Photography Reverse Engineer

Key Techniques for Taking Great Pictures

Taking a good picture can be very daunting. We know that it takes great skill and years of practice to create professional grade photos. However, these three tips can help anyone at any skill level greatly improve their photography with any device.

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is a tool widely used in the art community. In photography it means that the whole composition of your picture lines up with a nine square grid. Professional photographers may be able to use their judgment, but those of us who only know how to point and click need some sort of guide. It’s a good thing that most camera capable devices come with a setting that allows a nine square grid to pop on the screen.
In this photo of the New York skyline, taken by Anthony Nicholas, the rule of thirds is applied in a couple of ways. I have the nine square grid outlined in red. The first example is the position of the tallest building. As a focal point in the piece, it is lined up with the right grid-line. Second, the colors of the sunset and water reflection break up the photo into thirds. The cool blue sky I have highlighted in purple, the brightness of the sun peeking behind the buildings and reflecting in the water highlighted in yellow, and finally the darkness of the water in brown.

Here is my attempt at using the rule of thirds with my digital camera. I have the flower centered in two thirds of the picture and the center of the flower lined up with the left grid-line.


Leading Lines

Leading lines are used to draw your eyes across the photo. In a way it creates movement as well as highlight the subject or focal point. In this photo of the Scripps Pier by John H. Moore, He uses the alignment of the dock, ocean, and support beams to guide your eyes to the center. Here we see the subject, which is the setting sun perfectly aligned with the opening at the end. Each of the leading lines I highlighted in red with the subject circled in green.

My attempt at using the natural lines of this flower to guide the eye to its unique stamen. I have also applied the rule of thirds in positioning the flower.

Depth of Field

The point of photography is to capture experiences and places. How do we properly illustrate a 3D world in a 2D photo? Depth of Field is used to bring dimension to a flat picture. The background, middle ground, and foreground of the composition need to be clearly displayed. Usually, any one of the three will be in focus while the other two are blurred. Daniela Bowker uses the focusing tool of her camera to show the length of the rail of a railroad. While this is a simple photo, you can clearly see the small details of the railroad without losing sight of its depth. In this case, the subject is in the middleground, which I have labeled and highlighted in yellow.

Here is my attempt at using depth of field in a macro shot. I have the flowers focused in the foreground labeled and highlighted in blue.

So Easy, A Cell Phone Can Do It

All of my personal attempts were using a regular seven year old digital camera. Nothing fancy at all. Each of these professional tips can be applied to any device. Cell phones these days are so much better than my camera. They are more than capable of helping you achieve professional looking photos. I challenge you to go out and try each of these basic techniques yourself.