Amateur photographs vs. Professional photos, Tips and tricks

I’ve observed the following in most of the differences of Amateur and Professional photography in terms of the photograph properties.

  • Good Composition with the light
  • Extremely good color captures
  • Focus on lesser OR only on the most important object of the photograph
  • Creative use of the rule of the 3rd
  • Clarity in photograph, ie lesser ISO noise
  • Good focus, lesser motion blur of the subject
  • Use of post-production, ie using Photoshop. Which I hate

Here is a detailed explanation of above. Common tips for Amateurs like me to get a good snap.

Good Composition with the light

Most of us amateurs will simply ‘click’. Point and Shoot cameras are no wonder so popular. I assume atleast 90% of the point & shoot (P&S) cameras are used in the Auto mode. Few of us hardly think in terms of how the photo could be ‘bettered’ if the position of light, ie sun rays, shadows could be tweaked a little by adjusting the object or the camera.

Tip: Try to have the light on a slant on the face of the object, Not a direct perpendicular, but a slant, ie 45 deg. This shall help increase the highlights (lighter hues) and shadows which would enrich the image.

Extremely good color captures

I’m sure all must have observed this. Pros always manage to get out very rich colors or saturation in their images. How!? Its more than just a trick. Understand that light condition is not always the same. Sometimes its too bright, as in the tropical afternoon sun or low during sunset and sunrise. Every changing light needs to be understood. As the light changes, so does the default 50% gray (on which AWB or Auto White Balance works). So the same set of objects vary in color (as captured in the photo) during afternoon sunlight, or in Tubelights (Fluorescent lamps).

Tip: Try not to always work in ‘Auto’ mode, but switch to ‘P’ mode and then always tweak the ‘AWB’ setting. Change during sunlight, indoor (fluorescent), etc. I’ve also observed this in Canon (DSLR vs P&S). DSLR’s auto color capture is equivalent to P&S in cloudy with Vivid color mode. Yes for P&S guys try using higher color modes (Vivid Red, Blue, Green, etc typically in hazy conditions). You will have to test u’r camera’s color capture in various WB settings to get a good saturation. Try to add more color of the object that you are trying to capture, eg. if its the sea, Vivid Blue 🙂

Focus on lesser OR only on the most important object of the photograph

This is another of the most easily noted effect in Pro vs Amateur snaps. The pro snaps always have some object highly focussed while other parts of the image are blurred or bokehed. Read more about Bokeh. You need to understand what is Depth of Field required for your photo. This is very creative, what could be considered good for you may not be good for others. Mobile phone cameras and cheap P&S may not have ‘Aperture P’ modes.

Tip: Under normal conditions, eg portraits, etc. Try using the ‘A’ mode or ‘Aperture Priority’. Try using the least F no. ie F-2.8 will give u more of the Bokeh effect as compared to F-8.0. Macro and Super macro will always result small F nos. So try getting a little background (which is farther away from the object and not just the object. This will add some Bokeh and the image will have blurred colors with the sharp image of the flower itself).

Creative use of the rule of the 3rd

This is something that comes naturally to all, but if not let me explain. An object in deep center of the image may not look as beautiful if taken in the 3rd part of it. Read more about Rule of 3rds

Tip: Atleast my Canon S3 IS has a setting while capturing that will display 2 horizontal and 2 vertical lines dividing the image in 3 parts horizontally and vertically respectively. Enable that feature by clicking ‘Disp’, then align objects, horizons using that feature. Also make sure the horizons are always horizontal and not inclined, unless creatively you want it so.

Clarity in photograph, ie lesser ISO noise

Most of the P&S photographs have Auto ISO, which enables high ISO even 800+. Which gives an overall lighter image but very very high noise (colored dots all over the image). P&S dont’ have good image processing to remove high ISO noise as compared to DSLRs

Tip: Always try forcing the camera to use lower ISO. Keep ISOs less than 200. If you are working in low light condition, use a tripod, decrease shutter speed or decrease F no. and use a tripod to capture the image.

Good focus, lesser motion blur of the subject

All good Pro snaps have their objects sharp and clear. Most of our amateur snaps have objects which are slightly blurred, thanks to our use of ‘Auto’ modes and shaky hands.

Tip: Keep your hands very very still while capturing, don’t move camera back quickly to review the image, go slow, easy. In low light conditions always try to use a tripod. For most of us amateurs Tripod is not an option, but pre-focus is. ie. most of the times, I pre focus (half click) and keep the focus ready. I use a non-moving object close to the actual object, pre focus and wait for the actual object’s activity. This helps to plan and focus a good shot.

Use of post-production, ie using Photoshop. Which I hate

All most all professionals re-touch their photos, or as they ‘creatively’ call it ‘post-process’ their photos. I find it nothing more than just removing errors or re-applying their aesthetic skills to something that they couldn’t capture. Most of us amateurs care less about ‘post-processing’. Once the image is on the Hard disk, its just waiting to go on Facebook and Picasa for our friends and families.

Tip: If you have time, do it. Otherwise forget it ! 🙂

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