If you want to take stunning photos, these tips, tricks and and techniques by top photograper Tigz Rice will help you take even better photos than you are currently.
Whether you want to to take photos to use in your designs, or shoot models and other elements to composite into illustrations – or for a myriads of other purposes – follow these tips to get the results you want.
Over these 15 tips, Tigz provides advice on equipment, lighting and editing – everything you need to shoot better photos.
What's the Plan
Before you get out your camera, create some mock-ups or storyboards of what you want to create so that you have a goal in mind for your overall outcome. This will keep you on track throughout your shoot.
A block colour background in a studio environment will ensure your subject matter is the focal point or easier to cut out if you’re working on a digital composite.
Grey is a great all round colour to shoot composite shots on as it blends well into most environments. You could also shoot on a white background for composites going into light environments and black for darker environments.
Whatever colour background you opt for, make sure the block colour you shoot on isn’t too closely matched to the colour of your subject.
Also, if you’re planning to create a composite, you’ll need to make sure all of the objects/people you are photographing look like they are lit from the same light source/s.
Before you shoot, think about where each subject will sit in your composite and the angle that the light will hit them. Do you need to light from above or below?
You’ll also need to think about the type and colour of that light source. I’ll discuss this more in the next few steps.
Natural Light: Golden Hour
Natural light is readily available to everyone, although the quality of that light will vary greatly depending on your location, time of day and the weather.
If you’re relying on natural light for your shoot, the most flattering light to shoot in will be during the golden hour – the final hour of light just before sunset when the sun is lower in the sky.
Natural Light: Hard Light
Shooting at midday when the sun is directly above you will create hard shadows, especially in the eye sockets and under the chin. If you find yourself restricted to shooting around this time of day, stand your subject in the shade or use a reflector to bounce back some of the light into areas of shadow.
Alternatively, you could also try shooting indoors next to a window, using net curtains to diffuse the light source. On the plus side, hard light is great for creating lighting texture effects!
If natural light isn’t an option, artificial light can be used as an alternative. Continuous light sources like lamps can be great for highlighting parts of your image and probably the most readily available to you in your environment.
If you’re really serious about taking your photography to the next level, you could also consider investing in a flashgun – along with some wireless triggers – or even a set of portable lights.
If you’re looking for the best results from your photography, opt for a DSLR or Compact Mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses. Both types of camera will give you complete manual control, which we’ll be talking about in the next few steps of this article.
There are plenty of camera options to suit every price range, so pick the one suits your needs best.
Pick A Lens
The other part of your camera you need to consider is the lens. Every lens has its own focal length, which can range from wide (14mm) to telephoto (200-400mm).
A 50mm lens is a great all rounder lens if you’re just starting out and want something cheap, simple and much better than the standard kit lens that most cameras come with.
The next step up may be to invest in an 85mm/135mm lens for portrait shots and details, with a 35mm lens for wider location shots.
If you have access to a DSLR or Compact Mirrorless camera, make sure your camera is set to shoot in RAW rather than JPEG.
This will allow your camera to shoot and process non-compressed images, giving you much more wiggle room in Lightroom or Photoshop just in case your shoot was under/over exposed.
Dealing with Darkness
If you’re shooting on a DSLR or Compact Mirrorless camera, you can control how sensitive your camera is to light by changing the ISO settings.
The higher your ISO, the more film grain – or noise – will appear in your images, so wherever you can, keep your ISO as low as possible. Here’s a rough guide for your settings.
Outdoors, Sunny: 100-200
Outdoors, Cloudy: 400
Indoors, Well Lit: 800-1000
Indoors, Dark: 1600-2000
Depth Of Field
Aperture – or ‘F-Stop’ as it is sometimes referred to – not only controls the amount of light that reaches your camera sensor, but also controls how much of your image is in focus dependent on the distance from the lens.
If you need to make sure your entire subject is in focus, you’ll want to shoot at F8 of higher. Alternatively, to really create a sense of depth to your images, experiment with shooting at wider apertures such as F1.8.
Fast shutter speeds (1/200 or higher) are great for freezing action, whilst slower shutter speeds (1 Second or lower) are great for showing motion or capturing time lapse effects.
If you’re shooting with lower shutter speeds, don’t forget to pack your tripod and remote shutter to stop camera shake.
Once you’ve got the shot you need, shoot a few variations as well. The hard work is in the set up of the shot, so whilst you’ve got everything out try shooting slightly different angles, exposures and lighting styles. If you do a lot of composite work, you may save yourself time on future projects.
If you are limited and needed to use a mixture of light sources for your composite, you may find you need to do a spot of colour correcting to match up all the photographic elements.
This can be done with the White Balance tool in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom. Alternatively, you can follow my Match Color Photoshop Tutorial.
With the release of Photoshop CC 2015.5 Select and Mask feature, cut outs are now a much simpler process.