A photo is worth a thousand words. It can evoke emotions and it can change the world. Here are some tips to help you take great photos.
Great photos have four basic elements in common:
- The audience can understand what the photo is about.
- The photo background is not distracting.
- The photo evokes an emotion.
- The photo is in focus.
Know your camera
Read the manual: Know how your camera works before you go out and shoot. Experiment with different modes and the flash. Take some test shots.
The “rule of thirds”
The “rule of thirds” is a very basic way to improve your photo’s composition or to help it look more natural. See the frame below. Now, imagine the lines cut the image into thirds both horizontally and vertically in your viewfinder, like a tic-tac-toe game board. What you end up with is 9 parts or squares. Place the most interesting elements of the image into the “points of interest” outlined below in red.
Fill the frame
Get close to your subject or use the background for context. Be aware that the audience will view the entire image, not just the subject. Remember too that although you don’t want a pole sticking out of someone’s head, don’t miss a great shot because you’re trying to stick to the rules.
Moving around can yield some really interesting results. So get down to your subject’s level, lie on the ground, stand on a box, move to the side, get behind them, get closer.
Take candid shots
Posed shots are not always best. Catch your subject doing their best work — in the street trying to get people to sign a petition, holding a sign at an event, or talking to interested parties. Look for emotional, spontaneous actions and capture them.
Experiment with different lights; shoot on cloudy days and on sunny days. However, in general, unless you want to go for a silhouette, shoot with the sun or primary light source behind you.
Tell a story
Photography is visual storytelling. So think about what you want your images to say. If you are putting together a series of photographs, remember that stories usually have a beginning, middle, and end.
Ethics in citizen-advocacy photography
Digital photographs can be altered. But in citizen advocacy, photos are meant to be a truthful record of a person or situation and so altering reality is considered unethical. That’s why it is important you don’t alter your photographs. This means you can’t use photoshop to remove a pole sticking out of a person’s head and you can’t add content that wasn’t there either; it is lying. Of course, you can remove red-eye, lighten the tone, or crop a photo to improve appearance and composition.
Happy Photo Taking!