Wichita, Kansas

Jeff Breault | 3 Beginner Photography Techniques

Even though modern photography is extremely accessible, taking truly high-quality shots still takes a fair bit of technique and ingenuity. “Taking great pictures has never been easier from a technical perspective,” says travel photographer Jeff Breault. “Even untrained photographers can get excellent shots because the photography mechanics have become far more intuitive.” Nevertheless, knowing a few fundamentals can definitely help a newbie get stunning photos.

If you’re a digital photography novice, like Jeff Breault, here are three tips that will help guarantee wonderful results no matter where you shoot your pictures.

Learn how to use and adjust light.

Recognizing light intensity and making appropriate modifications is probably the most important skill a modern photographer can have, yet it’s something that many fail to cultivate. “Light is the most important aspect of a photograph – it makes the difference between a bland and a beautiful picture,” says Jeff Breault.

Soft light – or diffuse light – is light that doesn’t seem to have an obvious source. It’s typically from a large light source. The mid-day sun on a cloudless day is a small light source, because the sun appears to shine harshly and directly upon an object. The sun on a cloudy day, when the light is diffused through a cloud cover, is a large light source. Photography in soft light is unhampered by glare or obscuring shadows, so it is generally preferred. However, direct light from a small light source can create a dramatic affect if used deliberately, particularly in black and white photography. For example, the iconic “Meet the Beatles” album cover utilized direct light.

A flash can be used seamlessly to illuminate a dark foreground when the background is brighter. Using a flash as the main light source in a low light environment can make the subject appear flat.

Use the “rule of thirds.”

“Once you know the ‘rule of thirds,’ you’ll be able to frame and compose successful shots consistently. It’s helped me tremendously in my landscape work,” says Jeff Breault.

So, what is the “rule of thirds”? It’s a composition technique where you imagine two horizontal lines and two vertical lines (like a tic-tac-toe grid) framing your subject. When photographing landscapes, the rule explains, you align the horizon with the upper vertical line if you want to highlight something in the foreground, and align the horizon with the lower vertical line if you want to highlight the background. The subject you wish to highlight should align with one of the four intersecting corners, and not necessarily be perfectly centered.

Actually read your camera’s instruction manual.

“I’m a horrible user manual reader,” laughs Jeff Breault. “I skim through to the parts I think I’ll need, and dismiss features I don’t immediately understand as being ‘bells and whistles’. Of course, I’ll inevitably discover that knowing how to use equipment comprehensively from the beginning would have saved me tons of time.”

To Jeff Breault, it seems like a no-brainer, but simply knowing how to use your camera, and how to exploit all of the features, will help you take superior shots quickly. Of course, if you have a newer digital camera and won’t be using it professionally, you may not need most of them, but the information will give you an overarching understanding of how they can help you avoid and correct common problems.