Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Even if you’re looking through a different lens.

There are countless cliches, idioms, and phrases describing the power of photography. However, understanding what makes a “good” picture is worth even more than a thousand words. Like any form of art, photography is highly subjective. Something that appeals to one viewer may miss the mark with another. Fortunately, there are some basic concepts to help guide you.

David Koonar is an expert in visual media, having spent years in photography, technology, and design. Using this experience, the Ontario-based photographer shares five principles for capturing the best image. While different, each of these factors is dependent on one another. As the seasoned professional points out, incorporate as many of these as you can within each image for greater depth and visual interest.

Composition

Carefully consider what goes into a photograph. Think equally about what is left out as well. Strong composition starts with the subject and its deliberate placement in the frame, says David Koonar. Putting a subject in the center displays symmetry while pushing the main focus off to the side results in highlighting the rest of the image. Play with zooming in or out to draw attention where desired and eliminate distractions. While developing an eye for this may come second nature to some, practice by copying other’s compositions you find appealing.

Focus

Largely a technical skill, focus involves experimenting with a camera’s aperture and depth of field. Doing so can create a clear or blurry background depending on what you choose as your primary focus. Like composition, this can get rid of distracting items.

Exposure

Exposure refers to the amount of light in a single photograph. The built-in auto mode can control this for you, yet intentionally underexposing or overexposing can influence the mood of your piece. Limit the exposure to create a somber tone. Letting in more light makes the picture feel airy. Although both should be used sparingly, David Koonar again reinforces the need for trial and error. Like other concepts, there isn’t a “correct” way to approach this.

Light

External lighting also impacts how your subject is perceived. Here, direction is key. Light hitting a subject straight on produces even exposure. Yet side lighting builds drama through shadows. The toughest to master is backlighting, which can make the subject seem illuminated or glowing when done properly. Explore different times of day for hard, soft, or diffused lighting.

Timing

One moment is all it takes to capture something special. No matter how fleeting, freezing the right image in time can make all the difference. This demands practice for action shots. For beginners, David Koonar advocates using the burst mode. This takes a series of fast photos to help ensure you get the right image.

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