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3 Tips for Taking Better Photos

1. Composition

Use the rule of thirds, or a golden spiral to position the image within the frame.  The rule of thirds can be achieved by dividing your frame into 9 equal rectangles.  Things tend to be more aesthetically pleasing when the subject falls on these intersecting lines.  

A golden spiral, commonly referred to as a Fibonacci spiral, works similarly to the rule of thirds in the sense that you want to have your key subject and focus somewhere along the line of the spiral.  

Fibonacci Spiral

Who was Fibonacci?  He was an Italian mathematician, considered by many to be the most talented Western mathematician of the Middle Ages.  The Fibonacci spiral is based on a a mathematical pattern, also named after him, a Fibonacci sequence.  Fibonacci sequence numbers are characterized by the fact that each number after the first two, is the sum of the two proceeding numbers.  

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, ... and so on. 
 
The above spiral breaks the frame up into squares that measure respectively to the numbers in the sequence.  Turns out, this composition is incredibly pleasing to the human eye.  
Fibonacci Spiral Numbered

2. Focus

Stop using the autofocus feature on your camera.  Get to know the manual focusing feature well, they'll soon be your best friend.  Focusing on the right area, or focusing on a particular area and nowhere else can have dramatic effects.  Don't sacrifice the impact of your images for simplicity behind the lens.  

3. Expose Triangle

What the heck is the exposure triangle?  Shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.  More lost than when we started? 

Shutter speed controls the amount of time light is exposed to the sensor.  Darker settings will require a longer shutter speed to allow more light to hit the sensor.  Bright sunny days will require much less time to allow a suitable amount of light to reach the sensor.  Shutter speed is an important tool when working with moving objects as well.  A slow shutter wouldn't be suitable when shooting fast moving objects, as it would appear several times across the sensor, causing a blurred effect.  Bear in mind, there's a time and place for everything.  A long shutter speed can be used to make moving water appear blurred in an often desirable way. 

Shutter Speeds - Fast to Slow 

The aperture is essentially the size of the hole the light is passing through to reach the sensor.  The aperture size determines how focused the light or image is when it reaches the sensor.  Apertures are measures in f-stops.  F/1 to F/22 are the most common, however they do continue higher.  The lower the f-stop number, the larger the aperture, or larger the hole that light can pass through.  Using a smaller aperture, or higher f-stop, will help ensure focus across the entire image.  Using a larger aperture, or lower f-stop, will create a bokeh effect, and artistically blur the background and out of focus parts of the photo further.  

Aperture Diagram

ISO, or ASA was a term coined to describe the measurement of how sensitive a particular film was to light.  Today, we use the same terms to describe the sensitivity of a digital sensor in a camera.  Many cameras have the ability to adjust this ISO level on the fly, ranging from almost none at 100 ISO to quite a sensitive number like 6400.  The lower the ISO number, the finer the grain in the image, and as the ISO number climbs, the graininess of the photo becomes more and more visible, creating noise and roughness.  It's often best practice to shoot with as low of an ISO as is practical, as the grainy effect caused by a high ISO is rarely desirable.  

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