While photographing conferences and events of all types, attended by hundreds and at times thousands of participants, I often receive comments about my camera equipment. If I had a dollar (adjusted from a nickel due to inflation) for every time I heard someone say “Wow, that’s some camera, bet that takes great pictures”, I would have a nice vacation fund for sure. I usually just reply, “Yes, it sure does”.

The camera, lens, and other equipment are simply tools for the photographer! My camera when placed in the hands of someone with no photography experience doesn’t guarantee a wonderful, or perfectly composed or exposed image, no more than someone trying to make a great omelet using the best omelet pan with no cooking experience. It just doesn’t work that way.

Pictured above is an image of the very first camera I ever purchased, the Pentax K1000 Single Lens Reflex 35 mm film camera. I remember purchasing it at JC Penny, who at that time (early to mid 70’s) had a camera department with various brands and other camera gear. The camera was simplistic, but a really great camera to learn photography with due to it being a totally manual camera. The only ‘help’ you got as the photographer was a light meter inside the viewfinder that allowed you to adjust shutter speed and aperture settings to get the meter in the ‘middle’ of the meter reading which would usually give you a pretty good exposure, based on the type of film you were using in the camera which and what the ASA (or more commonly known as ISO today) setting was based on the film speed (100, 200, 400, etc.) In those days, you actually had to tell the camera, through a setting, what film speed you loaded into the camera. Forget to do that, and all of your metering would be wrong. Later cameras read that info on the film canister automatically and set the ASA/ISO once you loaded the film into the camera.

I had that camera for many years and purchased various lenses for it to enhance my photography. It took tack-sharp images and the quality build was solid and I don’t recall ever having any repair needs or issues. Again, it was all manual, so there was not too much that could go wrong. It had a battery, but that was only to power the light meter, not a motor drive, or backlit displays, etc. That camera today is still available on eBay, and like many old cameras would still take great images today.

We have all seen the photo sessions by popular pros using cheap cameras just to show that it’s not about the camera, but about the experience of the photographer and following simple rules. Photography is simply the art or process of producing images by the action of radiant energy and especially light on a sensitive surface (such as film or an optical sensor). There is no mention of using expensive equipment, big lenses, certain brands, etc.

The reason for all of this is to point out that expensive gear is nice to have, but it is not necessary to take great photos. The principles of photography remain the same. So, no matter what brand or the cost of your camera, just shoot and shoot and shoot, if you’d like to get better at taking photos. And for sure, learn the basic rules of photography listed below provided by ePhotoZine { https://www.ephotozine.com } 

1. Fill the Frame / Cropping – If you see your background looking too busy crop in on your subject to simplify the image and bring attention to your main ‘subject’ of the image.

2. Don’t Cut Off Limbs – Keep an eye on the frame edges to make sure you are not chopping off any body parts of people or animals which will leave your image lacking the information needed to portray the subject.

3. Learn and Understand the Rule of Thirds – by dividing your shot into 9 equal sections by a set of vertical and horizontal lines, you can place the most important elements of your composition where the lines meet.

4. Use Natural Frames – They can be used to isolate your subject. Examples are bridges, arches, fences, trees and other frames even man made.

5. Use Lead-In Lines – using lines like train tracks, roads edges, or even a room wall can help “lead” the viewer to your subject and bring more attention to your most important part of your image.

6. Simplify – Know Your Focus – Selective focusing can also assist your viewer to the most important part of the image or subject matter. You can also use focus to blur a busy background with cropping alone won’t do the trick. Learning how aperture affects focus is a great part of photography to learn.

7. Watch the Background – as mentioned above, unsightly objects, or over exposed or really bright areas in the background is a distraction. So be sure to use some of the tips listed above to help adjust your background so it doesn’t take away from your subject.

8. Symmetry & Patterns – Filling your frame with a pattern that repeats through the shot can make your image interesting. It can create leading lines and natural frames we spoke of earlier and allow you to have great composition in your image.

9. Create Depth – Having elements of your image in the foreground, in the middle and background of your image will add depth to the image as well as guide the viewer through your image. You can remember this one by remembering, ‘Put some junk in front’. Well, at least that helps me remember this one!

Rick Bella is co-owner of Bella Photography Studio located in Valparaiso, Indiana. He has 40 years of photography experience and can be found today photographing events and conferences in Chicago, Real Estate, Product, Commercial Real Estate and even an occasional wedding.

-Rick Bella for Bella Photography