these two photos that were taken within minutes of each other, using the exact same subject and the exact same camera under the exact same settings:-

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The photo on the left was taken by T. The photo on the right was taken by me. It’s just a small shift in perspective but I find that, in the shot that I took, the lines made by the rows of chairs give more interest and dimension to the photo without veering away from Twin1, the main subject of the photo.

There are many articles on the internet that talk about composition. Check out Digital Photography School’s 5 Elements of Composition at this link just to give you a headstart. But as you continue your journey in the world of photography, eventually you will realise that composition is as much an art as it is a science.

3. SHARPNESS

A steady hand is a must in order to get a sharp, clear image. Even if you use the most sophisticated and most expensive camera in the world, it won’t do you any good if your hand can’t be steady enough.

Use a tripod for low-light situations or prop your camera on books, a table, a ledge and use the built-in self-timer option.

Check out this link for three excellent tips on preventing camera shake.

Sometimes, some blur is necessary to show movement but generally speaking, the main subject of your photo must be in focus in order for the photo to work.

Now go out there and shoot, shoot, shoot until you get the photo that conveys exactly what you had in mind.

Encourage one another*,
Mimi

(*Line borrowed from Miz Booshay)

6 Responses to 3 Things That Make Or Break A Photo

  1. kg

    i agree! i am loving my point-and-shoot nowadays because it can take great photos too!

  2. Haza

    Mimi, I love the chillies shot. Thanks for the tips.

  3. sheng

    I have a point and shoot, and I will be using it now more than ever, hubby has the dslr, time to get my hands on the camera!

  4. Mimi

    kg: Point-and-shoot cameras these days have indeed vastly improved a lot already. The only thing that they can’t duplicate so far is the speed of DSLR cameras.

    Kak Haza: Your photographs are also very good lah. But you’re welcome :)

    Sheng: Ah, you should play with yr hubby’s DSLR once in a while ;)

  5. Elmira

    Wish I could make full use of my 8 megapixels phone camera:-)

  6. witsandnuts

    I am most of the time using my point and shoot. I agree with the pointers you shared. It’s not always necessary to bring the *heavy* dSLR. It pained me during my recent trip. Heehee.

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