Photography is a natural hobby for most RVers. We are out seeing the world and want to capture it! Plus it is a great way to make those in sticks and bricks jealous, right?! Well, photography does not have to be a hard subject to master and you don’t need a lot of fancy gear to capture beautiful images. Barry Benton has been a professional photographer (and my husband) for most of his life and now teaches others how to capture their own iconic photographs. I asked him for his top photography tips to help anyone take a better picture.
By Barry Benton
Just as a great set of golf clubs does not make someone a great golfer, the camera does not make a great photographer. The camera is a tool to capture a scene that you want to remember and share. It assists you in creating a story of your travels and adventures. The art of photography is about content, composition, and light. And these principles are the same whether you use a camera phone or a fancy DSLR. Without a strong working knowledge of these ideas, all the f/stops and shutter speeds in the world can’t make the picture better. Remember, the best camera is the one you have with you. As they say in golf, if you don’t take a swing, you never make it on the green.
Here are some basic ideas to keep in mind and practice to help you take better images.
Basic 1 – Content
The first idea is to take time and be intentional. In the movie Caddyshack, Ty says to Danny: “Be the ball…” The idea is to think about what you’re doing, be present and notice your surroundings – don’t just swing or in this case, snap. Consider the scene and why it interests you. Move around, look at it from different angles and see how the scene changes or how you find new interests. Then look at it through the camera. Should this image be horizontal or vertical, zoom in or out to add or subtract features in the scene. Only include what gives the image meaning and appeal to you.
And after all that, the most important idea? Fill your frame! Fill the camera viewer with only what you want in the image. Everything should be part of your story or be guiding the viewer to the subject. Eliminate sky if there is too much, raise the camera so the sidewalk is not taking up a lot of the bottom of the photo. “Be the ball!” Then, you can snap!
Basic 2 – Composition
The quickest way to improve your photography is to learn and practice composition. While there are a variety of compositional techniques, the first one to master is the “Rule-of-Thirds.” Visualize a grid on your screen that divides your scene into equal thirds – two lines going horizontally and two lines going vertically. The intersection points can be considered “power points.” These points are where you want to place your key elements or the topic of your photograph. By balancing your image along these thirds, you create a more compelling image.
Another composition technique is called “leading lines.” When possible, this can add great interest to the image as it leads the viewer to the subject. Lines can be found everywhere and can be subtle.
Basic 3 – Light
Light is the essence of photography. It has the greatest impact on the scene and your image. You can improve your photography skills just by watching light and shadows throughout the day. Learning to be more intentional about “seeing the light,” you will notice how the light and shadow affects your scenes and thus, your photography. When you shoot a subject with the sun behind you, do you notice how the light on the subject is flat? When you move so that the sun hits the subject at an angle, you will notice more texture in the image. Even light from a streetlight or reflections off puddles can add interesting texture and make the image more interesting.
Basic 4 – Timing
This is the master trick of photographers. They know to get the best images, they must be willing to go when and where the light is best. They know the “golden hour” adds a beautiful play of light and shadow that creates a softer image.The “Golden Hour” is loosely referred to as the two times a day when the sun is just above the horizon, about an hour or so before sunrise or sunset. It lengthens the shadows across the landscape, adding texture and softness.
Of course, most of us want to take pictures outside those special time periods. So a key way to improve your photography is to consider the timing, the sun and the weather and just schedule some of your exploring. If you find a wonderful spot and can’t return to it when the light is better, use the other principles outlined. When you can though, try to plan your day with some attention to the sun’s position and the weather conditions. Maybe on a bright sunny day during the point when the sun is right overhead, you shoot an indoor scene. This allows you to take outdoor photos when the sun is more angled. You can also use cloudy days to practice your photography skills as the sun is hidden fully or partially, giving you a chance to play with light and shadows.
Photography is about observing the world in an intentional way. Slow down and pay attention to what captures your interest. Observe the light and try to work with it. “Be the ball” and take lots of photos. Remember the most important rule to getting a great image – use your camera. And be glad we live in the age of digital photography so you can take lots of shots and practice. It might take hundreds of images to find just the right one. So just have fun and start shooting!
Barry Benton is co-founder of Benton Downs Photography which assists new and seasoned photographers improve their skills and tell their visual stories through workshops and courses. As a professional photographer for more than thirty years, Barry enjoys sharing techniques and skills to help others capture iconic images that you are proud to display in your home. For more information on BentonDowns and photography tips, visit their website, www.bentondowns.com. You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram.