Here's a favorite photo from one of my China photo workshops. I thought it would be fun to see how many tips I could give for this one photo. My original post had 12 tips, but my friend Fernando Santos added two more good tips after reading the post. Here goes:
1) Get a Good Guide. My guides, Andy and Mia Beales, chose the location and time of day (predawn) for a picture-perfect scene.
2) Seek Separation. Notice how the two cormorant fishermen are perfectly separated. That's not by accident. We directed the fishermen into that position. Learn more about composition in my KelbyOne class, 20 Time-Proven Rules of Composition.
2) Frame It! Framing a subject in a scene helps that subject to stand out. On shore, I chose a position that showed the fisherman in the foreground framed by brighter background light.
3) Include the Background. The mountains in the background add a "sense of place" to the scene. Cover the mountains with your hand and see how it changes the "sense of place" of the picture.
4) Go for Gesture. Gesture is important in people photography, as well as in animal photography. Notice the gesture of the foreground fisherman's hand, and see how the background fisherman is holding his arms. Again, we directed the fishermen, as a movie director would direct his actors.
5) Crop Creatively - The areas above, below, and to the left and right of this scene did not add anything to the impact of this image. Cropping creatively was the answer to making a more interesting photograph.
6) Mood Matters Most - Taken in the predawn light, my original file (Canon 5D Mark IV) had a blue-grey cast. To enhance the mood of the scene, I boosted the blues.
7) Include Reflections - When you have a good reflection, include it in the scene. Had I cut off the top of the foreground fisherman's head reflected in the water, the picture would look as though it was missing something.
8) Expose for the Highlights - Activate your camera's highlight alert and make sure you have no "blinkies," which indicate overexposed areas in a scene. If you get "blinkies," reduce your exposure, bit by bit, until they are gone. Here I was shooting on the Av mode and set my exposure compensation to -1 EV.
9) Get it all in focus - This photograph looks like the scene looked to my eyes - everything in focus. Choose an aperture that will get everything in focus, if you want that effect. Here: Canon 24-70mm f/4 lens set at f/7.1 Focal length was set at 45mm.
10) Don't Be Afraid of Noise – Photographing in low light at high ISO settings usually means that you'll get a bit of noise in your photographs. Fear not, you can reduce noise in Photoshop, Lightroom and with plug-ins.
11) Envision the End Result - Before you shoot, envision the end result - in-camera and in the digital darkroom. I talk about that in my book, Creative Visualization.
12) Compose Using the Rule of Thirds - Imagine a tic-tac-toe grid over a frame and place the main subject where the lines intersect, as they would for the foreground fisherman.
And from Fernando:
13) Add a small vignette: it helps to focus on your subject and frames the whole picture in a better way. As with most things, it should be a small one, so that it look natural.
14) Another tip that works beautifully in this situation: use contrasting colors. Those beautiful blues go very well with the orange on the sky.
See more of my rural China images, and get more tips, in my KelbyOne class on travel photography.
And you'll find even more tips in this article on How to Get the Best In-Camera Image.
Explore the light,
P.S. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at our predawn photo shoot. Good fun and great pictures was had by all. Click here to see all my 2019 workshops.