[Editor's Note: As senior contributor Dan Bailey noted recently, there are all kinds of photographers out there, each at different stages of development. The following post is intended for beginners.]
Angle, distance and lighting all play an important role in the composition of a photographer’s work.
You should think about all three every time you take a picture, and if you do, considering the following things will become second nature.
As human beings, we are accustomed to seeing people in natural daylight, but it is important to remember that this is not natural; it is the result of a light source (in this case, the sun) hitting your subject at a particular angle. For example, the shadows we’re used to seeing on a person’s face are from high-angle lighting. Any kind of high-angled light source will always produce more flattering, natural-looking images than low-angled lighting. It’s not that low-angled lighting is bad; we just aren’t used to seeing a person’s face in that kind of light.
Perhaps the easiest way to shoot photos that everyone will enjoy is to photograph your subjects close up. When you photograph people, frame the images close up, anywhere from the subject’s shoulder level to the top of their head. When it comes time to share your photographs with your friends they’ll like the close up images best.
As previously mentioned, a 50mm lens is said to be the closest lens to replicating the field of vision of the human eye. If you photograph someone with a 50mm lens, the resulting photograph is believed to be a close replica of what the human eye would have seen. By extension, if you were to photograph someone with a 25mm lens, you’d be capturing an image that is roughly two times further away than what the human eye can see. A 100mm lens would capture an image roughly two times closer than a human eye can perceive.
Smaller lenses create more distorted photographs. If you have an adjustable or variable lens, such as a 70-200mm, it’s best to shoot portrait photographs at the long end of the range, or as close to the 200mm as you can get. The more you zoom in on a subject, the ratios of everything within the photograph will be “truer.”
Professional photographers employ these tricks without thinking. Start using them, and you’ll improve the quality of your photographs.