I’m by no means an expert in photography, but I do enjoy it as a hobby. Since I’ve taken a more serious interest in photography I’ve picked up on a couple of simple tricks that can help anyone take better photos. Trust me, these are low effort, high reward, and they don’t require any extra skill or experience in taking photos. You don’t need a fancy camera, and you don’t need to know what all the buttons on your camera do. These tips are by no means original, but I hope they help you to take better photos, whether you’re using your phone or the latest dSLR.
1. Fill your frame
Basically, this means get as close to your subject as possible. If you’re taking a photo of a person, group, pet or object, get as close as you can to make it the focus point of your photo. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, in holiday snaps for example, where you’ll usually want lots of background in the photo to show off the wonderful places that you have been. If you aren’t able to get up close, use a basic editing program to crop your photo until it looks its best. Have a look in the photos below. In the first photo, you get a bit distracted by the guys standing in the background, but in the second photo the bicycle is clearly the subject. This tip is particularly important when photographing people.
2. Know when to use your flash
You’re in a candle-lit restaurant with your friends. You want to take some photos of the group to put on Facebook. You take out your camera, switch it onto Auto, and the flash turns on. Then all your friends complain that they look terrible and pale in the photo, and you all have red-eye.
Most cameras have an Auto function that doesn’t use the flash. In dark situations I suggest that you try this setting first, and see how it turns out before you switch on the flash. If your photo comes out really grainy, or it’s still too dark, use the flash with a piece of white paper or a white napkin in front of it. This will soften the flash, so your friends don’t look so washed out.
Image from DulceDolce.
Ok, now for a big gripe of mine. If you are at a concert, TURN OFF YOUR FLASH. If you leave it on, all you will get is an over-exposed photo of the backs of people’s heads (you know what I mean, we’ve all done it). If the stage is reasonably well lit, you should be able to get a decent photo while leaving the flash off.
3. Look what’s behind your subject
When you’re taking a photo it’s very easy to just concentrate on your subject, without focusing on what’s happening behind it/them. Only when you get home and look at the photo on a computer do you realise that it looks like your friend is growing a lamp post or the Eiffel Tower out of their head. Take 10 seconds to look at what’s going on in the background, and then move around slightly to get the best composition (this is often easier than asking your subject to move).
4. Get to grips with a basic editing program
Like I’ve said before, often a photo needs a little bit of tweaking to take it from good to great. More often than not you just need to adjust the white balance (if your photo has a blue or yellow tinge), the exposure (if it’s too dark or light), and a bit of cropping (refer to point 1). Most of them also have cool effects that you can add to your photos. There are loads of good, free programs around, but three of my favourites are PicMonkey (web-based), Photoscape (free download) and Picasa (free download). Play around with each of them and decide which interface you prefer.
5. Have fun!
The easiest way to learn is to just get out there and snap away. You’ll quickly get the hang of what works and what doesn’t (look at your photos critically once you’ve downloaded them). And when you see a photo that you like, ask yourself why. Enjoy!