Make great images using basic tools—an example

Sometimes making great images is possible using very basic photographic tools. The key is to find something that speaks to you, approach the subject not as an external object but rather as a reflection of your disposition at the time, and proceed in a way so that it remains in touch with your inner self until the final photograph is taken. As always in photography, you need to also draw on a bit of creativity and imagination. And of course, using the tools at hand skillfully—no matter how simple or sophisticated they are—is mandatory. As an example, I would like to illustrate how the photograph below came about.


I was taking a stroll with my Nikon D70s camera and a 18–70 kit lens attached to it enjoying the nice weather of early autumn and, in particular, the almost transparent autumn sky of pure blue. I contemplated photographing the sky, but it was obvious that just the sky itself would not make a compelling photograph. I let go of the idea for the time being and, keeping it at the back of my mind, continued walking at a leisurely pace.

After a while I came across some nice yellow flowers sunbathing in the mellow sunshine of the lazy afternoon. The idea of photographing the blue sky came back, and I thought of photographing the flowers against the blue sky—the colours matched beautifully.

I started working the idea and thought of what a suitable composition for a bunch of bright yellow flowers and a blue sky as a background would be. Everything I tried did not feel right, though; remembering one of the old and major rules of photography—simplify—I decided to photograph only one flower up–close instead.

I next thought that it would be nice to include some clouds to emphasize the easygoing yet nostalgic disposition. However, I did not want to include too many of them and make the picture too busy (again, simplify), which meant that I would need to use the lens at 70mm to encompass only a limited area of the sky. I searched for a group of clouds that would neatly surround the flower, and further decided to use an aperture setting such that the flower would be fully in focus while the clouds would be slightly blurred. Using the DOF (depth–of–filed) preview button I determined that f/11 was the most suitable setting.

As I did not have any accessories or other photo gear with me, I simply held the camera in my right hand while upholding the flower in my left. Camera set in Aperture priority mode, I placed the flower against the group of clouds I had chosen, adjusted its position to make sure the composition in the viewfinder was satisfactory, auto–focused on the flower, and took a shot.

The first picture showed that fill–flash had to be used as the shadows on the petals were a little too harsh. I then took several shots with the built–in flash on and identified that -0.7 stops compensation for flash output created the fill–flash effect I liked most (at -0.3 stops highlights were still blown out, and at -1.0 stop the shadows were still a bit harsh).

This might seem like a long process, but in actuality it took only several minutes to take the final picture. As far as post processing is concerned, only three (standard) adjustments were made. Namely, I slightly changed White Balance, adjusted Levels and applied an appropriate amount of sharpening in Photoshop. Otherwise, the photograph above is as is was shot.

Really simple, would not you say?