Last updated on August 8th, 2020
I remember when I first bought my Canon Rebel T5i DSLR and started photographing. I mainly used it for travel photography during by time abroad in countries like Cuba, Colombia and Iceland.
I was a bit overwhelmed by all the functions on a camera. I had no idea how to use it, let alone understand aesthetic photography. I invested about $50 for an in-class, group lesson on the fundamentals of a DSLR and never looked back.
After using my beginner DSLR to take photos, I edited them in Lightroom. At the time, I thought I was competent in post-processing images. I quickly realized, I overcooked my photos with saturation and contrast. I was a kid in an ice-cream parlor putting too many toppings on my sundae. The photos didn’t retain their natural awe. And boy did I have to learn and correct that.
But the main reason I bought a camera, and went into photography as a hobby, was because of how magical landscape photos appeared to me—especially HDR photography. I was like, I can do that too.
Today, photography is important, and it’s more than point-and-shoot. It involves making a photograph aesthetic. But this practice doesn’t only apply to professional photographers. Amateurs with a DSLR, or even a camera phone, put effort into making an image worth sharing.Aesthetic Techniques
What is Aesthetics in Photography?
In simple terms, aesthetics in photography means the image looks graceful or pleasing. But it’s more than that. An aesthetic image forces the viewer to wonder and brings emotion. The mind not only views the photos—but pauses—and marvels.
Of course, each individual views a photograph differently. The cliché, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, holds true here. People view, analyze and interpret images based on their standards. You might even say people have a predisposition bias towards what is considered beautiful from past experiences.
Some people may prefer black-and-white (monochrome) photos while others love colorful and vibrant images. Different genres of photography are a good thing. It makes this hobby and profession exciting. Furthermore, it gives photographers ample opportunity for something to capture without the field becoming lackluster.
Why Care About Aesthetics?
Contrary to what some people may say, photography is an art. It’s meant to be appreciated through the work of photographers. But in order for that to happen, the final product needs to be appealing to wandering eyes. There’s also a branch of photography called fine art.
Aesthetics doesn’t only apply in photography, it occurs every day in human life: architecture, food, modelling, nature, gardening, automobiles, etc.
Without trying to achieve beauty, we would be stuck in pre-historic times, with no standards. We all have a fashion style, try to make ours homes look neat, and prepare our meals in a particular way that makes it appealing to eat. Though it may be wrong, even a job interview expects the participants to dress in a particular way. I’m not trying to say we need to have unattainable beauty, but rather something modest.
How to Apply Aesthetic Photography Techniques
When you want to take an eye-catching photograph, there are a few things to consider like equipment and composition.
I’ll be discussing some of the critical factors to making a photo aesthetic. But as I mentioned earlier, people perceive photographs in different ways. Not everyone is going to like your images. And that’s okay, because you’ll appreciate the art more when people do love your photographs.
You can’t take a photograph without a camera and lens. Nearly everyone in a developed country has camera. It’s usually in the form of a smartphone.
Camera phones have come a long way since they were introduced to the public about 20 years. Their mobility and convenience make them the number one device for photographing. And yes, taking aesthetics photos with an iPhone or Android is more than possible.
There are professional photographers that exclusively use a smartphone, mainly because it is their niche and market focus point.
I do not want to take away from the great tool a camera phone is, but they do have limitations. That limitation is mainly the size of the image sensor, which impacts picture quality and retained image data. Picture quality is important when you are post-processing in an image editor, blowing up the image to display online, or printing. And though you can attach a zoom lens to a smartphone, it’s needless to say that the lens is sub-par compared to standard camera system lenses.
If you are a photography enthusiast, you’ll still be better off with an entry-level camera and lens than a smartphone. If you want to take it to the next level, a full-frame camera will provide you the best aesthetic images.
Camera lenses play a vital part.
If you want to photograph landscapes, then you’ll need a wide-angle lens. These lenses are able to capture an expanded area from left to right along the horizon.
A telephoto lens will be required for wildlife, action sports, and any subject in the distance.
If you’re into photographing insects or anything close-up, then a macro lens will be needed. But you can sometimes get away with using standard-zoom lens depending on how infinitesimal you want to capture.
And one last thought about equipment, a camera is only as good as its photographer. There is no need to spend money on a camera and lens if it is outside your budget.
What are you shooting?
Every image that is captured has a purpose. To tell a story. To change a mood.
The subject of a photograph is the focal point. It’s where the eyes should be focusing on the most. As a photographer, you want to compose the image in way to draw the eyes in.
Every image needs a subject: person, food, mountains, sunset, etc.
An image without a subject is bland. It has no point. For example, if you only photograph a blue sky, is it really an image a person would admire. Is it aesthetic enough to share on social media? Probably not.
There are some situations where individuals photograph only a blue sky, maybe with a few clouds, or something with no subject. A case like this would be for stock photos or to use the image as part of a composite image.
There can also be multiple subjects in a story; or one main subject with several not-prominent subjects. This skill in photography is used to tell a story, or to make the viewer figure out what’s happening.
The lighting or exposure of a scene needs to be considered.
Unpleasant photos with poor light have underexposed or overexposed areas. A common situation like this arises during the twilight hours—when the sun is rising or setting—often the sun is blown out or the shadows are too dark. Fortunately, this can often be corrected in post-processing.
Blurry images are a common problem in photography. It happens for several reasons including poor equipment, hand shake, moving subject, out of focus, etc.
Generally, a camera can only focus on a specific area: the perpendicular plane in front of it. But the area of focus can be expanded by adjusting the focal length and aperture.
You’ll want to make sure your subject is always in focus. A technique used to draw the viewer’s eyes in is shallow depth of field. This makes the subject in focus while everything else is blurry. This can be achieved by using a wide aperture and extended zoom lens.
Similar to correcting exposure in post-processing, the sharpness of an image can be adjusted in a post-processing software like Topaz Sharpen AI. Additionally, you can make parts of an image blurry. Photoshop and Topaz Studio have great blur tools.
Vibrant colors makes a photograph aesthetic. They bring attention to it because humans are accustomed to disregard natural colors or dark shades like white, black, navy blue, etc.
Cameras can’t always render the saturation of colors correctly. Therefore, we have to correct it in post. Be careful when you are adjusting saturation in a photo-editing software. Beginners and over-the-top photographers add way too much saturation. The image will look cooked. This was one problem I had.
Unfortunately, some people are color blind, also known as color vision deficiency. It decreases the ability to see color or differences in color. 1 in 12 men are color blind, whereas it’s 1 in 200 for women. Explaining how they see life and photography is beyond my expertise. But you can watch this video to find out more.
Black and White
Monochrome photography was initially a technical limitation. But now aesth