20 Ways to Improve your Photography for [Social Media] December 6. 2016

A review

A good photo = Getting the right amount of light combined with a good composition

Obviously, it's not that simple. But, it's a quick guideline and something you can easily remember when taking a photo.

Photo above and below: shot on the same day and same location, capturing light from a different perspective

Larz Anderson Park (taken with Sony NEX 5, 16mm f/2.8)

1. Get the right [light] exposure

Panasonic GF1; stock lens;
Panasonic GH1; Using available light to isolate subject

Getting the right exposure requires understanding what your camera and your lens can do, and also knowing what your camera is doing. Most small point and shoot cameras have smaller sensor sizes while higher end professional cameras have larger sensor sizes. The larger the sensor size is, the more light it can capture.

Mirrorless camera Fuji X-Pro 1 and DSLR, Canon T4i
Point and shoot camera with limited control (like Polaroid instant cameras for mobile cameras on factory settings)

When you take a photo (pressing the shutter button), you are letting the light to expose the [film/image sensor]. The quantity of light is passed through lens opening, or aperture. Aperture is adjustable [f-stop] on all but the simplest lenses.

Aperture settings can be found either on the lens or in camera; the smaller the number the f-stop is the more light the lens will bring in to the sensor.
overexposed background (Sony RX100)

It's tricky when shooting in low light with the background that is too bright. While our eyes adjust to seeing clearly both the dark and the light area, the camera is unable to capture what we see—leaving either the background over-exposed, or the foreground underexposed. To remedy this, use flash to fill/light areas that are dark.

under exposed foreground (Sony RX100)
Reflection—Sony HX9V @ Wellesley College; Mix of under and over exposure.
Light at the end of the tunnel (Back Bay T)—Sony HX9V; use filter to soften overexposed area to bring out subject in focus.

Image isolation / Depth of Field / Bokeh with F Stop

Isolation 1—Canon T4i. f2.8, 1/320 sec.
Isolation 2—Canon T4i. f2.8, 1/500 sec.
Solara—Canon T2i; f1.4 1/60 sec.
Solara—Sigma DP2. f/2.8. 1/200
Luna—Sony RX100. f4.5, 1/100 sec
Kids in natural light—Sony A7s. Manual lens (f4, 1/250 sec)

2. Watch your shutter speeds.

I90 Motion; Sony RX100, f8, 1/10 sec.
Dancing in the dark. Sony RX100. f/4, 1/5 sec.
Lincoln Center (NY) water fountain. Sony RX100. F4. 1/2 sec.; motion in the water flow and allowing more background light to come in.
Dance in Academic Quad. Canon 6D. f5.6, 1/150 (still has some motion blur)
Snow—Samsung Note 2; Shutter speed unknown. Typically, most phone cameras compensate blur reduction with aperture and ISO.
Freezing a fall scene—Canon T4i, f8, 1/250 sec.

3. Watch your ISO. Keep it low as it allows.

ISO is typically defined as sensitivity to the amount of the light that a sensor/film captures. The size of the sensor determines the camera's sensitivity to available light. Sensor size is related to the size of a 35mm film; full frame = area of 35mm film. See chart below for size comparison.

ISO #s range from 50, 100, or 200 to over a million. But it is best to keep your ISO as low as you can set it to minimize grain and digital noise.

The larger the sensor size is (full frame), the less "sensitive" it is to light. In other words, the larger the sensor is the cleaner, more defined, and less appearance of digital noise your shots will be. The advantage of the larger sensor size it is better for photographing in low light.

Grainy Chinatown. Nikon V1. ISO 3200.
Frog pond. Leica X1. ISO 3200.
Leica X1. ISO 1600.

4. Know your camera. Learn what it can and cannot do.

Do you mainly take photos with your smart phone? Look for different settings like focus and exposure. Does it have a "pro" mode that allows you to take RAW files, control aperture and shutter speeds? How many focus points does it have? Can you manually select your focus point(s)?

5. Know what your camera is doing when using as point and shoot: AF (auto focus), metering, auto-ISO.

Don't always trust auto focus.

6. Prefocus. Half-press to prefocus and full-press to take the shot. Don't always rely on full-press unless you have set your focus to manual focus.

Small depth of field.

Prefocusing is especially important when your Dept of Field is small.

7. Don’t limit your subjects to the center focus point.

You can focus and then recompose. Know what your lens can and cannot do.

The Pru. Sony RX10. f8, 1/320.

8. Use P or full auto mode for event photography.

Shooting with P setting makes photography simple. You will be able to concentrate on framing and getting the right moment when you don't have to worry about camera settings that you're not familiar with.

9. Use Aperture Priority mode (Av) when you want to isolate the subject and blur the background.

10. Use Shutter Priority (Tv) when you want to reduce camera shake.

Sometimes, when shooting in full auto or P in low light, the shutter speed the camera selects can still be too slow and cause image shake. If you want to avoid image shake shoot at at least 1/250 sec unless your camera or lens have image stabilizer (IS). With IS, you might be able to shoot at 1/60 second.

Harvard, low light. Fuji XPro1. 1/60 sec.

11. Shoot RAW if your camera is capable.

Shooting RAW images allow you to have much better control for post-processing without image quality loss.

12. Frame / compose your shots.

Start with the end in mind and visualize your shots. Don't get into a habit of shooting first and figuring out what to do with that photo you just shot. If you're photographing someone on a podium, figure out what the shot you want—hand gestures, interesting expression, context with the background to that tells a story or place the subject in a particular location.

Could be taken anywhere. There's no defined background to place the photo's location.
Placing the subject in context with the background tells a better story.

13. Shoot a bunch. Find the best moment from your selection.

14. Shoot with both eyes open.

It's good to be aware of the surrounding. You may notice an opportunity outside of the frame you're composing. It'll also keep you safer.

15. Don't think too much about photographic "rules."

Rule of third loosely applied.
Rule of third loosely applied.
Rule of third loosely applied.
Rule of third loosely applied.
Point of interest is the center.
Point of interest is the center.

Every scene is different. Social Media platforms have various aspect ratio (width to height ratio). 1:1 for Instagram, 8:3 for FB cover photos, 2:1 for Daily shots and FB shared images, 16:9 for videos, 3:1 for Twitter header photos, etc... https://makeawebsitehub.com/social-media-image-sizes-cheat-sheet/

16. Anticipate and observe.

Look and observe carefully. Be aware of everything around you. Pay attention to the details. People are fairly predictable; it should be easy to spot if something out of the ordinary is about to happen. Anticipate what might happen so you can prepare yourself to be in the position to take the shot.

The jump. Ricoh GR.

17. Blend in.

Act like you belong and try not to draw too much attention your yourself. Dress nondescript, use a smaller camera or phone camera, and nobody will pay you a second glance. It will make your job easier when shooting "street photography" or event photography.

Justin. Sigma DP2.
George. Sigma DP2.
Brooklyn Bridge. Sony RX100.
Time Square. Sony RX100.

18. Notice what breaks patterns.

Notice what seems out of place. Notice imperfections. Notice sharp contrast (dark, light, colors).

Lonely student @ Lake Waban.
Imperfect reflection. Wavy. Lincoln Center. Sony RX100.
Airplane. Fuji X Pro 1
Three windows. NYC. Fuji X100.

19. Prioritize your subject. Tell a story.

Scooter shock. Panasonic GH1.
The Band. Sony NEX 5N
Holiday video behind the scene. Pentax K01.

20. Keep practicing and have fun!

Bonus: To filter or not to filter

What are you trying to achieve? Why do you want to use filters?

It's usually better not to overuse or over stack filters. Filters can unintentionally hide interesting aspects of the photos. Filters can be trendy. What's cool today may look ugly in a year.

Try Snapseed (Google) for mobile devices, and Google Nik Collection for post-processing on your computer. https://www.google.com/nikcollection/

Thank you.

Credits:

All photos and graphics by Soe Lin Post. Do not redistribute or use photos from this presentation without Soe Lin Post's permission.

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