Anyone can be a photographer these days. The smartphone in your pocket is now equipped with an excellent camera. With apps and online editing tools, you can turn even the most mundane snapshots into stunning photos to share with the world on Instagram or Snapchat.
But for really outstanding pictures nothing can hold a candle to a real camera. If you have the right equipment at hand, you too can take professional photos yourself and get the most out of every shoot.
To find out how to correctly use such a camera, we talked to Ian. He is a professional photographer at MPB – the online platform for second-hand camera equipment. He gives specific tips on how you too can take professional photos yourself.
Tip 1: Get the right equipment
The kit you use has a big impact on the look and quality of your photos. "A mirrorless camera is a great option if you want to take it a step further from the smartphone", says Ian.
Mirrorless cameras are much smaller and lighter than DSLRs (digital single-lens reflex cameras), making them perfect for parties, vacations and festivals.
"As with DSLRs, mirrorless cameras can be paired with a variety of lenses – including vintage and second-hand lenses," Ian says. "These are especially good for photographers with a small budget."
With simple and inexpensive adapters, you can attach a wide variety of lenses to mirrorless cameras. However, many still prefer DSLRs. Although they tend to be somewhat larger and heavier, they bring the advantages of time-tested technology: they are reliable and robust.
Ian recommends that you buy all your kit second hand. "If you buy second-hand, you can save a lot of money. And when you buy from MPB, you can be sure that your camera and lens will work properly."
Spend money on glass, not megapixels
Ian points out that resolution, meaning a camera’s megapixel rating, is no guarantee of quality. A great example for technically perfect pictures is the Sony A7S II with "only" 12 megapixels.
"With resolution, you can more easily print in large formats without sacrificing quality.", he says. "If you don’t want to print large dimensions, it’s not worth the extra financial effort.
"This money could be better spent elsewhere. Modern cameras with 14 to 24 megapixels absolutely serve their purpose. Invest in good lenses instead. "This gives you a lot more options to decide which look or style you prefer."
Protect your lens with a filter
Invest in a good UV protection filter for your lens. If your camera ever slips out of your hand, a filter can mean the difference between a new filter or a whole new lens.
"Don’t be too stingy with it", says Ian. "There’s no point spending a lot of money on a good lens only to shove a cheap piece of glass in front of it."
Crop camera or full frame?
In general, you can say: the bigger the sensor, the more expensive the camera. Since digital cameras have been around for almost 15 years now, prices for full-frame cameras are steadily dropping.
Full-frame means the sensor is the same size as a single frame on a 35mm film negative. APS-C is about 1.6x smaller. The larger the sensor, the better the gradations of color and light in your photos.
"Imagine drawing a landscape on an A4 sheet of paper and then drawing the same landscape on a postcard", says Ian. "For example, the size of the A4 paper allows for a better transition between the colors in the evening sky and the transition of the light from light to dark."
In recent years, however, cameras with APS-C sensors have come a long way. Some now compete in terms of image quality with many full-frame cameras from the big brands.
Take professional photos yourself – Tip 2: Learn the basics
If you want to take professional photos yourself, whether with a smartphone or an SLR camera, you need to use the right technique.
"Most people want quick solutions and simple tricks when it comes to improving their own photos", says Ian. "However, if you really want to get the best out of your images, you need to sit down and learn the basics.
"Learn how shutter speed, aperture and ISO affect the exposure of your shots and how they relate to each other." The main purpose of these three variables is to adjust the exposure of your image – this is also called the "exposure triangle". But they also influence the artistic value of your images.
"Once you understand these essential photographic tools, you can experiment and let your artistic streak run wild.", says Ian. For example, choose a small number for the aperture (e.g. B. f/1.4), and increase the lens aperture at the same time. Here’s how to bring more light into the image and focus only on the subject in the foreground of the frame.
However, this aperture setting also increases the exposure time. If you’re aiming for that shallow depth of field on a bright, sunny day, you’ll need to reduce the amount of light (either with ISO or shutter speed) so you don’t overexpose the image.
Tip 3: Focus on your positioning
"Positioning is arguably the most important element of photography," says Ian. "This will have a dramatic effect on the quality of your photos and help you take more interesting shots."
His top tip for positioning is to get as far away from the subject as possible. "When you add more context to the image, your shot becomes more interesting and viewers learn more about the scene," says Ian. Another important rule is to keep all lines in the image as straight as possible. "The edges of doors, windows and buildings should be as parallel to the frame as possible", says Ian.
"Dare to kneel down, step back or climb up on something to straighten the lines in your picture. Basically you want to make it as Wes Anderson-like as possible."
Experiment with a broader perspective. Take a step back or zoom out further and see how you can capture the subject in their environment. "Remember, how you perceive something is often dependent on your environment. That’s often why you want to shoot something specific," says Ian.
"Don’t deny the viewer the surroundings by zooming in too much. Allow him to see what you want to convey."
Take professional photos yourself Tip 4: Rule of thirds: Learn first, break later
Rules are made to be broken. However, it is important to learn what the rules are exactly before you start experimenting.
The rule of thirds is about visualizing your frame divided by two vertical lines and two horizontal lines. The idea is that you place objects, subjects or other motifs within these divisions or at their intersections.
"I’ve generally always seen this rule as a way to train my eye and get me to think about positioning, rather than a rule to follow blindly", says Ian.
"A good way to practice this is to photograph landscapes. The sky acts as a background, then you have your subject in the middle distance and your foreground. "This will split your image horizontally into three parts. This is the rule of thirds in the traditional sense."
"Once you’ve mastered this, you can place objects within the frame on these lines – both horizontally and vertically."
Tip 5: Look for good light
Light is one of the most important aspects of photography. So there are many different types of light that lead to different results.
Maybe you have heard the term Golden hour ever heard of the magic hour before sunset that creates a very soft blanket of warm light. While I wouldn’t say it’s the ‘best’ kind of light, it’s definitely an easy way to create a beautiful mood", Ian says.
You can try to shoot against the sun or with the sun behind you to test how the light works for you. For portraits, you can try different positioning and work with different exposures to see what you like best.
At this time of day you have to work relatively fast, because the light – especially in the winter months – doesn’t last long. At the other end of the spectrum is the harsh midday sun. This is not at all suitable for portraits. The high position of the sun creates harsh shadows on people’s faces and can often cause them to blink.
For street photography, however, you can experiment with the midday sun. The harsh shadows can help capture high contrast imagery and thus you can use the otherwise unflattering light in interesting and dynamic ways.
Using the flash
If you’re shooting in a club, pub, or other low-light situation, you’ll probably need to use a flash to illuminate the scene. "If you use a built-in flash, you easily illuminate what is happening", says Ian.
"If you want the photo to look a little more artistic and you want more control over the lighting, it’s worth investing in a separate flash. This way you can bounce the lightning off walls and ceilings to create a softer light. "
Take professional photos yourself Tip 6: Play with depth of field
When you get your hands on your first 50mm lens with a wide aperture, you’ll probably start by photographing everything in your house to get the Bokeh (to test the intentionally blurred areas of the photo).
This is the best way to learn how to use depth of field and how to create blurred backgrounds. The trick is not to use this technique too haphazardly, says Ian – no matter how tempting it is. "This look shows you the biggest difference between camera and cell phone shots."
For the classic portrait look, it’s not just the lens that matters.
"Look for places with the greatest distance between your subject and the objects behind them", says Ian. "This contributes to the blurred background. Light sources at night result in beautiful, blurry light spots."
Focus on the eyes for portraits
When composing a portrait photo, people are mainly attracted by the eyes. As a rule, these should be framed in the middle-top or the top of the bottom half.
Always take the time to make sure the eyes are as sharp as possible, advises Ian. "A lack of focus on the eyes indicates a failed portrait", he adds. "Make sure you use the zoom function when looking at the photos. If you see that the focus is not right, take the photo again."
Whether you just use your smartphone’s camera or get an SLR, with a few tips and tricks, you too can take professional photos yourself. But practice makes perfect! It’s a case of snap away and try it out, so that your next Instagram post can shine with an exceptional photo.