A picture tells a thousand words

Whether you are capturing shots of Instagram, making memories for your wall or just capturing some snaps for your screen saver, we all want our photos to look good. But it can be hard right? Knowing where to stand, how to pose, what light to use, there are so many things to try and get right.

Nick Molnar is a specialist dance and gymnastics photographer based in Hemel Hempstead. He’s been photographing people, buildings and the natural environment for 20 years so we asked him to give us some top tips on how to capture the best shots.

Nick tells us: “Capturing photographs is always a learning process. Sometimes I learn through online media, from talking to other photographers, from television and reading, but the things I have learned the quickest, I have learned from trial and error, experimenting and practice.”

Here are some of Nick’s top tips to help us we practice our way to the best shots:

De-clutter and keep it simple: If you can, try and avoid too many competing elements in a photo. It is no good having an amazing t-shirt or awesome dance pose if there is something interesting going on in the background or there is another object close-by. Sometimes even less interesting objects than the focus can be distracting. Just having the product on its own in shot is better or if shooting on a phone camera some Portrait settings can blur out the background to retain focus on the subject.

Know when to crop: Cropping can help level out horizons and cut out unnecessary distractions. 

A different angle: Using different angles can sometimes add impact to an image adding dynamism whilst maintaining focus on the subject.  Different angles can also give an edgy feel and are great for social media. A low angle can really make the subject of the picture stand out.

Straighten those horizons: Keeping the horizon straight is definitely a way to make your images look more professional.  If the horizon is slightly out then it isn’t pleasing on the eye and becomes a distraction. Try and think about levelling the horizon as you are taking the shot if not then you can always rotate the image when editing. However this rule can definitely be broken by intentionally exaggerating a wonky horizon if you are looking to create a more edgy feel to the shot. Often works well in fashion shots.

Rule of Thirds: This is all about where to place your subject whether it is a person, product, building or a mountain or whatever!  For most people the general default is to have the subject in the absolute centre of the image. Sometimes this is ok, but more often than not you should be thinking about the rule of thirds. Imagine a noughts and crosses board filling your view. The key areas for subject placement are either of the four spots where the lines cross or having the subject along the lines themselves vertically or horizontally.

Negative space: This is all about leaving an area of your picture fairly unfilled or neutral, like some sky, grass or wall. This has two advantages:

  1. It helps draw attention to the focus of the image
  2. Leaves space for and wording which you might want to put over the top

Focus right: We are used to reading from left to right so it is often aesthetically pleasing to view an image from left to right (but not always!) and would naturally draw the eye to the focal point.

Using colour: Colours should be complimentary rather than clashing. If the overall colour of the image is not pleasing then people will pass over it more quickly and you have lost your audience. Experiment with black and white as sometimes that can save an image if you are unhappy with the colours.

What rules?: Like most rules in art, they can be broken, the trick is knowing when breaking them will enhance your final image – that is where practice and experimenting will come in.

Nick finishes: “I always have to keep reminding myself of these key points, as I don’t always get it right first time and I am always still learning whether it’s camera technique or editing software tricks and tips.

“The important thing is to keep on trying, people see images differently and what one person sees as an amazing image someone else might not give it a second glance, but you should still strive to catch everyone’s attention, even if it is for a moment as sometimes a moment is all you need!”

We are so excited to put some of these tips into action. Tag us in any pictures you are particularly proud of – we’d love to see them.