If shooting HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography (like my own work) is a goal of yours, then it all starts at the initial shooting time – because without detail in your photographs, HDR processing will not work. Briefly, HDR is the process of blending the best pixels available from multiple exposures. So, if you were to take a photograph of a dark building, but the sky is bright (which is quite typical), then you need to take the same exact photograph in 3-5+ exposures, from very dark to dark, medium exposure, and light to very light... You can do this with one single shot, if you shoot in RAW format on your camera, however shooting each of the exposures live with a tripod will yield the best overall quality. Then, pull these multiple exposures into programs like Photomatix to process them together. The point to think about is, if you blew out the sky, where it’s all true white, there’s no detail there – the same goes for underexposed areas in a photograph.
Get the sharpest details
I’ve spoken about this at length in article “#2: The don’t do’s,” but I wanted to stress how very important focus is. Nothing kills an image, like soft details, and no company will want your photos, and no customer will buy a gallery print if they’re too soft! Shoot with a tripod or a rice or sand bag if you can make that work – simply steady your camera however you can – and shoot with a high shutter speed, low ISO and high aperture for best sharpness.
Watch out for distortion
You know that weird and funky, yet intriguing illusion that your camera does sometimes... Like when you take a photo of a person and their head is too big, because it’s the closest thing to the lens? Well, it might be fun to play with – and yes, it can work sometimes – but it’s not nearly as endearing as you may think it is. If you’re shooting people, shoot your lens at 100mm or higher to balance out the distortion. This is one of those rules that can be broken, if the situation calls for it... For example, if you’re shooting a brilliant landscape scene with fantastic clouds that are quite fast moving, slow your shutter speed and shoot your lens wide open, sometimes the effect is spectacular – because the clouds can appear as though they’re being pulled beyond your image.
Master your white balance
Sure, you can shoot every photo on auto-white balance, and I surely do that from time to time, but to advance in your work, you need to understand how to use and manipulate each part of your camera that can alter your images the way you want. Learning when to use a custom white balance is a great tool for changing the mood of a photograph – sometimes warming up (boosting the red and orange tones) or cooling (boosting the blues and cyan tones – and desaturating the reds) an image can entirely change the mood and the feeling that your viewer is able to have.
Play with slowing your shutter
Photographing with a slow shutter speed is an old trick, but is as classic as anything is in photography. Mounting your camera on a tripod and slowing down the shutter creates a multitude of new possibilities. This works great when you’re shooting at night, of course, but also while you’re shooting fast moving clouds or flowing waters. Have some fun with it, but ALWAYS shoot with a steady camera, or else you will have the most ungodly unsharp images imaginable.