Do you want to take better pictures? Sure you do. That was a silly question, wasn't it. Well, in this article we'll cover 10 easy tips to help you take better photographs of your family, your pets, landscapes, or whatever it is you want to capture and show off. I've also included a simple infographic as a cheat sheet.
All it takes to create better images is a little know-how and experience. Keep reading for some helpful picture-taking tips. Then grab your camera and shoot your way to better pictures.
Get down on your subject's level. When taking a picture of someone, hold the camera at the person’s eye level to create a more engaging and pleasing photo. For children, that means stooping to their level. And your subject doesn’t always have to stare at the camera. Just bringing your camera down to eye level will create a personal and inviting feeling that pulls you into the picture. Get on your knees if you have to. You’ll love the results.
Watch your background. There’s nothing more distracting than a branch or pole sticking out of little Sarah’s head. You know what I’m talking about. You didn’t notice it in the background while looking through the viewfinder. But there it is. Move, or have your subject move so that distracting element is either out of our image or somewhere else in the frame. A plain background shows off the subject you are photographing. When you look through the camera viewfinder, force yourself to study the area surrounding your subject. Make sure no poles grow from the head of your favorite niece and that no cars seem to dangle from her ears.
Use your flash outdoors. If you must take the photo outside on a bright day, you’ll have to do something with those nasty shadows on your subject’s face. Get rid of the shadows by using your flash to lighten the face. When taking people pictures on sunny days, turn your flash on. And have the sun at your subject’s back. You don’t want them making that squinty-face because the sun is in their eyes. You can use either fill-flash mode or full-flash mode. If the person is within five feet, use the fill-flash mode; beyond five feet, the full-power mode may be required. If you’re wondering how to do that, take out your camera’s user manual and search for the section on using your flash. With a digital camera, use the picture display panel to review the results.
Move it from the middle. Center-stage is a great place for a performer to be. However, the middle of your picture is not always the best place for your subject. We always cringe when we see our horrible driver’s license photo. How about those boring school pictures where Johnny’s face is right in the middle of the frame. Great for a yearbook, but not so interesting for those engaging lifestyle photos. Bring your picture to life by simply moving your subject away from the middle of your picture. Start by playing tick-tack-toe with subject position. Imagine a tick-tack-toe grid in your viewfinder. Now place your important subject at one of the intersections of lines. You’ll need to lock the focus if you have an auto-focus camera because most of them focus on whatever is in the center of the viewfinder. Look at the works of the old masters. Very few artists painted their subject on the center of the canvas.
Move in closer. Your little darling is important to you. So why take their picture from 10 feet away? Your goal is to fill the picture area with the subject you are photographing. Up close you can reveal telling details, like a sprinkle of freckles or an arched eyebrow. If you’re using a telephoto lens, great. Zoom that baby in. It will also help with something we call compression. It will help separate your subject from the background. Better yet, use your feet. Move. Get in close. If you want to show off an outfit, then by all means take a full body shot. Want more interesting photos? Try filling the viewfinder with their face. Or maybe head and shoulders. See now? You’re already taking better pictures.
Nail the focus. If your subject is not in the center of the picture, you need to lock the focus to create a sharp picture. Most auto-focus cameras focus on whatever is in the center of the picture. But to improve pictures, you will often want to move the subject away from the center of the picture. If you don’t want a blurred picture, you’ll need to first lock the focus with the subject in the middle and then recompose the picture so the subject is away from the middle.
Usually you can lock the focus in three steps. First, center the subject and press and hold the shutter button halfway down. Second, reposition your camera (while still holding the shutter button) so the subject is away from the center. And third, finish by pressing the shutter button all the way down to take the picture.
Some cameras allow you to choose different focus points in your viewfinder. Also, another focusing tip is to always focus on the eyes.
Know your flash's range. Remember… your flash isn’t magic. It’s also a tiny source of light. The number one flash mistake is taking pictures beyond the flash’s range. Why is this a mistake? Because pictures taken beyond the maximum flash range will be too dark. For many cameras, the maximum flash range is less than fifteen feet—about five steps away.
What is your camera’s flash range? Look it up in your camera manual. Can’t find it? Then don’t take a chance. Position yourself so subjects are no farther than ten feet away. If your camera has a hot shoe (that little jack looking thing on top of your camera’s body), and you have the bucks, invest in an external flash. Preferably one from your camera’s manufacturer. You’ll be so glad you did. Not only will you extend your range, but our photos will be more pleasing since you’re using a larger light source.