1. SELECT THE CORRECT LENS AND USE IT APPROPRIATELY
Wide angle lenses, telephoto lenses, macro lenses, fish eye lenses; they all produce different results and impact differently on your image, particularly in relation to the proximity to your subject. For instance, wide angle lenses tend to distort features when close up to your subject; they’re not the most flattering to people. Unless you’re deliberately after a slightly warped look to your portrait photos, you’re going to create more flattering photos of people when using a longer focal length, such as 105mm to 200mm (that means choosing a telephoto lens).
Landscape photos generally appear better with wide angle lenses, as you’re taking advantage of the wide angle to capture as much of the scene as possible, and because you’re not physically close to the subjects in the frame (trees, rocks, rivers, etc.), they don’t take on that same warped effect that you’d typically see, if photographing close up to your subject, with a wide angle lens. While close-up portraits of people tend not to be most flattering with wide-angle lenses, you can take environmental portraits, where you photograph people outdoors, showing them in a more natural setting (than a room in a studio), but remembering not to get too close to them, so as not to distort their features with the wide angle lens.
Whatever lens you choose, be prepared to work the shot by playing about with different focal lengths and physically moving yourself closer to or further away from your subject.
2. UNDERSTAND DEPTH OF FIELD
There are three things that affect or control depth of field:
- Focal length (how zoomed in/out you are to your subject);
- The aperture you’re using (is it wide open, or have you closed down the aperture to let less light in?);
- The physical distance you are from your subject
When you’re wide open, at an aperture of, say, f/2.8, you will have less depth of field, and this causes things to become more blurred behind your target subject.
When you stop down, you’re closing your aperture and letting less light in through your lens, and this gives you greater depth of field. A narrow aperture, of say, f/22, will let much less light in than at f/2.8, and this greater level of depth of field will cause almost everything in your scene to be in clear focus.
Landscape photos tend to benefit from a greater depth of field, because you want see everything in as much detail as possible. Conversely, portrait photographers will do better with less depth of field, as they can take advantage of blurring out background distractions to ensure their subject is the one in clear focus, and so will be the center of attention in the photograph.
It looks much more natural to have certain things in focus and other things out of focus. It’s in keeping with the way our eyes naturally work. You look directly at one thing and the rest of the things (in your peripheral vision) are out of focus. That is your visual system using selective depth of field. With the camera, you can make specific subjects the main object to look at by having them in clear focus while everything else is deliberately blurred and out of focus. Anyone looking at your photo will naturally be drawn to the subject in focus, and this makes it more compelling than if everything was in sharp focus.