by Billy Clouse
Originally published in Revolt — Vol. 1, Issue 1
In two years, 19-year-old Ryan Young went from a new photographer to a professional with almost 14,000 followers on his instagram account. The Vernal native used his mother’s camera as a child, but ever since he got one of his own, he began to pursue the art.
Like many Utahns, Young loves the outdoors, and it is where he takes most of his photos. From two years of trial and error, he has come up with five tips to help amateur photographers make their nature pictures look professional.
1. Focus on lighting
Light is essential to photography, and it’s not all the same. Young usually starts his photo shoots at 7 p.m., which gives him half-an-hour to get comfortable before what he calls “Golden Hour.”
“It’s the best light to shoot pictures with, but it changes depending on the time of the sunset,” Young said. “I always like to see what time it is starting and ending at so I can time my shoot accordingly.”
When taking photos at sunset, silhouette shots, such as the one above, are easier to take because the sun is in a prime location to backlight a model. Any subject, not just people, work for silhouettes. Young suggests waiting until the end of “Golden Hour” to get the best photo.
To determine when “Golden Hour” is, as well as work out other lighting issues, Young suggests the app “PhotoPills.” It costs $9.99, but he says it’s worth the money.
2. Try night photography
Away from the lights of Cedar City, thousands of stars illuminate the sky. The views are close, but they can be difficult to capture on a camera.
Young suggests using the “PhotoPills” app to check for weather conditions. To be an ideal night, the moon and clouds should not be present. On the technical side of things, he uses a shutter speed of 20-30 seconds, an ISO of 1600-4000 and an aperture lower than 2.8.
“I sometimes will use a very, very dim light and shine it on the foreground to light it up,” Young said. “Since they are long exposures, the smallest amount of light will be very bright.”
3. Change your perspective
Many amateur photographers take photos from eye-level, but because this is how people normally see the world, it doesn’t always make for an intriguing image. Young said that one way to find unique points of view is to plan ahead.
“I always like to scout the area in the daytime before I go out and shoot it,” he said. “When I go out looking for locations, I like to step back and try to see the bigger picture. I always will try looking for unique angles whether it’s shooting the Milky Way or doing sessions for people.”
Young said that he enjoys shooting extreme perspectives. Worm’s-eye-view, which involves placing the camera on the ground, is one of his favorites for photos with people in them because “it gives a really cool foreground effect with a slight blur.”
At the other extreme, he enjoys taking bird’s-eye-view shots because they are a more uncommon way of presenting a subject. He suggested that students look into the DJI Spark Drone because he thinks the company is reliable and it’s their cheapest model.
4. Use blurriness to your advantage
The aperture setting on the camera controls how much light reaches the sensor, but it also controls the depth-of-field, or how much of the photo is in focus.
“If you want more of that professional portrait look, then you need to use around an F2.8,” Young said. “The lower the number, the more blur you will get. Be careful as you get into F1.8 or lower because you can get blurry edges.”
5. Edit your photos
Like most professional photographers, Young edits his photos. His program of choice is Adobe Lightroom, and he edits every photo a little differently.
“The best thing is to understand the adjustments you are making to your photos and then edit until the picture looks good to you,” he said. “Every photographer has their own style, so it’s important to find what works for you. I typically like to keep my photos looking as natural as possible.”
The adjustments he normally makes are to lighting, contrast, white balance, highlights and vibrancy.
Check out Ryan’s Instagram account to see the tips put into practice.