Eight surprisingly simple photography tips

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At the weekend I was invited to an architecture photography workshop organised by Goodman property, led by Simon from Iguana photography in Birmingham. I learnt an awful lot in a day, due to Simon’s refreshingly hands on and jargon free approach. I thought I would share some simple photography tips here.

The beauty of taking photos of buildings is that they don’t move, so they are a perfect way to hone your art.

Simple Photography Tips

1. Photography is an art not a science. Manual doesn’t have to be scary, just think of yourself like a formula one racing driver. Simon reminded us we didn’t have to understand all the workings of the camera’s ‘engine’ to drive it like a pro. Simon gave great explanations of shutter, aperture, ISO etc but the theory always goes in one ear and out the other for me, but thanks to 2 minutes of watching Simon twiddling I knew exactly how to physically operate the controls even if I couldn’t tell you the science behind them.  Just call me Jenson.

2. Train yourself to see if a picture is exposed correctly. Give yourself permission to play. You don’t have to remember what all the settings mean, just twiddle the knobs and use your eye to judge if a photo looks right.

My very first shot on auto mode looked like this, nice sky but dingy bottom half of the picture:

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Simon then helped me to reset to manual settings: 1/125 ISO 100 . This just left me to twiddle with the ‘F stop’ dial to make the picture lighter or darker, easy! With a bit of thought – it looked like this. My camera screen makes pics look lighter so it is perhaps a little overexposed, but the main thing is I am learning to see this for myself (and the flag is flying and not blurred – bonus points!)

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3. You are going to have to lose your inhibitions. Simon was very at home on the floor.

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Maybe it helped that Birmingham isn’t my home town, but I soon found myself happily kneeling or sat on the floor snapping. There were a few jokey comments and stares, but I really didn’t care, I was soon so absorbed in what I was doing.

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By the time we hit the Selfridges building I was more than happy to lie on the floor to get my shot.

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4. Street furniture is your friend. Anything that helps you keep yourself steady is going to lead to a better shot. By the end of the day I found myself naturally leaning in to lampposts, using bins as a camera rest and leaning against buildings. Blending in with the street furniture also felt a bit like ‘photographer’s camouflage’, it felt less exposing to be actively ‘connected’ to the street while I gathered my thoughts.

For this shot I used the wall round the fountain as a rest, you could also sit cross-legged on the floor elbows propped on knees.

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5. You can blur people to stop them distracting from your pictures of buildings. In order to take my camera’s settings really low to blur passers by (I might not be able to tell you what the settings do that I was messing with, but it actually doesn’t matter as I can still manipulate the setting in question now to get the required shot: 1/3 f/29 ISO 100) I needed to use a bin to rest it on, as the shot takes really slowly. It’s the first time I have ever done this and there is room for improvement, but ‘I am blurring people!!’

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6. Low angles make things look more impressive, great for buildings! From teaching media studies I remember Hitchcock used high angles to make people seem small and vulnerable. Which is why you need to get level with your kids when you want to take lifelike photos of them.

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7. Lead the eye into the picture, the sweep of the tiles helps to lead the way to the library here

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Lines help to lead the eye to the centre here. I so want to go back and retake this a few times, it was such lovely set up!

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8. Accept that sometimes the complexity of perception our eye has, just won’t be replicated in a picture, ‘alleyway shots’ are so difficult for this reason. I constantly wanted the camera to see the juxtapositions my eye saw, like this statue reading outside the library, but it didn’t always translate to photograph. She is detailed but the library is lost, they don’t seem connected like they did in my mind’s eye!

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Simon suggested making a frame with your fingers to seek out and judge shots, as we miss things when we look through a camera viewfinder.

This one was more pleasing to the eye as a photo,  with the plants neatly framing the left side. Although now I see my lens needs a good clean and that the down angles of the white building windows are fighting my eye against the up of the library building.

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7. Show off texture.  Simon challenged us to show the dome shape of the discs on this building. The cloud relections give them a domed appearance in the photograph.

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It was  a great day, shared with some other great bloggers, who I managed to chat to briefly in between the fun of shooting! Taking pictures of buildings is inspirational, but I do love snapping people too. The buildings made a complimentary backdrop to Hannah‘s colours here.

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Clare hides behind a statue, again the building makes a flattering backdrop and the lines draw us towards her camera I think. Needs a little cropping to lose the distracting red bags of course.

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Me, Amanda and Jen, you can’t have a photo day without at least one selfie!

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What do you reckon of these simple photography tips? Have you picked up any simple photography tips recently? I would love to hear them, likewise happy to try and answer any questions.

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9 Comments

  1. Karin Joyce
    03/09/2014 / 1:24 pm

    I never hear about these events! Would love to learn more about photography & video. Clue me in if there are any more Midlands ones Penny! Great captures!

    Karin

  2. 04/09/2014 / 8:39 am

    I was gutted I couldn’t get childcare for this one. Would have been great to understand how to work the DSLR I’ve inherited!

    Definitely some easy pointers.

  3. 04/09/2014 / 6:02 pm

    I love what you have done with this post. Isn’t it fascinating how 18 bloggers will all write a completely different article, from the same experience. I love your photo of the library with the tiles in the foreground leading you into the picture. Wish I had thought of that 😉 x

  4. 06/09/2014 / 3:31 am

    Great tips thank you! I always forget it takes a few moments to set up for a ‘good’ shot, it’s all too easy to chuck the camera on auto when wandering around as a tourist with someone waiting for you. Using the AV setting, where you choose ‘depth of field’ and the camera does the rest can be fun, but manual gets better results.

  5. 07/09/2014 / 8:58 pm

    Great tips, we have an SLR and although I thought I’d love it I just can’t get to grips with it, hubby has more of the technical skills but I have more of the eye for a shot! Need to practise I think! x

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