On this brisk sixth day of December, I am keeping my promise to begin my blog series dedicated to helping readers become better photographers. Whether you use advanced SLR systems with interchangeable lenses or a simple point-and-shoot, this series is designed to help spur your creativity and refine your techniques.

Let’s Get Started

The two most important and essential ingredients of a powerful photograph are light and presentation. Without these driving the interest to a photograph’s subject, your image is useless. So what do I mean when I say subject? A subject is the main focus of a particular image. It might be a person, an animal, an object, or even a pattern. Think of a subject as the main entrée at a meal. You don’t order the steakhouse special just to eat the potatoes, do you? Your subject is the main reason for the photo’s existence just as a rib-eye is the main reason for a steak plate’s existence.

To make sure viewers pay attention to the steak and not the side dishes, photographers use a variety of lighting techniques and presentation rules. The right combination of these elements is the essence of great shots. Keep in mind that these rules and techniques are — to paraphrase a quote from “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” — more like guidelines than actual rules. They exist to help you understand why a photo looks great or falls flat and how you can improve your skills. They also exist so that you understand how to bend or break them to get unusual shots.

Homework

We will talk about each of these rules in depth later, but, for now, I ask that you do a little homework before the next lesson. I can hear the groans now, but, trust me, this is really important.

I want you to dig through your files until you find your camera’s instruction manual. Read it, memorize it, and keep it and your camera handy anytime you read this blog. I am a good photographer partly because I understand the strengths and limits of my equipment. While I may know my own camera system, I will not necessarily understand yours. Every camera is a little different, so the more you understand about your own gear, the easier you’ll find each lesson.

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia