I. Finding the location
- When I go outside to take pictures of nature, I do barely have any concepts in my mind. I just go and let nature inspire me. The first important step is finding a location.
- It is not that difficult to find an interesting background. I personally do prefer backgrounds which are not monochrome. Many shades of light (light and dark contrasts or different colors) make your picture interesting, no matter if the final result will be monochrome or colorful in the end.
- I look out for locations where not many people are. Like a big meadow in front of a house or a field or forests. (Forests do have the special plus that it does almost always have different light shadings I mentioned in 2).
II. Know your possibilities!
- You have found your favourite location? Great! Many people do the mistake to take a picture from above. The final picture will seem to be extremely flat (even if you have got a 50mm lens) and not very interesting, since the background (which is the actual ground then) is the meadow or brown forest ground. But before you start avoiding this mistake, care of the following points:
- Know your camera settings: Your camera is able to change settings? Great! Get to know them!
The easiest way to explain these settings (which are, actually, the most important to create depth of field, etc) by using a simile.
Let's say you have got a water tap. The more you open it, the more water will flow out, right? That could be compared to the aperture. The more you open it, the more light will go into your camera. The numbers (for example f/1.8) are important for the depth of field you want to create. Do you want to shoot landscapes, in which almost everything is clear and crisp, with no shallow depth of field? Then choose a high number for aperture (like f/8 and bigger numbers), but when you are interested in close-up-photography with a shallow depth of field with the lowest number possible (it depends from lens to lens). My 50mm has the most shallow depth of field at 1.8, and my kit's lowest number (18-55mm) is 3.5.
Shutter speed is the way how long you would like the light to go in. The longer you let the camera take the picture (which is possible from 1/8000s up to 30minutes or more) the more light will be caught by the sensor. The longer you expose your pictures, the more frequent will be the fact of hand shake being visible on your pictures, so I suggest to take a tripod for exposures longer than 1/125s. But that is my personal reference, since my hand is quite shaky.
The focal length
The longer the lens is, the better? Not always right. There are many differences in the quality of the images compared to the length of the lens. I own a 55-200mm zoom lens, which is quite long at 200mm, and you can focus things your eyes would not see because they are far away, but the final picture is very dark, and sometimes shaky. Why? Because the longer the focal length, the lower the angle the camera catches, and the longer the way the light needs to go through the lens to reach the sensor -> There must be more light which eventuates in a longer exposure time. Great choices for great depth of field pictures are lenses which are no zoom lenses. These are called prime lenses. The 50mm f/1.8 is a prime lens, and because you cannot zoom, the optical lenses being built in the lens are of a higher quality and make it possible to take pictures in the dark with a relatively short shutter speed.
- These two facts are the most important ones when it comes to closeup-photography. Do you still remember the mistake I mentioned in the beginning? Taking pictures from above? Let me tell you my way to take pictures.
- People who do not want to become dirty during the process of taking pictures should take a blanket with you, and a protection for your camera. Since I have a Live-View, which I mostly use to focus, I knee down (yes, also in dirt and mud and wet grass) and also lay my camera down. The effect of eye-to-eye will create a much better atmosphere in your pictures, so lay your camera down on the same level as the object you would like to photograph. That's no secret, but will improve your skills.
Now, after telling so many technical things and so on, let's sum it up.
- Find a good location with a colorful background.
- Take the lowest number of aperture in your camera settings, and let the camera choose the time if you are not sure whether your pictures will be well-exposed.
- Get close to your object. Take an eye-to-eye view to your object, so that the camera is on the same level as the object.
- Shoot, shoot and shoot! Taking pictures will make you better, I promise.
“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” - Henri Cartier-Bresson
I hope you liked it, and I hope it helped you somehow. Maybe I will do another tutorial, since this one is very general.