5 Easy Steps to Better Photographs - Photo Tips Everyone Can Use

manteo lighthouseThe purpose of this article is to cover a short list of some basic photo tips that everyone can use to improve the quality of their photographs, without diving into technical jargon and camera settings. Asking yourself these 5 simple questions can improve the lighting and composition of every photograph you take. I won't include things that only photographers would need to know, or details about settings you may or may not be using. These basic photo tips are things that everyone should ask themselves, every time before they click the shutter button to capture an image.



1. WHAT IS MY SUBJECT?

Always ask yourself what the subject of the photo is. All great images feature a subject, a focal point that tells you what the image is about. Your subject may be a family member, or a pet, or a lone tree standing on a hillside. It doesn't necessarily have to be a single object either, your image could showcase the vast expanse of an entire mountain range.

What is important is to ask yourself "what is this image about?". You want your image to convey a strong impression of your subject, and that is only possible if you know what the subject is.


2. WHERE IS THE LIGHT?

Another thing that can make or break a photo is the lighting. You'll want to make sure that your subject looks good in whatever light that you are working in. This often overlooked component can make a huge difference in your images by simply thinking of it and making any necessary changes before raising your camera to shoot.

How many times have you seen a photo of someone who was just a silhouette because the photographer was fighting the light instead of using it? Ask yourself where the lighting is, and how you can make use of it. It is often as easy as shooting your subject from a different direction. For instance when shooting a family photo at the local theme park, you may simply need to turn another direction so the light is falling on your subject in a pleasing way. If the available light is too harsh, try moving into a shaded area where the light is softer. Of course if you are going for the ultimate landscape shot, this step may mean coming back at a different time of the day.

The important point is that if you spend a moment thinking of the lighting in your photograph, you are sure to capture a better photograph because of it.


3. IS THIS THE BEST COMPOSITION FOR THIS SUBJECT?

Understanding all that there is to know about composition is a topic you could easily write a whole book about, and it will be covered more thoroughly in its own article later. The basics of composition however are for everyone, and is something that should be given some thought when lining up your photo through the viewfinder. Now that we have identified our subject and moved to a position that made the best use of the light, we can look through the viewfinder and compose our shot.

In its simplest terms, composition is simply composing the picture so that the subject is highlighted as the main focus of the image. You'll usually want your subject to be large in the frame, making a stronger statement. You'll often hear pro photographers saying to "fill the frame with the subject". While this is more of a guideline and not a rule, it is a good thing to keep in mind.

How many times have you seen a family photo where someone's face is dead-center in the middle of the image, and the top half of the image is just wasted space that doesn't contribute anything to the image. Sometimes it isn't what you should include in a photograph that's most important, but what you should leave out. If elements don't add anything to your image, try not to include them.

One of the most popular methods of composition is the "rule of thirds", and for good reason. The rule of thirds is based on how the human eye scans an image and should be learned by everyone. It will be covered here in the article on composition that's coming soon.

The main thing is to just make sure you are framing your subject in a meaningful way, without cutting off important parts of the subject only to include meaningless space elsewhere.


4. CAN THE SUBJECT'S BACKGROUND BE IMPROVED?

Once you have settled on the composition for your subject, check what is in the background of the image and see if you can improve it by simply moving up or down a little, or side to side. There are often times when moving a small bit can either exclude items that are undesirable or include an item that improves the image.

You can also change what is visible in the background by backing up and zooming in, or moving closer and zooming out to change the perspective. Once you learn how to control the perspective, you can actually change the size relationship between the subject and the background making one appear larger or smaller in comparison to the other.


5. ARE THE EDGES CLEAN AND DISTRACTION FREE?

The last thing to ask yourself before clicking that shutter release is if the edges of your frame are clean. This pretty much goes along with checking the background, but it is an extra thing to scan before clicking. Having distracting elements near the edges of the frame can ruin a good photograph by pulling the viewers eye (and therefore attention) away from the subject and out of the image. When it comes to the edges of your image, less is truly more. Just like with the background adjustments, usually a small movement by you or the subject if possible can make a world of difference in creating a strong image with impact.



Thinking of these 5 things before you snap can become a habit pretty quickly once you learn them, and every picture you take in the future will be that much better because of it. By applying these steps to improve the lighting and composition of your subject, you can take a photograph that really captures the subtle nuance of the moment and conveys it with power and impact.

I hope these tips will help you to improve your own photography. Use the links to navigate forward, backward, or go to the Main Menu


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