Looking back to when I was starting out in the photography world, I remember searching everywhere for different techniques that would help my shots look as professional as possible. Over the years I’ve gathered a few tips that I have found helpful, and share them here with hopes that they can make your shots better as well.
1. Removing Unwanted Persons/Tourists From Your Photos.
This trick has helped me immensely when photographing popular tourist spots, or crowded areas. There are a few ways to go about this and some are easier than others. First, you can remove the people in camera, while taking your shot. The only catch is, it requires doing a long exposure. At a shutter speed of around 8 seconds or more, moving objects like people won’t appear in the final image. If you’re taking the shot during the daytime you will need a Neutral Density (ND) filter to do this. Without the ND, your shot will be extremely overexposed. If you don’t have access to an ND, try and take the shot in the early morning, or late evening when there’s likely to be fewer people, and you can get away with extending your shutter speed without totally blowing out your shot. The other two techniques involve using Photoshop. After taking the photo as you would normally, people and all, upload the file into Photoshop. Here, you can use a combination of clone stamping, and content aware fill to mask out unwanted subjects. To clone stamp, select the tool, then mouse over your image. Here, you’ll see a circle. To begin clone stamping, press and hold Alt/Option (for mac) and a crosshair should appear. Now click and release Alt/Option. This will clone the area underneath the crosshair and you should now be able to stamp out unwanted persons. You can adjust opacity and flow as you would a regular brush as well. To content aware fill, simply select subjects using the lasso or pen tool then, Right click > Fill > Content-aware > OK. This works well if the background is simple, but becomes messier when things are complicated. Use a combination of the two for best results. Beware, this method is time-consuming and sometimes tedious, but in the end, you can end up with a really nice looking image.
2. Using Your Camera Strap as a Stabilizer.
This was something I started doing when photographing reflections in lakes and ponds and didn’t have access to a tripod. I found it hard to get a good angle that allowed the reflections of mountains, trees, etc. to come through clearly so this was my solution. It’s somewhat crude, but effective nonetheless. Simply grab the center of your strap (make sure its securely on the camera first) and with your other hand hold the body as you would normally. Then, extend your camera holding hand until the strap is taught. Now, you can hold your camera out over the water or another area where you yourself can’t be and take photos without lots of shake in the image. If you have an extendable LCD screen this makes it even easier.
3. Coffee Cup Sleeve Lens Hood.
This one is not mine to take credit for. I found Peter Mckinnion’s video, “8 Camera Hacks in 90 Seconds”, and this was one trick he recommended. If you’re in a pinch and need a lens hood, the brown removable sleeves on coffee cups you get from places like Starbucks, are a great stand-in. This is something I’ve used more than once while shooting in a city and haven’t had a lens hood handy. The other upside is that you get a coffee to enjoy as well!
4. Starbursts (Not the candy).
This is another technique I use to make my photos look more professional. This is done in camera and is a really easy effect to achieve. Simply change your shooting mode to manual or aperture priority and set your aperture around 14-16. With most lenses, this will make light sources such as the sun, street lights/lamps, light bulbs, ect., become a multi-pointed star-like object (its a little hard to explain see below photo to understand what I mean). This is a fun way to spice up your photos, but like everything use it in moderation as too much of the same thing can become boring.
5. Printer Paper Reflector.
This is something I utilize when I’m shooting portraits outdoors, usually in a somewhat harsh light. If I don’t have a regular reflector handy I’m always sure to stuff a piece of printer paper in my back pocket. I then pose my subject and have either a helper or myself hold the paper in a spot that fills in shadows on the face and casts a more even light on the subject. Real reflectors are a lot easier to work with, but if you’re on a tight budget, haven’t gotten around to getting one, or simply forgot yours the printer paper trick is a life saver.