How to Capture the Image

Before pressing the shutter release, you ought  to consider several things.  First, you need to determine what you are going to take a photo of.  You have many choices: Still life, action, street photography, portraiture, landscape, and so forth.

Then you must frame the shot, including a point of interest, with the viewfinder.

You’ll also want to make a decision on the type of lens to use. This will depend on the genre. For instance, to shoot a close-up of a flower, you’d probably use a macro or prime lens. To capture an image on the street, such as street photography, you’d use a wide-angle. The same goes for landscape. If you were sitting in a hockey rink, you’d want to magnify the image , bringing it closer in the viewfinder, and so you’d select a telephoto lens.

Once you have made a decision about the type of lens to take the photograph with, you must determine the exposure you want. The exposure is a combination of the right lens aperture, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity. You can specify these settings on your digital SLR.

You’ll need to also answer several question about how you want to capture the image itself. Do you intend to blur motion, freeze movement, create an image with selective focus, shallow depth of field, or deep depth of field? The genre you select will help to determine the exposure you select.

Suppose you wanted to shoot an informal portrait in a public place, you’d probable what a shallow depth of field to eliminate any distracting details in the background. So, you might set your aperture to f/5.6.

On the other hand, lets suppose you are attending a Blue Jay’s baseball game, and you want to freeze the pitcher hurling the ball across the plate. In this case, you’d set the shutter to a fast speed to freeze the action, perhaps 1/500 sec or 1/1000 of a second. What is the point? There is more to taking a creative photograph than just pointing the lens and pressing the shutter release.

A Few Tips

To help you create artistic photos, interesting photos, memorable photos, photos that people want to stop and look at, and ponder some sort of meaning, you want to take some time to think about how you intend to take the photograph. Here are a few points you’ll want to consider:

  • Shutter speed. Use a fast shutter speed to capture movement, such as 1/500 or 1/100 sec and a slow shutter speed to create motion blur, such as 1/15, 1/30 sec.
  • Len’s Aperture. Use a wide aperture to create shallow depth of field, such as f/5.6,  and a smaller aperture, such as f/22, to create a deep depth of field.
  • Focal length. Use the focal length on the lens to adjust the magnification and the angle of view. For instance,  using a telephoto lens with a focal length of 55mm to 200mm, you can increase the magnification and reduce the field of view by increasing the focal length to 200mm. Conversely, you can reduce the magnification and increase the field of view by reducing the focal length to 55mm.
  • Colour. Shoot in colour to evoke emotions or create a mood.
  • Black and white. Shoot in colour and convert to  black and white in Lightroom or Camera Raw or Photoshop, when you want to focus on the form and content of the image, such as lines, shape, form, texture, pattern.
  • Focal point or point of interest. Your image needs a point of focus or center of interest. To help you, use the rule of thirds as a guideline.
  • Rule of thirds. Use the rule of third to create a focal point.
  • Fill the Frame, eliminating distracting features of the composition. Focus on simplicity, eliminating anything that is not part of the story of the photography.
  • Frames. Search for a frame within a frame, such as a window, doorway, tree.
  • Lines.Use leading lines, like a river, road, fence, and so forth to create interest and to allow the viewer’s eyes to follow the line from the foreground to the background of the image.
  • Reduction. Search for pictures within pictures. For instance, instead of taking a nude of the entire female body, focus on the hands, the legs, the thighs, the breasts, the back, and so forth. Engage in radical cropping of the image with Photoshop or Lightroom to avoid taking cliché photographs.

Pre-visualization and  the Zone System

Before pressing the shutter release,  pre-visualize the shot you want to take. What does this mean? Ansell Adams coined the term ” pre-visualization.” It means to see the final print as you compose the image within your viewfinder.

When you intend to create a black and white photography, use the zone system. Look around to see how images will look in black and white . Interpret the tonal range of the midtones, shadows, highlights. For each colour, convert it to shadows, midtones, and high lights. Black would be zero, greys would be 5, white would be 10. Then determine if you are shooting a high contrast (black and white with no midtones) or low contrast image( no black and white but only midtones ).Use the histogram on your camera to understand the highlights, shadows, and midtones, and also to be sure that you have not clipped any light or dark areas.

The Decisive Moment

Take the picture at the” decisive moment”, which means the precise moment. This enables you  to obtain the best image. You often have only a fraction of a second to take the best photo. If that moment is missed, it is gone forever. For instance, taking an action shot of the goal that wins the World Cup requires that you capture the image at the precise moment, or you have missed the opportunity forever. And so, you’ll have to anticipate the best moment to shoot the photograph. This requires you to have the camera ready and to be looking around to see an interesting image.

Henri-Cartier Bresson was the first to to define the decisive moment. He said:

“the decisive moment, it is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.”