Subjects and Framing Ideas
Landscapes, trees, plants
Vast fields, forested areas, trees, shrubs and plants are easily the most inspiring scenes. Weather and seasons present many opportunities to capture them from a slightly different perspective every day, leading to endless photos with good potential. Showcasing nature to a world where most of the population leaves in urban spaces is inspiring and meaningful. Imaginative pictures focus on showing aspects that are often overlooked due to our routine. Plants and particularly flowers offer ample opportunities and have a strong impact, considering that some of them have a very short lifespan.
Mountainous areas have a particular attraction with their breathtaking sights and they offer many opportunities for photographers. However, insufficient detail brought by weather conditions or a camera that is not coping as well with light conditions can affect the quality of a resulting image.
Ponds, Rivers, Lakes, The Sea
Water surfaces always attract us, since most of our life is spent on the land. On vast waterways it is better to look for details that intervene in an otherwise perfect platitude than to simply think about capturing the endless water surface. Ripples, splashes can be emphasized when they are in the picture's focus and there is some variation obtained in this way. Natural or man-made presence, whether we consider animals, vegetation or ships and structures, can always result in interesting photos. Closeups and odd picturing angles can also liven up the composition.
While you may like the look of endless water surfaces, they may be boring to your viewers. Show interesting compositions that avoid water being the main focus.
Wild, Semi-feral, Domestic Animals
Humans enjoy to experience the wilderness while not being harmed by it. Many times, the same can be said about the wildlife as it thrives when human intervention is minimal. To be able to experience the wild it is important to be patient and well versed with accessories such as tripods and high-magnification, telescope lenses. The main takeaway is that you can rarely show good pictures of true wilderness with a simple smartphone. Its camera is way too limited in optical capabilities for the requirements of these environments. Very good semi-professional and particularly professional cameras are required to end up with good enough pictures. Even so, fast moving animals may still be difficult to capture.
Semi-feral animals are easily the most likely subjects to practice photography. As they are somewhat accustomed to the human presence, they frequently stay closer to humans and this results in shorter distances from the camera. It is more likely to reach good enough positions from which to capture such animals. In some cases, insects that are less likely to run or fly frequently can also be captured with less advanced cameras such as the ones found in smartphones. Unfortunately, as in other similar cases, it is possible to end up with many unusable photos due to camera and particularly focusing and framing limitations. I advise only experiments with such subjects on smartphones since they frequently do not end up as a steady source of good snapshots.
Animals are difficult to capture, particularly if they fear human presence. Unless they are stray or domestic, it is difficult to capture them at a shorter distance to elicit good results without complex lenses and tripods or camera stands'
Individuals and Groups
The most likely encounters with photography is probably from capturing known and unknown individuals. Since people rarely travel very fast by themselves and are naturally closer to us, particularly in urban environments, there is a vast expanse for experimentation with cameras and trying to capture details in their attire and gestures. Groups may be slightly more difficult to cover properly, particularly when they act disorganized but even in these cases there is at least an individual or a couple of them than can showcase a difference that can be well emphasized in a specific part of the image.
It is advisable to know that less brighter environments, as in some stage performances, are very difficult to capture properly with smartphones. The insufficient performance of the optical system means that only a very small of the picture is occupied by the subject or subjects, leading to poor details that remain visible. At least semi-professional cameras are required for such scenarios. The larger the distance to the point of interest, as is the case in certain sport competitions, the less chance of capturing it with an inexpensive or readily-available camera.
Avoid capturing individuals or groups when light comes from behind, and look for light that falls from above or at a left or right angle, unless you really want dramatic efects, such as with downlights
An ubiquitous presence in urban environments, buildings are plentiful and can be the subject of numerous pictures. However, unless the buildings themselves have architectural features that signify complexity, it is rarely possible to end up with attractive pictures. When architecture blends in the environment, as is the case of being surrounded by sparse vegetation or groups of people, a much more attractive scene is achieved than in a deserted or concrete/asphalt dominant area. It is true that derelict or run-down buildings can also offer good opportunities, albeit their state will not elicit joyous reactions to most viewers and may even be offensive for heritage reasons.
Very tall or vast buildings may present difficulties for framing. Most inexpensive or general purpose cameras, as the ones used in smartphones, do not have the same optical compensations as professional cameras. This results in slight aberrations such as curvatures, that are more noticeable on such large subjects. With more modest cameras it is better to look for smaller areas of interest that are still able to overcome the apparent monotony. Reflective buildings, particularly office centers with large glass panels, may require experimentation in camera positioning to avoid glare, particularly on sunny days. Heritage or older buildings benefit a lot from shadows cast on them or having their features accentuated by other means such as reflections or temporary interventions.
Resist the temptation of filming the entire building, as it may bring no interest in the resulting picture. Prefer captures that emphasis certain features and avoid monotony. Different angled shots or variations may offer more attraction.
While vehicles are an integrated part of our lives, they require more effort in creating meaningful pictures. Simply capturing a standing vehicle may not be enough. The age and state, placement, buildings and people to which it stands nearby create an interesting scene. Moving vehicles by themselves, whether they are cars, trucks, trains or ships are more difficult to capture the faster they travel. Good lighting conditions and steady camera positioning is required. Some vehicles may be placed to far away to be properly captured with a smartphone, as they lack the required optical magnification to end up with useful details in images.
Showing the vehicle in its natural environment, a less common presence of it or simply details of it are all valid ideas to exploit in photographs.
Machinery and Components
All sorts of equipment has been and is present around us, telling a past story or making us enjoy the present. As such objects are abundant, there are vast opportunities to focus the camera lens on features we frequently ignore or use without a second thought. Closeups and environments that present various devices and products in uncommon places offer very good chances of ending up with great photos. Due to us having a detached experience that frequently leaves our electronic or mechanical creations well sheltered, showing their internal components can also be insightful to the audience, in a way to showcase beauty, order or the opposite of it.
Framing refers to the way in which a subject or centerpiece of a photo is part of the environment. Good framing ensures the subject is clearly visible but also that other sugestive details are present in the scene. Bad framing shows the subject in a context that is almost empty, finds the subject close to the limit of the picture or has other flaws that are readily obvious. Experiencing with hundreds, even thousands of photos as well as noticing what is appreciated by others in photos will offer a good understanding of framing techniques.
Try to make the best use of the rule of thirds. Having the focus on a good subject yet sorounding it with other details that are attractive ensures successful photos. Never consider that a subject by itself or something unexpected about him is enough. Photography has everything to do with composition and the way in which multiple elements, preferably of different types, human and natural, tell a compelling story. Photos that offer little enticement to write a story about, are not good photos.
Take many photos, delete the ones that are poor, practice on subjects and compositions that you like the best to define your own personal style.
Natural elements are able to, by themselves, tell a story. As many elements usually interact, it is not difficult to "cut" and "expose" a specific part of the world.
Vegetation can naturally be a focus of many photos. Forested areas or multiple layers of vegetation create a rich atmosphere. The focus should be on elements that are unusual, such as different colour foliage, an animal, an insect or anything else that is different. Good photos break the monotony and suggest interactions between at least two or three planes. If it is a landscape picture avoid having long areas that are geometrically similar, such as a river bank, trees and sky. Ensure that at a couple of these natural features are not symmetric or similar.
Closeups and macro photography can be very attractive. It is advisable to keep in mind that the large optical magnifications required for successful photos are unavailable to smartphones. Certain closeups can be created with care and patience. The most spectacular ones you may have seen of different websites require professional cameras and tripods to ensure steady, detailed shots.
Panoramic pictures are not recommended. Since they require specific lenses or composition techniques to compensate for the lack of such optical systems or multiple cameras, they tend to be less viable than aspiring photographers may expect. It should also be known that panoramic photographs most likely require specific software or support to ensure the display of these composited images. This means that effort spent on a technique for a particular way of presentation has to be made from scratch for a different one, as some procedures are specific to each implementation.
Light and shadows cast on the natural environment or the presence of other elements that break the monotony, such as buildings and humans, are highly recommended in the composition.
Urban Photography and Buildings
Framing whole buildings is generally difficult or does not bring meaningful details into view. With the sole exception of landmarks, most buildings have symmetries that make a photography's content highly predictable. This is the main reason why the focus is on specific architectural features, alterations or novel interventions. The presence of animals, people, or any other object that may interact or have a relationship with the building or its neighborhood are advisable, unless they are also relatively ordered and symmetric. In such situations, framing should focus on an area of interest that seems as diverse as possible, without being considered as random.
Any human settlement, from a village to a sprawling metropolis, offers opportunities to highlight its life. Individuals or groups liven up the streets, animals such as birds may suddenly appear in secluded or more visible areas, various works leave temporary or permanent marks on the way in which an urban or rural area looks and feels. While sometimes more monotonous, cities truly offer unique experiences due to the mix of buildings, lifestyle, vegetation and weather specificity. Rural areas can also suggest compelling stories if the scene does feature certain variability in building facades, placements or natural background. For aspiring photographers, urban photography is easier to follow and improve upon.
Making photographs as a habit may not result in a lot of useful captures but will certainly offer experience, confidence and ability for more complex tasks or even result in some compelling compositions by chance. Never underestimate your daily photo routine!
Individual and Group Photography
Events frequently take place and offer ample photo opportunities particularly in cities. Crowds can form around places of high interest in the downtown area. All of these offer ample opportunity to experiment with smaller and larger crowds photos. Goals established for these scene address the variety of people present or particular details that are visible on some of them. Pictures have to be taken quite fast and opportunities may sudden arise or disappear. Improving skills in these environments may help in other circumstances and many useful images may result for illustration purposes.
Individual photography is somewhat more difficult as it may require additional care in taking good pictures of still or moving persons, which creates its own set of challenges. Smaller, lighter cameras, such as ones on smartphones, are an advantage in such circumstances as they can be easily moved to attempt various snapshots. However, it is always important to avoid being intrusive and to show respect when capturing or using such images. Individuals may be placed in any environment. The focus may be on their outfits, accessories or gestures that may be helpful in suggesting a compelling story. Closeups can be had only for other features than facial ones as privacy has to be respected.
A special mention has to be made for "selfies", as they do not help as much to improve photography techniques and their quality is generally poorer than for standard photos. However, they may help in testing or improving personal style as well as having inspiration for other standard photos.
Parks and Vegetation Abundant Areas
Natural or man-made parks and places with vegetation are high attraction areas for people. The more varied the landscape is and particularly if the area offers height differences, can result in highly appreciated spots for photography. Depending on situation, deserted or lively areas have their own benefits and the environment may be enhanced or affected by their presence. This means that certain areas should be captured at different times of day and on different seasons to better gauge what kind of context is more suitable. Sometimes buildings may be obtrusive or better blend into the natural environment. Any good photography location has to be assessed separately and in multiple photos.
Any area with vegetation can become the centerpiece of highly appreciated photographs. The most successful ones may use framing techniques that avoid an obvious atmosphere that is typical to other photographers.