How can I take better photos? Everyone wants to know how to take a great shot whether it be with a camera phone or your DSLR. Travelers are probably the most curious! They aren’t just taking pictures they are capturing memories. Here are a few things to try on your next trip to take your pictures to the next level!
1. Envision, Plan, then Create
Think about your picture. When would be the best time to take it, at what angle, which lens should I use, how close should I get, etc. Really great pictures take a little planning, rarely do you happen upon a perfect shot or model. Make each photo “your own,” whether it be a little bit different lighting or composition, make it feel personal.
2. Get High!
Knowing how to take great photos means being able to see things from an interesting or unusual perspective. So often we look at events or attractions from ground level but taking to a high spot where you can get a bird’s eye view can provide you with a different perspective entirely. It can allow you to take pictures of things you didn’t see on the group and it takes out a clustered skyline which can potentially ruin a good picture!
3. Place the Subject on the Edge
The best photographs are the ones which look completely natural as they capture the essence of the scene. Framing the scene is the essential tip to achieve this. Many people assume that the subject should be the center of the picture. Not necessarily so. Centering is good if you are taking pictures of people close up but for travel photos you want to capture as much of the location as possible in the best way. Look at the space around your subject. Move your camera around to bring in a more interesting foreground or background. Don’t be afraid to push your subject to the edge of your picture if the rest of the composition makes it more interesting or creates an impression.
4. Get in Close
It was the famous photojournalist Robert Capa who once said “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” He was talking about getting in the action. If you feel like your images aren’t ‘popping’, take a step or two closer to your subject. Fill the frame with your subject and see how much better your photo will look without so much wasted space. The closer you are to the subject, the better you can see their facial expressions too.
5. Shoot Whenever
One surefire way as to how to take great photos is to not restrict yourself to good weather. Yes, the sunshine is #beautiful but you can often capture some glorious natural images in the bad weather too. For example, have you ever seen a rainy and cloudy sky with just a chink of sunlight shining down on to a famous landmark? During storms, rain or even just grey days the light can change to make stunning effects. Those shots are what you are looking for.
Another way as to how to take great photos is the art of combination. If you have two or three famous landmarks in front of you then you can take one photo of each, but that’s boring and has been done so many times before. Consider moving into a diagonal position to capture all the landmarks in one shot or even getting down low to give the impression of vastly different sizes. Capturing objects where one explains the other is also very effective. For example, don’t just take a picture of a harbor, capture a fisherman in the bottom corner.
7. See the Light
Before you raise your camera, see where the light is coming from, and use it to your advantage. Whether it is natural light coming from the sun, or an artificial source like a lamp; how can you use it to make your photos better? How is the light interacting with the scene and the subject? Is it highlighting an area or casting interesting shadows? These are all things you can utilize to make an ordinary photo extraordinary.
8. Use Your Flash
You might think that you should only use flash at night time or indoors, but that’s not the case at all. If it is an extremely bright day outside and the sun is creating harsh shadows on your subject, switch on your flash. By forcing extra light onto your subject, you will be able to fill in those ugly shadows and create an even exposure.
9. Learn Basic Composition
Having technical mastery of your camera is useless if your photos just turn out bland and boring due to bad composition. But a well composed photo taken with your camera in full auto mode can still look great.
There are thousands of articles about composition available for free on the internet, videos on youtube, and whole books written about it. To start off with, just learn one compositional rule. Put it into practice, see where it works and when it doesn’t work. Here is a great article for 10 basic composition rules and why they work.
10. Perfection in Persistence
If you are looking at truly how to take great photos then you should stop standing there with a camera waiting for the perfect shot. Professional photographers take multiple photographs of the same thing before picking out the good ones later on. You should do this too. The digital camera has made this so easy (just make sure you have a large capacity memory card). Take multiple different angles, multiple different shots (even if it’s only a few inches to your left), and then look through all the photographs later on for the best ones.
11. Buy Books, Not Gear
Having expensive camera equipment doesn’t always mean that you’ll take good photos. This photo was taken with an iPad. Instead of having ten different lenses, invest in some fantastic photography books and read your camera’s manual. By reading the manual you will learn what your device is capable of capturing and how to capture it. Then, by looking at the work of the masters, not only do you get inspired, you come away with ideas to improve your own photos.
12. Find Inspiration
Take in as much photography as you can – online, and in books and magazines. But not passively. Look at different styles. Work out what you like or don’t like about them. Look at the technical elements of pictures and think about how they were made, and what the photographer is trying to say. The more you take in, the more arsenal you’ll have when creating your own work. — Leah Robertson
13. You’ve Got to Be Joking
A well timed joke will always yield a more natural smile, than simply saying “smile” or “cheese”. — Dean Bottrell
14. Be Aware of Your Background
What’s in your frame? So often I see great photos and think “didn’t they see that garbage bin, ugly wall, sign, etc?” It’s not just the person or object in your frame, it’s everything else in the background that can make or break a great photograph. So don’t be afraid to ask the person to move (or move yourself) to avoid something ugly in the background. — Marina Dot Perkins
15. Charge your Batteries
This seems like a simple one, but pretty much every photographer on the face of the planet has been caught with a dead battery before. The trick is to put the battery onto the charger as soon as you get home. The only thing then is to make sure you remember to put it back into the camera after it has been recharged. You can also purchase a battery grip like the one shown above here so that you will have two batteries on hand.
16. Hold Your Camera Properly
You might not know it, but there is a right way and a wrong way to hold a DSLR camera. The correct way is to support the lens by cupping your hand underneath it. This is usually done with the left hand, with your right hand gripping the body of the camera. This helps to prevent camera shake. If you are gripping your camera with your hands on either side of the camera body, there is nothing supporting the lens, and you might end up with blurry photos. To get an even stabler stance, tuck your elbows into the side of your body.
17. Get off AUTO!
There is no need to be afraid of manual mode. Just turn it on and start playing–you’ll figure it out quick. The key is understanding what shutter speed, aperture, and ISO do, once you have that you’ll quickly learn how to shoot in manual. Perhaps the biggest mistake beginning photographers make when starting to shoot in manual mode is that they expect to nail the shot the first time. Manual mode is a process of trial and error. You’ll get faster and faster at judging the correct settings, but you have to accept the fact that it will take a few tries for each set up. (Bronnie Thompson)
18. Shutter Speed
Being aware of your shutter speed means the difference between taking a blurry photo and a sharp photo. It all depends on what you are after. If you are shooting a sporting event or children running around in the backyard, you probably want your subjects to be in focus. To capture fast action you will have to use a shutter speed over 1/500th of a second, if not 1/1000th to 1/2000th. On the opposite end of the scale, you might want to capture the long streaks of a car’s tail lights running through your shot. Therefore you would change your camera’s shutter speed to a long exposure. This could be one second, ten seconds, or even longer.
Aperture is a hole in the lens which controls how much light goes through to the sensor. It is represented by a focal length ratio, therefore f/8 is smaller than f/2. A Larger apertures allows more light to go through.
In addition, aperture controls the depth of the field, which determines how much of the images is in focus. This effect is only noticeable in cameras with larger sensors.
20. ISO (Is the Sun Out?)
There are questions to ask yourself when deciding what ISO to use:
What time of day are you shooting? If you are shooting outside during the middle of the day you will need to use a lower ISO such as 100 or 200. If you are shooting at night time without a tripod you will have to increase the ISO to a higher number to be able to record the light on the camera’s sensor.
Will the subject be well lit? If your subject or scene is too dark you will need to use a higher ISO such as 800 or 1600.
Do you want a sharp image or an image with more movement in it? Using a high shutter speed to capture fast movement might mean that you need to use a high ISO to compensate. Likewise, if you’re using a slow shutter speed to capture blur you will need a low ISO to compensate.
Don’t forget, increasing your ISO increases the grain or pixel size in your photo. So don’t use an ISO of 3200 or 6400 if you don’t want a photo with a lot of ‘digital noise’.
21. It’s Not Cheating to use Photoshop
Photography is not news, photography is art. Just like a painter can put whatever she wants in a painting, you do whatever you want to your photos in Photoshop as long as you don’t lie and tell people it is a representation of the actual scene. Sometimes you should brighten it, blur the edges, increase the saturation, or remove something you missed and Photoshop is a great tool for these edits.
22. BUT Limit your Post Process
The key is to get it right in the camera first, so you don’t HAVE to spend much time editing. Over working a photo in editing software very rarely looks good, unless you are trying to achieve a super-artsy effect. If it takes you longer than ten minutes to alter your photo, maybe think about going back out into the field to re-shoot it.
23. Never Stop Shooting
The best way to hone your skills is to practice. A lot. Purchase a camera bag you will carry with you so your camera is always by your side. Then, shoot as much as you can – it doesn’t really matter what. Spend hours and hours behind your camera. As your technical skills improve over time, your ability to harness them to tell stories and should too. Don’t worry too much about shooting a certain way to begin with. Experiment. Your style – your ‘voice’ – will emerge in time. And it will be more authentic when it does. — Leah Robertson