Not all rules are meant to be followed all the time. But you have to know what the rules are, so you know why and when to break them.
- Shooting outside when the sun is high in the sky. It creates shadows under people’s eyes and nose.
- Too much backlight. You will either blow out your background or create a silhouette of your subject.
- Using a flash for still images.
- Shooting under a tree when the sun is out. This creates shadows on people’s faces.
- Placing your subject up against a wall. Create depth by shooting farther away from your background.
- Too much or too little headroom and lead room.
- Zooming in while recording video. Use your feet, not your zoom, (unless you’re intentionally trying to create a shallow depth of field).
- Shooting vertical video.
Tips to Shoot Better:
- Shoot outside when skies are overcast. The clouds create an even light filter which means no shadows.
- Shoot in the shadow of a large building. If everything you are shooting is in the shadow, it creates an even light distribution similar to overcast skies.
- Always think about headroom and lead/nose room.
- Shooting action is more interesting. Capture moments
- Get a variety of shots
- wide (sets the stage)
- extreme close-up (reveals emotion)
- Get a variety of angles
- put your camera on the ground
- hold your camera above your head
- shoot your subject’s reflection in a window, mirror, puddle, etc.
- Enable the grid view in iPhone’s camera app to follow your rule of thirds.
- You should also use grid view in Android phones like Samsung, but you should also hold the phone still for longer than you think when there’s low light.
Let’s Look At Some Examples
Lighting can help you or hurt you depending on how you use it. I took these two pictures while I was sitting in the same seat. Notice what a big difference the lighting makes when I turn slightly. The first picture is way too backlit. The lighting coming from the window behind me forces my camera iris to close so my face is too dark. The second photo uses the lighting to improve the photo quality.
Take a look at the following photos and identify what’s wrong and right about each one.
I adjusted the shot to frame it more precisely to the rule of thirds:
- Adobe Premiere (video)
- Adobe Photoshop (images)
It’s easy to make good pictures better with simple edit tricks:
When editing becomes unethical
The picture we just looked at is clearly improved after adding a few effects. But when can edits be unethical? The following video discusses the controversy surrounding one editor’s decision to darken O.J. Simpson’s face on the cover of TIME magazine.
Here are more photos from Instagram to inspire you to use different angles and lighting techniques:
Once you learn the basics of photo composition, you can really start to tell stories. When you use photos or video for storytelling, make sure your framing and lighting help you tell an emotional story.
Get inspired by taking a quick free course on Poynter’s News University website called “Best of Photojournalism: What Makes a Winner.”
5 Tips To Keep In Mind Before Your Next Shoot
Al Tompkins created this video with examples of good lighting and better video. This video is from a few years back so ignore 5:40-6:06. 16:9 is now the industry standard.
I encourage to you refer back to his tips before your next shoot:
- Put the camera on the shadow side of the subject you’re shooting.
- Use steady sequenced video. Stop panning and zooming!
- Pay attention to natural sound and keep your headphones on.
- Pay attention to framing. Smaller screens need close ups.
- Work closer to your subject. Zoom with your feet, not your lens.
While you watch any video (TV, film, ads, etc.) pay attention to each photography technique:
Don’t forget audio
- Natural sound (nats) help immerse your audience in your environment. Listen to your surroundings.
- Always wear headphones to hear what your mic hears.
Watch and learn. Follow Storytellers on Facebook:
You can also check out some inspiring work on their YouTube channel TV News Storytellers.
Get Involved & Get Inspired
The National Press Photographers Association has a great website with lots of beautiful photography examples.
Connect with Bob Dotson. He’s been an NBC correspondent for four decades. You can watch many of his stories in the “Make It Memorable” section of NBC Learn.