We’ve all done it. You look at a professional photo and say to yourself, “I bet I could do that!” Confident in your newfound abilities, you pick up a camera and start snapping away—only to take lousy photos that you are less than pleased with. Now you’re left with an expensive piece of equipment in one hand and junky photos in the other wondering what you could do to make your pictures better. Luckily for you, I have a few quick tips you can use to turn your photos from drab to amazing. Photography, after all, is an art, and photographs are portraits you paint with light. For all the beginner photographers out there, here are five quick tips that you need to follow to get better photos. These are some of the tips for taking better photographs.
1. Keep your talent’s eyes in focus.
Eyes are the windows to the soul. They reveal a person’s character in a moment. If the eyes are blurry and the rest of the photo is in focus, you have failed to capture the most important part of your talent—their personality. To control the focus on your DSLR camera, adjust the metering to spot or matrix metering, and adjust based on your talent’s placement in the photo. This photo demonstrates spot metering on the talent’s eyes with the rest of the image out of focus. Do you see how much more you can tell about your talent? The focused eyes bring a whole new dimension to your photo. This is one of the tips for taking better photographs.
2. Use the Rule of Thirds.
This is my absolute favorite tip for taking better photos because it’s just so ridiculously easy to use. You have to understand that the human eye is lazy and wants to be drawn to the first thing it sees in the photo. That’s what you want the subject to be. The question is, how do you do that? That’s where the Rule of Thirds comes in. When you use the Rule of Thirds, mentally divide the image into nine squares, like this:
It basically looks like a tic-tac-toe board. Now, place your subject somewhere where the lines intersect. These are the places that the eye looks naturally. If something is placed in any of these four areas, your image will have a place for the eyes to focus. But what does this look like, exactly? Well, this photo has too many things to look at. There is no definite subject:
This photo, however, uses the Rule of Thirds perfectly. The subjects are positioned, and the photo is easy for the eyes to adjust to and understand:
With practice, this one tip will get you taking better photos in no time.
3. Use your DSLR’s Aperture Priority setting.
Look at the top of your DSLR (it can be a Canon or a Nikon). You’ll notice the little wheel that has a lot of different pictures on it. It’s probably set to Auto mode. But here’s another quick tip for better photos: adjust the setting to Aperture Priority (the letter “A” on the wheel). Without getting into too complicated terms, if you make the aperture larger (smaller numbers), this will open up your depth of field and create that blurry background behind your subject that everyone wants for their portraits. After you’ve mastered Aperture Priority, you can move on to use Shutter Priority and Manual Mode for even better photos. But that’s another discussion for another day. This is one of the tips for taking better photographs.
4. Learn how to make light work for you—not against you.
Never, never, never—and I repeat, never—face your talent toward the sun. This makes them squint, and it creates harsh shadows on their face. Not good. Instead, place your talent with their back toward the sun. This is called backlighting. It creates a beautiful, shimmering halo of golden sunlight around your talent’s hair. (Sound dreamy? It really is.) However, it is always best to avoid taking photos around midday and opt to shoot during the golden hour(s). This is the time at sunrise and twilight when the sunlight is softer and creates a warmer fill light on your talent’s face. Just remember: the light is your friend. You shouldn’t be letting it ruin your photos. This is one of the tips for taking better photographs.
5. Don’t use zoom to crop your photos.
This is probably one of the biggest mistakes beginner photographers make. It’s so easy to forget that I still do it all the time. One misconception about photography is that photographers frame all of their photos perfectly during the shoot and never have to go back and make changes. Wrong. Absolutely wrong. When you are shooting photos, it is far better to include too much of a scene in the frame than crop too much out and not have anything to edit later. So when you are taking your photos, use the Rule of Thirds the best you can, focus on your subject, and make sure you create a blur-free scene. Then, when you start editing your photos in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, you will have plenty of room left in the scene to crop out as much as you wish. This is especially important to remember when you are just beginning. Always leave room for error. The perfect photo shoot just doesn’t exist. So there you have it. Five quick tips for taking better photos. This may seem like a lot to take in, but stick with it. Commit to applying one new skill per shoot, and you will be well on your way to becoming a professional photographer. Just remember: a photo is only as good as the person holding the camera. This is one of the tips for taking better photographs.