Several people in my photography circle have asked me how to take better photos. This isn’t surprising; we live in an increasingly visual world where information sharing is king. “How do I take better photos?” It’s something i’m asked time and time again, nearly as often as what’s in my camera bag. It’s a question which hobbyists and genuine photography enthusiasts alike ask and consequently, get better at the craft. I’ll share with you here some of my basic photo tips on how to take better photos:
There are a few things you need to do, and do continually in order to improve your photography and take better photos. Let’s delve into some of these photo tips and expand on how you can use them to improve your photography!
Photo Tips: How To Take Better Photos
1. Practice every day:
It goes without saying, the best way to get better at photography is to take photos. Take photographs every day. It doesn’t matter what you’re shooting, just shoot. This continual, ongoing practice will help you improve your technical skills, your compositions and your artistic eye. These should be your goals!
Get familiar with your equipment – People ask “what’s the best camera”. The truth is that while equipment can play a role in your photos, knowing how to use it is actually much more important. The best camera is the camera you already own, be it a top of the line DSLR or a cell phone. It’s this piece of equipment that will help you learn how to take better photos. Learn to use it properly by reading the manual or seeking out online tutorials (more here). Master the use of its basic functions and get yourself out of automatic mode.
There are thousands of unique photographs that could be taken right now from where you sit reading this article. How then, with endless choices, do we determine what’s worth photographing? We call this ‘seeing’.
Developing your eye for photos is the biggest task you’ll have as a photographer. You want to be able to ‘see’ in your mind how you will shoot any given scene, even before you actually do any shooting. This is one of my favorite photo tips. It’s not easy to train your mind to ‘see’ photos, but it’s well worth the time and effort! Lighting conditions, foreground/background elements, facial expressions, shape and color are all things you should note in your environments.
Take a camera with you everywhere! This is the best way to become one with your camera, and knowing the system is half the battle when trying to capture a fleeting moment! I’ve simply been lucky by having my camera as great light happened more times than i’d like to admit and come away with amazing photos!
Press the button and take the shot no matter the final product. A blurry or mis-composed image is always better than no image at all! Each and every image you take is a step in the right direction!
3. Make the best of your light:
When composing a photo you need to take note of the lighting conditions. If at all possible, avoid taking shots under direct mid-day sunlight. It’s always better to take your photos either early in the morning or late afternoon when you don’t have full sun and harsh shadows. If you must take photos mid-day look for wide open shade. In open shade you’ll be able to make a great photo without the deep black shadows you’d get in full sunlight.
Take note of the direction of the light, consider the way it illuminates your subject and determine what angle will give you the most flattering look. Using your flash, even under intense sun can help fill in the dark shadows on your subject. Try your best to ensure that the sun or source of light is not directly behind you, otherwise your photos will lack definition and have a flat, boring feel. Remember; shadows are your friend, they lend definition to textures and the environment!
4. The Exposure Triangle: ISO, Shutter Speed & Aperture
To create a well-balanced, well exposed image we juggle three settings on our cameras. ISO – the camera’s sensitivity to light, Shutter Speed – How long we will let that light get to the sensor & Aperture – how much light can get to the sensor. In automatic or semi-automatic modes your camera will perform this balancing act for you. If you’ve been practicing and reading your manual however, and you’ve jumped into manual exposures this is all on you!
In digital photography, ISO measures how sensitive the camera is. The lower the number the less sensitive your camera is to light. If you are shooting during the day, in bright light, you may want to use a low number like 100 or 200. If you are shooting at night or in a dimly lit room, you can increase the number to 800, 1600 or higher to help record light on the camera’s sensor.
To capture fast movement, you need to balance the shutter speed with the ISO. A high ISO combined with high shutter speed can help give a sharp image while a low ISO can be combined with low shutter speed to capture motion blur.
5. Connect with your subject:
When shooting people be present and engage with them in such a way that they feel comfortable with you. Make eye contact with them, and in the case of children, getting down on their level will make a massive difference. The subject does not always need to look into the camera, but it’s also important that you lower the camera once in a while and show that you are, in fact, human. This helps the subject relax and helps ease the tensions that often appear when a camera is added to the mix.
A well-timed joke and flowing conversation can also help to extract a more natural look or smile from your subject. We all know that one person that puts on their super fake smile when a camera comes out. It just doesnt look good. Do them a favor and capture their image when they’re not expecting it.
If you don’t know your subject (a common occurrence on my travels) it is very important to seek permission prior to taking their photo. This is a sign of respect and most won’t have an issue. If you run into any problems a copy of the photo e-mailed to them or a bit of local currency is usually enough to have someone agree to be photographed, don’t push your luck though! Different nationalities and cultures have different backgrounds and being culturally sensitive when traveling, in my mind, is essential.
6. Invest in Education:
$500 or $1000 spent on a photography workshop will pay huge dividends. Compared to being spent on a new camera or gadgets this is a sound investment. This one’s particularly tough for me, I love technology and gadgets, but investing in your education is always what will set you apart from Joe Blow Photographer who has all the same gear as you. A weekend spent with like minded people talking photography and learning new techniques is an amazing way to up your game! You might even make some new friends!
7. Framing technique:
When trying to take better photos I find most people benefit hugely from some basic compositional help. By framing the subject or scene in certain ways, you’re able to draw your viewer’s attention to (or away from) the subject. Think of your photo as a story, a good photograph will lead the viewer’s eye through the scene, what is your photo about?
This technique involves being able to identify your subject and determining what story you want to tell. Explore the scenery and surroundings, weave a story and then tell it with your photo. Move around with your camera shoot the same image from different angles, including (and more importantly excluding) certain aspects of the scene until you find the image you saw in your head! This becomes much easier with practice.
Another basic compositional trick, commonly referred to as the “rule of thirds” is to divide your frame into three equal parts vertically and horizontally. This creates four “power points” in the image where the lines cross. You’ll never go wrong by placing your subject or horizon on one of these lines or the power points themselves.
8. Be critical of your skills:
Review the photos that you’ve captured often. Be critical of them. There’s no need to get down on yourself. Simply look at your images objectively while searching for ways you can improve them next time. Personally I like to post my work to Photography groups online and ask for comment and critique. This can work well when you’re trying to take better photos because people aren’t holding back or sugar coating their comments. A word of warning though, it is the internet and in many cases keyboard warriors will say hurtful things for the fun of it, thick skin can be a benefit!
Another avenue I typically pursue is to have friends in the photography industry critique my work. It’s something that happens quite regularly. It’s understood that if someone critiques your work, you’ll offer them a critique in return. Be thoughtful in this regard. I fall back to the s&#% sandwich method, a compliment about something they’ve done well, how I feel it could improve and a closing compliment.
Being open minded and critical of your work will help you grow your photography skills.
I hope these Photo Tips will help you take better photos!
Hopefully you’re not asking yourself how to take better photos anymore! If you have questions, comments or other tips & tricks you think our explorers would enjoy comment below or on any of our social media channels! We’d love to hear from and engage with you! Now get out there and Explore.Create.Educate!